Tag Archives: Air Canada

Travel hacks for your wallet and your waistline

My husband and I recently spent a lovely fall week in Kelowna, B.C. It was a pleasure to travel domestically and not have to worry about passports, currency, customs and exorbitant surcharges to use our cell phones. But as always, there were a few things that worked out really well along with several hiccups that were a learning experience.

Getting there and back
I booked our tickets on Air Canada through Expedia.ca. My rationale was that instead of checking the websites of different airlines I could compare flights and prices all in one place. We ended up going on Toronto-Vancouver-Kelowna and returning Kelowna-Calgary-Toronto. The layovers were each about an hour and we weren’t pressed for time so it didn’t really matter. But as we were waiting to board on the way home there was a direct Kelowna-Toronto WestJet flight which I certainly would have selected if it had been offered as an option by Expedia.

Also, when booking on Expedia I still had to go to the Air Canada site to select seats which I forgot to do until several weeks before we left. I usually try to book bulkhead or wing seats and pay extra because I prefer more leg room. But I was shocked to learn that for the purpose of pre-selecting seats, our travel was considered to be 4 separate flights and we were charged accordingly.

Options were limited by then. So by the time I selected two aisle seats for each of us going out, the charge was $40 ($10 each for two flights), two front seats from Kelowna to Calgary ($20 x 2) and two bulkhead seats from Calgary to Toronto ($50 x 2).  The additional charges were over $200 including taxes! Direct flights would have cut these surcharges in half.

To add insult to injury, we had to pay $25 each to check one bag. Apparently this is common practice, but it’s been a long time since we flew within Canada and I wasn’t aware of this policy change introduced several years ago. The good news is that in both directions my second bag (a small roller board carry on) was checked in free at the gate. Of course, if you are traveling only with carry on luggage to avoid long waits for baggage on arrival you will not want to relinquish your bag, even if you are offered the opportunity to do so at no cost.

There is also no longer any “free lunch” or any other meal if you fly economy. Food is sold on the flight, but it is typically overpriced and popular items frequently run out. In addition, depending on when your flight is scheduled, food and drink may not be offered when you are actually hungry. We packed home-made sandwiches and fruit for both our trips out and back and we were glad we did.

Accommodations
We have a shared-ownership property in Muskoka which gives us 5 weeks a year. We were able to trade one week for a condo at The Royal Private Residence Club (a Delta property) in downtown Kelowna. The apartment was spacious with a full kitchen and a laundry room with a washer and dryer.

Similar properties are available for rent in many North American cities and worldwide. They are particularly cost-effective if you are traveling with a family and will have to rent more than one room. Furthermore, because kids don’t have the patience to eat three meals a day in a restaurant and constant eating out can be prohibitively expensive, a kitchen gives you the flexibility to eat what you want, when you want. And you need less luggage if you can throw in a couple of loads of laundry part-way through your trip.

AirBnB also has listings for everything from rooms to full apartments in most cities, offering similar amenities. They are generally much less costly than hotel rooms and can be more comfortable for both individuals and families than a basic room. 

Transportation
I also booked a pre-paid rental car on Expedia with Hertz. When we arrived at the Kelowna airport they said I was the named driver because I made the reservation and that it would cost $90 to add my husband as a second driver. I refused and after calling a supervisor, Hertz agreed to reverse the charge. However, because the car was booked by Expedia and not directly with Hertz, they had all kinds of problems figuring out how to change the designated driver and amend the contract. After over an hour of unsuccessfully trying to get the computer to accept the changes, they had to get a supervisor to write up a new paper contract!

I subsequently learned from various friends that other car rental companies add additional drivers at no cost. Also, there is significant variation between available deals for a one week rental and I should have done more research before pre-paying through Expedia.

What I learned
We had a great trip. Nevertheless, I have learned:

  • It is always better to compare price and features of each component of a trip on competitor websites and book directly with the preferred vendor instead of using an aggregator.
  • Given the opportunity, we will always select an efficiency unit or apartment instead of a basic hotel room when traveling for a long weekend or a week to a single location.
  • Making breakfasts and a few dinners in the condo can save a bundle and ensure there are yummy leftovers for lunch on the long flight home.

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Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Jul 24: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

When you are finally ready to come inside to beat the heat on a hot, steamy July day, here are some personal finance videos and podcasts for your viewing and listening pleasure.

CBC’s Asha Tomlinson interviews consumer advocate Ellen Roseman who answers questions about what Air Canada’s break up with Aeroplan could mean for you.

On the Money Mastermind Show, Linda P. Jones (Be Wealthy & Smart) interviews Hilary Hendershott from Profit Boss Radio. Although  Hendershott was working as a certified financial planner, she was unable to pay her own bills during the 2008 financial crisis. She worked her way out of this crisis and now offers her solutions to others.

Trips to the grocery story keep going up with the price of food. The CBC’s Marivel Taruc looks at how you can save some money on your grocery bill with the help of your smartphone.

In a Save your #@%* money video for the Financial Post, Melissa Leong hits the streets to find out the stupidest ways people lose money.

And finally, perennial favourite Jessica Moorhouse shares some of the ways she and her husband manage money together without getting into heated arguments.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

June 12: Best from the blogosphere

In the mid-1990s when I obtained my Master of Laws (LLM) from University of Leicester via a distance degree I traveled back and forth to Europe for five extended study weekends. That’s when I first got an Aeroplan number and a CIBC Aeroplan Visa and began aggressively collecting points.

As a result we were able to get almost free flights to many wonderful places including South America, Italy and the U.K. But recently convenient flights have cost more points and additional fees have increased so it has become more and more difficult to use up Aeroplan points in a cost-effective way.

Therefore, several years ago I traded in my Aeroplan VISA for a Capital One MasterCard that offers two points for every dollar spent and travel rewards of $1 for each 100 points accumulated.  I haven’t looked back since then.

But many of you who have stuck with Aeroplan through thick and thin will be affected by the announcement that beginning June 30, 2020. Aeroplan will no longer be the loyalty program for Air Canada.  Instead Air Canada has decided to launch its own loyalty program upon the expiry of its commercial agreement with Aimia, the operator of Aeroplan.

Many details of how the program will be phased out remain unclear, but the collection of media articles and blogs below may answer some of your questions.

A two-part series on Rewards Canada explores what we know now and questions that remain outstanding.

  1.  Air Canada to launch own loyalty program in 2020! Aeroplan should continue to be a partner includes excerpts from the Aeroplan news release and questions whether the new Aeroplan will have access to Star Alliance members’ award inventory or if it will become exclusive to Air Canada’s new program.
  2. Further thoughts, insight and tips on the split between Air Canada and Aeroplan suggests that perhaps Air Canada will pad their loyal flyers account with some miles to begin with, or they may put in place some sort of transfer option. However it seems from the news provided by both Aeroplan and Air Canada there will be no way to transfer between the two programs, at least for the time being.

The Globe and Mail’s Rob Carrick explores rewarding replacements for those of you who are bailing on Air Canada. He says, “Figure out which program works best for you and start watching for special introductory offers to lure new clients. Competition between programs will heat up as we move closer to Air Canada’s departure from Aeroplan.”

Stephen Weyman on HowToSaveMoney.ca says Aeroplan has committed to keeping your miles safe and will allow you to continue redeeming them for flights on Air Canada even after the 2020 deadline. But what could change is the cost in miles for doing so. He says, “I expect the cost will increase substantially, so if you want to fly Air Canada or Star Alliance, you should try and redeem most of your miles before 2020.” Weyman also explores which Aeroplan credit card is really the best.

And finally, read about how a family of four collected one million travel reward points in 12 months and is travelling the world on business class . Global News multimedia journalist Emanuela Campanella writes about Pedro Pla, 35, from Puerto Rico and Grace Cheng, 36, from Singapore who began their odyssey with their two toddlers in January 2017.

“We made it our family goal at the start of 2016 to collect a million air miles through travel hacking. In order to reach this goal, we had to research and plan meticulously so that we were able to maximize the earning of credit card points or miles per dollar of spending,” Pia says. “The bulk of our one million miles was earned from the ground, which means that we earned them as credit card rewards points or miles when we use our credit cards to pay for purchases.”


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Nov 16: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Most of the time when I sit down at my computer to write the weekly Best from the Blogosphere post I have absolutely no idea what the theme will be until I read a few articles from other bloggers that send me off on a tangent.

Such was the case this week when the first message in my inbox was from Robb Engen at Boomer and Echo writing about Mischief Managed: How I Went From Credit Card Abuser To Rewards Card Master. He says optimizing credit spending means using one card for groceries and gas, one for dining and entertainment, one for travel and one for everything else. Last year he used six credit cards to earn over $1,500 worth of rewards.

In 2012 Carla Wintersgill wrote in the Toronto Star about How travel hackers maximize loyalty points. She reports on the inventive way American author Chris Guillebeau collected points through the United States Mint. For a year and a half, it was possible to buy U.S. dollar coins directly from the Mint, which included free shipping. Over the course of a few months, he bought $70,000 in coins using a points-collecting credit card and then re-deposited the coins in the bank to pay his bill.

With Black Friday and Christmas on the horizon, reader may be interested in the Top 5 tips for maximizing miles on your holiday shopping by Patrick Sojka at Rewards Canada. He suggests double or triple dipping to rack up your points faster. This basically involves your mileage earning credit card being used for a purchase where you also earn miles in the same program as the credit card. For example, pay for your Air Canada flight with a TD Aeroplan Visa or American express.

When you use travel rewards, at some point you may be juggling way more credit cards than the average consumer. Even with a really good system to ensure that you have paid your cards in full each month, at some point something may slip through the cracks. On Frugal Travel Guy, Caroline Lupini explains How to Get Credit Card Late Fees Refunded and Interest Charges Reversed at least once, but it is important not to make a habit of missing payments.

In a guest post on the Canadian Finance Blog, How to Get the Best Value from Air Miles Rewards, Retire Happy blogger Jim Yih explains how he exchanged 15,850 Air Miles for six flights from Edmonton to Ottawa that saved him $2475.99. He calculates that he is getting about one Air Mile for every dollar spent and his equivalent cash back is about 1.67% over the longer time frame. He also endorses double-dipping and believes that with a little more conscious effort and awareness he can get the reward up to a 2% cash back equivalent.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

May 27: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

blogospheregraphic

This week we catch up with some bloggers who share stories and ideas about spending.

Million Dollar Journey suggests 7 smart ways to spend your tax return.

The Blunt Bean Counter shelled out for an well-deserved vacation, but he says  Air Canada lost his luggage when he went to Dominican Republic at the end of tax season.

On boomer & echo, boomer considers how to pick a perfect mortgage.

Pete the Planner thinks giving yourself an allowance when you are in debt is stupid.

And Gail Vaz-Oxlade reminds us that “keeping up” with others can keep you from saving.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?”  Send us an email with the information to socialmedia@saskpension.com and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.