Thanks for stopping by! The Trip Chicks® are two unconventional tour guides/travel agents with 25+ travel industry/airline years, mischief in 85+ countries, and a heap of travel (mis)adventures under our belts. Our goals? To educate, entertain, and help save you time, money, and stress on your next trip. Sometimes we digress. Happy travels!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Just Back from Europe

And boy, is the US dollar is buying more these days! Let's hope the Euro continues its trend well into the new year and the ole greenback makes a strong comeback. Travel across the big pond in the off-season and just as we did with our Christmas Markets of Germany and France tour group, make your homebase a centrally-located, lesser-known town with day trips by train. A room in a cozy family-run hotel along with daily breakfast and dinner often runs less than just a hotel room by itself would in the tourist-trodden higher profile cities.

Highlights of our holiday season small-group getaway included sampling delicious Flammkuchen (tartes flambées) in the heart of Alsace, visiting a centuries-old cuckoo clock factory, taking in snowy scenes in the Black Forest glacial lake and winter wonderland town of Titisee, and joining the hale and hardy in the open air thermal spa waters of Baden Baden. Then I said "auf wiedersehen" to my fellow "Trip Chick" Wendy and headed on my own to Switzerland and Torino/Turin Italy for a week stay. More on my travels there later this week.

Happy Holidays everyone, and best wishes for a great 2009!

Ann Lombardi
The Trip Chicks
Passport to Adventure, Inc.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Cool Convent Stays in La Bella Roma

Rome, the "Eternal City," is a perennial favorite on many a traveler's must-see list. But with a twin-bedded room in a 3-star Rome hotel often going for 200+ Euros a night, our dollar doesn't go half as far as it used to. So, we encourage you to consider a more colorful, definitely less costly alternative:

"Hye thee to the nunnery!"

Yes, a convent! Granted, some of them have curfews and offer just basic lodging. Others, however, are a bit more heavenly in creature comforts and ambience. The glorious one in which we recently stayed was more like a villa! (We're saving the insider scoop for our book!) A few of the sisters will even cook up a dinner for you for a modest fee. A helpful website, created by the American Catholic Church in Rome, lists a number of convent accommodations both near the Vatican and closer to the center of the city:

For monastery accommodations and convent stays all over Italy, check out:

Buon viaggio!

Ann Lombardi & Wendy Swartzell
The Trip Chicks

Monday, August 25, 2008

Buddy Passes for Standby Travel May Be Risky

A-a-a-h-h yes, those tempting buddy passes, the gift of stand-by, almost free flights from a friend or relative who works for the airlines. Many of us have jumped at the chance to take advantage of next-to-nothing travel stateside or overseas. But wait a minute. Often those complimentary passes could end up costing you an arm and a leg, if your planning is not realistic.

Did you know that buddy pass travelers are lowest on the priority totem pole when it comes to non-revenue passengers? As a buddy pass flyer, you are competing not only with travelers who have paid for their tickets (called revenue passengers), but also with airline employees who are standing by to hitch a cheap flight to your destination. And in these days of often jam-packed aircraft and cutbacks on flight frequency, your gamble might not pay off.

No problem at all with space on the flight to Paris, or so my friend thought, when she checked how full the flight was 24 hours before her trip. But in just matter of hours, that supposedly open space could disappear in a heartbeat. You could be left stranded on the way back home, or worse, trapped into buying a costly no-advance purchase fare just to meet up in time with your tour, your cruise, or your wedding party.

You could also get socked with a hefty last-minute fee for cancelling hotel reservations or other land arrangements. And there go your air ticket savings as they slip and slide away, straight down the drain. Then there's the possibility of the added annoyance of camping out in the airport for days while you wait for that elusive seat to open up, a technique advised for only the most intrepid of travelers with plenty of time to spare. Ask Ann about her wild escapades in the Frankfurt and Seoul airports for days on end several years back...

A good rule of thumb is unless you've got up to a week's leeway on either end of your travel dates, never plan on using a buddy pass to get to your destination during any major holiday season or on peak travel days, i.e. Friday morning through Monday morning. In addition, dress for success before you try to get on your preferred flights, and by all means don't hassle any airline personnel as you wait to board.

So, a word to the wise: consider flying stand-by only during the low season period to your destination. Always be cheerfully polite to the carrier's employees, in whose hands may rest the decision whether or not you ultimately get a seat on that waiting plane bound for San Francisco or London. Happy travels!

Ann Lombardi & Wendy Swartzell

The Trip Chicks

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Prayers for the Victims of Spanair Crash in Spain

We are deeply saddened to hear the heartbreaking news of a terrible airline accident in Spain Wednesday. Just moments after take-off, a Spanair MD-82 jet bound for the Canary Islands crashed at Madrid's Barajas Airport. According to official reports, 153 people died in the horrific crash, and there were just 19 survivors. Our prayers go out to the friends and families of those who perished.

Several of our clients have asked us today what they can do to become better informed about airline safety. Though obviously no one can predict the probability of an aviation accident, two websites with airline historical safety data are:

The Trip Chicks

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Trip Chicks™ Bike New Zealand Trip Featured in Atlanta Newspaper Sunday Travel Section

What an amazing time we had on our "Bike New Zealand" February group getaway! And we were so pleased to welcome our writer and editor friends from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who joined our merry travelers down-under. Susan Puckett, Morieka Johnson, and Peralte Paul each recount their memorable Kiwi experiences from three unique perspectives in an entertaining set of pieces appearing online as well as in the August 17th Sunday travel section. Take a look at their hilarious stories and great photos by going to:

Wendy and Ann
The Trip Chicks

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Our National "Vacation Deficit Disorder" Are You a Victim?

In this evening's ABC Travel News RSS feed, I was flabbergasted to read a story about how medieval peasants in Europe had more time off than the average American worker! It is totally incomprehensible that our modern society has regressed so in its vacation vs. work ethic.

Have you ever been hesitant to take vacation time because you were worried you might have trouble getting "caught up" when you got back? Or, worse, have you ever thought you might lose your job if you actually used your time off? Fess up, everyone. But if you are one of the few Americans who regularly takes vacations, please share your tips on how you've trained yourself to leave the office behind and relax guilt-free on a well-deserved escape.

The Trip Chicks

Cool Airfare Website

Thanks, everyone! Sorry it's been a while since we've posted. Hope to get back in the swing of things shortly. We're putting the final touches on our first travel book. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here's a little trick:

Let’s say, for example, you want to fly from Tampa to San Diego, or Los Angeles to Auckland, New Zealand. Go to and sign up for their free fare alert service by sticking in your dates and city pairs. Then just wait for the “Kayak Buzz Daily Alert” emails. Included are interesting graphs showing the history of recent fares to your destination and lists of airlines offering the current lowest published airfares in the market.

Typically (if there really is such a thing in the airline world), sales are more likely to happen on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or early Thursday mornings. There’s a little trick for you night owls out there. Did you know that it’s not uncommon for the airlines to change a bunch of their airfares between midnight and 3 a.m. local time of the hub city for the airline? (i.e., Atlanta time for Delta, or Minneapolis time for Northwest).

Sometimes during these wee hours, the airline employees who are loading the airfare onto the airline website might mess up and either omit or reverse a number in the fare. That’s the rare occasion you might be able to grab a ski season fare from your hometown for $37 dollars plus tax, instead of the $370 dollars it was supposed to be.

Granted, these airfare mistakes don’t happen often, but when they do, again be ready to jump on a sale without thinking twice. Once the fare is ticketed, the only way the rate can increase on you is if you decided to change your travel dates.

The time frame when the airlines load their sale fares into the computer certainly is not set in stone. This past Friday at 9:15 p.m. we spotted a discounted airfare to Zurich, and immediately called some clients late at night. Alas, by the time folks got back in touch with us within a few hours, the rate had already vanished!

As a matter of fact, the sale rate was in the computer all of 45 minutes! The airfare zoomed up $337 within the blink of an eye. Moral of the story is scoop up that sale fare as soon as you see it. So many of them are here this hour and gone the next. Happy travels!

The Trip Chicks