The solution is in making better choices. Psychology. But most of the answers we hear aren’t legit.
So I called a guy who knows the real deal: Brian Wansink.
He leads food psychology research at Cornell University and the White House chose him to revise US dietary guidelines.
He has a great website and is author of two smart books on the subject of tricking yourself into eating better:
I posted about his work before but this time I wanted answers straight from the man himself. And, man, did he ever deliver.
What you’re going to learn in this post:
- The easy thing to do while shopping that prevents you from buying junk food.
- How to not fall for the tricks and traps of restaurants.
- The 2 secrets to not snacking too much at the office.
- How to stay disciplined at events and holiday gatherings — without making the host feel bad.
- How superheroes can help you make better food choices.
Yeah, I said superheroes can help you eat better. Seriously. In fact, let’s start there…
Ask “What Would Batman Eat?”
Cookies calling your name? Ask yourself “What would Batman eat?”
Brian’s research showed this got kids to pick apple slices over french fries. Here’s Brian:
We found we could get kids to choose the healthier food much more often if we simply asked what their favorite superhero or their favorite princess would do. Even if they responded “french fries”, half the time they took the apple slices. It simply causes an interruption in their thinking that causes them to pause, hit the reset button inside their head and think again.
Sound crazy? Research really does show that thinking about fictional characters we love can help us make better decisions.
In fact, thinking about superheroes can even make you physically stronger. (I’ll be asking “What would Batman lift?” at the gym tomorrow.)
But some of you might be thinking, “He said that works for kids, Eric.”
Doesn’t matter. It’ll work for you too. Here’s Brian:
The same thing works for adults. If you’re faced with a decision like, “Should I eat dessert?” think of an admired person in your life. Say to yourself, “What would my cool friend Steve do?” You’ll find that about a third of the time it will be easier for you to make healthier decisions.
Ladies, feel free to envision Wonder Woman — unless you’re more the Catwoman type. (Hey, I don’t judge.)
(For plenty more awesome tips from Brian’s books click here.)
Okay, so you’re thinking about Batman when you eat. (I’ll bet you look dashing in a cape.) But the food war is often won or lost at the supermarket.
So what can you do to make sure you’re buying the right food in the first place?
Chew Gum While You Shop
Crazy, right? Believe it or not, a stick of gum in your mouth prevents junk food from entering your shopping cart. Here’s Brian:
We found that when people popped sugarless gum in their mouth it made them less hungry. It soothed cravings and some people even reduced how many snack foods they bought by about 90%.
Here’s the important thing to remember: not all gum is created equal. Go for sugar-free bubble gum or sugar-free mint gum. Other kinds can actually increase appetite. Here’s Brian:
But one of the things we also found is that it can’t be sugared gum or even flavored gum because that can work in the opposite direction. The stuff that works best is sugar-free bubble gum or sugar-free mint gum. Those are the two craving killers.
(For more on how the magic of gum can change your life — including make you smarter — click here.)
With superheroes on your mind and gum in your mouth you’re well on your way. But what about when you’re in a restaurant?
Now you need to think like a real estate agent: location, location, location.
Navigating The Treacherous World Of Restaurants
Watch where you sit. Did you choose a booth? You’re 80% more likely to order dessert and 80% less likely to order salad.
Sitting by the TV? You’re much more likely to order BBQ. Sitting closer to the bar? Guess who’s going to be drinking more than they thought?
Where are you safe? Head for a window seat. Here’s Brian:
People who sat in booths were about 80% more likely to order dessert than people sitting in a normal table and you’re about 80% less likely to order salad. People sitting near windows were much more likely to order salads. People sitting at tall tables were almost two to three times as likely to order chicken or fish. If you’re sitting within ten feet of a TV set you’re much, much more likely to order barbecue than not. If you are seated at a table close to the bar, on average, your table’s going to be ordering three more beers than the table that’s farther from the bar.
And those menus aren’t haphazardly thrown together. They are often marvels of psychological trickery.
Anything highlighted, in a box or a different font is going to catch your eye and you’ll be more likely to order it.
Be careful when reading the descriptions. Clever names and appealing adjectives make you 28% more likely to pick something. Here’s Brian:
Anything that’s in the corners or in a box or highlighted or in a different font or has an icon next to it has a huge leg up in its likelihood of being chosen. The description of a menu item has a tremendous impact not only on whether we’re going to order the item but also on how much we’re going to like it. In our research we found a real difference between calling something “Succulent Italian Seafood Fillet” instead of just “seafood fillet.” People are about 28% more likely to take it. And they’re also willing to pay about fifteen to twenty percent more for it.
So how do you find something that’s healthy and tasty? Ask the server, “What are three of your lighter items that are most popular?” Here’s Brian:
If you want to get something a little bit healthier ask the server, “What are three of your lighter items that are most popular?” You don’t want to say “What are your healthiest things?” because all she’s going to do is point at salads.
(For more of Brian’s advice on how to eat smart at restaurants, click here.)
So you’re good in the supermarket and at restaurants. But what about all that eating you do at work?
How To Stop Snacking At The Office
Keep two words in mind: distance and happiness.
As we’ve talked about before, distance is a big, big deal. You eat less when food is farther away and more when it’s closer. Here’s Brian:
People ate half as much if we simply moved the candy dish off their desk and placed it six feet away.
Simple barriers have the same effect.
Here’s an experiment that Google did recently. The M&Ms in their New York office used to be in baskets. So instead they put them in bowls with lids. The lid doesn’t require a lot of effort to lift but it reduced the number of M&Ms consumed in their New York office by 3 million a month.
So that’s distance. What about happiness? It’s important to understand the psychology of workplace eating.
When you aren’t having fun at work you often tell yourself you deserve to eat more because you’re working hard.
If you enjoy your job more (or have fun going out to eat with colleagues at lunch) you’ll find this happens less. Here’s Brian:
You see food as a reward you deserve because you’re doing something you don’t want to do. “I’ve been working all day so I deserve a snack” or “I deserve more to eat tonight at dinner.”
(For more on how to be happier at work, click here.)
And now we come to the most sinister and dangerous of all the scenarios: get-togethers, dinner parties and holiday gatherings.
Say “no” to food and you could insult the host… and that often turns into an excuse to binge. What to do? Brian has answers.
How To Avoid Gorging At Events And Holiday Gatherings
Here are the two tricks:
- Only eat the food the host prepared themselves. No chips, pretzels or stuff out of a box or bag.
- Take a tiny amount of what they prepared — but make sure to ask for seconds. You don’t eat much, but the host knows you liked it.
Our research found that people ate 11% of their calories at Thanksgiving before they even eat dinner. The peanuts, the Chex Mix and stuff like that. One of the biggest reasons that people say they overeat at Thanksgiving is they don’t want to offend their host. So the easiest way to not offend your host and eat 10% less is just don’t eat the stuff that she bought at the store. And the second thing is that nobody remembers how much you take of something but they do remember whether you asked for seconds. So just take a little bit the first time but make sure you ask for seconds and that she hears you. All she’s going to remember is that you really appreciated what she made and asked for more.
(For more tips on how to handle eating at gatherings, click here.)
Armed with these tips you should be ready for anything. Let’s round them up and get more insight from Brian.
Brian’s great tips for healthy eating are:
- Ask “What would Batman do?” (Fill in the name of anyone you admire… though Batman is an excellent choice, in my utterly biased opinion.)
- Chew sugarless bubble gum or mint gum while you shop for groceries.
- At restaurants, be careful where you sit and watch out for menu tricks. Ask the server for popular lighter options.
- Enjoying your work and distance from food can prevent you from overeating at the office.
- At get-togethers only eat what your host actually prepared. Eat a small amount but ask for seconds.
Research shows we have a crazy relationship with food sometimes. But you can overcome a lot of this with simple deceit and trickery.
What makes this so much fun is that the person you need to trick is you.
Brian and I talked for a while so there are a number of other great tips that I’ll be including in my weekly email (including the one sentence that helps people stop overeating immediately.) Join now to learn more.
This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.
Join over 145,000 readers and get my free weekly email update here.
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Want to give a holiday tip, but don't have a clue how much to give? Here are some helpful guidelines from the etiquette experts.
‘Tis the season to be jolly, but instead I often find myself stressed when I realize I have no clue how much to tip my hairdresser. Or my housekeeper. Or my garbage collectors. If you’re like me, you have a list of people you want to thank for helping to make your life easier throughout the year. If you’re also like me, you have no clue about what gratuity levels are considered typical, stingy, or even generous.
That’s why this year I reached out to a couple of highly regarded experts to get the inside scoop. Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas says, “The first rule of thought is to gift and tip within your budget. No one wants to see you struggle to tip through the holidays if you have just lost your job, or you are having trouble paying the rent.”
“Tips are subjective,” adds Jodi RR Smith of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting in Marblehead, Mass. “Tips are dependent on your relationship with the individual and the norms for your area, as well as your budget.”
With that in mind, here are some helpful guidelines from the experts to help you (and me!) navigate gratuity gifts as the year comes to an end.
These are the people who help out around the house, so you have more time to earn money to hire people to help out around the house!
- Babysitter: Cash or gift card equivalent to one or two night’s pay. I talked to someone who used to sit for my kids and she told me, “It’s nice to know you’re appreciated. A small gift is a nice token of appreciation and helps keep a sitter loyal to a family.”
- Nanny/Au Pair: The equivalent of one week’s salary and a handmade gift from your child. “A live-in nanny or a nanny that spends most of the day with your children is invaluable,” says Gottsman.
- Housekeeper: A cash gift equal to one week’s pay. “If you use a service, and you don’t see the same person on a regular basis, or the person is brand new,” says Gottsman, “you may not feel obliged give a tip at all. If you have a relationship with the person(s), or they come weekly, consider a gift card per person or a tip equivalent to one visit.”
- Pet Sitter: One day to one week’s worth of service. “Our pets are our family and someone that takes care of them while we are on a trip, or walks the dog on a regular basis is worth their weight in gold,” says Gottsman.
