Use ‘Hotwire’ to Save on Hotels

We just booked a flight from Casablanca to Tenerife with a 17 hour layover in Lisbon. The long layover made for a cheap flight, and Lisbon is one of the great cities in the world so we were actually looking forward to arriving at 4:00 pm and flying out at 9:00 am the next morning. I scored a 4 star hotel there on ‘Hotwire‘ for just over a hundred bucks.

I wrote before on how to save money money on booking hotels through ‘Hotwire‘, but I thought I’d break it down if you’re new to the platform.

How Hotwire Works

Searching for hotels in Madrid, Spain

Searching for hotels in hotwire will not always give you specific hotels, but they will group hotel stays by region within cities. In the map above, you’ll see polygons that denote ‘where’ your hotel will be, and clicking on that shape will ensure you purchase a hotel in that area, often 50% off its original price. High end hotels like this as they save face on lowering their prices without advertising them and rent rooms at rock bottom prices.

The downside is that you’ll never which hotel you’ll get until after you book which some people find off-putting. However, search queries will state that you’re guaranteed one of the aforementioned hotels (usually from a list of 4 or 5) but if you’re happy with your options, pull the trigger on this modern day version of hotel Russian roulette.

Full Service Vacation Property Management - TurnKey

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Part 3-The Travel Gear Diaries: Hardware

I’ll basically be carrying a portable movie studio in my carry on bag for our trip.

We stocked up on a lot of this gear when we were home for Christmas. Some was a gift from ourselves to ourselves which is not really in the spirit of Christmas but we wanted to make sure that we had everything to share our trip visually and interactively with the world. The feigned reactions between Lisa and I around my parents house on Christmas sounded like this:

“Oh honey, a mavic air? You knew!”

“As I live and breathe! The Go-pro hero 5? You shouldn’t have!”

Our school’s ‘What is experiential education?’ promotional video that I made in 2017.

Movie making started as a hobby for me and morphed into part of my job as a technology integrationist at Korea International School. Although our school has the legendary Scott Smith who is our primary media production person, in addition to making instructional videos on final cut pro I sometimes get the opportunity to make some shorts on graduation, applied learning or experiential education when he has too much on his plate; and I jump on the chance when there’s a cool story to tell. As youtube is the default media platform for 12-25 year olds, having some basic video editing skills has become essential for those that prefer this form of visual literacy. With that, comes the hardware to make it happen.

Tools of the trade

Mavic Air Drone: The mavic air is considerably smaller than the mavic pro and the beastly phantom 4. I have 2 spare batteries. One I’ll carry in the backpack and the other in my checked bag. Drones can be annoying but can capture those beautiful wide shots that show landscape and context like no other. Look at the opening few seconds of the Mongolia ‘Part 3’ video below if you don’t believe me.

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Travel Notebook: For sketching and writing.

1 TB Hard Drive: Having an external hard drive is essential for the 4K footage that the drone shoots and storing it on the hard drive is much easier than the macbook.

Macbook Air: Much lighter than the macbook pro, I prefer it hands down over the PC. Some of the movie making apps I use are final cut pro for major project and motion for custom text animations.

Google Chromecast: For streaming Netflix shows to the TV via USB port. Nice for when we want to chill out and watch some movies as a family. (Not pictured)

iPad: Smaller than the iPad pro, the standard iPad is more compact and I’m still mulling over whether to bring the logi tech bluetooth keyboard which weighs slightly more than the case. I think I’ll leave the latter at home as we’ll have the Macbook air keyboard when we need to get serious about typing. The apple pencil will be coming with us.

iPhone 6 Plus: My phone shoots decent video and at 1080, it’s pretty good resolution. I sync all my iPhotos to Google photos which has unlimited storage. I have a phone clip/mount with a bluetooth trigger.

Ricoh Theta 360 degree Camera with Tripod: For when I want to get an immersive 360 video or picture without much production value. Think I’ll create a channel within my channel called ‘The Space Between’ which will be 2-3 minute videos of un-notable moments that I’ll want to capture and don’t want to put in time on the production value.

2 Loop Travel Adaptors: Each with 2 USB ports for charging mobile devices.

2 Lightening Cables and 2 Android Cables: Lisa has a Samsung device and I Apple.

Go Pro Hero 5 with Underwater Housing: I flooded our edge camera last summer in Hawaii while snorkeling with Manta rays and we upgraded to the Here 5. (Not pictured) We bought the underwater housing and have a hand mount and strap which makes the camera positively buoyant when in water. Typically, filming with this has been Lisa’s job as I’ve taken underwater stills with my Sealife 1400 with external flash which is beastly. Getting underwater video is challenging down deep, but with a hand light or shooting near the surface, color can be improved dramatically in post production.

Resmed Travel CPAP Machine: Okay, it’s not related to movie making, but this will by carried on my person and will be getting the most use out of all the gear in my bag.

3 USB Drives: These have varying storage from 15 GB to 100GB.

Free $100 Best Buy Gift Card with 2 or more select major appliances totaling $1,500

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Empty Rooms

The great decluttering has begun.

Since we brought our cats home to California, we have started going through our apartment ‘mari-kondo’ style and asking ourselves ‘Does this bring us joy?’. If not, the items find themselves on a trip to school to be dropped off at various staff lounges much like how Andy Dufresne unsuspectingly smuggled his prison wall out of his jail cell in the Shawshank Redemption.

This isn’t the first time we’ve been through an international move. In Vietnam, we had a generous shipping allowance and a company packed our possessions into 81 boxes to travel by boat from Ho Chi Minh City to Seoul. Last week, we received a quote of $3,000 for a year’s storage followed by a shipping cost to a point yet to be determined by our hiring school. East Asia would be the cheapest, the middle East and East Africa coming in second and Brazil the most expensive.

With exciting prospects on the horizon, it’s still a humbling experience to downsize your life. With every item that makes its way to the ‘get rid of’ pile, a quiet reflection comes into play. Do we really need this? Would it just be cheaper to buy a new one? One item that came to mind was our wooden entertainment center. When our first moving company gave us a quote last week, it was one of our things that was ‘on the fence’. Solely practical in its function, it served merely as a stand on which to put the T.V.

“How long have we had that for?” I asked Lisa.

“Our second house in Vietnam”.

“Good good, we had that for 7 years there and 4 years here.”

Since 2008

It felt insensitive to give away something that is older than our daughter and is practically a family heirloom, but make no mistake-it’s just ‘stuff’. Easily replaceable and without real sentimental value. My mind danced around the house looking at which items have been with us the longest. My wool Nordstrom coat which my mother in law brought to us in Korea I got as a high school student 24 years ago. Still fits! The stained and tattered money belt we took with us when we moved to Thailand in 2002. 16 years old. Still works! It’s as if these possessions were the last holdouts in a house hold season of ‘Games of Thrones‘ or what remains of Andy’s toys in Toy Story.

One day in a few months, a group of people will box up what is left of our possessions, stuff it full of desiccation packets and shut it up in a container for a long sleep. It’s not us though. Just memories of our lives and momentos of moments that help us remember who we were and where we’ve been.

I think about the new tenants coming to live in our apartment after us and think of the new memories that the house will bring them. It’s as if we’re bequeathing the right to live in ‘our place’ even though we were renting it just the same. “Respect our old home.” I imagine telling them. “It brought us so many good memories. By the way, can we come back to visit?

Ultimately, that’s never true. Whether it be a house, apartment, tent, mansion or even ger, they’re all just empty shells. Empty rooms never have a story to tell. It’s the people in those rooms that do. The times they shared. The laughs they had. What fills their photo albums, hard drive, or is worthy enough of a frame to be hung on the wall to show off to visitors. Everything else is immaterial floating through time and space from the sales racks of big box marts to the discard bin of thrift stores or landfills that litter the world.

Last night, we said goodbye to our cat’s old ‘tower’. A five-foot tall scratching post with sitting areas on which our two felines curled and slept for the last 4 years, and last remainder of their time with us in Korea. If you were to visit us now, you would never know that we ever had 2 cats. I paid 5 dollars to discard it at the recycling center outside our building and noticed this morning while peering out the window, that a nearby dweller had scooped it up before it was picked up on the normal 10 am rounds.

I imagined this lucky person finding our frayed beast in the early hours of the morning and being so excited to welcome it to its new home and loving family in a mysterious building and apartment we’ll never know. I imagined them carrying it to the elevator thinking, ‘the kids will be so excited!’ not perturbed by its ragged appearance nor giving it much thought as to where it was from, or what it had to do with anybody’s life.

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