Snippets from the Road

Snippets from the RoadThings You Should Know

WHY LOYALTY (STILL) MATTERS

customer loyalty

Why revisit the subject of loyalty now?  Because I believe it is more important than maybe ever.  Hence, a call back to a post from four years ago, which is linked HERE.

Upon receiving notification that American Airlines is making a number of changes, I learned that one is increasing their checked bag fees.  One of the perks of my longtime loyalty to the program is exemption from baggage fees.  While the amount might not make a difference in the scheme of things, it is nonetheless a nice perk to not have to think about that added cost.  Likewise, there is access to premium seating in certain sections at no additional cost; free upgrades, etc.

And this, from the Wall Street Journal Feb 21:  “The rising fees can help steer travelers into airline-loyalty programs or toward pricier premium tickets that include baggage fees.  At American, customers with the airline’s co-branded credit card or who have status will still receive complimentary bag-checking, as will those who buy seats in premium cabins.”  

Photo cred: WSJ Feb 21 2024

At this point, my travel is less domestic and more international.  Those “big” trips almost always rely on securing mileage seats for the longest flights.  One exception is travel to South America.  While there are flights to some major cities there, the miles required are astronomical! Plus virtually none are nonstop, and many fly through Miami — an airport I go to great lengths to avoid.

The end result for this year’s Antarctica trip?  Paying outright for seats on Delta (operated by LATAM).  At least there will be miles gained from the credit card used (Citi/AAdvantage Platinum).  As I begin to map out our spring travel for next year — back to South America plus the Caribbean for countries not previously visited — I am researching how best to incorporate AA/One World partners wherever possible.  It’s “work” yes, but for me both fun and challenging.

Next post will cover the coming changes to earning miles and loyalty points, as soon as I understand them! Stay tuned.

Snippets from the Road

SELECTING YOUR SEAT

sleeping on a plane

Do you stress about where you sit on a flight?  I do. When it comes to international flights, where I sit is nearly as important as the flight schedule and/or the cost. It sets the tone for the beginning (or ending) of memorable journeys.

I think about where I am most likely to avoid small children.  It’s not the kids; it’s the parents who think their children do not need to lower their voices or stay in their seats. Beyond that (over which I obviously have no control), I think about sitting on the left side window.  Why? Because I sleep on my left side, so that way I am facing away from the distractions.

Did I mention I stress about my seat?

For years, I went to SeatGuru for guidance.  You entered your flight details and voila — up came the seat configuration map. Additionally, the passenger reviews of the aircraft were very helpful.  Comments might be “this bulkhead seat eliminates some storage space” or “the window is not aligned with the seat” or “anticipate noise from the galley or restroom.”

A recent column in The Points Guy indicated that SeatGuru is certainly obsolete if not essentially non-existent.  The good news is:  AeroLOPA

AeroLOPA is a portfolio of aircraft seating plans, carefully developed and uniquely detailed to help you make the very best decision about where to sit on-board your next flight

In perusing the site, I found links to virtually every major airline.  So assuming you have the equipment details available via your booking (or flight you want to select), the site appears to have all of the seat maps.  While customer reviews are absent, the site provides much greater detail about a given aircraft’s cabin seating and even includes wi-fi and entertainment offerings.

Do I wish I were one of those people who gets on a plane without a second thought and drifts immediately into a blissful sleep?? Well, the hubby got that gene. I just figured out how to deal with what I have and feel victorious when it all works out.

International TravelSnippets from the RoadThings I Love

OFF WE GO: SPRING TRIP 2023

248830-worldtour

It is truly a blessing year after year to travel far and wide. “Where are you going this year?” is a common question both the hubby and I are only too happy to answer.

The general destinations are decided far in advance. After a great deal of research, plans are “finalized.” And I say that knowing full well I might change a hotel at the last minute or even during the travel. It is simply about wanting the best experience for us.

Does the following map look like a lot of territory to cover? Perhaps. It works for us in order to see the destinations of choice. Tokyo and Singapore are repeat visits. Bali and Fiji are firsts. In between, the south island of New Zealand is a repeat but for more days and a deeper dive into the area.

Suffice it to say, it is a huge bonus if one finds international flights part of the “fun.” It’s an adventure! Oh, think of the people you’ll meet. And the books one can read or the blogging one can do. It certainly helps to have the right travel companion. For us, there is a clear division of responsibility: I plan everything and he manages the currency. I do the packing and he lifts the suitcases. Seems very equitable to me.

So, here we go again. Look for posts with stories about each destination, though not concurrent with our time there. The sharing comes after the fact so as not to be glued to the computer. It is a vacation after all ..

