Frugal Tuesday: Get Bumped!

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Life happens, and people sometimes miss their flights. The airlines know this, and so to ensure they keep their airplanes full, they sometimes oversell their flights. But if everyone happens to have a good day and arrive at the airport on time, the airline faces the problem of having more people holding paid-for tickets than they have seats to put them in.  Being willing to take a later flight saves the airline the trouble of having to deny passage to travelers who might not be as happy to wait as I usually am.

When I lived in Los Angeles, I visited family in Portland three times a year.  And every single time, my first order of business at the airport was to check with the gate agent to see whether the flight was overbooked and if it was, to volunteer to give up my seat in exchange for compensation. My preferred airline, Southwest, has a compensation policy of  giving you credit for your ticket price + $100 if you are delayed by less than 2 hours, or and additional $300 if you are delayed by 2 hours or more. The credit is good for travel within one year.

Within the last year, we’ve had some unexpected flights: Mr. Vega flew to another state for the funeral of a good friend’s loved one, and when we bought our bus, we traveled by plane to pick it up in Indianapolis. So even though we don’t have travel plans for the immediate future, I still volunteered to give up my seat when I had to travel for business last week, and my offer was accepted. I was put on a direct flight five hours later (we live 15 minutes from the airport, so I was able to go back home), and still reached my destination on time. Now we have a few hundred dollars in airline credit in case any emergencies come up, and if they don’t, we might finally take that weekend getaway to NOLA we’ve been talking about ever since we moved to Texas!

EDIT 6/21/16: AND I just got four drink tickets in the mail from Southwest, with a nice letter thanking me for being so accommodating! That never happened before! Our weekend getaway is looking better and better…

Have you ever volunteered to give up your seat on a flight? How was the experience for you? Would you do it again?

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That Time We Bought a Bus

We’re not sure when the idea formed… Some friends of ours bought a 15-passenger for less than $3, 000 van at the Texas State Surplus store, and we were pretty taken with the idea of getting a well-running vehicle for such a good price. Another friend bought a used Airstream, fixed it up, and made it her primary residence on a piece of rental property just outside a state park. We’ve watched a lot of Tiny House Nation. However it happened, we got the idea of buying a school bus and converting it into an RV/ guest house.

And then we got on eBay.

And a couple of weeks later, we had flown to Indianapolis, where Ron Garrett at MacAllister Transportation facilitated our descent into total bus madness. Seriously, if you are considering buying a bus, this is the guy to see: when Something Unexpected happened, Ron went so far beyond the call of duty to make things right that I’m not going to write about it, because it was done entirely on his own time and on his own dime, and he didn’t have to do any of it. But I can safely say that he’s going to do everything in his power to make sure you drive away happy in your new-to-you bus, like we did.

1300 miles (and two chiropractic appointments later!), our new bus was home, which I’m sure thrilled the neighbors…. Although maybe it’s not an issue, because the people on one side have a little food truck in their driveway, and there’s a reclaimed ambulance on the other side. One friend who visited says our street looked like an Emoji Village! We’re planning on building a driveway/RV pad to park it in the back yard, but record-breaking rains in central Texas over the past several weeks have soaked the ground and postponed our ability to begin that project. In the meantime, the bus is parked in an inexpensive local storage lot, because no matter how cool we think it is, the big yellow bus was a bit of an eyesore in our front driveway! Still, we got such a good deal that we could store it for two years and still come out ahead of what it would have cost to buy it locally!

It’s  been registered, titled, and insured in Texas, and that stuff will all be much less expensive after we’ve converted it into a bona fide RV. Even with no seats, it’s still considered a commercial passenger vehicle until we’ve made some changes. Stay tuned over the next several months, as we gut the inside, paint the outside, and begin the work of transforming our bus into a safe and stylish recreational vehicle!

What’s the biggest DIY project you’ve tackled? 

 

 

When Plans go Awry

Last month, we were supposed to fly back to California to attend the wedding of one of our dearest friends. We felt very fortunate that many of our close friends were also on the guest list, so that we would be able to see many loved ones all at once. Our newest niece was born a few months ago, and we were looking forward to meeting her, as well. The flights had been booked and hotel rooms reserved months in advance.

And then I got sick.

Not just a little sick, either… I was running a temperature, my sinus cavities and ears were filled with fluid, I had a cough, and my throat felt like it was on fire. The doctor at the Urgent Care clinic sent me home with some powerful antibiotics and orders to stay in bed. There was no way I was getting on an airplane. What happened next is going to read like an advertisement for the companies we used, but we got such terrific service across the board that they earned the good word-of-mouth!

Fortunately, we had booked our flight using our Southwest Airlines Rapid Reward points, and there was no penalty for canceling the trip. All the points went back into our account. Our hotels had been booked through Hotels.com, and canceling by 6pm local time the day before meant that we wouldn’t have to pay a dime for the rooms we had reserved. Except that I didn’t throw in the towel until about 9pm local time. Mr Vega called customer service and explained the situation… And they let us cancel for free even though we were late! We had reserved our weeklong car rental through Hotwire.com, who also allowed us to cancel without penalty. Finally, we had each gotten some new clothes to wear to the wedding… which we returned, unworn, to the department stores where we bought them.

All in all, our canceled trip cost us… nothing.

I wish I could say that it was all due to my fantastic travel savvy, but the truth is, in a few cases, we were just lucky. To keep costs down, I frequently bid on and pre-pay for non-refundable rental cars at the name-your-own price sites, or reserve hotel rooms that come with very low rates and no-cancellation policies. To us, those are acceptable risks that we take in order to get the savings. This time, the travel gods (or the cancellation gods) were with us.

But in addition to taking extra vitamins in the hopes of making sure that we never have to miss another trip, you can bet I’m going to read the fine print from now on when we book our travel, just to make sure we could get out of it if we needed to.