You’ll want to keep happy all those folks who make apartment living nice.
- Doorman: Between $20 and $200. (This range seems huge to me. I’ve never lived in an apartment with a doorman so I’d love to hear those of you who do ring in on this one.)
- Custodian/Superintendent/Handyman: $20 – $100. “If they have saved you in the middle of the night when your toilet was overflowing or jumped your car more than once when you forgot to turn off your headlights,” says Gottsman, a holiday tip would be helpful.”
- Parking Attendant: $10 – $50
- Landlord or Building Manager: $50 (cash or gift card)
While homeowners don’t typically have doormen to tip, they do have a host of service providers to gift.
- Garbage Collector: Between $10 and $25 per crew person. In many areas, tips left taped to the trashcan lids can be stolen (I’ve had several friends tell me this happened to them.) If you miss your crew during the day, Gottsman suggests arranging to drop the gift off at their corporate office.
- Lawncare: $10 per crew person.
- Snow Removal: $10 per person.
- Pool Cleaner: One week’s pay.
These gifts are more personal than those traded during the office Secret Santa.
- Your Boss: $0 or a group office gift. “It’s not necessary to give your boss a large or expensive gift,” says Gottsman. “Consider an office gift pool or bring a tray or holiday goodies for the office.”
- Your Office Assistant: A bonus, gift card, or small gift.
Show teachers and staff you appreciate all their efforts to educate Junior (even if Junior doesn’t).
- Your Child’s Teacher: Many schools encourage parents to contribute to a class gift. If your child’s school doesn’t, consider a small gift with a note and/or a handmade gift from your child. A teacher friend of mine told me, “I always love and save handwritten notes. If they come with a gift or gift card — to anywhere at all — that is appreciated, too. But, it’s the notes that keep me going.”
- Classroom Aide: If there is not a group classroom gift, a small gift with a note and/or a handmade gift from your child.
- School Lunch Attendant: $20 per attendant, if you have a child with special dietary needs, and school policy allows such gifts (check with your child’s school office to be sure). Says Gottsman, “A lunch attendant who is vigilant when it comes to your child’s food allergy is worth their weight in gold.”
- School Secretary: A small gift or gift certificate.
The people who keep you and your family looking good should know you appreciate their work, too.
- Hairstylist: The cost of one session or a gift. “Hair stylists become our confidants,” says Gottsman. “It would be uncomfortable to arrive empty handed the last week of the holiday season.”
- Shampoo Attendant: A small gift or $5 – $20.
- Manicurist: The equivalent of one visit or a gift.
- Massage Therapist: The equivalent of one session or a gift.
- Personal Trainer: The equivalent of one session or a gift. According to Gottsman, “Personal trainers often double as counselors. A tip of one service or a gift that has personal significance would say happy holidays.”
- Pet Groomer: The equivalent of one service or a basket of treats from your pet.
- Personal Healthcare Nurse: The equivalent of one week’s pay.
Gift Wrap Your Gifts, Too
When preparing your holiday gratuities, Smith says, “Tips should be crisp, new bills placed in an envelope with a card or note of appreciation.” For the financially strapped, Smith suggests a heartfelt note of thanks along with a thoughtful and inexpensive gift like homemade cookies. Gottsman agrees and offers further suggestions like a pot of fresh herbs from your garden or a basket of scones with homemade jelly.
When to Skip the Tip
Gottsman also suggests adjusting your tips according to level of relationship and frequency of service. “Everyone has different lifestyle preferences and providers,” says Gottsman. “One person may use a hairstylist once a week while another person may visit the salon every three months. If you don’t see them regularly and they can’t remember your name, you may opt to skip the tip.”
If the relationship is solid, though, Smith says that skipping the tip is akin to telling your service providers they’re not valued or to imply they’ve done something wrong. If a gratuity is not in your budget for this year, consider the alternative suggestions above. However, “when your finances are fluid again,” Smith suggests, “please do tip them.”
Read more articles from Wise Bread:
20 ways to travel smart
There are two types of travelers in this world: those who put up with the difficulties and occasional indignities of travel and those who are determined to triumph over them.
If you’re in the former camp, take note: with so much new technology available at your fingertips—and so many companies coming up with innovative solutions to travel dilemmas—there’s no reason to suffer in silence any longer.
For the past year, Travel + Leisure’s Trip Doctor news team has been testing and evaluating ways to travel better. Among our finds: a new breed of flexible airfare search tools that are making it easier to find lower-priced tickets that work with your schedule and travel parameters.
We also uncovered some enterprising services that will help you get paid—handsomely—when your flight is delayed or your luggage goes missing. And once you’ve arrived in your destination, we’ve identified simple ways that you can access a gym (a good one), stream your favorite television shows, connect to Wi-Fi for free, keep your business attire looking sharp, and ensure that your essential mobile devices never run out of batteries.
We even looked closely at the real reason some bags don’t make it to their final destination. And we asked Google Maps to analyze its traffic data to help us pinpoint the best (and worst) times to hit the road before a major holiday.
The result of all this research: your road map for how to travel better in 2015.
If time is money, then air travel collectively owes us all. Tipping the scales in travelers’ favor: Berkshire Hathaway’s new AirCare insurance, which offers generous compensation for a fixed rate of $25. Delays of two or more hours get you $50; if you miss a connection, there’s a $250 payout. And tarmac delays of more than two hours get you $1,000. (A bag delayed by 12 hours is worth $500.) You can purchase a policy up to 24 hours before departure time and payments are often instantaneous— wired into your bank or PayPal account.
Strict European Union regulations mean that passengers departing from any European airport (or flying a European carrier into the union) are eligible for compensation of up to $750 for a delayed, canceled, or overbooked flight. Here in the United States, travelers who are involuntarily bumped from a flight could be owed up to $1,300. AirHelp will go after your money for you, minus a 25 percent commission.
Think you’re getting credit for all your frequent-flier miles by traveling on a partner airline? Not necessarily. Each partnership works differently: some offer full mileage and elite-qualifying credit for tickets on other carriers; others offer reduced (or even no) credit. And because some domestic loyalty programs calculate miles based on dollars spent (rather than distance flown), you may even bank more miles if you buy directly from a partner airline. Check the terms of each code share with your preferred carrier before booking.
When hitting the road on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving or the Friday before Christmas—among the busiest days of the year—planning down to the hour can make a difference. With the help of Google Maps, we’ve charted the traffic patterns around four of the country’s biggest cities.
The data from Chicago, D.C., Los Angeles, and New York City reveal that on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, 4 p.m. is the worst time to travel, while 5 p.m. is the worst time to travel on the Friday before Christmas.
Methodology: Google Maps analyzed the total number of cars on the road at a given time, looking at the speed of vehicles with location-services-enabled android smartphones. Traffic is measured for the year 2013.
If you’re a Google user, it’s time to get on board with the app’s built-in digital assistant, which puts Siri to shame. More than just a smart voice search, the service scans your Gmail and Google Calendar for booking details and appointments, learns your preferences via your browsing history, and monitors your daily habits to deliver relevant updates (local weather, currency conversions) within the app. What you’ll get:
Real-time Updates: Get info about flights, including delays and gate changes, starting 24 hours before departure.
Scheduling Assistance: Based on traffic and your preferred mode of transportation, it’ll tell you when to leave for the airport, a dinner reservation, and meetings and appointments.
Rebooking Help: If your flight is canceled, Google provides a direct link to Google Flight Search, which displays alternative flights.
Itinerary Management: A new feature launching this month pulls up your flight and hotel confirmations, restaurant bookings, and more. Simply say “OK Google, show me my trip.”
Good news if you travel to Asia on business: for the first time since its introduction in 1997, the APEC Business Travel Card is available to American citizens. What that means: preclearance and expedited immigration processing in 21 member destinations (China, Singapore, Australia, and Mexico, to name a few). If you are already part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Trusted Traveler network (Global Entry, SENTRI, or NEXUS), apply through CBP’s online system, GOES. Or start an account with GOES, and request to be enrolled in both programs at the same time.
More from Travel + Leisure:
The best new apps for sorting and managing your email
Email is no longer just about communicating with friends or colleagues. These days, our inboxes are also the repository for office tasks, travel plans, social network notifications, shopping offers, and login info for dozens of other services. But unless you’re militant about deleting or sorting emails as they arrive, it’s likely you’re still hundreds to thousands of emails away from the promised land known as Inbox Zero.
The best new apps for sorting and managing your email have one thing in common: They help you quickly clear messages, whether it’s into a folder or straight into the digital trash.
From Google’s brand new Inbox app, which retools the email interface, to an app that deals with newsletter subscriptions in one fell swoop, these email apps sort out the inboxes that have become the hub of nearly all our online activity:
Inbox by Google
Gmail users have seen a fair number of redesigns since Google’s email service launched a decade ago. Google’s spam filters are already the best at clearing the chaff from the wheat. Priority Inbox separates the inbox into important and less important mail. Last year’s introduction of the tabbed inbox further sorts less important email into categories such as promotions and updates.
Now Google has launched Inbox, a standalone app for Gmail accounts that drills deeper into organizing your email. Email is still bundled by conversation thread, but the new interface displays messages in auto-sorted bundles: travel, finance, promotions, social and updates, plus individual email that’s addressed to you personally. Tap on a category to see every new email by its subject line.
The travel and finance categories are particularly useful additions to the original tabbed inbox. These categories make it easy to find itineraries and transaction confirmations.
Even more useful is the ability to check off whole bundles of email without having to open them, such as updates (which include social network notifications and order confirmations) or promotions (offers that aren’t particularly relevant). At the top of each bundle is an option to check it as done, which sends it to an archive you can peruse later, or move the email to another folder.
If you open a message, more one-click options await. You can pin important email so that it stays at the top of the inbox, snooze messages so they reappear at the top of the inbox at a specified time or checkmark them done (an action that delivers a particular thrill of achievement).
If a conversation thread contains images, calendar appointments or PDF attachments, a preview appears beneath the subject line, handy when you’re scanning for particular files.