Snippets from the RoadThings You Should Know

RESORT FEES (AGAIN) & KNOWING YOUR FELLOW TRAVELERS

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I promised a follow-up and I do try to keep my word! My last post covered a WSJ column on the bane of most if not all travelers: resort fees. The post concluded with a promise to write about how the hotels view the subject.

Forthwith, a direct quote from the American Hotel and Lodging Association, where this subject is a “Policy Issue.” Here you go:

The hotel industry prides itself on offering an array of amenities and services to ensure guests have what they want and need from their travel experience. Transparency and guest satisfaction are at the core of the industry’s business model. Making sure guests have all the necessary information prior to booking their reservations is paramount.

The hotel industry provides guests full disclosure for resort and amenities fees charged up front. In fact, they were created in an effort to provide consumers with the best value by grouping amenity fees into one cost. If consumers were charged individual fees for all amenities, the cost would likely be prohibitive. This practice aligns with guidance introduced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2012.

Indeed, these fees are not common practice in the hotel industry. Declining over the past decade, approximately only six percent of hotels currently charge resort fees – and these are the properties that have far more available amenities than other lodging facilities.

So, does your expierence align with the above? If “only six percent of hotels currently charge resorts fees”  then I must be staying ONLY at those! Seems pretty universal to have that darn charge on my bill.  Thoughts?

Did anyone happen to see the recent Washington Post column illustrating different types of travelers? It was sent to me and I think much of it is spot on. A few favorites (but not necessarily favorite types) included here, with illustrations reprinted from the Washington Post:

You know these types — it’s all about posing for social media posts.  How about taking in some exquisite scenery by looking away from your phone? Or not risking your life for that one photo?!

As tempting as it might be to help yourself to goodies from the housekeeping cart, don’t. Staff is accountable for the content! It’s not a “free for all” .. 

The self-appointed expert on the hotel, local restaurants, sights to see, etc. He’s probably been there two days.  Heed his advice with caution. 

The one holding up the line in an attempt to get all things for free — upgrade, view, later than usual check-out, etc.  We’ve all encountered these folks! 

Finally, my personal favorite!  Those folks who worked damn hard and are now reaping the rewards.  God bless — enjoy every minute!

Snippets from the Road

RESORT FEES AND ONE INSPIRATIONAL CHALLENGER

hotel fees

It’s everyone’s favorite subject; right? I’ve written about it before. But it’s a topic that never seems to go away.

As recently covered in the Wall Street Journal, people dispute those charges either on their own or even via advocacy groups. My contention has always been just bundle all costs into the nightly rate. No one likes to be “nickel and dimed” to death, so just show me the total I will be charged in advance. That would enable people to make a fair comparison to other hotel rates up front.

My favorite takeaway from Dawn Gilbertson‘s aforementioned column is about John Morris, a triple amputee who cannot use the bulk of amenities included in typical resort fees. Why would any desk clerk not be astute enough to recognize that fact immediately upon his arrival? Logic suggests the charges be deleted. To his immense credit, he turned his misfortune into a good thing with his website, Wheelchair Travel.

Have you ever noticed how many places in Europe are very challenging to navigate — even for us ambulatory folks? Santorini in the photo below comes to mind (those steps nearly killed the hubby and me). It strikes me that wheelchair-bound individuals are particularly disadvantaged there. I’ve seen many a person in a chair lifted by fellow travelers in order to achieve the same experiences we have. So I highly recommend Mr. Morris’s site not only for astute travel tips but for incredible inspiration.

How do the hotels and other types of lodging view this subject?  Stay tuned for my next post.

Snippets from the RoadThings You Should Know

ON BECOMING AN AGENT

TRAVEL AGENCY IMAGE

It only took me 10 years, but I am happy to report that my agency Travel with Teri B and I are now fully recognized by IATA.  What is that exactly?  Well, it the official trade association for air travel. It is also the professional designation for travel agencies and their agents.  So why now?

I liken it to getting a degree.  While many people have successful careers without one (present company is a good example), I simply analyzed that it was time to boost my travel knowledge by having access to more information. “Knowledge is power” as it is said.  And few things are more complex than navigating air travel these days.  So the more information at my disposal, the better to benefit clients!

This was no walk in the park — a ton of paperwork, forms, E&O insurance; fees (lots), etc.  But when that “Congratulations” notice arrived, it really was thrilling.

I look forward to sharing my travel stories, planning and booking travel itineraries for others, and drilling deeper into this great passion.  So, how may I be of assistance?

Reprinted from the Wall Street Journal Jan 24, 2023