Travel Guide: 6 Tips To Travel Like A Pro
As you can tell by the fact that we have an entire post category devoted to it, Mary Hall and I both love to travel. Alot. Of course, there was the epic United Kingdom trip that we took together as teenagers, but we’ve both made our way around the world and the country individually on many occasions. Since I currently work as a road manager and freelance musician, I’m on the road almost every weekend and even though my destinations aren’t always exotic, I’ve discovered that there is certainly an art to traveling no matter if you are going across town or across the world. While I know that there are plenty of folks that travel way more than I do, I thought I’d bring you what wisdom I do have to you kind folks. I hope to see you on the road.
1. Loyalty Isn’t Just For The Dogs. – The most important thing I can think of in travel is to choose a chain and stick with it. It doesn’t so much matter which brand you choose, only that you choose one! Most programs are created fairly equal, so pick whichever one is most convenient for you based on places you travel frequently. Choose what program works for you, and then stick with it. Besides earning points or miles for free travel, most programs have different tiers that provide different benefits such as free upgrades or waived luggage fees that you can qualify for based on your amount of travel, and if you travel alot, those perks can make an exhausting day a little bit better.
2. Join The Club: ALL of Them. – I know, you’re thinking, “but you just gave us this sermon on brand loyalty!” I know, I did. And I’m not being a hypocrite. See here’s the deal. Sometimes you can’t control every aspect of your travel. Maybe your boss is in charge of booking rooms or your favorite airline doesn’t fly to the airport where that big meeting is. But this doesn’t mean you have to miss out. Not only are most loyalty programs free to join with no annual fee so you can join them all with no worries, but most programs have partnerships with other programs. Simply log on to your online account and set your earning preference to earn what you want. I have about 8 hotel loyalty memberships….I’ve chosen one as my “main” hotel chain and that account is set to earn hotel points. All the other ones are set to earn airline miles on my “main” airline chain. If I only stay at a specific type of hotel once a year, it would take forever to earn a free night. But having a few extra airline miles on my favorite airline will go much further to earning a free ticket!
3. Be A Card-Carrying Promotion Hunter. – Another great way to earn free travel or perks for more comfortable travel is to get the credit card. I have a major credit card (one Visa and one AmEx) for my favorite hotel brand and favorite airline. Not only do I get bonus points on purchases made at those chains, but I get luggage and onboard discounts as well as enough bonus nights to almost have status right off the bat with my hotel card. If credit cards aren’t your thing, that’s ok. There are still lots of promotions out there that you can take advantage of that won’t affect your credit score. Many programs will send out emails advertising promotions, and if you don’t want any more traffic flooding your inbox, then you can still take advantage of most of these by just logging on to your online account and checking the “promotions” tab. Marriott for example has a particularly awesome promotion that they have been running 2 or 3 times a year called the “MegaBonus.” Just register and then for every two nights you stay within a certain period of time, you get one free night. Pretty awesome deal.
4. Attitude Is Everything: The Golden Rule Still Counts. – If you’re a frequent traveler it’s not so much a question of IF something will go wrong, it’s more like WHEN. Flights will be delayed, or cancelled. You’ll get to the rental car place only to find out that they JUST gave away that SUV you’d reserved. Your hotel room won’t be ready at check in, and when it is, you’ll quickly realize that someone smoked in the non-smoking room or that your towels aren’t exactly what you’d call clean. But here’s the thing. You’re not the first person this has happened to that day and you won’t be the last. But you can be the NICEST. Think about it. If you are a customer service rep and you have a line of angry people with messed up travel plans, and in the middle of it all, up steps a kind, even-tempered person who treats you with respect and understanding, who are you most going to want to help?
Ashamedly, I’ve not always been kind in every single situation of travel-gone wrong, so I understand that sometimes its hard to keep it together. But I’ve also noticed that the times I have been patient and kind, the folks behind the counter have, in turn, been nicer to me, and I’ve walked away having been helped, but also feeling like a decent human. Winning, all around.
5. The Only Dumb Question Is One You Don’t Ask. – Some situations are how they are, and you won’t be able to change them. But sometimes, customer service reps are able to help you out in ways you wouldn’t have thought of if you didn’t ask.Just today, this particular rule proved itself again. I’d paid for Early Bird boarding on Southwest for two people, roundtrip which totals $50….and is a fee that Southwest advertises as being “un-refundable” no matter the circumstances. However, in between the time I purchased the early bird and the actual flight, both passengers earned “A-List” status on Southwest thus getting free-early bird. So I called Southwest and asked about a refund even though I was aware of their advertised policy. And you know what? The customer service rep was super nice and told me that she couldn’t refund my $50, but she COULD send me a $50 Southwest voucher valid on any future Southwest travel and transferable to anyone I chose to use it on.
6. If At First You Don’t Succeed, Then Call, Call Again. – This one is one that I learned from watching my husband, and I’ve used it to my own advantage on a few occasions. For some reason, not all phone customer service reps will tell you the same thing. I don’t know why this is, but I know it’s true. So what do you do when the first customer service rep you get isn’t helpful or doesn’t tell you what you want to hear? You politely thank them and you hang up. And then you call back. And you repeat this until you find someone who gives you then answer you want (or realize that your request is unreasonable….you be the judge.) This usually works the best if you’re trying to change a flight or get a seat upgrade. And rule #3 totally applies here too. The nicer you are, the more likely you are to get what you want.