My Favorite Travel Tools and Tricks

Last week we talked about the tools I use to keep my business up and running while I travel the world – if you missed that you can see it here – and this week I promised to fill you in on all of the stuff that helps me with the actual travel. I will include links to everything I mention below and, just like in the other video, some are affiliate links – meaning I will get paid if you buy after clicking that link – and some are not. I want to be clear though, everything I mention here is stuff I actually use and I’m just giving you affiliate links because it would be silly for me not to. I didn’t put anything on here just so I could use an affiliate link. That’s why a lot of the links are just regular links – I tell you what I really use, whether or not I can get paid for it.

First of all, I love to see new places and meet new people, that’s why I travel as much as I do, but the actual travel part of travel really sucks. It’s expensive and uncomfortable and is just something you have to tolerate so you can get to your amazing destination – with a few exceptions like a bus ride crossing the Andes between Chile and Argentina. It’s been my experience that getting to your destination is not only the least fun part of the trip, it’s also the most costly. So let’s start with some tips for how to get cheap travel.

Of course, the first option is to look at alternatives to flying like buses or trains. These are especially good options outside of the U.S. They can be insanely inexpensive and there may be something worth looking at out of the window. You can also consider cruising as an actual transportation option as opposed to as a pseudo-destination in and of itself. For example, I will be spending the summer in Europe and I am cruising over instead of flying. The cruise is approximately the same price as my one-way flight would have been, even though I am paying double for my cabin because I am going solo, and I will get to enjoy 10 days on the open ocean with all of my needs catered to and an endless amount of free food before swinging by Portugal and landing in Spain. Not only can cruising be fun and cost effective, but it also forces those of us who are technology addicts to disconnect because the internet and cell service are so slow and expensive onboard.

If you must fly, however, there are some tricks I use to get the best fares. It takes some work, but I usually find some pretty good deals. Firstly, do all of your searching in the incognito window. All of the travel sites track you so if you start searching around for a particular flight and perform the same search over and over, it’s going to affect what you see, even though it shouldn’t. I’ve literally done the same search side by side and seen different prices because on one computer I had been tracked and on the other it was a brand new search. If you’re in Chrome, you can open an incognito window by clicking Ctrl + Shift + N.

When I search for flights I always look at both CheapoAir (affiliate link) and Kayak (not an affiliate link) and sometimes Hipmunk (not an affiliate link) as well. Plus, I check out Superfly (not an affiliate link) and my credit card rewards. Superfly aggregates all of your frequent flyer mile programs so when you search for a flight it can show how best to utilize your rewards points. If I’m traveling short distances I also check out local discount airlines in the region. Just remember to be careful when comparing because the vast majority of the airlines now are nickel and diming you on luggage charges, so you want to make sure you’re actually comparing apples to apples when you look at the quoted fares on the different sites. These discount airlines can also come in handy if booking a flight that you know you can’t go direct anyway. You can often fly to a less expensive hub in Europe, for example, and then take a discount airline to your final destination. The combo price of the two separate tickets can often be considerably lower than booking it all together on one major carrier.

You should also do your best to be flexible about travel dates. Sometimes you just have to be somewhere on a certain date and there is nothing you can do, however, if possible, flying in the middle of the week and/or at off peak times of year will usually save you quite a bit on the fare and can result in a more comfortable ride as the flight won’t likely be overbooked.

Once you arrive, you can obviously go the route of typical hotels or hostels but I’m not a huge fan of either. I like to get a bit deeper into the culture than I feel like you can at a regular hotel – I want to have a kitchen and be able to shop at the grocery, live in a normal neighborhood, etc. and I’m just a bit too old to be willing to share a bunk room in a hostel. So, I tend to opt for Airbnb (not an affiliate link) or a homestay through (not an affiliate link) when I travel. Both options let you immerse yourself a bit more into the culture and are usually less expensive than your hotel options. I also love these options because I continue to have wonderful experiences meeting and hanging out with the hosts and other guests at these accommodations – some of which have turned into great friends that I am still in touch with today.

Finally, for the real nitty gritty of travel, I never leave home without a Nalgene (affiliate link) (a virtually indestructible water bottle), my passport case (affiliate link), so that I can keep all of my visas, entry cards, immunization records, etc. organized, super light luggage with 360 degree spinner wheels (affiliate link), and my favorite travel pillow (affiliate link). Now, a note about this travel pillow: it’s not a normal crescent travel pillow and it’s the best I have found. However, when inflated, it’s rather large and you will get some stares. It’s worth it though, for me anyway. Every time I have used it on a long flight the other passengers look at me like I am insane when I take it out but once we land and I have been getting my beauty rest for 8 hours and am ready to see the town while they’ve been uncomfortably bobbing their heads around and just want to go to sleep, they all ask me where I got it and want one for themselves.

