Need a Passport Photo? Make Your Own!

Well its that time again when I need to renew my passport, and get passports for my girls. Of course, I could always head down to Costco to get them taken, but I have found its cheaper and easier actually to do it myself.  My kids just cant stand still, and they think they getting a shot at the doctors office for reason when I take them to Costco, or Walgreen’s.  A few years ago, the apps available were kinda testy, buggy, and not so friendly to use, but I found one in the Play Market that is pretty easy to use, and best of all, it was FREE.  I just snapped a photo in my upstairs room that has plenty of afternoon sunglight glaring in, against an off white wall, which made things easier.

Use this website idphoto4you.com  to make the final touches, and get them ready to be printed on 4 x 6 size.

Send them over to your favorite print center ( I chose Walgreen’s) and then cut the desired picture and attach it to the application.

Send your application via FedEX, UPS, or USPS Priority Mail, but with tracking. Make sure you dont send it without some form of tracking in case it gets lost in the mail.  After checking to see if your check got cashed, with your bank, check the status of your application at the State Dept website. In most cases, you should have it in 2 weeks, as I did.

Save yourself some money and try doing this yourself. Especially if you are doing multiple passports.  Every dime counts when you are trying to save up for a family holiday. You also have the option of doing it all yourself, with applications like Photoshop, like my friend Jon Khoo of Wanderlusty did.  Have you tried taking your passport all by yourself? Happy Travels.

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

Cathay Pacific Teams up with Mandarin Oriental for InFlight Dining

Cathay Pacific has teamed up with the Mandarin Oriental group, to offer fine dining choices, for first class passengers en route between Hong Kong and London. This is a limited time offering between September through December of 2014. Two Michelin starred chefs will offer their preparations, and passengers can experience exquisite dishes, such as a terrine of foie gras with winter truffle, and organic beef, braised in red wine sauce. Desserts will include a tart raspberry tart, and a chocolate dome with a coffee center. A complete listing of the dishes is available on their website, and my mouth is watering just reading it. Looking forward to hopefully experience this fine dining in an already awesome executive class of service, which Cathay Pacific is famous for.

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

The Most Annoying Travelers in the World

Let’s take a break for the usual talk of earning free travel, and talk about something that, I guess, as all American travelers, we are guilty in some way or another–Annoying others when traveling. I have personally experienced this first hand when traveling internationally, and I if you have crossed either ponds, I’m sure you have too.  I found a really funny article from one of my favorite sites talking about it.  I remember some lady in first class, who boarded with her pillow, and flip-flops, and I thought that was pretty annoying. You don’t need to BYOP on first class–if they give you free booze, and caviar, I’m sure you can get a pillow, no problem.  Any-hoo….click on the picture below, sit back, sip your latte, and enjoy this read…it’s pretty entertaining.  Have you seen anything that annoys you that didn’t make the list? Do Share!

Happy Travels!

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

Inventor of the Döner Kebab Dies

My friends, today is a sad day indeed, to learn that the inventor of one of the best, if not THE best street foods of all time, has passed away.  Kadir Nurman, the best known inventor of the famous döner kebab died in Germany at the age of 80. There is a lot of controversy surrounding who invented this delicious, torpedo of goodness, but the Association of Turkish Döner Manufacturers (no, I am not making that up…that is a REAL organization) declared Kadir as the first inventor.  Sorry Hormel, you didn’t win this title. Germany probably hosts the biggest population of Turkish immigrants, and you can find this in almost every German town.  In fact, the kebab sandwich is the most popular street foods amongst Germans, surpassing even the hometown bratwurst, curry sausages. I cant blame the Germans for loving these–they are deeeelish. Of course, having visited Istanbul on multiple occasions, I have taste tested many variations of this, and in this travelers humble opinion, the ones with the spicy sriracha sauce tasted best. I think to honor this person who contributed such a meaningful piece of culinary artwork to society, I will grill up some lamb kebabs this weekend, and enjoy it with a glass of ayran.  Happy Travels!

kadir_nurman

facebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

The Most Dangerous Bridges in America (Travel+Leisure)

I found this to be an interesting article, because one of these bridges is in Portland. I don’t know about the rest of the bridges on this list, as I personally haven’t driven on them myself, but I’m sure this list is just a fraction of the dangerous bridges and crumbling infrastructure found here in the U.S. As The Value Traveler, I do whatever it takes to avoid paying tolls in crossing from one point to another, but if it means going across one of these death traps, I may end up splurging a bit and actually paying that $3.50 toll to cross to safety. Of course this means I’ll have to sacrifice that grande caramel macchiato at Starbucks. Luckily here, we don’t have bridges that require tolls (yet), which may be the reason why the I-5 Interstate bridges made the list. Another claim to fame for the Rose City? Not exactly….but hey, it’s free advertising I guess. Check out the heinous list and see if you have crossed any of the bridges on the list. Be afraid! Be Very afraid…..as you CROSS THE MOST DANGEROUS BRIDGES IN AMERICA!!!

interstate_bridges

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

A Great Vegetarian Restaurant in Hong Kong

Visiting Hong Kong, I had one of the toughest times looking for places I could eat vegetarian. I know Hong Kong is a foodies heaven, but with my dietary restrictions, I was looking for something that my palate could accept. Well, it appears one of the best vegetarians places has opened up in Hong Kong—The Herbivores.  This restaurant is on Staunton St, near Soho, in the middle district.  I can’t wait to try this place out. My friend, who came back from from a trip from Singapore, had a Hong Kong stopover, and he tried some of the dishes, that included the garlic pasta with a cilantro dressing, and a vanilla custard tart, which he said was pretty darn good. They have a lot of pictures on their Facebook page of their dishes.  Check it out because I think this is a growing trend in Asia, as people are starting to eat a lil healthier now, and reducing their consumption of non-sustainable seafood.  Recently some restaurants took shark fin soup off the menu.

herbivores

facebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

Alaska Announces Improved In-Flight Catering

Alaska Airlines is one of the best airlines out there, but I must admit, their in-flight catering options aren’t all that great.  Apparently, they are attempting to show some improvement in this arena by announcing the introduction of a new menu.  Starting September 4th, every flight over 2 1/2 hours long will offer a hot meal for purchase in coach, and may be purchased with any credit card. Most meals look to be about $6.00, which isn’t too bad, considering your options for food are limited at 30,000 feet up.  They are also allowing you to pre-order your meal option on select flights. Take a look below and see if it appeals to your senses.  It may be worth ordering something, especially for an early morning Alaska flight, which you left the house at without breakfast.  There are changes for First Class passengers, as well.  A three-course meal consisting of wild Alaskan salmon on transcontinental flights sure sounds good!

alaska_food_2

alaska_food

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

hawaii_menu

facebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

Save Money On Restaurants Using ZapHour

 If you are planning to visit Portland, Oregon, skip the lines of mid-western tourists at VooDoo Doughnuts, and make sure you load up ZapHour on your mobile device, or access it from a computer.  ZapHour is a neat and cost effective app to get discounts on a lot of places to eat around town. Currently, they are only participating in Portland, Oregon, but it looks like they will soon spread the love to Seattle, San Francisco, and San Diego.  Here’s how it works : you login into ZapHour and see the daily deals available from the various restaurants.  Choose the one you want from the list, and click on it. Then Click Reserve, and that’s it.  You then show it to the cashier when you are ordering, and you just scored a deal!  I love this app and use it often for my two favorite restaurants on the list.  My Saturday morning pastry fix is possible because of this lovely app.  The restaurants seem to vary from day to day, so check it often to see if there’s something you like.  Just to brag a little, I got almost $35.00 worth of food and drinks and even some homemade cookies at Hot Lips Pizza in Downtown Portland, for a lil over $15.00, because of the 50% off deal!  If you are traveling to Portland anytime soon, I would install the app from the Google Marketplace or iTunes on your phone, and live it up large while in town. Make sure when you do pay for your food, to use a credit card that gives you bonus points/miles for restaurant purchases, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit CardBon Appetit!

