TSA Pre-check update & other associated notes from our trip to Spain (such as international internet hotspots & more, why to buy converters overseas & more):


Bottom Line:  Ashley and I just enjoyed a nice vacation overseas.  We’ll typically travel internationally once a year and quite a bit has occurred over the last year that might alter your thinking and planning before your next international trip.  First up…

TSA Precheck:  This new system continues to be deployed around the country (and that’s the key) so here’s an update for TSA Precheck when traveling abroad.  For context Ashley does have TSA Precheck and I don’t:



·         Every person in a traveling party needs TSA Precheck – not just one (otherwise they’ll go through security more quickly and then have to wait for you)


·         TSA Precheck is only in force in certain airports within the US – it does not help you in any international airports or to clear customs & security back into the US



International internet hotspots:



  • Generally when we’ve traveled abroad we’ve had access to free secure Wi-Fi – that was not the case on this trip (for most of the trip it would have been over $40 per 24hrs!).  So we added an international plan through Verizon to keep Ashley’s hotspot active overseas.  While Verizon didn’t have service where we traveled they said they had arrangements with 3rd party providers and it would work.  Well, it didn’t.  In talking with a local business owner and tech guru in Barcelona he said that all of the US providers make that claim and he’s never heard of a hotspot working through a 3rd party to a US provider.  He said that you should only use an international plan if your service provider is active in that geographic area






  • Like most we like to be prepared before traveling.  That means identifying the specific version of a power converter we’ll need before traveling (which isn’t easy because of the myriad of differences from region to region of the world).  So we did comparative shopping as we’d never been to Spain before and bought a decent converter on sale for about $40 that came with all European adapters.  We were using so many devices (mainly cameras for pictures) that we were needed to charge multiples at a time so we bought another converter.  The price was only $8 & worked in all outlets (ours only worked in certain newer outlets).  Lesson learned.  Buy a converter when you get to your destination. 


Tomorrow Q&A will resume.  If you have a topic or question you’d like me to address email me:  brianmudd@clearchannel.com


Audio Report:




How much is your dollar actually worth in Florida (compared to other states)?:


Bottom Line:  We really do just about have it all in Florida.  The weather, the beaches, no personal income tax & bonus – better than average (lower) cost of living than average.  According the 2014 Tax Foundation study:



  • $100 in Florida buys $101.21 worth of goods (thus lower average cost of living)



The worst place for cost of living:



  • D.C. where $100 only buys $84.60 worth of stuff


The best place for cost of living:



  • Mississippi where $100 buys $115.74 worth of stuff



So enjoy paradise and spend less to do it!


Audio Report:




The wireless carrier that just dominated the reliability & performance tests for 2014:


Bottom Line:  What is it that you value most when weighing your mobile service provider.  Price is likely in the mix.  Beyond price though is it Reliability? Speed, Data? Call clarity and execution?  Just overall Performance?  If the answer is yes to any of those then the provider you’d likely be happiest with is Verizon. 


RootMetrics produces a comprehensive nationwide study each year called the RootScore Report.  They study all aspect of performance across the entire country.   Here are the results of the newly released data. 



  • Verizon won 44 states for Calling & Reliability of service
  • Verizon won 45 states for Speed
  • Verizon won 46 states for Data
  • Verizon won 48 states for overall performance


That’s a pretty compelling story.  For the best price you’ll likely find it with T-Mobile or Sprint.  For everything else it’s Verizon.  Additionally Verizon scored a clean sweep of all categories in Florida.  AT&T was second in all states so there is a difference between the discounters (T-Mobile & Sprint) and the premium providers (Verizon & AT&T).  That being said there is a clear nationwide and Florida-wide leader. 


Audio Report:




Would you pay 4% more for something made in America vs. China?:


Bottom Line:  If the answer is yes – get out there and buy stuff that’s made in this country.  According to the most recent data from the Boston Consulting Group the average cost benefit of manufacturing in China vs. the US is only 4%!  That’s the lowest difference on record. 


The two factors driving the difference continue to be an increase in wages (the average salary paid in China has increased 500% over the past ten years) and the increase in average energy prices which must be factored in due to transport costs.  So that’s it – just 4%!  For many companies that may well be worth the potential good will associated with bringing manufacturing back to the US.  As consumers we can help move this forward by patronizing the companies that are manufacturing in the US once again (or whom never left).  If this trend continues it may soon turn out to be cheaper to manufacture in the US in the near future.  Pretty cool.


Audio Report:





A new & fully functional laptop for under $200?  Soon it'll be here & it looks like a winner:


Bottom Line:  Early this year Microsoft said they’d bring out new laptops that would change the game for laptop affordability.  Now we know what those laptops will be & it’s a great thing. 


Tablets have been drastically eating into PC sales in recent years.  Much of the trade off has been based on the affordability of tablets compared to laptops.  That’s the motivation behind the new HP Steam 14. 


It’s not available for pre-order just yet but here are the specs:


  • 14 inch screen (standard for laptops)
  • Windows 8.1 (remember when Windows alone would cost more than $200?)
  • 2GB of internal storage
  • Ports for as much external storage as you which


And the price?  Just $199.  Additionally HP’s computers have been the second best on the consumer market for the last two years (only outdone by Macs) in my view.  For the average person the HP’s have been the best option.  Macs are second to none for online design and graphic work.  If you don’t do any design work you don’t need to pay for all of that technology in the Macs.  The higher end HP Envy’s have been as good or better outside of design programs at a much lower price.  I have confidence they’ll deliver a great entry level laptop with the Steam 14.  This laptop should be ideal for anyone who likes the PC experience and simply wants to upgrade from a legacy XP or Vista machine. 


Audio Report: