We’re Going to France!

2024 Summer Missions Trip TeamWe have some exciting news!

Our family is partnering with S.E.E. (Sports Event Evangelism) to bring the Gospel to the world at the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Joining us on our trip are three young people from our church’s youth group, Joyanna, Abigail, and Chayden.

Joshua was part of the S.E.E. team at the 2016 Summer Olympics, so we have been looking forward to this opportunity for several years, especially after the cancellation of the 2020 Olympics.

Our responsibilities will be two-fold. First, we will help the group distribute Gospel booklets in multiple languages and talk to anyone who has the time to stop and go deeper. Second, we will capture photos and videos of the outreach to show what God is doing there.

Please pray for our family and for the rest of our church’s group as we prepare for this ministry later this summer. We will post updates via email and social media. If you would like to subscribe to our family’s email updates, you can do so on the sidebar here on our website.

We will also post details of our trip here on our website, including how we were able to book business class flights for our return trip for less than the cost of economy tickets! You can subscribe to our blog updates on the sidebar as well.

Partner with Us

If you would like to partner with us financially as we take the Gospel to the 2024 Olympics, our expenses will be about $6,600. This includes our flights, our lodging, our meals, and our travel insurance.

Instructions on how to donate to our summer ministry can be found at the following link: Donate to Huangs’ Summer 2024 Missions Trip

Praises and Prayer Requests

Praises

  • God has opened the door for our whole family to participate in this ministry together
  • We have three young people from our church going with us on this missions trip
  • Everyone’s passports have been secured!

Prayer Requests

  • All of the funds to cover our expenses as this is not part of our regular church ministry
  • Preparation of our hearts as we anticipate this ministry
  • Preparation of the hearts of those in France who we will meet and share the Gospel with

How To Earn Multiple Free Flights on Southwest Right Now

Disclosures: This article includes links to credit cards. If you choose to apply for a credit card through our links, we may or may not receive a referral bonus. Credit cards are not suitable for everyone, however. If you have credit card debt of any kind, are irresponsible with your past or current use of credit cards, are unaware of the risks of using credit cards, or are conscientiously opposed to the use of credit cards, please do not apply for the credit cards mentioned in this article. You are 100% responsible for your own choices regarding the use of any credit cards mentioned here.

We love to fly, and we love to get the most value possible out of our flights. Sometimes this means getting the cheapest flight possible, but not at the expense of comfort and taking our belongings with us (which is why we avoid Spirit, Frontier, and other airlines that have really cheap tickets).

Southwest Plane on the TarmacOne of the ways we do this is by using credit cards offered by airlines. When it comes to travel rewards and benefits, few airline credit cards compare to the Southwest consumer credit cards.

With three distinct options tailored to different travel needs, Southwest offers some of the best credit cards for anyone looking to maximize their travel experiences. For a limited time, these cards are even better because of the incredible sign-up bonuses that are available.

Right now, each of the three Southwest consumer credit cards has an offer for 85,000 bonus points if you spend $3,000 on the card within three months of being approved. This offer is good until June 26, 2024.

With 85,000 points, you can typically book between 2-4 roundtrip award flights within the US. The taxes and fees on award flights are $5.60 per one-way flight ($11.20 for a roundtrip). This does not make award flights 100% free, but that is pretty close!

So why would you want a Southwest credit card?  Let’s take a look at the three consumer cards and why we think these cards are excellent choices for travelers seeking value, flexibility, and exclusive perks.

1. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card

Annual Fee: $69

Key Benefits:

  • Sign-Up Bonus (until June 26, 2024): Earn 85,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • 2X Points: Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases, Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases.
  • 1X Points: Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • 3,000 Anniversary Points: Receive 3,000 points each year on your cardmember anniversary (worth approximately $42).
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees: Travel abroad without worrying about extra fees.

Why It’s Great for Travel: The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card offers a solid sign-up bonus and ongoing rewards that make earning points easy and straightforward. With no foreign transaction fees, this card is ideal for international travelers. The anniversary points add extra value, helping offset some of the annual fee. Good option if you book one or two roundtrip tickets on Southwest every year.

2. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card

Annual Fee: $99

Key Benefits:

  • Sign-Up Bonus (until June 26, 2024): Earn 85,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • 6,000 Anniversary Points: Receive 6,000 points each year on your cardmember anniversary (worth approximately $84).
  • 2X Points: Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases, Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases.
  • 1X Points: Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees: Enjoy fee-free spending abroad.
  • Tier Qualifying Points: Earn 1,500 tier qualifying points (TQPs) for every $10,000 spent on the card, up to 15,000 TQPs annually.