So that’s it for my essential travel tools. I hope that helps you out a bit as you plan your next trip, whether for business or pleasure.


Now I want to hear from you: What are your best travel tips and favorite travel tools? Please let me know in the comments section below.


Startup Nomad Interview with Angela Cois (Mexico)

This week’s Startup Nomad interview is with Angela Cois, the COO and Cofounder of LastRoom. She’s an Italian who relocated to Mexico many years ago and has been involved in the startup community practically since it began to grow in Mexico. The idea for her company was actually born during a Startup Weekend back in 2010.

Like many of the other people I spoke to in Latin America, Angela says that a lack of capital is really holding the ecosystem back.

“It’s a big problem,” she told me. “There is money but it’s difficult to catch the interest of an investor. There are plenty of traditional investors…but e-commerce or digital tech companies are quite far from their knowledge or perception and they see it as a very high risk investment.”

In her opinion, this is especially true in the so-called ‘valley of death,’ the time between a startup company’s initial seed funding and when it can generate enough revenue to sustain itself. Here in Mexico, specifically, she noted that accelerator programs and other seed funds have helped improve access to the very initial seed money needed to create a minimum viable product and launch; between this initial investment and the time that the company is generating revenue and needs growth capital of $1 million dollars or more, however, there are almost no options for funding, “unless you know people.”

“It’s a pity that very good projects just die because they run out of money,” she said.

She thinks that aversion to earlier stage investments in tech companies can and will change, however.

“It’s a culture,” she said. “It’s a culture that is gradually growing the last few years thanks to events and to a lot of initiatives that people are doing to promote the ecosystem, but this kind of sensibility or culture is not so strong here [yet].”

She believes that the cultural change and the growth in access to capital must come from the people on the ground in the entrepreneurial ecosystem here, not from government initiatives.

“It’s a matter of entrepreneurs, of people,” she told me.”And of investors; because without money you can’t keep on trying. You could have the best business model but if you don’t have money you can try for 3 months or 6 months and then you have to stop, you have to give up…

…I think that this organic growth can come from both sides:,” she continued. “From entrepreneurs and investors. We have to learn, both sides, we have to learn a lot.”

Along those same lines, Angela expressed another common sentiment among the Latin American entrepreneurs with whom I’ve spoken: that the ecosystem needs to see local role models in order to reach its full potential.

“We need to learn  a lot because we don’t have great role models here,” she said. “We are the first doing this. It’s not the same as Silicon Valley.”

So what is Angela’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?

“Start your own business when you have personal savings [to fund it] and when you’re more mature in how you utilize your personal resources” she said. “It makes you more serious if you’re trying to figure out the best way to spend your money, focusing only on your priorities and on your core business, and this is very important because it makes you more concentrated. It’s a great thing for entrepreneurs.”


Castillo de Chapultepec / Chapultepec Castle

One of my quick little weekend day adventures while in Mexico City was a brief visit to the Castle of Chapultepec, a royal castle that been used as everything from a royal residence, to a military academy, to a museum. It’s easy to get to on public transportation (it has its own metro stop) and is a quick little adventure for a morning or afternoon in Mexico City that will give you some nice views of the city.

While I can’t say that the museum was all that impressive, it was fun enough and it was worth the trip to see the only(?) royal castle in North America, some great views of the city, and some interesting murals and artifacts. The day I went, there was also a free ballet performance on an open stage out in front of the castle’s entrance.

Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City
The castle behind me…too bright to open my eyes! lol
Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City
View of Mexico City from the castle.
Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City
The back of the castle…I think is supposedly the site of the niños heroes.
Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City
Truthfully, I don’t remember what this is but it is in the front of the castle heading towards Reforma.
Chapultepec Castle, Mexico City
Weird, bending, panoramic view from the castle.

The Business Builder Workshop is Here!

***UPDATE: MARCH 25, 2014***

All 100 of the free enrollments went in less than 24 hours. That’s amazing! Thank you all for the support and I still want to allow you access to the course for free for being a reader here. This time, I’m just going to ask that you sign up for my email newsletter in order to get access.  Please click here and sign up before the end of the month to get free lifetime access to the Business Builder Workshop.


As many of you know, I have been working hard on putting together a business planning course for all of you and it’s finally completed! I’m super excited about this launch and so I want to give you the opportunity to access the course for FREE for a limited time. My brand new online business planning course will help you turn your dream business idea into a reality and take you step-by-step through the process of planning your business and creating a profitable company that lets you reach your lifestyle goals.

