THE TRAVELER OF THE WEEK: BRANDON MAIR

 Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes

Brandon is our Traveler of the Week! In his interview, he writes about how he finds inexpensive plane tickets, methods to save up for a vacation, why Paris is his least favorite city, and why travelers should try balut (Google it). 

To learn more about his travels, continue reading! 

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How do you get the best bang for your buck when searching for flights and hotels?

It’s all about patience and research. Of course in most cases, you can’t wait until the last minute to book flights / hotels, but if you plan in advance and do your due diligence, you give yourself time to plan the best deals.

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What websites do you use to find inexpensive plane tickets?

 For airline tickets, I use the following: 

  • Kayak.com
  • Checking directly on the Airline Websites early in the morning
  • Google Flights
  • Hopper (app)
  • Skiplagged.com

It’s just doing research ahead of time. These days the airlines are constantly competing and matching deals, so the more you research in advance, the better deals you set yourself up for.

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Hotel vs. Airbnb? Do you have a preference?

 It all depends on where you are going, how many people in your group, and your budget. Sometimes hotels can be expensive, so in many cases Airbnb can save you some money. In other cases, hotels could be very cheap at a destination so hotels may make most sense. For example, Asia is typically cheap for hotels. I’ve stayed in a 1900+ sq ft hotel resort for $300 a night in Thailand. In Europe,  hotels can be pricey, so another example is staying in a 6 bedroom AirBnB on Paseo de Gracia (3rd most expensive street in the world) with 10 people for less than $300 / person the entire trip.

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I have a lot of readers that would like to travel more, but it doesn’t fit within their budget. Do you have any budgeting tips…or methods for saving up for a trip? Should they work two jobs? Go out less? Any apps they can use to budget?

I would recommend getting an Airline or Rewards Credit Card. I have both an American Airlines Executive Platinum card and Chase Sapphire Rewards Credit Card. Both have an annual fee, but the benefits outweigh that cost. Most offer a pretty significant signup points bonuses if you spend a certain amount of money in the first couple months, but outside of that there are many great benefits. For example, on the Chase Card, I get $300 worth of travel credit a year which essentially cuts the annual price of the card down to $150 a year. Also, access to the Priority Pass Lounges all around the world (typically $50 per visit); not to mention the credit for Global Entry TSA Precheck. Stick to one airline so you can amass more point to that airline instead of spreading it out across multiple. Every year, I usually have enough points for at least one international trip with me and my fiancée just from using the card.

 What most people don’t realize nowadays is that deals are everywhere, especially out of the major hubs in the US. With proper planning and research, you can find yourself a round trip ticket for less than $600. Even domestically inside of the US, you can find some really good deals. For example, from Dallas, I typically pay $100 to travel to both Miami and Los Angeles (I just booked a ticket on Southwest to Los Angeles from Dallas for $116 RT).  Placing alerts on the dates you're looking to travel and knowing what to expect in terms of ticket pricing helps. I’d expect to pay $300 for Mexico, $500-600 for Europe, $6-800 for Asia, etc.

And try to get an itinerary laid out ahead of your trip so you understand what type of budget you will need. I typically create a spreadsheet of the entire trip ahead of time to help understand costs. I am spontaneous when traveling and do not like to have a set schedule, but using Google Maps to mark any potential landmarks or areas of interest helps in the planning process. Lastly, use your resources! The internet is your friend. You can get suggestions or help from people who have been to where you are looking to visit. Google Maps lists can also be shared. I have sent out my Thailand Google Maps lists at least 10 times since traveling there this past September.

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You recently proposed to your fiancée in Thailand a few months ago? Was there any particular reason you selected that destination? Was it a destination on her bucket list? One of her favorite spots?

 We take at least one international trip a year, and she had been wanting to go to Thailand. We had a lot of friends visit, so she got to see lots of pictures of the beaches and the animals beforehand.

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Could you tell me a little more about the trip? What you saw and/or did?

We went to Thailand and Taiwan. We had a layover in Taiwan (which I have traveled to many times for work) and then visited Bangkok, Puckett, and Chiang Mai.