In this new, minimal interface, a + icon in the bottom right serves as the compose function for new email, reminders or contacting your last three messaged contacts. Google’s instant messenger has been moved up to the toolbar, where you can access other Google services such as Calender or YouTube as well as toggle a switch to see only pinned messages. All other features, including sent mail, drafts and custom folders, are hidden away in a drop-down settings menu at the top left.
An app for iPhones and Android phones offers added features including swipe actions to deal with email. Like the desktop app, the apps let you checkmark a bundle of email as done or tap on the bundle to view all email; then swipe right to check off or left to snooze until a particular time. On the phone, you can also set the snooze alarm to occur at a specific place by GPS location — handy if you want an email pop-up at the office or a shopping offer to reappear when you’re back home.
Great for: Sorting email without having to create complex rules; scanning a busy inbox for important information and attachments
But: It’s only for Gmail accounts
Overall: Accurately sorts emails into an intuitive interface that makes it very easy to take action on the important emails and clear the less important ones
Get it: Sign up for a beta invite at inbox.google.com; download the smartphone app from Google Play or App Store.
If you deal with email mostly on your phone, Mailbox offers a sleek, compact interface with an impressive number of ways to deal with an email based on lengths of a swipe. From the inbox — that is, without opening an email — you can swipe to the very right of your screen to mark the email as done or swipe to a slightly nearer right to trash it. Swiping to the very left lets you add the email to a list to buy, read, watch or any number of custom lists (such as Work or Logins, in my case), while swiping to the mid-left snoozes the email for a variety of time periods, including Someday (set by default to three months later).
Granted, learning the right length of swipe to do what you want takes some doing, but once you get the hang of it, checking off dozens of emails without having to click away from the inbox becomes incredibly simple.
Auto-Swipe alerts the app to start learning what you normally swipe on. In time, it’ll prompt you to ask whether it should “always snooze till later,” for example, for your Twitter updates.
Supports: Gmail and iCloud
Great for: Gmail and iCloud mail users who deal with email mostly on their phones, although there’s also a beta desktop client for Mac OS X Yosemite users
But: Emails are not sorted; they appear in a single list, where updates mingle with newsletters and conversations with friends. If you use Gmail with the tabbed inbox, Mailbox can seem chaotic.
Overall: It offers excellent functionality packed into the swiping gesture that’s so natural on mobile, but you’ll find fewer organizational features than in Inbox or even regular old Gmail.
If you’re suffering from subscription email overload, Unroll.me offers an incredibly swift means of dealing with all those messages. Once you’ve linked Unroll.me to your email, it presents all the services that are sending you regular emails (221 for me) plus the option to unsubscribe to them individually from a single page.
After that, any remaining subscription emails get condensed into a single email that Unroll.me sends you once a day. After all, who knows when that Groupon email might contain the mythical deal of a lifetime?
Supports: All email services
Great for: Managing subscription email cleverly; you can still get wind of offers without having them mixed among email that requires action
But: Unroll.me alone probably won’t be enough to completely streamline your email
Overall: It’s an easy, intuitive way to bundle subscription email you want and get rid of the ones you don’t.
Get it: Unroll.me
While the other services on this list clean up your email for you by sorting bulk mail into folders you can check later, Mailstrom goes deeper. Once synced to your email account, it scans and analyzes your inbox so that you can view it by different parameters — sender, recipient, subject, when it was received and more — and do the bulk sorting yourself.
It’s an enlightening way to view your emails. You can dig up forgotten emails from particular senders or recipients or see what month of the year you’ve received the most email.
Mailstrom also provides a much quicker way to bulk delete. For example, you can delete everything from, say, your telecoms provider, especially if it was sent last year, or you can delete every email pertaining to a particular subject line, no matter who the senders and recipients are.
Mailstrom offers a wide variety of actions. In addition to delete and archive, you can also choose chill, which hides selected messages until a later date, or expire, which auto-forwards future emails from the sender to a set folder. You can also check off selected mails to mark as spam or block in future. It’s worth noting that some of these features are also possible in email services such as Gmail or Outlook by creating custom rules. (Check out our latest tips for using Gmail here.)
Mailstrom has a subscription fee of $49.99 a year with a free trial that lets you delete up to 1,234 messages. (When I reached around 500 deleted messages, I was offered a discount on the annual fee to $39.99.)
Supports: IMAP email, including Gmail, Outlook.com, iCloud
Great for: Reaching inbox zero
But: The annual subscription fee of $49.99 may be a touch high if you don’t need its unique inbox analysis features.
Overall: This is one of the most comprehensive inbox control apps out there; however, it may offer more features than many users need.
Get it: Mailstrom.co
This article was written by Natasha Stokes and originally appeared on Techlicious.
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Most people don’t know there is a simple trick to get a cheaper flight on an airline’s website
I can’t explain airline pricing but I do know some plane tickets can be cheaper depending on where you buy them or, even better, where you appear to buy them from. This is all about leveraging foreign currencies and points-of-sale to your advantage.
For reasons I never quite understood, every time I tried to book a domestic flight in another country, the prices were always exorbitant. But, say, once I was in Bangkok, that same flight that was once $300 would fall to $30 almost inexplicably. This phenomenon is because a ticket’s point-of-sale—the place where a retail transaction is completed—can affect the price of any flight with an international component.
Most people don’t know there is a simple trick for “changing” this to get a cheaper flight on an airline’s website; it’s how I managed to pay $371 for a flight from New York to Colombia instead of $500+. Though it can be used for normal international flights, it often works best when you’re buying domestic flights in another country. (Point in case: A Chilean friend once told me Easter Island flights were much cheaper to buy in Santiago instead of abroad.)
To demonstrate how this scheme works, we ran a one-way search from Cartagena to Bogotá—two cities in Colombia—for June 17 on Google ITA, Kayak and Skyscanner. To keep things simple, I’ll ignore a VivaColombia flight that Skyscanner found because Google ITA and Kayak do not include smaller airlines in their searches. Instead, we’ll be comparing two large airlines that fly this route, LAN Airlines and Avianca.
Unsurprisingly, Kayak takes a U.S.-centric approach. Going the path of least resistance, a Kayak search shows that the cheapest flight on LAN is $116 and the cheapest flight on Avianca is $137. If we run this exact search in Google ITA with New York City as the point-of-sale, we see those exact numbers. Skyscanner returns similar results: the cheapest flight on LAN is $114 and on Avianca it is $136.
Though Skyscanner actually has the best prices, let’s not stop there. Instead of using an American city as the point-of-sale, let’s use Colombia as the point-of-sale, something that can only be searched for in Google ITA. You actually don’t have to tweak a thing because the departure city is usually set as the default for this option — that said, it’s possible to change this to any place in the world you want. The main difference is we’ll get the price in Colombian pesos and that’s *exactly* what we want.
In this new search, the cheapest flight on Avianca is 116,280 COP and the cheapest flight on LAN is 173,820 COP. That of course means a lot of mumbo jumbo to most people, so let’s convert that over to U.S. dollars. The same Avianca flight now approximates to $61.59 while the LAN flight is $91.96. In short, you’d be saving $22.04 on the LAN flight and $74.41 on the Avianca flight by simply paying in a different currency. The price difference between the cheapest flight in both the U.S. and Colombia search is $54.41. That’s how much you’ll end up saving just by comparing the flights in different currencies.
Now the real problem is that we’ve got to find a place to buy this ticket in pesos since Google ITA won’t tell us where to go for that. I head directly to the Avianca website, which brings us to the U.S. price—about $137—for the flight. That’s not what I want though. I start again, but this time I click on the upper right-hand corner and select Colombia as my country and English as my language. (Other airlines may not always offer the ability to keep using the site in English. How good is your Spanish?) It’s not using the same thing as a VPN, but this mimics the idea that you are buying from a different location other than the U.S.
I search again. Sometimes I’m not always able to get the same exact fare I see in Google ITA, but I almost always manage to get something cheaper than what Kayak calculated for me. In this case, the cheapest flight available is 136,000 COP or $72.14, a bit more than what I was told but still less than Kayak’s price. To save the most money, make sure you pay in a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. In total, I manage to get a flight about $43.86 cheaper than what any U.S. site quoted me.
Even if you don’t have a travel-friendly credit card, it still might be worth it to pay the fees just to pay in pesos. In this case, the standard foreign transaction fee 3% surcharge would only cost you an extra $2.16 to book the flight. The exact percentage will vary depending on the terms of the card issuer, but in short, you still come out ahead.
With a little adjustment, this trick can also be used for purchasing international flights. The most obvious points-of-sales to check for generally include the destination country and the country where the airline is based in. I mean, you can also go ahead and check for every single country out there, but that’s real dedication that even I don’t have time for.
Though most of the time it works out that I get some sort of discount—which can range from a few dollars to over a hundred dollars—by leveraging foreign currencies against each other, it doesn’t always work all the time. Sometimes, in fact, the cheapest airfare is the most straightforward fare you’ll find. But hey, just so you know.
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- The Ultimate List of Airlines That Serve Free Alcohol
- Is There a Legal Drinking Age on Planes?
- Don’t Pay in U.S. Dollars Abroad
Experts suggest that it's important to get the conversation going
We’d all love for our kids to be able to get along with all kinds of people. And school curricula are full of chatter about how to celebrate our diversity.
But the fact is, people from different backgrounds don’t always see eye to eye. And sometimes those tensions can raise deep questions for kids, like the nationwide protests that have erupted over the events in Ferguson, Missouri. These stories may be especially disturbing for kids when they involve children near their age, like Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin.
Race is such a tough topic that it can be tempting to avoid, especially for white families, who are three times less likely to discuss race than families of color, according to a recent study by the Journal of Marriage and Family. But race is an important subject for every family to address. Research suggests that kids who talk openly about race in their families are less prejudiced and that kids who make friends from different backgrounds have better social skills.
So how can we talk with our kids, not just about diversity, but about the tensions our differences can create?
Elementary School: Young children may be frightened by the images they see on the news, Cynthia Rogers, an instructor in child psychology at Washington University in St. Louis has observed. It’s important to let them share these feelings, and also to assure them that they are safe. But even at a very young age, studies have shown, kids already notice the differences between themselves and others. So, experts like Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, professor of psychology at Berkley, recommend that parents talk about difference. The central message to communicate: it’s okay to be different. In fact, our differences are something to explore and celebrate.
Middle School: Just as with anything else, kids learn best about race by actual experience, not lectures. As kids form friendships in middle school, encourage them to connect with kids from different backgrounds. Don’t be afraid to talk about those differences with your kids. And be open to the fact that your family isn’t “normal” to everyone else. In fact, when we connect with families from different backgrounds, we may learn just as much about how different we seem to them.
High School: At this age, students will be aware of big events like Ferguson, and have their own opinions, Marcia Chatelain, a Georgetown University professor with a focus on African-American history has noted. So parents can encourage high school students to share those thoughts and feelings. And also encourage them to learn about the history of race and civil rights, so that their understanding can grow as they absorb new perspectives.
The bottom line on talking about race with kids: just talk. We don’t have to have all the right answers for our kids to grow up with less prejudice. We just have to start the conversation. And if you want to go a bit deeper on how to use the events in Ferguson as a springboard for more discussion, a bunch of academics have put together some reading lists on Twitter under the hashtag #fergusoncurriculum
This post originally appeared in the T/Parents newsletter. Sign up to get it in your inbox every week.
There's nowhere else quite like Tokyo, so here's what you need to know to plan your visit
What is it about Tokyo that can make visitors feel as if the city belongs not in another country, but on another planet? Perhaps it’s the schizophrenia at the heart of what was once Edo—stately, tree-lined Omotesando giving way to the pinball frenzy of Shibuya, Tomorrowland Shinjunku meeting the timeless Meiji Jingu shrine. Tokyo contains multitudes, which we mean literally—the metro are is home to more than 35 million people, and on a muggy day in August you can feel nearly every one of them. Forget about navigating above ground—even the taxi drivers are dependent on GPS. But there is truly no other place on Earth—or elsewhere—like it, and those who can endure the over-stimulus will find themselves drawn back again and again.
-Meiji Jingu (1-1 Yoyogi-Kamizono-cho, Shibuya-ku. Meijijingu.or.jp): Tokyo doesn’t have many green spaces, which is a serious problem for a recreational runner. So you can imagine my pleasure on one of my first days there when I found a shady green park not far from where I was staying in Shibuya. Just one problem: the park housed Meiji Jingu, one of the most important Shinto shrines in Japan, and the white-gloved Japanese policeman who began whistling furiously at me was not happy to see a sweaty gaijin lumbering into a sacred space. Provided you’re not working out, however, Meiji Jingu is a rare oasis of tranquility amid the constant buzz of Tokyo.
-Edo-Tokyo Museum (1-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida-ku; edo-tokyo-museum.or.jp): Today Tokyo is the center of Japan, home to about a quarter of the country’s population, but that reign is relatively recent. The city was founded in the 1600s as Edo, the seat of the shoguns (as opposed to the emperor, who reigned in Kyoto to the southwest). This museum details ordinary life in the city from the time of the shoguns through the firebombing during WWII to today, giving a sense of history to a city that sometimes seems to live in a perpetual present. As a bonus, the museum is located in the Ryogoku neighborhood, home to the main sumo-wrestling arena.
-Tokyo Skytree (1-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida-ku; www.tokyo-skytree.jp/en): Visitors who believe Tokyo is a vertically-aligned, Blade Runner-esque city of skyscrapers are surprised to find that most of the capital is made up of squat buildings rarely more than a few stories high. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t towers, and at 2,080 ft., the new Tokyo Skytree is the tallest freestanding tower in the world. While the top-viewing level is only 1,480 ft. above the ground, that’s more than enough height to get a view of Tokyo’s endless sprawl.
-Harajuku: The origin point of Japan’s youthquake, the Harajuku neighborhood was played out back when Gwen Stefani appropriated Japanese girl street style for her 2004 song “Harajuku Girls.” You can still check out the pedestrian-only Takeshita Dori if you want to find an overpriced designer T-shirt, but you’d be better off strolling nearby Omotesando, one of the few tree-lined boulevards in Tokyo.
-Sushi Dai (5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo): It may be clichéd, but you can’t go to Tokyo without stopping by the Tsukiji fish market, where the daily catch that will find its way to sushi plates around the city is auctioned off early in the morning. Get the freshest of the fresh at nearby Sushi Dai, where you’ll discover that raw fish makes for a surprisingly good breakfast.
-Gonpachi (1-13-11 Nishi Azabu, Minato-ku): If the cavernous Gonpachi looks familiar, that’s because it is said to have inspired the Tokyo restaurant where Uma Thurman slices through the Crazy-88s at the end of the first Kill Bill. But Gonpachi isn’t just about the scenery—it serves dressed up izakaya food, popular in Japanese pubs, and was good enough for former President George W. Bush when he visited Japan in 2002.