Why It’s Great for Travel: The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card provides more anniversary points than the Plus version, helping offset most of the annual fee. The ability to earn tier qualifying points makes this card an excellent choice for frequent flyers looking to achieve A-List status with Southwest. This is another good option if you book one or two roundtrip tickets on Southwest every year.

3. Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Annual Fee: $149

Key Benefits:

  • Sign-Up Bonus (until June 26, 2024): Earn 85,000 points after spending $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • 7,500 Anniversary Points: Receive 7,500 points each year on your cardmember anniversary (worth approximately $105).
  • 2X Points: Earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest purchases, Rapid Rewards hotel and car rental partner purchases.
  • 1X Points: Earn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
  • $75 Southwest Travel Credit: Get an annual $75 credit for Southwest travel purchases.
  • Four Upgraded Boardings: Enjoy four upgraded boardings per year, when available.
  • 20% Back on In-Flight Purchases: Get 20% back on in-flight drinks, Wi-Fi, messaging, and movies.

Why It’s Great for Travel: The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card offers the most comprehensive set of benefits among the three cards. The anniversary points, travel credit, and upgraded boarding passes provide significant value for frequent travelers and more than offset the annual fee. This is a great option if you fly with Southwest at least twice a year. Both of us have this card because we fly Southwest so often.

Why Southwest Credit Cards Stand Out for Travel

1. Companion Pass Eligibility: All three Southwest credit cards offer points that count toward earning the coveted Southwest Companion Pass, which allows you to choose one person to fly with you for free (excluding taxes and fees) every time you purchase or redeem points for a flight.

If you can get one of Southwest’s business cards and get the signup bonus this year in addition to the 85,000-point offer on one of these consumer cards, you will automatically qualify for the Companion Pass. You can read more about the Companion Pass in this article: The One Travel Deal That Has Saved Us Thousands of Dollars

2. Generous Rewards and Sign-Up Bonuses: As already mentioned, the sign-up bonuses alone can cover multiple flights, providing immediate value.

3. Flexible Redemption Options: Southwest points can be redeemed for flights with no blackout dates, giving you the flexibility to travel when it suits you best. Furthermore, Southwest points never expire, so you don’t have to worry about losing them.

4. No Foreign Transaction Fees: All three cards allow for fee-free spending abroad, making them ideal for international travelers.

5. Annual Benefits: The anniversary points, travel credits, and upgraded boardings provide ongoing value that can easily offset the annual fees.

If you have ever had a Southwest card before, one thing you should remember is that you cannot hold more than one Southwest consumer credit card at a time in your Chase account, and you cannot get a signup bonus on a card if you received a signup bonus on that same card within the last 24 months (even if you have closed the account since then).

Summary

The Southwest consumer credit cards offer a range of benefits that cater to different travel needs and preferences. Whether you choose the Plus, Premier, or Priority card, you can enjoy valuable rewards, exclusive perks, and flexibility that enhance your travel experience.

Right now with the 85,000-point signup bonus, this makes the card a no-brainer for people like us who love to fly. I wish we could take advantage of this offer, but we cannot since we both already have the Priority card. But if you are interested in flying with Southwest and normally spend about $1,000 a month already on a debit card or another credit card, this might be the perfect offer for you!

Embracing Differences in Marriage with Patience and Understanding

Marriage is a beautiful journey (we like to refer to it as an adventure) of two individuals coming together to share their lives. But just like any relationship, it also comes with its challenges. One of the most common challenges is dealing with differences in how each spouse approaches tasks and situations.

Joshua and Alyssa on the RoofWe discovered this even before we got married since we were friends for several years, but we both have slight differences in the ways that we do many things. It doesn’t help either that we both have strong firstborn personalities, so we both know that our way of doing things is the best way 😉

When your spouse does something differently than how you prefer, it can be tempting to try to change them. This is an ongoing challenge for me, especially.

I have learned, however, that sometimes it can be better to stay quiet and embrace these differences with grace. In view of eternity, some differences are honestly not that big of a deal, like the fact that Alyssa handwashes dishes with the faucet running while I only turn on the water once I’m ready to rinse the dishes.

There often is nothing to gain by asking your spouse to do something differently just because you prefer it that way (and Alyssa washes our dishes most of the time anyway, so she should get to do it the way she wants to!).

How to Embrace Differences with Grace

The Bible offers wisdom on how to handle differences and conflicts in various situations. One such passage is Proverbs 17:27-28: “He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.”

Sometimes it’s better not to say anything! There is value in restraint and wisdom in sometimes remaining silent.

Why start a conflict when you could instead accept a small difference and maintain peace and goodwill?

Here are a few advantages of keeping quiet instead of voicing certain preferences.