In Taiwan we got to visit Taipei 101 and then quickly walked around one of the night markets before we had to catch flight to Bangkok.

In Thailand we did the following:

  • James Bond Island
  • Patoong Beach
  • Illuzion Nightclub
  • Tiger Kingdom
  • Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
  • Art in Paradise 3D Museum
  • Wang Lang Market
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Unfortunately, when we went it was rainy season so some of the other attractions we wanted to go to got rained / flooded out.

I can say that the wedding proposal was magical. It was sunny the day I proposed and the most amazing skyline and there was no more rain the rest of the trip!

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Name one place every person should travel to at least once in their lifetime? 

There are too many places to name. Instead of picking one place, I’d really say everyone’s goal should be to experience a different culture than their our country and just experience traveling to somewhere that is very different. I know some people never leave their home state or are content with never leaving the US, but I think it really lets you have insight as to how the world works and gives you a different perspective on life. We get too caught up in our own world and don’t realize many times how big, different, and amazing the experience can be.

 With that said, Santorini was a really great experience for me. I wasn’t expecting the beauty and tranquility of the small island. It allowed you to get away from the hustle and bustle of a big city and just be in a place where people enjoyed life.

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Name one place you’ve traveled that you think is overrated? 

 I would say Paris, lol. I got my first overseas experience in Metz, France on Georgia Tech’s international campus doing summer research. Paris is always on everyone’s list of places to go, but I like to travel on the more unbeaten path. Don’t get me wrong, Paris has lots to offer in terms of history and landmarks to see, but it’s just like any other big city to me. Full of shopping and tourist traps.

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Out of all the places you’ve traveled, what’s one location you don’t want to ever visit again? Explain.

 There really isn’t anywhere I wouldn’t go again. I value each experience I have had. Places I have traveled like the Philippines or India are not the most sophisticated countries, but again, I like getting off the unbeaten path and seeing how people really live outside of the US. We take a lot for granted and it's always a humbling experience seeing how people live and how they view the U.S. To me that’s why traveling is such a great thing, because it’s a transfer of cultures and experiences with people.

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Who is your favorite travel companion?and Why? (I would choose wisely lol)

 Of course, it's my fiancée. She is able to tolerate me and loves to find new experiences. She never complains and always willing to try something new or challenging on our travels.

On another note, I really like traveling by myself. I do not like travel planning. I like to immerse myself in the culture and value what ends up happening in the journey. I have been to many places alone, and I value those experiences because when you travel alone you aren’t bound by anyone else. You can venture off and experience whatever you want to see! It’s just amazing being able to walk down an alley full of market vendors or through an old temple full of monks and being able to interact with them even though they don’t speak English.

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You’ve traveled all over the world. Have you ever felt unwelcomed or out of place (as an African American male) when visiting other countries? If so, please explain.

 Unfortunately, racism is everywhere. I’ve had small bouts of blatant racism in places like Europe (not being able to enter a nightclub). But racism is in the U.S. so it’s not a surprise it’s in other places in the world. Everywhere I have been has been welcoming and most countries are more mesmerized by who I am, where I’m from etc. Most people I encounter can’t really place where I am from or whether I'm American, Caribbean, Hispanic, Middle eastern. It’s always a good conversation talking with people who are interested to learn more about you just because of the complexion of your skin.

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when you’re traveling with a significant other, do you think the man should pay for everything…or should both split it down the middle? What do you think is the best way to split up the cost?

 I think it all depends on the relationship. I always think it’s a good idea to share costs. That way everyone helps out and feels like they are part of the planning. Some couples, one person may pay more, but the other person may help in planning out the itinerary etc. I think it really just depends on the dynamic and how the two people interact. The more important thing to me is making sure each person is open to experience new things. As the saying goes, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do….” This is the motto I live by when traveling. Don’t travel as a tourist, rather travel should be an experience to live like the locals. For example, in the Philippines I have eaten balut (look it up) many times. One might not do this on a regular, but being able to embrace the culture and experiences makes the locals respect you even more.

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How can my readers reach you if they have additional questions?

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If you would like to be featured as the next Traveler of the Month, please reach out to callmeambam@gmail.com