When you sign up for the course you will receive:
  • Lifetime access to 54 lectures
  • Well over 2 hours of quality content
  • Access to worksheets and financial templates to help you plan your business
  • iPhone, iPad, and Android accessibility
  • Certificate of completion
  • Course access through easy to use Udemy interface
Because I so greatly appreciate all of your support, I’m offering it to my readers for FREE for a limited time. Just CLICK HERE (this link has been updated – see update note above) and be one of the first 100 people to sign up before the end of this month and you will get lifetime access to the course and course materials, absolutely free.
There are no strings attached. I’m happy you’re a subscriber so I want to offer you the course for free. Though, if you like it, I would really appreciate you leaving me a review 🙂

Startup Nomad Interview with Santiago Saviñón (Mexico)

Next up in my Mexico remix of Startup Nomad I spoke with Santiago Saviñón of PingStamp, a digital loyalty program for merchants.

While Santiago noted that, “it’s exciting to see,” the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Mexico City rapidly growing and maturing and that, “the market is definitely ready,” to be able to sustain a thriving startup community, he still considers it to be, “a struggling ecosystem.”

“It’s not even close to the sophistication that you guys have in the States,” he told me. “There are definitely many things missing from the ecosystem here.”

Just like many others that I spoke to in Latin America, he feels that access to capital is perhaps the biggest hurdle that the entrepreneurial ecosystem currently faces.

There are entrepreneurs that “know how to get a company and actually make it happen,” he told me, “but sometimes they don’t get the opportunity to do it because there’s no money around…It’s a lot harder to get a next round and just keep the ball rolling…[Latin America] is growing at an incredible pace, internet and smart phone penetration are growing exponentially, but still the money is not coming.”

He continues on to clarify, however, that there are plenty of investors and plenty of money in Mexico. The problem is that most of these investors are not comfortable with early stage investments in tech startups and prefer to focus on bricks and mortar operations who’ve already been able to produce sizable profits. “The money is there  in Mexico,” Santiago said, “educated people, and VCs, and angel investors, they’re all there. They’re just not still comfortable…They still haven’t wrapped their minds around the fact that a startup needs a lot more runway.”

That’s at least partly due to the fact that the investors don’t have any major success stories to turn to as examples of the opportunity that lies within early stage investing.

“Not having exits is definitely a problem,” Santiago said. “I think it’s going to take at least a few years to have a few success stories that can maybe lobby their way into some kind of change in terms of legal and banking issues.”

At the same time that Santiago sees access to capital as a major hurdle to the entrepreneurial ecosystem’s growth, however, he does see a number of positives that position Mexico for success as an entrepreneurship hub and indicate that it will continue to develop rapidly over the next few years.

“The companies every day are getting more and more competitive,” he said.  “In the last year I’ve seen so many people that have had a foreign company acquire or acqui-hire them.”

While the valuations are still relatively low (“If you went to the US you could probably add another 0 to the negotiation,” he told me), the fact that they’re happening is a sign of development.  

Additionally, according to Santiago,

“the funding you have is a lot more efficient [in Mexico]. $300,000 in the US would maybe buy you 6 months of runway. In Mexico, $300,000 could let you run your company for 24 months. We take more advantage of every penny here.”

Because of these signs of growth, Santiago is extremely optimistic about the startup scene’s development and expects to see a mature ecosystem with many of the problems that are currently holding entrepreneurs back ironed out in less than 5 years. “At the rate it’s growing now I think maybe 2 or 3 years,” he said. “There’s definitely a lot going on…The few funds are really pushing everything forward because they’re the guys that know how to break down those political barriers, that know people from other countries that can help, that can really move this forward, because…

…the companies, and the entrepreneurs, and the young people with ideas and potential are definitely there.”

Between the involvement of the few investors that are active in the startup space and that of the entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs,

“[the startup community] is completely cooperative; it’s really fun,” Santiago told me. “We all know that if you don’t help someone out then the community will never grow as it should. Most of the time it’s a pretty awesome vibe and you feel important because it’s still a really small circle.”

Santiago believes that once Mexico’s startup ecosystem is able to produce a few success stories, that the ecosystem will turn a corner because entrepreneurs and investors alike will have an example to turn to. Interestingly, however, he feels that a few famous failures are just as important to the ecosystem’s development as the success stories are. “Once you get that money you need to know how to use it, what to do with it,” he said. 

“There are no success stories like a big exit…but there are also no magnificent fuck ups, which I think is necessary as well: someone to raise money and then burn it all to the ground to add value to let people know that raising money is not the final goal.”

So what’s Santiago’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? He has quite a bit actually:

Firstly: “Do it,” he said. “Just take the leap and brace yourself… and get ready for the roller coaster.”


“Surrounding yourself with the right people is key,” he stressed. “It has more of an effect than you could ever imagine, even more so in a community that is just starting out.”

And finally: “A startup that’s focusing on Mexico or Colombia or Brasil is making a mistake; you have to have a regional, a Latin-American view of where you want to go, where you want to be…and that’s a challenge: making something that’s scaleable in Latin America.”


Tips to Lower Personnel Costs at Your Small Business or Startup

Any good entrepreneur or manager knows that having a great team of people working for you is the key to succeeding in your business. Great employees are a huge expense, however, and entrepreneurs need to always be vigilant about keeping costs in check, so here are some tips for controlling payroll costs without screwing your employees.

Firstly, consider hiring teleworkers and/or allowing your current employees to work remotely. If you’re in an expensive location like New York City, having the flexibility to hire someone in a less expensive locale could allow you to get top notch talent for a lower price simply because the cost of living and average salaries are lower in some parts of the country or the world as compared to others. That programmer from Missouri may be just as talented as the one in Greenwich Village, but is probably quite a bit less expensive.

Secondly, if you provide a kick-ass work environment and non-cash perks to your employees, they’ll probably be a little more forgiving when you can’t offer huge raises or bonuses every year. Really listen to your employees and try to get creative about offering the perks that they want and keeping salaries in line with what your small operation can handle.

Along those same lines, offer your employees great opportunities for training and development. Helping someone pay for a part-time MBA program, for example, and being flexible about letting them leave early once a week to get to class is much less expensive than a hefty salary hike, but the benefits are clear to the employee and s/he will be less inclined to make a fuss about salary when they see the future benefits they’ll reap by sticking around. For some tips on creating great employee training and development programs without breaking the bank, see my post here

Finally, make sure that you’ve taken a hard look at your operations and that everyone working for you is really necessary. This isn’t to say you should go out of your way to fire people, but it’s often in the best interest of your company’s bottom line to give each employee a bit more responsibility and a bit more salary as opposed to hiring another employee. If you have shift workers, take a look at traffic vs. shift hours and make sure you don’t have more people than necessary scheduled at once.

Employees are always going to be a major cost to any business but, if you manage them intelligently, you can keep a great team happy without over-spending.

Now I’d like to hear from you: What tips can you share for keeping personnel costs down while still having a great team and keeping your business flowing smoothly? Let me know in the comments below.

Did you like this video? If so, please spread the love by liking it and sharing it with any of your friends or colleagues whom you think would be interested in the discussion. Thanks in advance for your support!

San Francisco

I don’t think much description is necessary about my trip to San Francisco. The city is a major tourist destination and everyone has wonderful things to say about it. My suggestions for what to do and see won’t add much to what you can find elsewhere on the internet, so I’ll just share some pictures instead 🙂

Riding the trolley car in San Francisco
Riding the trolley.
Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge and what the suspension cables are made of.
Golden Gate Bridge suspension cable
Golden Gate Bridge suspension cable
Lombard Street from the top
Lombard Street from the top
Lombard Street from the bottom
Lombard Street from the bottom
Lombard Street from the bottom take 2
Lombard Street from the bottom take 2
Pier 39
Pier 39
Transamerica Pyramid
Transamerica Pyramid

The Importance of Accepting “Good Enough” Over Perfection for Entrepreneurs

Most of us were not raised to strive for good enough and one of the biggest challenges that many successful people transitioning into entrepreneurship face is getting over their deeply ingrained perfectionism. Though you wouldn’t know it based on some of the low quality videos I have on my YouTube channel and the constantly changing, but never really that awesome, design of my website – I suffer from perfectionism as well. I basically cringe with every new post I make.

However, I make myself push forward anyway because, in the entrepreneurship world, perfectionism can be the enemy of success because perfection is unachievable. Imagine if Windows never released a product until all of the annoying bugs were out – many of us wouldn’t have a word processor or spreadsheet or powerpoint; or if athletes didn’t compete until they never made a mistake – so much for professional sports. There is a famous quote from Reid Hoffman, the founder of Linkedin where he says: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” (Click here to tweet this quote.)

Now, I’m not arguing that you should just release crap into the world, you do have to be mindful of your company’s reputation. However, it is often better to release something that is “good enough” and then constantly improve it, than to never release anything at all because you’re never quite happy with the product.

So how do you tell what counts as good enough? Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Does this version solve the problem that I set out to solve?

  • Are the things that aren’t perfect fundamental to the product or are they extras or aesthetics?

  • If it weren’t my product, would I be as critical as I am of it now or would I use it and love it and just hope for a few tweeks in the next update?

  • Can I build a user base with the current version or not?

You get the point so I won’t go on.

If you’re just starting out building your business – and don’t have some odd personality defect where you think everything you touch is gold – you’re more than likely going to feel a bit of embarrassment as you begin to put your products or services and yourself out there. Push through it, because if you want success you can’t wait for perfection. (Click here to tweet this quote).


Okay, enough of me, please leave a comment below letting me know about your struggles with perfectionism as it applies to entrepreneurship and what tricks you use to help overcome it.

And, if you found this video helpful, please spread the love by liking it and sharing it with your friends and colleagues.