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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Timmy Wheels - The Story of Tim Musick

Here is something special.  It's a short documentary made a few years ago by Gina Sandoval, an aspiring reporter, who was a senior at the University of La Verne and a classmate of Tim's at the time. 

It won the W.A.V.E. award for Best Spesial Needs Programming and got third place in the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards in 2008 for Television Feature.  It was also featured in the Pomona Film Festival - better known as "Smogdance" - in 2009.

Both Gina and Tim have since graduated and are both continuing their careers. Tim is working occasionally as a play-by-play announcer and is trying to break into the voiceover business. Gina's a talented reporter who should be showing up on your TV soon.

So, without further ado, please enjoy Timmy Wheels...

Timmy Wheels - by Gina Sandoval
Used with permission

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

TRAVEL TIPS: Finding Deals and Saving Money on Your Trip

Our last two Travel Tips talked about money…specifically managing your money while traveling and getting enough money to take a trip. This last part is about making the most of your money. Particularly, finding deals and taking advantage of them.

When looking for a good deal it pays to be flexible. If you can travel over a range of dates instead of particular days, you can find deals. If you can stay somewhere away from the heart of the action, you can find deals.

Start with airfare. Check the big sites like Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz to get a rough idea of what your airfare will be for your trip. Next, check the airline sites themselves as they often strive to have the lowest fares for those who use their sites. Now, unless you need to travel immediately, sit back and wait.

We find that the lowest fares are not usually offered until about 2 to 3 months before you want to go. If you are checking 6 months in advance (as you should to build your budget), the fares you’ll find are not going to be the lowest. Keep checking every couple of weeks to see it they change. The lowest fares usually need to be bought 21 days before travel, so you can keep doing this until 3 – 4 weeks before you need to go.

Also, many sites have calendars that show you how much the fare can change based on the day you travel. You might see that traveling on a Wednesday might be $250 but if you left on Monday, you could go for $99. There is usually a box asking if your dates are flexible that you can check to see this calendar. also offers an airfare predictor that, based on historical prices, can give you an educated guess as to when your particular route will be onsale or if the fare you find is low or high.  Click here for the Bing Airfare Price Predictor.

Another way to find cheap fares is to plan your route around bargain airlines like Southwest, Virgin America, or Jet Blue.  You can generally find good fares for these airlines on their websites but you can also use them for leverage on other airlines. For instance, if Southwest is offering a 99 dollar fare from Los Angeles to Chicago, you will find other airlines like American or United matching that fare.

Hotels have myriad ways to save, let’s start with the obvious…call and ask. Call the hotel and ask for their rate. Then  just ask, “can you give me a lower rate?” You’d be surprised how often they do. Don’t feel bad, the people at the front desk are used to it and a lot of the time they quote you a high rack rate first and have a lower rate in reserve for those who ask for it.

Next, it pays to belong. Have a AAA card? That will get you a discount at most hotels. Work for the government? Most hotels have special rates for government workers and many do not care if you’re actually traveling for work or not. Costco card? American Express? Walmart customer? Not as prevalent, but still, some places will also give you a discount for that too.

How about joining a hotel’s reward program? While I don’t see them offering too many discounts just for belonging (or offering a minimal discount if they do), we do see perks just for being members. Marriott is good for getting a late checkout, upgraded rooms, and more. Best Western and Marriott let you earn free nights very fast. Hilton lets you get points not only at its hotels, but at restaurants all across the country as well.

Since it’s free to join, it certainly doesn’t hurt to sign up and you will get some good perks and freebies over time. Of course, the more you use, the more you get.

Think about a vacation rental. This works especially well if you have a large group. Check sites such as for rentals at your destination. Recently, we had a group of five of us and got a three bedroom, 2.5 bath flat with living room, kitchen, dining room, two terraces, satellite TV, a/c, free internet access, and two pools in Cannes for $1,000 for a week. Divide by 5 and you see that each of us only had to pay $200 for a week in luxury in the South of France.

Consider staying in a different neighborhood. In Los Angeles, for example, you can get rooms in some of the suburban areas such as Pasadena,  Arcadia, or even by the ocean in Long Beach - all perfectly nice areas - for as little as half as much as you'd pay for a premium location like Beverly Hills or Santa Monica.

For both air and hotel, sign up for websites that scour the net for deals. One of the best is You can search the site for deals but the real sweet service is to sign up for their weekly e-mail of the Top 20 Deals. Another couple of sites we like to use for this is and Airfare Watchdog.

Examples of deals we’ve seen…and been able to take advantage of…in the last year included a $99 mansion room with meals in the Silicon Valley, an $89 room at a resort in Napa Valley, $12 per night all-inclusive in the Dominican Republic, $5 baseball game tickets, and much more.

Other sites like Travelocity, Expedia, and Mobissimo also let you sign up to be notified of deals.  It also helps to have a relationship with a local travel agent that can let you know when they find unadvertised offers.

If you’re taking a road trip, the big expense is fuel. Log onto a gas price comparison site like to map out the cheapest gas stations on your route. Become a Costco member to be able to buy their cheap gas and use to map out their locations on your route. Get their American Express card to receive a 3% rebate on your gas purchases.

Make sure your car is in tune and running well to maximize your mileage. Plan a route that will allow for minimum stops and traffic.

Another way to save money is to get lodging that includes a kitchen. While we love to go out to eat at local restaurants when we travel…it’s one of the biggest highlights for us…we still like a kitchen where we’ll go to a local farmer’s market and cook some of the best and cheapest breakfasts you’ll find on the road.  We’ll save the money for a nice dinner later.

Speaking of eating, street food is enjoying a renaissance these days and you can get some fantastic food at rock bottom prices if you’re willing to give the street stands, food trucks, and hole-in-the-wall dives a chance. Check with the locals to find the best of the street.

We hope you enjoyed this three-part Travel Tip series on the financing of your travels and truly hope you’ve learned something to apply to your next trip.  If you have some other suggestions that we’ve missed, please feel free to post it in a comment below.

Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved