Why You Should Always Check SkipLagged.com When Booking Airfare

For those of you that have been trying to book AA saver awards from smaller markets or saw Gary’s post on the topic, you are aware that AA seems to be blocking out almost all saver space for smaller cities.

For example, a one way economy ticket from St. Louis to Chicago is now 30,000 AA miles and it is priced like this until at least February 2016.

AA Blocking Saver Space

AA Blocking Saver Space

My parents just moved to St. Louis and I’ve been flying down there every couple of weekends from Chicago. Although it is only a 45 minute flight, a normal fare costs around $450 roundtrip!

Thankfully, I’ve been using Avios to book AA awards and because the distance is less than 750 miles, it has only been costing me 4,500 Avios each way…

Since AA is now blocking Saver space, I haven’t been able to use Avios this past week and had to look into purchasing a revenue ticket.

Thankfully I had some AMEX Platinum and PRG AA reimbursements (aka giftcards) that I used to offset the cost!

As I looked to book a flight home from St. Louis,  I fired up Kayak.com to check the prices and it was coming out to $221 oneway.


$221 STL-ORD

I didn’t think that was a particularly good price since I could have also just taken Amtrak or MegaBus from St. Louis and it would cost only $27 and taken the same amount of time door to door.

Since Chicago is a hub for United, AA, and Southwest, I knew hidden city ticketing was possible.

So for example, St. Louis – Chicago – Columbus, OH might be cheaper than flying St. Louis – Chicago direct…

Enter SkipLagged

While I used to manually use ITA Matrix to do these kind of hidden city ticketing searches, SkipLagged.com now does it automatically for you.

If you aren’t familiar with the site, SkipLagged is of course being sued by United Airlines for providing this free service to customers and ironically the lawsuit only ended up drawing more free publicity to SkipLagged…

To use SkipLagged.com, I simply entered my airports and dates and it spit out what was the cheapest flights from STL-ORD.

SkipLagged Can Save You Serious Money!

SkipLagged Can Save You Serious Money!

As you can see the 5.03am United flight and the 6.35am AA flight to Milwaukee via ORD were both $147, while on Kayak the direct STL-ORD with the SAME EXACT SEAT ON THE SAME EXACT FLIGHT was $221!

Thanks to SkipLagged, I was able to save $74 (33%) off of my original ticket.

I went ahead and booked a St. Louis to Milwaukee via Chicago ticket and I simply hopped off in Chicago this morning instead of continuing onwards to Milwaukee.

Word of caution though, if you plan to use SkipLagged, many airlines are not fond of hidden city ticketing so make sure you don’t include your frequent flyer number.


In the end,when booking airline tickets, it really pays to take a few extra minutes and check some other sites.

By using SkipLagged, I was able to easily save 33% off the cost of my original ticket.

While it doesn’t always find you the cheapest fare for every search, it is a good tool to have in your backpocket.


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JAL Business Class Review: ORD-NRT

Japan Airlines Business Class Review – ORD to NRT

Last December 2013, my cousin and I burned 90,000 US Airways miles and went to Thailand for 2 weeks.

I really enjoyed Thailand but didn’t have enough time to explore so with winter approaching in Chicago, I decided that January 2015 would be a perfect time to explore Southeast Asia for a couple weeks (which turned into a couple months).

This time a friend from school joined me and we decided to explore the famed “Banana Pancake Trail” starting in Hanoi, Vietnam and then basically making our way south to Ho Chi Min City, then cut over to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat, and then hopefully make our way to Southern Thailand.

This was the first trip I’ve ever taken where everything (logistics, lodging, transportation) hadn’t been explicitly laid out in advance. The only thing we had planned was the general direction of where we were going after landing in Hanoi, which was SOUTH!

To get to Hanoi, I opted to burn my large bank of AA miles that I had stockpiled over the years.

The business class award was 50,000 one way on Japan Airlines, with a 5,000 rebate thanks to having a Citi AA card.

So in reality, the award only cost 45,000 miles!

I found the award by searching on British Airways.

Our itinerary ended up being:

  • ORD-NRT on JAL 777-300ER
  • NRT-HAN on JAL 787 Dreamliner

JAL 777-300ER Business Class Review

On our day of departure in January 2015, the weather in Chicago was about -20F so we were extremely lucky to not have our flight canceled or severely delayed due to icing issues.

By sheer coincidence, another blogger The Points Jock was also on our exact same plane and cabin, which has never happened to me before.

The Points Jock said that JAL was his favorite business class so the expectations were set high. Outside of Thai Airways last year, I have not flown any other Asian carriers, so I was excited to try JAL out.

For me the funniest part of the flight was right before pulling back, I looked out the window and there was someone who didn’t look like a worker who was just taking photos of the plane like an AVgeek. Very strange!

Soft Product – 9/10 Points


After boarding, the flight attendant came by to personally introduce herself, which was a nice touch.

