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January 2018 - ATX Fun - Austin-San Antonio Fun, Travel & Educational Opportunities

Some Lifetime Learning Institute – Austin Classes Still Available

Lifetime Learning Institute – Austin ( is a non-profit group of volunteers dedicated to providing fun and useful educational opportunities to adults. Most of the students are retirees. A total of 77 subjects are offered this Spring. Tuition is only $20 per subject, with 8 class sessions per subject…”the best bargain in town.”

Some Spring 2018 subjects are still available. French, German, Italian, Spanish, bridge, genealogy, geography, line dance, oil painting and some other topics still show limited availability.

Classes start on February 12, 2018, and registration can be done online.

UT Environmental Science Institute

Texas Coral
Texas Coral

The UT-Austin Environmental Science Institute continues its program of free talks by experts. These are open to the public. The next one will be about Texas’ Own Coral Reefs, and how they have done since Hurricane Harvey last Fall.

The talk + Q&A begins at 7:00 PM on Friday, Feb. 16, in the San Jacinto Hall Multipurpose Room on the UT campus.

To subscribe to announcements, email

Status on Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines PlaneThis TravelCodex post, the last of a series, tells all about the two elite status levels on Southwest Airlines. They are called A-List and A-List Preferred.

In may not seem obvious that Southwest would have status levels, since all the seats are in one cabin and any passenger can take any un-occupied seat. The primary benefit of status is early boarding.

To me, the best “status” on Southwest is the Companion Pass. The blog post tells a bit about the Companion Pass, and has a link to a more thorough description of what it is and how to get it.

How to Avoid Bag Fees on Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines LogoSummer Hull, the author of the MommyPoints blog, had a nice post recently telling how you can avoid the checked-bag and carryon-bag fees charged by Spirit Airlines, simply by reducing down to an 18x14x8 inch personal item. Such a personal item is free on Spirit Airlines.

If your carryon bag is larger, the extra fee is $35 to $65, so the savings that you receive by taking only a personal item are substantial.

Spirit Airlines does not fly to Austin, but you may use it by driving or flying to an airport where they do fly, like Dallas DFW or Houston IAH.

One tip that Summer does not mention is to pack as much as you can on your person. You can stuff your pockets with bulky items. To take it a bit further, invest in a ScotteVest (or an inexpensive fishing vest), which has tons of pockets. You may look like the Michelin Man entering the aircraft, but I’ve never heard of a passenger being denied boarding for that reason.

UPDATE: This blog post reports on a man kicked off a flight for wearing too much clothing. He wore 8+ sets of clothing, in order to avoid paying a luggage fee.

WSJ: Yes, You Can Visit Cuba On Your Own

The Jan. 13, 2018, issue of theĀ  Wall Street Journal has an article describing a recent visit to Cuba by two friends. They went on their own, not as part of a group tour. A sidebar to the article tells how anyone can do the same.

According to the sidebar, the rules still permit Americans to visit Cuba in “support of the Cuban people” without special authorization. Just go online to purchase an airline ticket from American, jetBlue, Southwest or Delta, and select that reason when the website prompts you. A visa will be needed, and you can purchase that for $50 at the airport ticket counter.

When you arrive in Cuba, you must not patronize any business related to the Cuban military. The list of businesses (some hotels, etc.), tourist agencies, marinas, stores and products (including Carney and Varadero rums) to avoid can be found on the State Department’s website.

According to the sidebar in the Wall St. Journal article, you must keep evidence of your interactions with Cubans for five years. Such interactions should be meaningful, which may spur Cuba toward democratic government. Such evidence can be receipts and selfies with locals. Staying in private residences (casas particulares), eating in private restaurants (paradares), and visiting galleries and community projects are recommended.

The United States has an embassy in Havana, although with reduced staff due to mysterious illnesses among staff (perhaps due to some sort of sonic activity). Airbnb continues to operate in Cuba, as do US airlines.

If self-directed travel doesn’t sound appealing, you can do as many Americans have by taking a cruise that stops in several Cuban port cities.

Denver & Miami to Brussels Just $315+ Round-Trip

Search Google Flights for the deets on these round-trip fares from some U.S. cities to Brussels, Belgium. The airlines are United, Air Canada (Denver) and TUI fly (Miami).

TUI fly Deutschland” is a German “leisure airline” that flies to 71 destinations.

Manneken Pis Statue
Manneken Pis Statue

Brussels is an interesting destination in itself, the home of the famous Manneken Pis statue. Brussels can also serve as the jumping off point for train or plane travel to other European nations.

Hat tip to email from Scott’s Cheap Flights.

American Airlines Flight Attendants Gain Ability to Compensate for Problems

American Airlines
American Airlines

Flight attendants at American Airlines will soon gain the ability to give you immediate compensation if something goes wrong. For example, a broken seatback tray, broken arm rest, wet seat, seat will not recline, burned out reading light, or broken window shade.

They will be using the iSolve app on their tablets to report problems and provide compensation to the affected passenger(s).

This is being reported by The Points Guy and View from the Wing travel blogs.

Sweepstakes: Win a Dream Trip for Two to Jordan

Petra By Night
Petra By Night

Sure, the chances of your winning the $1500 plus $3000 (total $4500) aren’t great, but entering is super easy…so why not? (And, if you enter I’ll get some extra entries and you will get the opportunity to invite your friends so you can get some extra entries, too!)

Petra is the site in Jordan that I most want to visit. Jordan is a strong ally of the United States.

This sweepstakes is sponsored by Scott’s Cheap Flights and Jordan Tourism North America.