  1. You Foster Peace and Harmony
    By choosing not to voice every disagreement, you help to maintain a peaceful and harmonious home environment. Even constructive criticism on a regular basis can create tension and conflict, whereas patience and acceptance can strengthen your relationship.
  2. You Encourage Growth and Independence
    Allowing your spouse to handle tasks in their way can encourage their personal growth and independence. It shows trust and respect for their abilities and decisions.
  3. You Build Mutual Respect
    When you accept your spouse’s differences, you build a foundation of mutual respect. This respect fosters a deeper emotional connection and strengthens the bond between you.

Of course, there are times when you should speak up and have a kind-hearted discussion about some differences, especially if those differences significantly impact either of you spiritually, mentally, physically, or financially.

Some of these issues, if not addressed, can lead to misunderstandings or resentment over time. It’s important to find a balance between being patient and addressing significant concerns.

Consistently staying silent can stifle healthy communication. It is crucial to ensure that both partners feel heard and understood in the relationship. You need to learn how to differentiate between matters that need to be discussed and those that are insignificant.

In some cases, what might seem like a minor difference could be a symptom of a larger issue. Ignoring it could lead to more significant problems down the line. Again, discernment must be exercised. The example I gave above about washing the dishes is not a symptom of a larger issue, and it doesn’t impact either of us in a negative way.

When to Speak Up with Grace

While embracing differences with grace is important, there are situations where it is better to speak up…and still use grace.

  1. Matters of Principle or Values
    If the difference touches on core values or principles, it is essential to discuss it. Open communication about fundamental beliefs is crucial for a healthy relationship. Almost anything related to raising kids should be discussed.
  2. Impact on Well-Being
    If your spouse’s actions are affecting their well-being, your well-being, or the well-being of your family, it is necessary to address the issue. But do some soul-searching and praying to make sure you aren’t being selfish!
  3. Repeated Patterns
    If a particular behavior is a recurring source of conflict or stress, it might be time to have a constructive conversation about it. If you tend to get stressed easily over inconsequential things, though, you might want to get additional help and counsel for that.

When speaking up, it’s important to do so with love and respect. Colossians 3:12-14 advises, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”

This passage reminds is addressed to the church, but if you and your spouse are both born-again Christians, you are a brother and sister in Christ and should treat each other as such. Approach your spouse with kindness and love, aiming to build them up rather than to get your way.

Summary

Learning to embrace differences with patience and understanding can foster peace, respect, and deeper connection. This is true of all relationships, but especially in marriage.

More and more often, I have found that I just have a lot of preferences, and just because my wife does something differently does not mean it’s wrong! There are usually multiple good ways to do things. Therefore, expressing my preference is often not necessary.

Remember, however, that there are also legitimate times to speak up and address significant issues. Do not come to these conclusions quickly, though, and try to approach these situations from a biblical perspective.

Embrace the adventure of growing together, accepting your differences, and always striving for unity and love!

Do you tend to express your opinions and preferences more often than necessary in your relationships?

How To Share Life Together Even When You Aren’t Together

Back when Alyssa and I decided to get married, we determined that we were going to share as much of life together as possible. After all, we looked at marriage as a new adventure that we were going to embark on together, not separately.

But there are times when we must necessarily be apart. For example, during the first few years of marriage, Alyssa worked 30 hours a week at a day job, which meant that every day we were apart while we worked our separate jobs. As far as our ministries are concerned, though, we are committed to doing those together and have found great joy in doing so.

Sometimes we have ministry, family, and other life commitments that require us to be apart for a few days, and this week is one of those times. Nevertheless, we make sure we can still see each other and talk face-to-face on a daily basis.

5-Year Anniversary PoseOne week ago we celebrated our 5-year anniversary, and, more than ever, we want to see each other every day.

We are blessed to live in a time when technology makes it possible for us to see each other live with the touch of a button. Even 15 years ago when we were in high school, it was not this easy to see somebody from a distance.

But this was how we planned our wedding and did our marriage counseling while Alyssa taught on Guam and I lived in Minnesota, and it continues to be the way that we converse every day during those times when we cannot be together in person.

Now that we have children, this is even more important to us because our children only stay young for such a short time, and we want to be able to see them every single day as they grow and develop.

We also want our children to know that we love them and want to spend time with them every single day. Someday when they are adults, we will not have this same expectation of them, especially as they get involved in ministries, jobs, and perhaps even their own families.

Alyssa and Baby Jadon on a Video CallBut right now while they are just little guys, we want to spend every day with them, and we want to spend every day with each other as well.

If you are married, we challenge you to find a way to see your spouse face-to-face every single day, even when you are far apart. We know that a lot of people are resistant to today’s technology, but give some consideration to the benefits that it offers as well.

It is one thing to talk to someone on the phone, and it is another thing to see them while you talk to them. You can use Facetime or Facebook Messenger or Zoom (or perhaps even Skype, haha); we personally use WhatsApp because it’s the best option 😉 But with the accessibility of video calling these days, there are not many reasons not to take advantage of it when talking to your spouse.

We still don’t like to be apart from each other if we can help it, but having the ability to see each other virtually makes it much easier to do the things that we need to do and still go on this adventure of life together every single day.

If you are married, do you make it a priority to see your spouse every day on the days when they are far away?

Majoring on the Minors: Why I Took My Son to The Mall on Wednesday

As Alyssa walked along the sidewalk, pushing Baby Jocelyn in the stroller, she could hear the screams of her oldest child behind her, but there was nothing she could do about it. She entered the doors of Terminal 1 at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport and made sure not to turn around and look.

I sat there in the car with my distraught child behind me, wishing that we too were entering that terminal and preparing to board a flight. Baby Jadon loves to fly, and it crushed his little heart to see his mom and sister walk into the airport while we stayed in the car.

Of course, it didn’t make sense to him. Every time we go to the airport, he gets to get out with his car seat and go inside to get his boarding pass. He had flown on over 50 flights before his second birthday, and he already knows the whole process from the time we check our bags until we pick them up on the carousel at our destination.

But this was not one of those times, and there was nothing I could do to stop the tears from pouring down his cheeks as we drove away.

Thankfully, it was only a minute later when he stopped crying to point at the airplanes on the tarmac as we entered the highway once again. He gets excited to see airplanes on the ground and in the air even if he does not get to be a passenger on them.

But I decided that this would be a good time to have some father-son time together and to do something special for him while his mom and sister got the privilege of flying.

So we drove to Mall of America which is just on the opposite side of the interstate from the airport. We drove up to Level 5 in the parking garage, the level where we always park when we go to the mall.

Most of the stores in the mall were not open yet, and the little foot traffic that we found inside was mostly people who were there for the exercise. So we joined them and walked around a couple levels.

We walked around Nickelodeon Universe and stopped for a moment so he could watch the rides that went through their motions with nobody in them. We passed the thousands of Christmas lights that hang from the ceiling on the west side, always a favourite sight for Baby Jadon. We walked around the outside of the Lego store and looked at the many Lego sets on display.

We made sure to go up and down several escalators and one of the elevators because he always likes to do those.

At 10:00am, the stores finally opened, and we went straight to the Lindt store. Our family loves to go there because we like to look around at the many chocolates that they sell, and they often give free samples as well. Sure enough, they offered truffles to us, so we each took one as we continued to look around the store.

Baby Jadon at PaneraWhen we were finished there, we went up to the third level to Panera, and I got my free drink as a Sip Club member. While we waited for them to prepare my drink, we sat down at a table, and Baby Jadon proceeded to open his milk chocolate truffle. He took a bite and exclaimed, “Mmmmm!”

A smile spread across his face, the tears of one hour ago long gone. A moment later he popped the remainder of the candy in his mouth and pushed his wrapper across the table to me.

After he had finished his chocolate, he took mine and started to unwrap it. I did not mind because this little trip was about him, not about me, and I have had plenty of chocolate in my life. Once again he took a small bite out of it to start, but it was not long before the rest of the truffle was in his mouth while I sipped my hibiscus iced tea.

A few minutes later we got up and left the mall. We had a lot of things to do at home, and we both had a nice start to the day.

Together.

As our family grows and our kids grow up, we want them to learn that they can find joy and have fun in the little things. Yes, sometimes we also do the big things like going on weekend trips to see friends and family or to see things like the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter. But most of the time, we major on the minors, like stopping at Mall of America to walk around and get a free chocolate sample.

We don’t have to go and buy ice cream or a Lego set or a die-cast car. We don’t have to ride any of the rides at Nickelodeon Universe. We can do small, simple things that cost us a little time but almost no money, and we can make memories that last a lifetime.

Baby Jadon probably won’t remember this trip, but we are laying a foundation for the rest of life. Together we will have a good time while saving money for more important things.

He didn’t get to fly on the airplane this time, but he still got to do something special.

What special things do you do with others that cost nothing or almost nothing?

IHG Premier: How We Get an Annual Hotel Night for Only $99

Disclosures: This article includes links to credit cards. If you choose to apply for a credit card through our links, we may or may not receive a referral bonus. Credit cards are not suitable for everyone, however. If you have credit card debt of any kind, are irresponsible with your past or current use of credit cards, are unaware of the risks of using credit cards, or are conscientiously opposed to the use of credit cards, please do not apply for the credit cards mentioned in this article. You are 100% responsible for your own choices regarding the use of any credit cards mentioned here.

Noah Surf House in PortugalAs frequent travelers, finding ways to maximize the value of our travel budget is essential for us. A few times a year, we have to stay in hotels, but hotel stays are some of the most significant expenses while traveling.

Fortunately, over the last few years, we have been able to stay in some really nice places for the cost of staying in a budget hotel.

How do we do it? By owning a credit card that we don’t even use!

The IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card provides us immense value just by sitting and doing nothing. The card has many benefits, but the annual free hotel night offered by this card for only a $99 annual fee has become a game-changer in how we plan and enjoy our travels.

If you need a hotel night at least once a year, we believe the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card is a must-have for any savvy traveler who wants a comfortable (and sometimes luxurious) room at an affordable cost.

About the Anniversary Night Certificate

Here is a quick rundown of this specific credit card benefit:

$99 Annual Fee
Each year, upon renewal of the card, we receive a complimentary night at any eligible IHG® hotel worldwide. This benefit alone more than offsets the $99 annual fee because most hotels exceed this cost per night.

Flexibility and Choice
The beauty of the annual free hotel night certificate is its flexibility and choice. With thousands of IHG® properties around the globe spanning various brands such as InterContinental, Kimpton, Holiday Inn, and Crowne Plaza, we have the ability to redeem our certificate at a destination of my choice on any room that has an award rate of 40,000 points or less.

Atlantic Ocean Bungalow in PortugalUnlocking Luxury Experiences
The IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card allows us to indulge in luxury experiences that would otherwise be out of reach. From iconic city center hotels to beachfront resorts and boutique properties, the annual free hotel night certificate opens the door to unforgettable stays at some of the world’s most renowned destinations.

We have used this certificate to stay in downtown Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, a beachfront bungalow overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Portugal, and a hotel in downtown Seattle. The stay in Portugal was absolutely amazing and definitely nothing that I could have paid cash for.

Maximizing Value and Savings
By taking advantage of the annual free hotel night benefit, I’m able to maximize the value of my IHG® Rewards points and stretch my travel budget further. Whether I’m traveling solo, with family, or for a special occasion, the savings from the complimentary night enhance my overall travel experience and allow me to explore new destinations with peace of mind.

Potential Complimentary Upgrade
In addition to the annual free hotel night benefit, the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card offers a range of other valuable perks, including IHG® Rewards Platinum Elite status. With Platinum Status we are often able to get complimentary upgrades on our free room. For example, when we stayed at a hotel during a layover in Miami last year, we were upgraded to a 2-bedroom suite at no charge! This perk is especially nice for families.

As mentioned, this credit card has an annual $99 fee, and you receive your first free hotel night certificate upon the first anniversary of holding the card. But there is usually a nice signup bonus with this credit card, so the points that you receive from that bonus can also be used for free nights at IHG® hotels during your first year.

Another unspoken benefit of this anniversary hotel night perk is that it can save you money in case of an emergency. If you’re traveling somewhere and your other lodging plan falls through, or if you need to book a last-minute trip, this hotel night can potentially save you a lot of money in those situations. We have had to do this a couple times!

Summary

For anyone who travels on a fairly regular basis, the IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card is a game-changer.  Its annual free hotel night benefit offers unmatched value for a modest $99 annual fee. The rewards for spending on the card itself are not spectacular, so we only keep the card for the annual free night certificate that it provides.

We get so much value from this card that we own two of them!

Whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or a dream vacation, this credit card can help you make the most of your travel adventures and perhaps even unlock unforgettable stays around the US or around the world.

Do you have a credit card with an annual fee that you don’t even use but you keep simply because of its benefits?

Google Flights: The Best Way to Start Your Airfare Search

Google Flights MapUntil you get into the points and miles game as we have been for several years, booking airfare can be one of the most significant expenses when planning a trip. Once in a while we still have to book flights with cash, and we have several tools and strategies for finding great deals and making the best use of our money.

Along with the Southwest website, Google Flights is always my first stop when searching for flights, and it should be yours too. Whenever people ask me to look for flights for them, we start here.

Harnessing their internet search expertise, Google Flights is a powerful search engine that helps users find and compare airfare prices from various airlines.

So we want to show you how to use this platform effectively to score the best deals on airfare and why you should use it as you plan your next trip.

Using Google Flights

Website/App
To begin your airfare search, go to the Google Flights website. You can also download the Google Flights app on your mobile device, but I wouldn’t recommend doing this unless you fly often. The website is simple and works great on your phone.

Once you are there, you can enter your departure city, destination, travel dates, and other preferences to customize your search.

Google Flights DatesFlexible Date and Destination Options
One of the key features of Google Flights is its flexibility in searching for airfare deals. You can view prices for specific dates or use the flexible dates option to see prices for a range of dates, allowing you to find the cheapest travel options. Additionally, you can explore “Explore Destinations” to discover flight prices to various destinations based on your budget and interests.

One of my favourite features is its live pricing as you select your dates. When you open the calendar view, it gives you a general idea of the lowest price you can expect to pay on any given day of departure. Then, as you select your return date, it gives you the lowest price you can expect to pay for your entire trip, depending on the date you choose. So handy!

Price Tracking and Alerts
Google Flights offers price tracking and alerts to help you monitor airfare changes and receive notifications when prices drop or increase for your desired flights. After you select the airports, the dates, and the airline that you want to fly, simply enable price tracking for that specific flights or route, and Google Flights will notify you via email or push notification when prices change significantly.

Filter and Sort Options
To narrow down your search results, Google Flights provides various filter and sort options. You can filter by airline, number of stops, departure/arrival times, and more to find flights that meet your preferences and requirements. Sorting options allow you to prioritize results based on price, duration, departure time, or other factors.

Explore Map View
The map view feature in Google Flights allows users to visualize flight prices on a map, making it easier to compare prices for different destinations and airports. This feature is especially useful for travelers with flexible travel plans who are open to exploring new destinations based on price.

We don’t use this feature very often, but I have found it helpful a few times when we are going to a place that is somewhat central to two or more larger airports. This is especially true for destinations east of the Mississippi where large airports are not as spread out as they are out west. Also useful for international destinations in Europe.

Book Directly or through Partners
Once you’ve found a flight that meets your criteria and budget, you can choose to book directly through the airline’s website or through a third-party booking platform. Google Flights provides direct links and shows the prices to book flights with airlines or travel partners, streamlining the booking process and ensuring a seamless experience.

Google Flights Vs. Other Travel Portals

So why would we use Google Flights instead of other travel portals like Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Kayak, etc.?

The main reason is just that Google Flights is a platform dedicated to flights, whereas the others are designed to help you also find hotels, rental cars, and even experiences. The other ones also help you find travel packages. But Google Flights is strictly flights, so it is free of the distractions of other platforms.

Google Flights is also extremely fast and doesn’t have all the ads that you find on the other web portals.

As mentioned above, when you are ready to book, Google Flights will give you links so that you can book with those other travel portals if you would like, but it’s much easier to find those flights on Google Flights first.

Google Flights also does a better job of providing the most comprehensive selection of flights. Sometimes other travel portals don’t provide all of the options available.

One thing to note is that Southwest does not allow Google Flights to display its flights. So we always still go to Southwest.com to compare their options to the results that we find on Google Flights. You should do the same because Southwest has an extensive flight network, they allow free checked bags, and their prices rival the other airlines (not to mention Southwest’s amazing Companion Pass which allows two people to fly for the price of one).

Summary

Google Flights is a valuable tool for travelers seeking to find the best deals on airfare and save money on their next trip. If you are not already using it, we suggest that you make it your new primary airfare search tool

By utilizing its flexible search options, price tracking features, and comprehensive filter and sort options, you can streamline the booking process and ensure you are finding the best prices.

But someday you will want to start booking more flights with points and miles because that is way more fun!

Do you have any airfare search tools that you like better than Google Flights? If so, why?

How to Save Up to 20% on Southwest Flights

Southwest AirplaneMost of our domestic travel is done with Southwest Airlines.

Living 18 minutes from Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, we have access to dozens of Southwest flights on a daily basis. The fares are really competitive with Delta (our favourite airline), but they also offer two free checked bags per person and open seating (you choose your seat when you board). Now that we travel as a family of four, these benefits of Southwest make it our top choice for most of our flights here in the US.

Thankfully, most of our travel on Southwest is booked with points. Someday I will explain more about how we do that, and you are welcome to send us a private message if you would like to find out sooner.

But for those of you who usually have to pay cash for flights, I wanted to write a quick post about how to do that at a discounted rate.

About the Deal

If you have a membership with Sam’s Club or Costco, you can periodically buy $500 Southwest gift cards from them for only $450.

If you don’t have a membership with either of these wholesale clubs, maybe you can ask a friend to get you a gift card with their membership 🙂

In fact, at the time of this posting (April 5, 2024), Sam’s Club is offering this exact deal: https://www.samsclub.com/p/southwest-airlines-egift-card/prod26712432?xid=plp_product_1

That represents a 20% savings on a great airline!

We don’t have a Costco membership, so I don’t know how many of those gift cards you can buy at a time from them, but right now Sam’s Club has a maximum of 5 (which is a lot of travel).

Southwest also offers fare deals about once a month, so if you create a Rapid Rewards account with them and subscribe to their emails, you can find out when they happen.