-New York Bar (Park Hyatt Hotel, 3-7-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku): Tokyo is a barfly’s delight, with drinking establishments that range from back-alley beer joints to cocktail lounges where your whiskey comes with perfectly spherical balls of ice. The New York Bar is more the latter—you’ll recognize it from the 2003 film Lost in Translation—and it’s not cheap. But you can’t put a price on the view from the top of the Park Hyatt Hotel.
-Roppongi: This seedy district has been the foreigner’s first stop in Tokyo since American occupiers set up shop there after World War II. Roppongi has its own kind of charm, if your thing is loud bars, expensive drinks and nights that end after sunrise. It’s not as dangerous as it’s often made out to be—though there are occasional reports of spiked drinks and inflated bar tabs—and the sheer frenzy of the neighborhood makes it worth visiting once. But only once.
-Park Hyatt Hotel (Park Hyatt Hotel, 3-7-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku): If you’re coming for the New York Bar, why not cut down the commute and stay a night? Possibly the price—even the least expensive rooms cost nearly $500 a day. But the Park Hyatt is the rare landmark in Tokyo—a city that has been lacking in great international hotels—that has stood the test of time, even before it was immortalized in film. And if you can swim, don’t miss a dip in the sky pool, on the 47th floor of the hotel, which has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city.
When my daughter was born, we placed an advertisement for a nanny in a local newspaper. At 6:30 a.m. on the first day the ad ran, the phone started ringing. It was the first applicant out of hundreds who would call inquiring about the position. What I would have given then for a disposable phone number — something I could turn off once I’d made my hire.
Today, there are options for keeping your phone number private. Here’s what I recommend.
Free Disposable Numbers for Incoming Calls
If you’re looking to post your phone number online — for a dating site, if you’re selling something on eBay or Craigslist — you can get post a free disposable link to your phone number on Babble.ly. When someone clicks on the link, they are prompted to enter their phone number and Babble.ly will call your phone and their phone to connect the call. The link is good for as long as you want it to be, but calls are limited to 10 minutes.
Temporary “Burner” Numbers
For a temporary disposable number, I like Burner (free on iTunes and Google Play). You get 20 minutes of talk time and 60 texts over a week for free and then you need to buy credits to extend service and buy new burner numbers. New numbers are $1.99 (three credits) for 14 days or 20 minutes or 60 texts, whichever comes first. Or you can pay $4.99 (eight credits) for 30 days of services with unlimited texts and calls.
Free Long-Term Private Number
For a more permanent calling solution, I recommend Google Voice. You get unlimited calling within the U.S. for free as well as voicemail, call screening and do not disturb, among other features. To receive a call or text, you’ll need a smartphone or computer with Internet access and the Google Voice app. Or, you can choose to forward all of your Google Voice calls and texts to an existing number. Outbound calls will show with your Google Voice number instead of your real one.
Free Ad-hoc Outbound Caller ID Blocking
If you don’t want to use your disposable phone number minutes, you can block your outbound Caller ID by turning it off in your phone’s call “settings” on your mobile phone, setting it up in your phone management software if you use a digital phone service, or dial *67 before the number on a regular landline phone or cell phone (for both you’ll need to use the country code, so it would look like *6712125551212). Your number will appear as unavailable.
While I value openness — even when it comes to Caller ID — I can see real value in protecting my privacy in a situation where I would be dealing with strangers. It’s safer and smarter.
This article was written by Suzanne Kantra and originally appeared on Techlicious.
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Chefs remember the wisdom they gained working for Thomas Keller
In honor of the 20th anniversary of Thomas Keller’s legendary Napa restaurant, The French Laundry, Food & Wine’s Kate Krader and Chelsea Morse have collected reminiscences and lessons from some of the chefs who worship him. Here are a few of his teachings.
In the early days of The French Laundry, Thomas made his own red wine vinegar. One afternoon, he was tasting it to make sure it was ready for bottling and release. I watched as he dipped a sugar cube into a bowl of vinegar and then sucked on it. When I asked what he was doing, he said, pretty matter-of-factly, “That’s how you should taste vinegar”—the sweetness of the sugar softens the vinegar’s edge. It was the first time I’d seen someone taste vinegar, much less use that method, so I tried it. And it worked. —Eric Ziebold, Cityzen, Washington, DC
At The Laundry, I learned to wait until a pan is very hot before adding oil—it should be so hot that a little white smoke comes off the oil when you pour it in. The smoke means you are ready to sear and will get a nice crust on fish. I saw this technique when I worked on the garde-manger station, watching chef Keller train the new fish cooks. I learned to always pay attention to what others were being taught: Sometimes great lessons aren’t directed specifically at you. —Timothy Hollingsworth, Restaurant at the Broad (opening 2015), Los Angeles
On the last day of my stage, Chef told me to hand him my apron. I thought I was in trouble. He folded it perfectly and then escorted me to his office, where a place setting was arranged at his desk for dinner. The food was perfect, but more than that, the sense of hospitality was overwhelming. I have hesitated to go back to eat at TFL since then because this was one of the most important meals of my life—one that can never be topped. —Michael Voltaggio, ink., Los Angeles
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