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

American Express Starwood Preferred Guest 30,000 Points is Back!!

For a limited time, American Express is offering their Starwood Preferred Guest credit card, with a sign up bonus of up to 30,000 Starwood points after spending $5,000 within 6 months. You initially get 10,000 points after your first purchase, and the remaining 20,000 after you spend $5,000 within 6 months. This is a piece of cake, and I urge you to get this card, if you do not have it, or its time for you to apply for some cards. The Starwood Preferred Guest program is awesome, because you can transfer these points to countless airline programs.  Just look at the chart below.

Frequent Flyer Program Exchange Ratio (Starpoints : Miles)
Aeromexico 1:1
Aeroplan/Air Canada 1:1
Air Berlin 1:1
Air China Companion 1:1
Air New Zealand & Air Points 65:1
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan 1:1
Alitalia MilleMiglia 1:1
All Nippon Airways (ANA) Mileage Club 1:1
American Airlines AAdvantage 1:1
Asia Miles 1:1
Asiana Airlines 1:1
British Airways Executive Club 1:1
China Eastern Airlines 1:1
China Southern Airlines’ Sky Pearl Club 1:1
Delta Air Lines SkyMiles 1:1
Emirates Skywards 1:1
Etihad Airways 1:1
Flying Blue 1:1
Gol Smiles 2:1
Hawaiian Airlines 1:1
Japan Airlines (JAL) Mileage Bank 1:1
LAN Airlines LANPASS Kms 1:1.5
Miles and More 1:1
Qatar Airways 1:1
Saudi Arabian Airlines Alfursan 1:1
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer 1:1
Thai Airways International Royal Orchid Plus 1:1
US Airways Dividend Miles 1:1
United Mileage Plus 2:1
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club 1:1

You also get a bonus of 5,000 miles, if you are transferring 20,000 miles, so that means you will get 10,000 additional miles if you transfer 40,000, and so on.

Of course, then there is also the Starwood Preferred Guest, which you can leave the miles,and redeem them for stays at most SPG Properties worldwide.  I used some when I was in Hong Kong, and stayed at the Sheraton Hong Kong Towers, overlooking the Hong Kong skyline.  Well worth it!! On top of the bonus points, they are also waving the annual fee for the first year.  There is also a business version of the card, and yes, you can apply for both and be approved for both, meaning you could possibly get 60,000 points total!! Just be aware both have a $5,000 spend requirement, and plan accordingly so you know if you can meet the spend or not.

This expires on 9/3/2103 so apply soon!!!  American Express routinely brings this deal every now and then, but if you couple this with the latest Citibank AAdvantage offers, you could really rack up some miles. Below are some examples:

Citibank 50,000 miles offer + 30,000 American Express SPG Preferred card = 93,000 AAdvantage miles (after spends + bonus’)

Bank of America Alaska Airlines VISA card + 30,000 American Express SPG Preferred card = 65,000 Alaska miles (after spends + bonus’)

 

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusmail

How To Learn Swedish The Easy Way

This is perhaps one of the strangest stories I have read in awhile.  Apparently, there is a another way to just ‘pick up’ a language—be struck with amnesia.  Although I probably wont be testing this out anytime soon as its too much of a risk.  Anyways, my Persian is just fine.  However, I would like to enhance my French.   The Desert Sun reports that 61 year old Michael Boatwright woke up in the emergency room of a hospital and identified himself as Johan Ek, and started speaking in Swedish.  A hilarious story no doubt, so check out the link above.  The news about his ordeal is also making headlines over in Sweden now!!  Also, he has demanded lunch at IKEA and a new SAAB.  Okay, that last part I made up.  Enjoy!

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusmail