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How to use your phone overseas- and not spend a fortune

(Photo: Jorge Quinteros / Flickr)

Did you get a shiny new iPhone or smart phone for Christmas? Are you worried that it might cost you a fortune if you dare to turn it on overseas? In this guest post, longtime BAT reader Jim Braude offers some excellent tips for staying connected when overseas– whether you use an iPhone or an Android device. Braude divides his time between Atlanta and Paris managing a delightful collection of guest apartments in both cities that he rents to travelers.

Learn From My Mistakes!

The first time I came here [to France] with my iPhone I didn’t pay attention to details or warnings, resulting in an $1800.00 bill after just two weeks. Now I’ve learned the tricks and happy to share them with you. — Jim Braude, ourhomeinparis.com

1 – Use the wi-fi! Most hotels and all of our apartments have unlimited wi-fi use. Of course, it makes sense to do as much data transfer as possible using the wi-fi network, as it’s the 3G that nails you if you go over your limit (see next point). More coffee houses are adding wi-fi too as a free perk, but be careful if non secured.

2 – AT&T has three features that greatly reduce the bill:

>Global messaging – 200 international text messages for 30.00

>International roaming – data – 125MB for $49.99 – this is greatly reduced recently. If you use it with ONAVO (see below) it’s more than enough for a once-an-hour check of emails for a full month.

>International roaming – voice – $5.99.   Cheaper long distance to the US.   But I use SKYPE when on wi-fi instead, which is even cheaper.

3 – SKYPE nothing beats Skype to Skype video calls, free and with the newer Macs you get really clear sound and picture.

4 – ONAVO is a free app for iPhone that compresses data and greatly reduces the amount of data transmission– it literally halves your incoming data bill.

5 – PHONE TAG – for $9.99/month.  I forward my incoming voice calls to my phonetag number, it then computer-generates a voice to email message, and sends me an email. This also makes it unnecessary to check voice mail which I prefer. It’s not perfect– occasionally the computer will make some odd choices in its translation from voice to text– but it includes an attachment of the actual voice message that you can listen to if needed as a back up.

6- CHANGE SETTINGS. Change how often your phone checks for email from every fifteen minutes to every hour during the day and change to MANUAL setting at night unless you have wi-fi setting and wi-fi remains on 24/7.

7- WHATSAPP - an almost free app (99 cents) for international texting, works great [across iPhone, Android and Nokia platforms].

8 – GET AN APARTMENT - when a homeowner gets cable service in France, it costs only 5 euros more per month for the owner to add unlimited free calling to the US or Canada from a fixed line.  Warning: some carriers do NOT allow free calls to mobile phones–only to fixed lines–  so confirm that first. And confirm whether the country you are calling is on the free list.  When you install cable (and wi-fi and phone) in your apartment, calls to the US and Canada are almost always free, from both both fixed line and mobile.

9 – PICKPOCKETS – the number one most stolen item in France is the iPhone. DO NOT leave it on a table top at a cafe. A young man covered mine with a newspaper as he asked me a question and took my iphone away in seconds, but I caught him in the act. Avoid using on the subway as you are alerting those around you that you are a prime target. Never leave your iphone in backpack or purse that is behind you rather in front of you.

Do you have any other money-saving or hassle-reducing tips on using your mobile phone overseas? If so, please leave your advice in the comments box below!

Paying up pays off for holiday trips

Why wait in a long holiday taxi queue? Reserve a car instead! (Photo: Enrico Salad / Flickr)

As the peak holiday travel season approaches, everyone’s looking for a deal or a steal. But the truth of the matter is that bargains are difficult to come by during the Thanksgiving and Christmas peak travel season.

And if you snag what you think is a bargain, you might end of  “getting what you pay for.”

As a matter of fact, paying a little more at this time of year usually translates into more peace of mind, more quality time with friends or family, and the increased likelihood of a low-hassle trip home for the holidays…. which is what we all want.

Here are six examples to illustrate what I mean:


1> Take a nonstop flight. While you might be tempted by the price of a one-stop flight, by choosing one, you are increasing your chances of a delay or cancellation by 100%! Why take that chance, especially if you are headed home for just a few days, and a delayed or canceled flight could spoil the entire trip?

Cost: $50 to $200 depending on flight length

Example: Flying during peak Christmas week between San Francisco and Atlanta, you’ll pay $660 for a six-hour one-stop journey on Frontier connecting in Denver. On the other hand, fly four hours nonstop on Delta or AirTran and the fare is $730- $70 more. Worth it to fly nonstop? I think so. (Fares checked Nov 13 for flights departing Dec 23, returning Dec 27 and are subject to change.)


2> Book your trip via a real, live travel agent. Most budget-conscious travelers shy away from travel agents who charge fees. But as the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) likes to say, “Without a travel agent, you’re on your own.” Most travel agents can use their experience, connections and clout to help get you out of sticky situations, plus they’ve got knowledge and experience to offer you the best alternatives when or if you get stuck.

Cost: $20-$50 or negotiable

Example: ASTA’s motto surely rang true last year when a monster storm blew up the East Coast on Christmas day, stranding travelers across the country. Most of those who booked trips via travel agents were able to get through to them by phone and adjust travel plans faster than those who only had airline 800-numbers. (Note: Be sure the travel agent you choose has an after hours emergency number.)


Rooms dip as low as $80 over Xmas at a brand new Best Western near Dallas, TX

3> Stay at a hotel. Why burden the in-laws with the stress of houseguests during the already stressful holidays? Instead of bunking on that lumpy sofa bed or stuffy guest room, book a nearby hotel. Tip: Due to lack of demand from business travelers, most hotels are dirt-cheap during the holidays, especially those located in suburban office parks. Travel expert John DiScala, who edits the popular johnnyjet.com website suggests that the holidays are a great time to consider redeeming loyalty points for nicer hotel digs, saying, “For example, Hilton HHonors points can also now be used to upgrade an existing reservation to a premium room or suite at hotels worldwide, with no blackout dates.”

Cost: $50 to $100 per night, depending on location.

Example: A nice, newish Hilton Garden Inn in the northern Atlanta suburbs costs only $67 per night during Christmas week—but book it two weeks later when business travelers are back on the road and you’ll pay nearly twice that much- $127.


4> Review your charge card benefits. Most banks have added a slew of new benefits to charge cards in recent years to woo free-spending, credit-worthy frequent travelers, so you might be packing more power in your pocket than you know. While annual fees are higher for such cards, many now offer benefits that come in handy for holiday travel such as waived baggage fees, access to airport lounges, early boarding privileges, early check in/late check out or upgrades at hotels, concierge services and more.

Cost: $100-$500/year

Example: While the American Express Platinum card sounds expensive at $450/year, the benefits can pay off big time when it comes to peak travel season. For example, the card gets you out of the airport holiday mayhem and into 600 airport lounges (gratis) around the world, covers up to $200 airline fees from checked bags to in-flight food or cocktails, and Global Entry membership, which gets you to the front of the line US Customs and Immigration. For a $95 fee, the new Chase/United Explorer card offers early boarding, one free checked bag, and two United Club passes. Many high-end cards also offer concierge services that can help get you out of travel jams—worth a call if you get stuck!


Delta's roomier Economy Comfort seat now on SFO-JFK5> Book roomier airline seats. While you can always pay a lot more to sit in first class, you can now pay a little bit more, and get a more comfortable coach seat. During the busy, crowded holidays, that’s money well spent. While getting a few extra inches of room always helps, the real benefit of paying for a better economy seat is that you usually get to board early—with elite level flyers—which means you get first dibs on scarce overhead bin space.

Cost: Varies based on carrier and flight duration- $10-$100 per segment

Example: I frequently take advantage of last minute upgrades to Virgin America’s Main Cabin Select seats, which offer a few extra inches of legroom at exit rows and bulkheads, free in-flight food and booze, and early boarding privileges. While reserving a Main Cabin Select seat in advance can be expensive, cheaper last-minute upgrades (24 hours prior to flight) can make a good flight a great one. Delta recently added roomier “Economy Comfort” seating on transcon flights between SFO and New York City.


6> Hire a car service to/from the airport. There are lots of reasons why you should use a car service for a ride to or from the airport during the holidays. First, don’t burden friends or family with the chore of driving to the airport during rush hour traffic to pick you up or drop you off. Second, when arriving, you walk straight to your waiting car instead of waiting in those long, cold taxi queues at airports that form during peak holiday season.

Cost: 10%-20% more than cab fare

Example: Last month I was greeted by a taxicab queue at SFO at least 100 people deep after returning from a 15-hour flight from Dubai. Wish I had booked a car service! In New York, I always use the economical Dial 7 car service (212-777-7777) which costs $5 or $10 more than a cab, but offers a comfortable sedan ride to/from Manhattan versus the tight squeeze, bumpy ride, and possible wait for a NYC Taxi.

Where are YOU headed for the holidays? Please leave your comments below.

Holiday Travel: “Dead Week” airfare sale

Photo: Flickr / Andertho


If you’ve been putting off business trips, blown off your family back home, or missed that romantic weekend away because airfares are too high, you should check out the new “dead week” deals offered by Southwest and AirTran.

Dead weeks are the annual low points in travel demand each year, which ironically come in the midst of the peak holiday travel season. And when demand plummets, so do prices. However, the catch is that you’ve got to travel when everyone else is staying at home.

Dead weeks typically fall during the first few weeks of December right after the big Thanksgiving rush, and again right after the Christmas/New Years rush in early January.

In a 72-hour sale that starts today, Southwest and AirTran are now offering some pretty remarkable fares for travel during this period. Keep in mind also that hotel rates and car rental rates  plummet (except in NYC during December). There are also tons of last minute deals as desperate suppliers try to dump unsold seats, rooms and cars. Note that many Rocky Mountain destinations are great for skiing in January.

Here are the deals from Southwest and AirTran…I imagine by the time you read this other airlines will have matched them. For 72-hours only, you can purchase one-way tickets for $35, $65, $95 or $125 based on length of travel (Add $25-$35 to each of these round trips to cover taxes/fees. Fares are not valid on SUNDAYS.)

  • For travel up to 450 miles, fares are $35 one-way, $70 round trip. (Most destinations in California)
  • For travel 451 to 1,000 miles, fares are $65 one-way, $130 round trip. (Boise, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake, Seattle)
  • For travel 1,001 to 1,500 miles, fares are $95 one-way, $190 round trip. (Bozeman, Denver, Albuquerque)
  • For travel 1,501 or more miles, fares are $125 one-way, $250 round trip. (Atlanta, Dallas, New York, Chicago, Washington)

These low fares are available for purchase through 11:59 p.m. PST October 20, 2011, for travel beginning Nov. 30 through Dec. 14, 2011 and Jan. 4 through Feb. 15, 2012. See www.southwest.com.

As a part of the effort to spread low fares farther through the integration of two airlines, AirTran Airways will launch a parallel fare sale. See  www.airtran.com.

(Chris McGinnis publishes The BAT and The TICKET blogs for frequent travelers.)

“Ultra low cost” carrier arrives in Bay Area

Spirit Airlines route mapSpirit Airlines route map

Spirit Airlines, which bills itself as “the ultra low cost carrier,” quietly entered the Bay Area this week, with four daily nonstops between Oakland and Las Vegas.

From Vegas, fliers can fly nonstop to its main hub at Ft Lauderdale- and from there connecting to points in Latin America and Caribbean.

Spirit also offers nonstops from Vegas to Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago-O’Hare, Dallas-Ft Worth and San Diego.

While I would normally get excited about new flights from the Bay, I’m filled with trepidation instead. Why? Spirit has a very strong “you-get-what-you-pay-for” reputation. (Disclosure: I have not flown Spirit yet. This is what I’ve heard anecdotally, online review sites and from media reports.)

A quick scan of Spirit’s OAK-LAS fares shows some good deals, but with some caveats. (Note Spirit fares do not show up on travel search engines…you must shop at spirit.com)

During September and October, Spirit is promoting $9 each way, $18 round trips between Oakland and Las Vegas. Sounds great, but you have to pay a $60 fee to join its “club” to get that fare.

Don’t want to join? Then the base fare jumps to $22 round trip.

But that’s not what you pay. In addition, you will pay Spirit’s unique “passenger usage fee” of $16 per round trip, plus the usual federal taxes, so the round trip ends up at $59.40. (This fee covers the cost of Spirit maintaining its web site, so the only way to avoid this fee is to go to Oakland and buy your tickets at the airport.)

But wait, it does not stop there.

If you carry on a bag, you’ll pay an additional $30 each way, making the total price $119.40. (Want to check your bag at the airport? That will be $40 each way!)

Want to reserve a window seat near the front of the plane, or one next to the person you are traveling with? That’s an extra $14 each way, $28 round trip, so now the ticket price is $147.40

By comparison, the lowest fare on Virgin America for SFO-Las Vegas in mid-September (including all taxes and fees) is $133.40.

Have you ever, or would you fly Spirit? Please leave your comments below.

Tax holiday on airline tickets. Act fast. (UPDATED)

UPDATE Sunday 7:45am: AP reports all airlines except Alaska, Frontier and Virgin America have raised fares. Only those travelers who acted fast were able to take advantage of the short term discount mentioned below. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Airlines-are-taking-savings-apf-1533581816.html?x=0&.v=8


Original post from Saturday morning: Due to the budget stalemate in Washington, airlines stopped collecting some federal taxes on airline tickets at 12:01 Saturday morning.

This means that most airline tickets bought from now until there’s a budget agreement in Washington will not be subject to the 7.5% federal excise tax, the $3.50 segment fee, or the $16.30 international departure tax.

For example, travelers booking now will get a savings of $37 on a typical $400 domestic fare.

The higher the fare, the more you save on the federal excise tax. So, let’s say you need to take a quick trip to New York next week and the last minute fare is $1000 round trip- you’ll save $82 on that fare.

While airlines may be price matching soon or already — just raising fares to make up the difference and pocket the windfall- a Virgin America spokesperson confirmed that Virgin has embraced the stalemate, reducing its fares and encouraging travelers via its web site and social media channels to grab a tax-free seat now and “Evade Taxes. Take Flight.”

Alaska Airlines told the Seattle Times that it is not collecting the tax and its customers would save about 14% on ticket prices as a result.

However, a spokesman for Southwest and AirTran said that the carriers have raised roundtrip fares $8 “to offset industry cost pressures.” That means that ticket prices today will be more or less the same as they were yesterday. Also, the Washington Post reports that American and US Airways have raised fares to offset any tax savings. UPDATE: 8:30 pm Saturday- United and Delta have matched the fare increase which it had held off on doing until now. American and US Airways have also raised fares to offset any tax savings.

So if you’ve been sitting on a fence about a fare, now might be a good time to go ahead and bite the bullet- at least on Alaska, Delta, United and Virgin America. But keep an eye on this…as always fares are subject to change!

Fall Travel Sales Begin- Act Fast

(Photo: Flickr / Telstar

If steep fares are keeping you grounded this summer, there’s relief in sight.

Southwest Airlines kicked off a big sale for fall travel with fares significantly lower than what we are paying this summer. If you have firm plans to travel this fall, The BAT recommends that you take advantage of this sale.

Systemwide fares are based on mileage and priced at $40, $80 or $120 each way.

Sample fares for travel between August 23 through November 16 from SFO or OAK. (Fridays and Sundays and Labor Day-Sept 1-5-  are blacked out.)

> LA, San Diego, So Cal: $40 each way; $80 round trip

>Denver or Phoenix: $80 each way; $160 round trip

>Chicago-Midway: $120 each way; $240 round trip

What’s most interesting about this sale is that it includes Southwest’s new subsidiary, AirTran.

>Nonstop SFO to Atlanta or Milwaukee, and then beyond: $120 each way; $240 round trip (That’s dirt cheap for east coast flights!)

If these fares sound good to you (and they should!) you must act fast: The sale is only good between now and 11:59 pm Thursday.

Although they have not formally announced a sale matching Southwest yet, when searching for fares on Virgin America or United, you will find those that match Southwest’s (in markets where they compete nonstop.)

Please forward this link to your friends and tell them to sign up for The BAT! www.thebat-sf.com

Summer airfare outlook (The BAT on KCBS!)

If you are planning to take to the skies this summer, prepare to pay up. KCBS called on The BAT editor Chris McGinnis for his outlook on summer flying. Check out the article and listen to the short podcast of his remarks!


Top 10 predictions for BATs in 2011

(Photo: Garry Knight / Flickr)

It’s that time of year again…when travel pundits and prognosticators do their best to gaze into the future and predict what may or may not happen in the big wide world of travel in the coming year.

Here are my top ten predictions for frequent travelers in 2011:

1-RISING PRICES. Business travel prices will continue to rise, but not enough to dampen renewed demand.

