Articles by Shawn Forno

Shawn is a long haul travel specialist (trips +3 months), digital nomad, and surfer who’s lived, worked, and traveled to 30+ countries in the past decade. Big on surfing, climbing, scuba diving, and all things outdoors. Brooklyn misses him when he's on the road. Follow Shawn on Twitter. He'd like that.

You can follow Shawn on Twitter or Google+.

We’ve all seen the unbelievable budget flight deals—London to Rome for €10, Paris to Prague for a hi-five, Boston to Iceland for $99 (that last one is totally real). Fantasizing about jetting off to a new city every weekend for pennies is easy, but don’t be seduced by the bargain prices.

Flying on a budget airline sucks.

Discount airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet, can seem like a steal, but more often than not you’re the one who gets fleeced. Hidden booking fees, inane service charges, exorbitant checked baggage (and even carry on baggage fees), are just some of the more obvious ways budget airlines nickel and dime you into paying a lot for your “cheap” flight.

But, you can beat the system and see the world for just a few bucks. You just have to be savvy as hell. Below is a comprehensive guide to the most common traps and fees of bargain airlines, along with a few ways to enhance even the crappiest flight. Enjoy, bargain hunters.

Always Read the Fine Print: Avoid Unnecessary Fees

Read the fine print on your booking, on your boarding pass, and on the company website; I can’t stress this enough. Budget airlines are designed to screw you out of money by taking advantage of your assumptions. The norms of other airlines don’t apply when you fly on a budget airline.

Some commonly held assumptions are:

  • Online check-in is free and available whenever you want (nope)
  • Carry on bags are free (nuh-uh)
  • Carry on bag size and weight limits are the same as other airlines (hahaha)
  • Checked baggage fees are reasonable (I’m actually crying a little right now)
  • You have a designated seat (pssht)
  • They have free food (no one has free food, what is this 1987?)
  • At least they have free drinks, right? (not for you, plebeian)
  • Not even coffee and water? (seriously, not even coffee and water)

Budget airlines are practically a different mode of travel—like pogo sticks. If you don’t respect them, you’re gonna get hurt. Click to continue…

Looking awesome while traveling in a carry on bag is tough.

The TSA has a vendetta against hair gel, it’s impossible to pack more than one pair of boat shoes in a carry on, and silk shirts wrinkle when you roll them. But carry on travel is about more than ease, comfort, and efficiency. It’s also about looking like a freaking boss, and nothing says, “I’m a travel king that knows what the hell I’m doing,” like a sharp dressed man breezing through security checkpoints like a dapper pinstripe ghost with a well-put together dopp kit.

I’ve seen a ton of great travel tips for stylish ladies – which is awesome – but what about us fellas? If I see another scruffy guy in zipper pants/shorts and hiking boots at the Eiffel Tower I’m gonna lose it. It doesn’t have to be that way, guys. You can look great on the road – even with a carry on!

Up your travel game with this dapper dude packing list full of essential grooming, wardrobe, and style tips to ensure that you’re the best dressed guy at your hostel.

Dopp Kit Essentials Packing List

Here’s the short version, read on to “unpack” it.

  • Bosca Dopp Kit Bag
  • Harry’s Shaving Kit
  • Travel Bottles (3-pack)
  • Gold-infused toothbrush (seriously)
  • Marvis Classic Mint Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Malin+Goetz Deodorant
  • Gold Bond Medicated Powder
  • Hurraw SPF Lip Balm
  • Sun Bum Sunscreen Face Stick
  • Baxter Pocket Comb
  • Aspirin 2-pack
  • Nighttime Sleep Aids
  • Ear plugs
  • Electrical Tape
  • Swiss Army Nail Clippers
  • Refillable Atomizer (swag for days)
  • Condoms

Dopp Kit Bags

The clothes may “make the man,” but the toiletry bag “makes the man smell good on a layover.” As much as we like to focus on chic travel clothes, a truly dapper traveler puts their focus into their bathroom bag—or dopp kit—first and foremost. And if you don’t know what a dopp kit is, read on, friend. It’s time to embrace the finer things in life. Here are four of the best travel toiletry bags on the market.

Ultralight Dopp Kit

TOPO Designs Dopp Kit ($19)

dopp kit

This little pyramid shaped bag—the flat bottom design is great for smaller shelves—has all the style and sophistication of an expensive designer bag in the portability of a ziploc bag.

Water-resistant with a wrist loop strap and sturdy zipper, this bag is great for weekenders, and at just 3.5 oz, you’ll hardly even notice it in your bag. Click to continue…

T-Mobile’s Simple Choice International phone plan is amazing. For $50 you get unlimited texting, unlimited data, and 20 cent/minute calls in 140+ countries. What’s even cooler is that you don’t have to sign up for anything or update your account—it just works.

When you land, your phone pings the local provider, authenticates your plan, and you hit the ground running. No buying confusing (expensive) preloaded SIM cards with unfamiliar country codes, restrictive plans, and a new number for each destination. No shocking triple digit overage charges. Just unlimited, if a little sluggish, data and texting.

But things at T-Mobile are changing. Gone is the Simple Choice International plan (unless you’re grandfathered into the plan). Instead, they’ve added a new, more expensive, option that covers everything. But does it really? T-Mobile is the digital nomad’s cell provider of choice, but it’s not always awesome, and it might not be the best in town for long.

Let’s take a look at what to expect from T-Mobile’s new three-tiered international roaming plan, and a few alternatives for when things go wrong, the data is too slow, your country isn’t covered, or you’re just looking for a better way.

Disclaimer: This is not a paid endorsement of T-Mobile, Sprint, or any cell phone company listed below. Any positive—or negative—review is my own opinion.

T-Mobile One Plan: The New International Roaming Plan

Single line plans under the new T-Mobile One plan start at $70—taxes included. Bundling all the fees, surcharges, and taxes into a flat price is pretty cool, but there is a noticeable price increase over the previous basic international plan.

If you’re traveling with the whole family, you get a discount on multiple lines, down to $40/line for four phone plans but, for the solo traveler, it’s still a price increase, so we’ll stick with the $70/month single plan for this review.

Here’s what you get with T-Mobile One ($70/month):

  • Unlimited international texting
  • Unlimited international data—up to 3G speeds (which is actually pretty danged fast)
  • 1 Free Hour of GoGo wifi on Domestic (American) flights + free texting
  • Unlimited video and audio streaming with from Netflix, YouTube, and Pandora with BingeOn and MusicFreedom
  • International calls from Europe (landlines and mobile) at 20 cents/minute
  • Full domestic coverage in Mexico, Canada, and the U.S.

Upgrades to the T-Mobile One Plan

Business travelers or digital nomads might want to consider upgrading to the T-Mobile One+ plan and the International One+ plan (there’s always a “+”).

Here’s what you get with T-Mobile One+ ($85/month):

  • All of the above plus…
  • Free GoGo unlimited inflight wifi (domestic flights)
  • Free unlimited HD day passes for top quality streaming service

Here’s what you get with T-Mobile One+ International ($95/month):

  • All of the above plus…
  • Unlimited cell phone wifi hotspot data
  • Unlimited free international calling to international landlines in 70+ countries and mobile numbers in 30+ countries

The Verdict:

T-Mobile is good but might not be the cheapest (or fastest) anymore.

T-mobile’s international plans aren’t quite as “simple” as they used to be, but they’re still one of the most reliable international cell phone plans around. The new price of $70/month is a significant jump up from the original $50/month Simple Choice International Plan that users have known (and loved!) for years, but it comes with increased service and speeds.

You won’t always have 3G data speeds but,  when you do, it’s almost like what you’re used to. Allow for extra time to do the little things you take for granted—10 seconds to load Instagram, 5 seconds to refresh a page—but you shouldn’t want to be checking all that stuff on your phone anyway. You’re traveling! Get back out there and do something cool in real life.

T-Mobile also provides “data kickback” that refunds you $10/month if you use less than 2GB of data, so that’s something. It’s kind of like rollover minutes (remember those?!), but let’s be honest—you’re never going to be under 2GB of data in a month. Still, it’s a nice thought.

T-Mobile is usually great, but what happens when it isn’t? Click to continue…