We were offered a cup of green tea, along with our choice of orange juice or champagne.

The FA then brought us a Tumi amenity kit.

Of course, only Asian carriers would include a facemask in the amenity kit…

To my surprise, we were also offered a pajama top (but no bottoms), which you normally don’t receive in business class. I wasn’t sure if you were allowed to keep it and it was too small so I didn’t take it with me.


After take off, we received dining menus, which as other people have noted is oddly named JAL BEDD SKY AUBERGE.

The menu had both a Western and Japanese option, as well as an on-demand menu.

We both opted for the Japanese option, which was pretty good.

Dining started with an Amuse Bouche of Prosciutto di Parma & Bocconcini Mozzarella along with Marinated Vegetables.

That was followed by a “bento box” of 9 different kobachi bowls along with some sake.

For the main course, there was sesame-crusted grilled salmon & stewed pork belly, along with steamed rice, miso soup, and Japanese pickles.

For dessert, we were served sabayon with fresh berries.

Overall, the Japanese menu was probably one of the most unique meals I have had on a plane and was overall pretty good.

Halfway through the 14 hour flight, I was hungry again so I decided to check out the on-demand menu which was surprisingly thorough and quite delicious.

I opted to try the ramen while my friend got the gnocchi. Both were quite tasty and possibly some of the best ramen I have had (on the ground or on a plane).


I slept for most of the flight but my friend ended up staying up the entire flight and the service he received was top notch.

His drink was never empty and someone came to visually check on us every 10 minutes. If we ever needed anything, we simply had to flag them down.

I’ve never had service like that before and overall it was exceptional.

Hard Product – 9/10 Points

JAL has an interesting configuration for business class which I now think is one of the best mixes of privacy and convenience.

The configuration is 2-3-2 but each person basically has a semi-enclosed suite.

Although we were sitting near the window, due to the configuration every single person has direct access to the aisle. Even people sitting in the middle 3 seats.

Although lack of storage was an issue, everything about the seat was phenomenal.

Not only was the suite spacious but also had a large television and a privacy divider if you really wanted a fully private suite.

Since I was traveling with a friend, in our case it was nice to have the divider that could go up and down.

The Points Jock informed me that in the luggage bins there were free mattress pads which I used when I slept and it really made a significant difference.

Outside of first class, JAL is probably the best seat I have ever flown.

Overall – 9/10 Points

Personally, JAL was one of the best flying experiences I have ever had.

Not only was the service impeccable but also the seat and food was fantastic.

For some reason JAL definitely gets overshadowed by the other Asian carriers like Singapore, ANA, and Cathay (personally I have never flown any of those yet) but if you are going to Asia on AA miles, I would highly recommend trying out JAL because it is absolutely phenomenal.


10 Reasons Why Young People Should NOT Travel


I originally posted this on my other site TravelMore but since people seemed to like it so much, I am reposting it here. Enjoy!

There is an unreported drug epidemic going on with young people right now. It is a dangerous new high that is 100% legal, extremely addicting, instantly available for purchase online, pretty affordable, and extremely delicious. What is this new super drug?

Law enforcement officials are calling it “travel” but it often goes by the street names “backpacking”, “couch surfing”, “studying abroad”, or “finding yourself”.

“Travel” is known to produce an extremely euphoric natural high that becomes addictive almost instantly. Often times travel addicts will quit their jobs, sell all their possessions, abandon their relationships, and embark on year long journeys to find the purest “travel” high.

On college campuses, talk to any student and they will tell you how easy it is to get your hands on some “travel”. Often times, it is sold directly by the school disguised as an educational study abroad program, but really it is just another form of “travel”! Most college students openly admit to casually experimenting with “travel” while on spring break and it is extremely common for friends to say “Hey bro, want to travel this summer? Trust me it isn’t a big deal. Everyone else is doing it. How dangerous can it be?”.

However as a recovering travel addict, take it from me, real friends don’t let other friends travel. Your friends may look cool on Instagram while they are high on “travel”, climbing Machu Picchu or eating Pad Thai in Thailand, all while you are currently reading this post bored out of your mind at work, but if everyone else jumped off a bridge would you? No!

Travel Addict

A classic example of a travel addict unable to control their addiction. Do you want to end up like this person?

My only hope is that this list of reasons NOT TO TRAVEL encourages some young impressionable minds to think twice before taking their first hit of “travel”.

If you know someone who is thinking about traveling, addicted to travel, or is on the verge of traveling, PLEASE SHARE this vital post with them before it is too late!

Also if you have any more reasons why people shouldn’t travel or personal experiences dealing with “travel addicts”, please share in the comments below!


10 Reasons Why Young People Should NOT Travel

1) You Can See Everything On Television, Instagram, or Wikipedia

Technology has made it possible for us to experience everything from the comfort of our phones. For goodness sakes, there is even an entire TV channel & app dedicated to just travel.