2-AIRFARE. Fares will continue to rise sharply, especially for flights between cities where only one or two legacy carriers operate. From the Bay Area, all you have to do is follow the route maps of Virgin America, Southwest and JetBlue to know where the deals are (or aren’t). Also, prepare for more fuel surcharges if oil hits $100 per barrel- it’s currently about $89 and rising.

3-TRAVEL DEALS. In terms of travel deals, there will be a wider gap between peak season and off-season prices. Those with flexibility to travel outside the peak travel dates will continue to find good deals and more short-term “flash” type sales. Those who must travel during peak periods will face sticker shock.

4-HOTEL RATES. Due to continued overcapacity, hotel rates should remain about the same or slightly up, on average, over the next year. Hotel rates in New York City will rise, but a steady supply of new hotels opening there should keep rate inflation to acceptable levels, especially among mid-tier properties.

5-FREE WI-FI. More upscale hotel chains will join their midscale counterparts to offer free in-room Wi-Fi. We’ll also see hoteliers pay more attention to bandwidth issues on their existing systems. What good is free Wi-Fi if it doesn’t work? In-flight Wi-Fi prices could moderate as Southwest’s $5 flat fee for inflight Wi-Fi expands to more flights.

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6-LONGER STAYS. Hotel chains will offer more loyalty program promotions designed to get travelers to increase the duration of their stays. (Such as “buy two nights, get the third free.”)

7-DRIVING VS. FLYING. Due to recent changes in security screening, the airport hassle factor could return, and more frequent travelers will consider driving instead of flying. The “five hour rule” might change to the “six hour rule.”

8-MOBILE DEVICES. We’ll see more focus on business travelers’ smart phones, which will soon be used to open hotel room doors and will be accepted as payment instead of credit cards. There will be more promotions designed to encourage the use of mobile devices to book and manage travel reservations

Old school Airfone

9-IN-FLIGHT PHONING. In-flight phone calling, now available on several non-U.S. airlines will become more prevalent and might even be considered by a domestic carrier. High per-call rates and peer pressure should keep abuse in check- remember those pricey GTE Airfones that no one ever used because they were too expensive? I expect the same with in-flight cell phone use.

10-MEETINGS & CONVENTIONS. More of us will attend large annual trade shows and conventions this year as pent up demand is released. Many companies banned non-essential travel over the last two years and business travelers are eager to get out of the office and re-establish face-to-face contact with customers and colleagues. However, I think small and medium-sized meetings will face more competition from virtual alternatives.

Traveling home for a feast? Read this first.

(that's my mom's sweet potato casserole.)
(that’s my mom’s sweet potato casserole!)

With Halloween and the election behind us, the next big calendar item is Thanksgiving. If you are hitting the roads or the skies later this month, read up. There’s plenty to know about the upcoming peak season:

FARES UP. In addition to the slew of new airline fees, airfares are higher this year. Farecompare.com reports that holiday airfares are up about 17 percent over last year. According to Travelocity, the average Thanksgiving season fare for domestic trips is running about $378 roundtrip this year. While that may seem high, consider this: Travelocity says that the average Christmas/New Years week fare this year is $457.

FORGET WEDNESDAY. The TUESDAY before Thanksgiving has emerged as one of the busiest travel days for of the peak Thanksgiving week- even busier than Wednesday.

FULL WEEK. In recent years, an increasing number of Americans are taking the full Thanksgiving week off. This means that you should expect the Friday and Saturday before Thanksgiving to be very busy.

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SUNDAY-MONDAY. The Sunday and Monday after Thanksgiving will be the busiest travel days of the season. Sunday’s busy because that’s when everyone wants to get back home. Monday is busy because you’ve got business travelers headed back out for work on Monday morning along with the Thanksgiving laggards headed home. IMPORTANT: Expect big security line back ups on Monday morning; arrive early just in case.

PACKED FLIGHTS AND AIRPORTS. The Air Transport Association expects 24 million travelers during the 12-day Thanksgiving travel season. That’s up from 23 million last year. Despite the increased demand, airlines have been slow to un-park their planes (or buy new ones) so you should expect every flight to be full or even oversold.