These wholesale clubs might also offer discounts on other airline gift cards from time to time, but I have never seen them discounted as much as the Southwest gift cards.

Summary

Obviously, you need to do a little planning ahead to know whether or not you plan to fly Southwest for a specific trip, but when comparing airfare, we usually find Southwest to be one of the most inexpensive options, especially if you plan to bring checked bags with you.

Unless you are deep into the points and miles game like we are, this is a great way to save 20% on Southwest airfare when paying cash.

Did you know about this deal, and do you plan to take advantage of it sometime?

The Luggage Set That We Use

Some people have asked about the suitcases that we use when we travel, so here is a quick description of our luggage set.

Luggage at the AirportWe have a Coolife 3-Piece Luggage Set that we purchased with money from our wedding almost five years ago. Prior to these suitcases, we already owned a few older pieces of baggage, but we wanted something with the spinner wheels so that we could roll them around more easily.

Since buying this set, we have taken it all over the US and to several countries overseas. To say that these suitcases are well-used and well-loved would be an understatement.

Here are some key features and benefits of this luggage set.

  1. Durable Construction: The luggage is made of 1680D Oxford cloth, which is known for its durability and resistance to wear and tear. The material provides better protection for your belongings compared to traditional polyester luggage. As mentioned earlier, this luggage has been through a lot, and each piece is still in great condition. Coolife also includes a 2-year warranty with the set in case something unexpectedly breaks.
  2. Optimal Organization: The set includes a variety of sizes to suit different travel needs, including a 20-inch carry-on, 24-inch medium luggage, and a 28-inch large luggage. The set also has a nice 15-inch tote bag, something that was not included when we purchased the set in 2019. This nice variety of sizes makes it possible to pack efficiently either for short trips or extended vacations.
  3. Easy Mobility: Each piece of luggage is equipped with four multi-directional spinner wheels and a telescopic handle, allowing for smooth and effortless maneuverability through airports, train stations, and other travel environments. This is one of the main reasons we bought them.
  4. TSA-Approved Lock: This is something else new that was not available on our luggage when we bought it. For added security and peace of mind, each piece of luggage in the set has a built-in TSA-approved lock. This allows TSA agents to open and inspect your luggage without damaging the lock, keeping your belongings safe during travel. If you’re someone who likes to lock your luggage, you might find this handy. Perhaps this would also keep your zippers from gettting caught and damaged by other luggage.
  5. Compliance with Airline Standards: The carry-on luggage in the set is suitable for US airline cabin luggage according to IATA standards. This means you can confidently bring it on board with you as a carry-on item, avoiding the need to check luggage and potentially saving time and hassle at the airport. Even when fully loaded and bulging, the 20-inch carry-on still fits nicely in the overhead bins.
  6. Ergonomic Design: The luggage features a sturdy ergonomic aluminum telescoping handle, providing comfortable handling for travelers of all heights. Whether you’re pulling the luggage behind you or pushing it alongside you, the handle ensures a comfortable grip and easy navigation.

One downsides of the suitcases is that they sometimes get wet when it’s raining. If you suspect that you will be in that situation often, maybe you would cosider a hard case luggage set instead of a soft case like these.

The reason we opted for soft cases is two-fold. First, we assumed (whether rightly or wrongly) that hard cases would be more susceptible to scratching and looking worn. Second, we tend to pack our suitcases as tightly as possible, and it’s easier to stuff a soft case suitcase than a hard case one. As far as protection of belongings is concerned, we think that has more to do with how you pack things inside. Even a hard case won’t protect fragile items if they were poorly packed.

One final note about appearance. We recommend choosing a colour other than black if you want to make it easier for yourself to find your bags at the luggage carousel when you fly. Because we chose a pleasant blue colour, we can locate our bags easily most of the time, and Baby Jadon even recognizes our bags now. If you want your bags to blend in with the others though, yeah, go with black!

Summary

Overall, the Coolife Luggage Set offers a combination of durability, functionality, and convenience at a great price, making it our personal #1 choice of luggage for traveling. If we had to buy them all over again, we definitely would!

What do you prefer for bags or suitcases when you travel?

The #1 Way to Save Money on Food When Traveling

We love food.

We especially love food that has variety and unique flavours.

But more than food, we love to save money. Food, unfortunately, is a great way to waste a lot of money if you aren’t careful.

According to a conglomeration of sources, the average monthly food expenses for a family of four in the US can range from $600-1,000.

Honestly, we don’t know how they do it.

DR Hotel BreakfastWe live in the Minneapolis, MN, area, have one toddler and one infant, and average about $220 or less per month between groceries and restaurants. Sadly, we even have food go bad because we cannot keep up with all the food that we have. We truly are blessed beyond measure.

When we travel, our eating habits don’t change too much as we bring along our own food with us whenever we can to avoid paying for food at restaurants. If we are on longer trips where we stay in hotels or Airbnbs and cannot bring enough of our own food with us, we will buy food locally and prepare our own meals.

Yes, from time to time we might miss out on local cuisine, especially when traveling overseas. But we would argue that we don’t miss out on too much.

Benefits of Skipping the Restaurants

Here are several reasons we would rather eat our own food than go to restaurants:

  1. Cost-Effectiveness: Dining out at restaurants, especially in touristy areas, can quickly add up and strain your travel budget. By bringing or making your own food, you can significantly reduce your daily expenses and allocate your funds towards other travel experiences. With proper planning and smart shopping, homemade meals can be a fraction of the cost of restaurant dining.
  2. Flexibility and Convenience: When you bring your own food, you have the flexibility to eat whenever and wherever you please. Whether you’re on a road trip, exploring a new city, or spending a day at the beach, having your meals readily available allows you to focus on your itinerary without the need to search for restaurants or wait for table service (especially if you have squirmy little kids). Additionally, homemade meals can be customized to accommodate dietary restrictions or preferences, ensuring a satisfying and stress-free dining experience.
  3. Healthier Options: Dining out is enjoyable for many reasons. But by preparing your own food, you have the opportunity to choose nutritious and wholesome ingredients, control portion sizes, and avoid excess sodium, sugar, and unhealthy fats commonly found in restaurant dishes. This not only promotes better health and well-being but also saves you from potential post-meal regrets.
  4. Cultural Immersion: Bringing or making your own food while traveling allows you to visit local markets, grocery stores, and specialty shops, providing insight into the region’s culinary culture and ingredients. Shopping for fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, and homemade breads can be a delightful adventure in itself, offering a deeper connection to the destination and its food traditions. We absolutely love exploring local markets, experiencing the smells and sights, and haggling with the locals over their goods. In our opinion, this is a great alternative for those who like to try the food at their destination.

Examples from Our Travels

When traveling to neighboring states, we typically drive, so it’s easy to pack some snacks and a few meals in our bags. Snacks also help us stay awake and occupied while we drive.

When flying domestically, we take advantage of any airport lounges along the way because they usually have plenty of complimentary food options. Our home airport of Minneapolis-St. Paul has several amazing lounges that we love to frequent!

Packing food when flying is a little more difficult, but we do it. The key here is that you have to be willing to fly with checked bags, and you don’t want to pay for those checked bags. We usually fly Southwest in the US because they allow two free checked bags per person, and we also get a lot of value from our Southwest Companion Pass. But we also fly Delta and United once in awhile, and we have credit cards that give us free checked bags on those flights.

Whenever possible, we stay in Airbnbs or hotels that have full kitchens available. If that is not possible, we at least try to get places that have mini-fridges and microwaves.

Flying internationally is the trickiest when it comes to bringing and preparing our own food, especially because of border restrictions when traveling with fresh food. So for overseas travel, we tend to rely more on local markets and grocery stores.

Grocery Store in PortugalIn 2022 when we went to Portugal, the first thing we did after leaving the airport was go to a grocery store. For less than $10 we got yogurt, drinkable yogurt, juice, crackers, cheese, and a jug of water. Paired with the breakfast that we got at our oceanside bungalow, we were set for a few days!

After leaving Portugal and going to Greece, we went to a grocery store for bread, hazelnut spread, sausage, potatoes, and pasta for less than $20, and that provided us with meals for several days.

Last year in the Dominican Republic, we got rice, milk, sausage, eggs, bananas, and avocadoes from the store and an open-air market. For a little less than $29 total, we had healthy, energy-packed meals for a whole week while we traveled around the country. In fact, we actually had too much food!

When staying in hotels, we also like to book the ones that offer complimentary breakfast, and they will usually provide food that is local to the area. We have had some amazing breakfasts at hotels in the Philippines, Malta, Slovenia, Portugal, Greece, Egypt, Italy, and the Dominican Republic. No need to go to a restaurant for lunch or supper when we had a huge meal of international food for breakfast!

Summary

Bringing or making your own food while traveling offers a myriad of benefits, from saving money and promoting healthier eating habits to enhancing cultural immersion and outdoor dining experiences.

Someday when we are in a better position financially, we would love to eat out more at restaurants when traveling. But for now, saving our money for other things is a higher priority, and we are content!

You can stretch your travel budget further, savor delicious flavors, and create unforgettable moments on your journey. Before you head out on your next adventure across the state or across the world, consider packing a few homemade snacks or meals to enjoy along the way – your wallet will thank you!

Do you have your own tips for saving money on food when traveling?