I wanted to talk about something outside of HANA and the BI world and get back to something that I have learned to love and hate…Travel! No one can really like to travel because it results in being away from your family, friends and sometimes really really nice weather that you don’t want to leave. In my case, it is all of the above since I live in sunny Southern California. There isn’t a worse feeling than getting on a red eye bound for Chicago in the dead of winter. There was one morning I arrived around 4:30AM to -30 degrees and had to wait in the blistering cold for more than 30 minutes…by that time, I was frozen and later found out that the rental car bus had broken down…ugghhh. You know what I mean by now and we all have experienced something similar. What I did realize is since I have to do it I better do it right. But what does this mean? You get on a plane, you get a rental car and you stay in a hotel for overnights…nothing more, right? Well, if you have traveled long enough, there is a whole world surrounding travel and that world is called frequent points programs. Regardless if it is an airline, hotel or rental car and in some cases, your favorite restaurant, if you are not taking advantage of frequent traveler programs, please start. This is the ONLY benefit from traveling.
Some of you may say, you get to see so many locations and get to meet so many people and/or cultures but honestly, you work A LOT and you don’t always experience all of these things. With that said, you need your points so you can get those added perks and luxuries when you travel for leisure and not for business. When I talk about travel with others, many people think I am a little obsessive but getting the most out of it is the name of the game and I try to achieve this. The rules I live by are the following:
1) Vacation destination ideas – This is important to do in the beginning of the year because it may set the stage for the rest of your travel. Not always but it will give you a starting point. What I mean by this is you want to understand where you want to go on vacation, that year or in the future so you can research the airlines that fly to those locations and the hotels that reside there (the nicer ones of course 🙂 ). Realize, this doesn’t always benefit you. For example, you can’t fly Qantas airlines from LAX to Chicago but there may be an alliance partner for Qantas that does make that trip. You also have to be economical in your travel and that identified airline may not fit the bill. Hotels may not always be located at the business location(s) that you are traveling to but you are, at the minimum, prepared to make this decision. Each piece of information will benefit the next decision on your final destination.
2) Airlines – The main thing here is stick with 1 airline and you should try and make this a rule of thumb for life. This is because it is already difficult to get status with airlines and they are making it harder and harder. The fastest way to achieve this is to be dedicated to 1 airline. Don’t be deterred by 1 bad experience because you will have many of them. And when you choose that airline, make sure it flies to many destinations. Again, this can’t always be followed but if you can follow it most of the time, you will be rewarded in the end.
3) Hotels – Now this is where I become a little out of the ordinary. My goal is to achieve the highest status in at least 2 hotel chains every year. One thing that people don’t realize but by doing this you are getting closer to lifetime status in a few of these chains. This is becoming a more popular advantage with the main hotel chains. Now, this isn’t easy if you are traveling to 1 location for an extended period of time. You also need to look at what achieves status the fastest and 9 times our of 10, it is stays over nights. So that is the goal, the largest # of stays in the least amount of time. In order to do this, you must check in and out of hotels every night, regardless if you are staying in the same city. So there are a couple of options. The first option is find 2 hotels in the same chain and 1 hotel in the second chain that you want status in. You can stay in the first 2 hotels on nights 1 and 3 and the 2nd hotel chain on night 2. Or find 3 hotels in the same area within the same chain within the same expense range that you need to be within. The latter is difficult because rates are not always organized in this way. Once you achieve the status, then you should stick with the hotel that ties back to number 1 above. You have the second chain as a back up option plan.
4) Rental Cars – To be honest, rental car frequent travel programs are not the best in my opinion. You will always pay these hefty taxes when you rent from any airport regardless if you use points so if you can rent off airport and use points. That will limit the cost dramatically and make your points work the most for you. But stick with one of them because most are available in most locations.
5) Special Award Programs – Always keep an eye out for special award programs, like double points for stays between X and X. This is mostly for hotels and rental cars as airlines have done away with these special programs for the most part. Back in the day though, United Airlines had a bonus awards program where the goal was to get an around the world ticket with as many stops as you would like as long as you continued east to west or vice versa. It was pretty amazing bonus program.
6) Credit Cards – Simple, stick with the credit card from the hotel of your choice and the airline of your choice and use them accordingly.
That is how I try to travel. The biggest thing to realize is you can do all of this and save money for every client out there. If you plan ahead and are consistent with your travel plans you can always get the cheapest airline tickets, negotiate the best hotel / rental car rates. Keep traveling and be safe while your doing it your way!
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