Win a ZUS and Never Lose Your Car Again

nonda ZUS car finder
The Dude needed a ZUS.

The car’s gone, stolen! We’re stuck!

We’d scoured the parking garage for more than 30 minutes, and there was no sign of our rental car anywhere. This was about to put a serious damper on our vacation plans.

Fortunately, a friendly local happened to walk by. He told us there was another parking garage nearby, and it looked identical to this one. Maybe you should check there … ?

Sure enough, there was our rental. And this is only one of my many Dude, Where’s Our Car? moments – from sprawling airport parking lots to underground garages in Germany. But there’s a chance this won’t ever happen to me again.

That’s because of this little gizmo called ZUS.

nonda ZUS car finder
Shamelessly borrowed from the Nonda website, I give you the ZUS.

The ZUS – or should it just be ZUZ? – is a handy little charger car charger for your small electronic gizmos like cell phones. It’s built for two devices just like my current charger, but it’s far more compact. It’s slightly faster also than my current devices, adding about a percentage point of power per minute.

But the really cool feature is its car locator abilities. All you need to do is download its Android or iPhone app into your phone, hit the “Mark” button after opening the program, and then use it should you forget where you parked. You’ll get updates on the distance to your car every so often.

GOOD TO KNOW: Nonda, the makers of ZUS, won two awards at the 2016 iF Design Awards. THE ZUS and Nonda’s Hub+ earned recognition from a 58-member jury evaluating more than 5,000 entries from 53 countries.

It’s not all automatic.

You still have to remember to sync your location before leaving your car behind. So if you forget to open the app and hit “Mark,” that’s the time you’ll wind up losing your car and forlornly marching around a parking lot somewhere. Also, you need to supply your own cables – which is actually pretty smart for ZUS considering the huge variety of plugs out there. My luck with the device has been spotty in garages any more than two stories underground … but topside, it’s pretty flawless! The user interface is definitely slicker on the iPhone, but the Android version is still workable.

nonda ZUS car finder
Never ask this question again. Well, as long as your smart enough to work a smartphone.

I’ve really enjoyed testing the little ZUS so far, and I think my wife will love knowing that we have a way to find our car in that enormous East Economy Parking Lot at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (I still can’t believe how often I forget where I parked).

One of my favorite aspects of the ZUS: You can take it anywhere your smartphone goes, from your personal car to your rental car and just about anywhere else you might buckle up.

Now here’s the cool part: You can get one from me, for free.

I have an extra ZUS to give away. Here’s how you can claim it as your own: Submit your best story about losing your car. If I judge you to be the winner, I’ll publish your story here and ship the ZUS right to you. Just send your story to wanderingjustin@hotmail.com by April 2 (because nobody smart would ever use April Fools Day as a deadline).

Disclosure: Nonda provided a ZUS for review, plus one to give to the lucky reader with the best story of missing-car woe.

How Airfares Can Drive You Crazy

Straight answers are pretty rare when it comes to airfares. Just look at my recent search for flights to Auckland Airport. I priced out airfares for two adults and an infant just to get the conversation of our next trip started.

As usual, I started searching for airfares with a pretty broad Google Flights search – any airline, any alliance, pretty much any anything. This gave me a pretty good idea of what was out there. Hawaiian Airlines came out on top.

airfaresNow, I’m one of those guys who likes to maximize his frequent flier mileage haul. So once I find a flight that works, I check to see if it shares an alliance with an airline where I have a good chunk of miles. In this case, Hawaiian Airlines is in a bit of a weird state – it doesn’t seem to be a member of an airline alliance; its website lists American Airlines as a partner, but that status seems iffy, as well: The website says “**Important information on our partnership with American Airlines: The last day to earn HawaiianMiles on eligible American Airlines flights was December 31, 2015. Flights with travel dates after December 31, 2015 will not be eligible to earn HawaiianMiles.**

So, flying Hawaiian won’t let me use any miles that I have, and it won’t earn me anything. That’s a bummer. If Hawaiian was still an American partner, I could’ve presumably booked through AA.com to get on a Hawaiian flight and still earn some AAdvantage miles. I did a flight search, though, and Hawaiian wasn’t an option. And the less said about American’s options, the better – it’s the only airline that isn’t set up to get me to Auckland with one stop. I’d have to fly to Australia first.

This is all a disappointment because flying Hawaiian Airlines would let me skip visiting LAX, which is yet to win me over, humongous redesign or not. Its airfares are also reasonable.

So, what about other options?

airfares

Air New Zealand is also a solid choice and offers decent pricing through its own website. About $3,500 in airfares for a family is pretty good, and Air New Zealand gets solid reviews from customers.

 

airfaresNow, if I try booking on the United Airlines (one of Air New Zealand’s Star Alliance partners) website, the airfare shoots skyward. The price for an infant is $1,819! The price through the United Airlines website is nearly $3,000 than booking through the Air New Zealand site. I just cannot fathom this.

Delta Air Lines also couldn’t get us to Auckland with one stop, so I skipped them, too. Their airfares were also a few hundred dollars per ticket off the mark.

Clearly, booking through the Air New Zealand website is by far the winner here. It makes me really question the benefits of the airline alliances if you have the huge of a price variance even among member airlines for the same flight.