So why on earth would you ever leave your house when the world can come to your 5 x 3 screen and you can then show your appreciation by liking or retweeting it?

Better to let the professionals like Rick Steves, Anthony Bourdain, and Andrew Zimmern travel the world while you sit on your sofa playing Candy Crush.

2) You Have A Real Job With Real Responsibilities

If you quit you job and travel the world, who is going to do all your essential work tasks like gchatting with your friends all day? You can’t train someone else to do that! It would be weird!

Sure for the time being your job is pretty pointless and completely unfulfilling but if you keep at it for another 5-10 years, you will finally make it to middle management where you will get the privilege of managing annoying young people like yourself!

Also if you left your job, who would your co-workers go to when they had questions about Excel? You spent years learning every single Excel command and now you are just gonna throw that life skill away? I don’t think so!

3) The World Is An EXTREMELY Dangerous Place

Oh you don’t believe me? HAVE YOU SEEN TAKEN?!?

These days thanks to ISIS, the entire world is basically at Threat Level Midnight.

Thinking about going to the Middle East? Well don’t because Iran probably has a nuclear bomb. You want to go to Europe? Well hopefully you speak Russian because half the continent has been invaded and the Euro is about to collapse. Africa? one word: EBOLA. What about Asia, it is nice this time of year right? False, the entire continent is still 100% radioactive thanks to the Fukushima disaster. I guess South America is probably your best bet as long as you don’t mind being a drug mule.

Overall, it is best to just stay home and play it safe because if you ever leave your home country, you are guaranteed an all but certain gruesome death.

4) You Already Have Enough Friends

If you travel, you will undoubtedly meet some new people and you might even unintentionally enjoy their company.

Worst case scenario, you might actually become friends with them. Then you are basically screwed because you will be obligated to add them all on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat and then constantly have to “like” their posts. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Even worse, imagine if your new international friends came to visit your country, they would probably want to stay with you. No thanks!

5) Flying Is So Uncomfortable

Have you been on a plane in recent years?

It is absolutely terrible! Small seats, no leg room, no wifi, terrible food, annoying passengers.

Yes, it is true that we can now get almost anywhere in the world within 24 hours and that people used to sail 3 months across the entire ocean in a cramped boat with the threat of potential death to do the exact same thing, but at least those people didn’t have to deal with the TSA!

6) Foreign Food Will Make You Sick

Unless you are planning on bringing a suitcase full of food, don’t travel because the food is completely different abroad!

If you want a fix of authentic foreign food, I suggest simply going to Olive Garden, Noodles & Company, Taco Bell, Panda Express, or Chipotle. It is far cheaper and you won’t get any parasites or diarrhea (although Taco Bell is highly questionable).

Also if you travel abroad, there is no guarantee that they will have Yelp. Would you really want to risk eating at a restaurant that hasn’t been thoroughly peer reviewed by pretentious foodies? Didn’t think so!

However the absolute worst thing is that according to factual stories I read online, many non-western countries eat weird things like dogs. Do you really want to be eating a meat dish and wondering if you are eating Sparky?

7) Like Everyone Doesn’t Speak Perfect English

Like think about how frustrating it is when you go to like your local 7-11 convenience store and they like don’t speak English good. Like now multiply that by like 1000 and you like have the rest of the world. Like I personally would never want to like talk with someone that can’t like speak English good because it is like annoying. Seriously people need to like learn English good or whatever, otherwise I like can’t even understand them.

8) Traveling Is Expensive

If you are young, the best thing you can do is work hard and save your money so you can afford to buy a nice new car and big house. Those are physical items that scream “HEY LOOK AT ME! I AM SUCCESSFUL!“. Seriously what would you rather invest in: yourself or some awesome new possessions?

Plus if you travel when you are young, you are certain to go broke because traveling is extremely expensive.

Just think about it: You already spend $1,000 a month on your apartment, $300 on your car, plus $100 on your cell phone, and that isn’t even factoring in last month’s credit card bill and that $100 round of drinks at the bar last weekend.

Not to mention you absolutely cannot afford to travel if you want to buy the new Apple Watch when it comes out next week, so please be smart and save your money for the things that you REALLY NEED!

9) Travel Is A Gateway Drug

You know that travel bug thing your Aunt Lindsay was saying your cousin Maeby caught while she was studying abroad in Spain…..that is a real thing! Seriously, check WebMD.

The worst part is that there is no cure for the travel bug except more travel. So go travel at your own risk because more than likely you will catch the travel bug or even worse, wanderlust, and then there is no turning back.

10) Travel Will Ruin Your Home Life

Say hypothetically you decide not to listen to any of this great advice and risk everything to travel. Some how against all the odds, you manage to have a great time and don’t die. Then what?

You eventually have to return home and once you do, normal life will seem so boring in comparison to traveling that you will spend every waking hour trying to figure out how you can #TRAVELMORE…