DRIVING IT HOME. Despite the focus on air travel, the fact remains that 80 to 90 percent of all trips home for the holiday are by car. Good news: Gasoline is only a dime-per-gallon more expensive than this time last year. As always, traffic-averse drivers should try to avoid high-volume times such at Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving and Sunday afternoon after.

SWEET SPOT. If you want to breeze through the holiday with little or no hassle, try to travel during the Thanksgiving sweet spot: Thursday, Friday and Saturday are the slowest travel days of the week. Smart drivers leave Thanksgiving morning and get back Saturday night. Three days with the family is plenty, right?

AIRLINE FEE FOR ALL. Despite all the media attention, infrequent travelers might be surprised by new airline fees for checked baggage this year. Here’s what you need to know:

>Only JetBlue and Southwest do not charge for the first checked bag. (JetBlue does charge for the second one; Southwest does not.)

>Only one airline, Spirit Air, charges for carry on bags. ($45 for bags that don’t fit under the seat.) Thankfully, Spirit Air does not fly to San Francisco!

>All other airlines charge $50 to $70 round trip per checked bag.

>Bags that are overweight or oversize are subject to crazy-high fees, so beware.

FAT STAT. The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics says that airlines raked in a whopping $1.6 BILLION in checked baggage fees in just the first six months of this year! (This is a big reason airlines are finally, after years in the red, reporting profits this year.)

BAG FEE REBATE. Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and other hotels in the InterContinental Hotels Group will rebate $50 in checked baggage fees to those who spend two weekend nights with them. Kimpton Hotels is doing the same- but only if you are charged for a second bag.

SHIP BAGS. If you can’t fit everything into a carryon, consider shipping your bags. UPS and FEDEX stores are happy to ship your baggage, but you have to ship them 3-5 days ahead of time via ground, in order to beat the cost of airline fees. Also be aware that distance matters when you ship bags. The UPS Store tells me that a 35 lb. bag shipped via ground from San Francisco to Denver costs about $25; if you shipped the same bag all the way to Atlanta, it would cost close to $50.

LUMPY SOFA OR HOTEL?. One bright spot in the overcrowded, overpriced holiday season is that hotel rates can hit yearlong lows during Thanksgiving. This is especially true at hotels located in or near office parks that cater to business travelers. These properties are dead during holidays, so you can scoop up outstanding bargains. To get the most for your money check out the big spacious rooms (many as big as efficiency apartments) at so-called “extended stay” properties such as Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites or Homewood Suites.

DEAD WEEKS. If you have the flexibility to postpone Thanksgiving season trips, consider traveling during what are known in the travel industry as “dead weeks.” During the first two weeks of December and the first two weeks of January, crowds vanish and prices plummet. The main exception to this would be New York City- due to the shopping season, the first three weeks of December are the busiest and most expensive of the year.

3 BAT readers get month’s supply of roadie java

The weak, plasticky and unsatisfactory in-room coffee experience

As you may have read in previous issues, The BAT has partnered with Starbucks to get the word out about VIA, its new line of instant coffee, among frequent travelers like YOU!

Starbucks VIA is perfect for those times you find yourself deprived of good coffee on the road. You know what I mean…like when your only option is that weak tea-like brew you find on hotel breakfast bars. Or worse, when you don’t have time (or money!) for room service and the stuff produced by the “coffee” maker in your hotel room is your only option. Ick! Then there are also those times when the coffee urn runs dry at that all-morning meeting…

With Starbucks VIA, just keep a pack in your briefcase or carry-on bag to ensure a really good cup of coffee no matter where you are. All you have to do is add hot or cold water. The taste is amazing—I honestly have a tough time telling the difference between VIA and the real thing. (>>>Click on the ad to the right for more info about VIA>>>)

How would you like to give Starbucks VIA a try for a month, for free?

Here’s all you have to do:

Leave a comment below or send me an email describing a travel situation where you WISHED you had a pack of Starbucks VIA to get your day off to a good start with a REAL cup of coffee. THAT’S IT!

Just two or three lines are all I’m looking for. But if you are feeling especially creative, send it along as a poem…or haiku*…or a photo. If you are already a fan of VIA, tell us why.

I’ll pick what I feel are the top three entries, and those folks will get a one-month supply of Starbucks VIA and a nice new mug sent to them. Easy!

I look forward to hearing from you!

*HAIKU: a 3 line, one stanza poem with a syllable count of 5, 7, 5.

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