Travel Rules

Snippets from the Road

TOP 10 TRAVEL RULES

top ten

A wonderful friend recently sent me “10 Commandments for Travel” that she had come across, with the suggestion that I provide my own.  Well, here goes:

  1. Go with the flow!
  2. Bring copies (yes, paper) of your reservations.
  3. Keep copies of cancelled reservations including the cancellation number until after your trip — or until your credit card posts.
  4. Work with hotel concierges.  They are your best friends.
  5. Hire local guides and drivers through the hotel.  They work with and know the best and it’s not just a matter of cost.   You might also get a referral for a guide from someone you know and trust.
  6. If you’re of a certain age, make sure you are covered if you get sick or have an accident.  We recently enrolled in GeoBlue — covers all international travel for 12 months at a reasonable cost. It’s unlikely your health insurance covers foreign travel.
  7. Try for morning flights.  If it’s a “short” hop, you can still get to your destination and perhaps have an afternoon tour.  Try not to blow an entire day with a midday flight.
  8. Even if you can obtain a visa upon arrival, I recommend paying perhaps a bit more and arriving with it in hand.  Why waste travel time searching for the kiosk and perhaps waiting in line.
  9. Splurge on a greeter at the airport if you’re arriving somewhere foreign for the first time.  It’s so calming to have someone show you through the maze upon arrival.  You can cut your costs on the airport return.
  10. Talk to locals!  You can talk to your fellow countrymen when you get back home.  Smile and engage — you’ll get it back tenfold in return.

International TravelThings You Should Know

SOUTHEAST ASIA FOR THE WIN

spring 2019

When one is fortunate to take an annual three-week vacation, where to go is obviously the biggest decision.  Many people return over and over again to their favorite spots.  They know what to expect and/or they’ve created relationships with a particular hotel or resort.  To each his own, but the hubby and I are not those folks.  Every year we try to go where we’ve not yet been for at least the majority of the trip, with possibly a repeat stay somewhere to how the trip is routed.

This year as the title suggests is to SE Asia to four new countries:  Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia.  On other trips in the region, we’ve been to Japan, China, Thailand, Singapore and several times to Hong Kong.  At some point we’ll go back to those spots, but not now.

Planning this trip was challenging as there’s a lot of geography to cover and no cruise ships involved.  And, unlike previous trips to Europe, there’s no train travel nor driving involved.  So it’s all about flights and more flights — mostly short ones.  For the long flights,  I do feel “victorious” having once again secured them via my AA miles:  LAX-Hong Kong on American (biz class for 70K per person).  The even better one (and it does feel like a victory!) is Kuala Lumpur to Hong Kong (with a 10-hour stop providing ample time to visit the tailor) and then continuing on to LAX — this time on Cathay in biz class likewise for a total of 70k each.  Long-range planning and perseverance, my friends, is what this is all about.  Our spend becomes on the ground instead of in the air, which is why I commit so much time “achieving” these tickets.  By the way, the hotels where we’re traveling are so much less than the same brands charge in other destinations.  So if I’m sounding deliriously happy, there’s a good reason for it!

The first flight was a flawless one — on time, smooth, slumber achieved.  The hubby’s seat was dysfunctional requiring a total system reset, but I was asleep.  His new bestie attendant was very kind — even awarding us each 10K miles for the “inconvenience.”  That’s what I call service and a great way to reward loyalty.

I hadn’t thought about checking the bags all the way through to Taipei as we changed airlines in Hong Kong from American to EVA.  That change was flawless as well — the transfer desk simply took our documents, handled finding and re-ticketing our luggage, then gave us new bag tags, boarding passes and lounge access all in about 40 minutes.

So stay tuned — next post after our couple of days in Taipei and enjoying baseball in a fifth country!

Excellent local cuisine at Fujin Tree and then sleep!

 

Snippets from the RoadThings You Should Know

TIPS FOR GETTING THE BEST AIRFARE

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Once again, Scott McCartney (WSJ’s The Middle Seat) comes through with some salient tips about  buying airline tickets, while debunking some popular myths.  In a nutshell:

  1. Non-stop flights are generally less expensive than flights with stops — especially in markets with low-cost competition.  Non-stops will most likely cost more on international flights and cities serviced by fewer carriers.
  2. Sunday is still the best day to buy tickets, with Tuesday the second best.  Avoid Wednesdays and Thursdays if possible.  Ironically, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the least expensive days to travel because “who wants to travel on a Tuesday or Wednesday?”
  3. Include a Saturday overnight stay to get the best discounts on international fares.  Domestic is a different story, although it still may help lessen the cost.
  4. Supply and demand is what drives pricing now.  The tie-in to oil prices is no longer relevant.  So fuel costs might go down and fares will still go up due to lack of available seats.
  5. According to a study by Expedia/ARC, the best window for buying tickets is three months before departure —  up to three weeks before.  Once inside 30 days, travelers are at the mercy of the airlines.
Illustration by Fabio Consoli

 

Snippets from the RoadThings You Should Know

FILL OUT THOSE SURVEYS!

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For the recent trip to the Pacific Northwest (see post), I rented a car with Avis.  Once we had our suitcase, we headed to the rental car shuttle.  Wow.  The line was just endless.  Not wanting to wait, I hailed an Uber and headed up to the pick-up point for ride-sharing vehicles.  Another wait in line, not to mention $16 — probably some sort of minimum charge as a detraction (obviously the drivers want longer fares).  We needn’t have bothered, for the line at Avis was stunning.  About 30 people waiting to get cars, with three Avis people doing the check-out.  Anyone who prepaid in full (with avis.com) went to an expedited line and got priority — and that line was mostly empty until someone showed up and was immediately served.

A manager (in charge of both Avis and Budget) told us this problem is symptomatic of summer travel, where it is simply not possible to gauge how many cars are needed.  Every car was booked. This location is ghost-like in the winter, so gearing up for summer is challenging.  Of course, that didn’t satisfy me so I started tweeting (including this photo):

“Wow, @Avis, your service sucks.  Never again.”  Which didn’t do any good, but made me a bit calmer.  Some 90 minutes later, we got our car and headed off.    A few days later, I received their survey to rate my experience.  “On a scale of 1 to 10 …” That got a 1.  “How likely are you to recommend Avis to a friend?”  Not.  Survey completed and submitted.

The upshot?  I got a very nice email from an Avis manager apologizing for the delays and asking that I let him know prior to any future rentals so we would get priority treatment, etc.  The bigger surprise was, even though the rental shuttles are managed by SeaTac Airport and the car rental companies have no control, he took $30 off my bill to cover the Uber.   1) Fill out those surveys.  They do get read.  2) Share positive reviews as well.  Always nice to provide feedback to those that are doing a great job.

Snippets from the RoadThings You Should Know

CONFIRM ALL YOUR DETAILS .. THEN CONFIRM AGAIN!

luggage_milano_centrale

A fellow traveler shared his travel nightmare upon arriving in Barcelona.  He had checked with the hotel beforehand and determined that a private car wasn’t necessary given the options of cabs/subway/buses/trains.  Except said hotel concierge neglected to alert him when the cabs went on strike.

He’s traveling with a couple of suitcases and a backpack.  The train might seem the way to go until you realize how antiquated the stations can be: things like escalators, porters (save for some questionable locals trying to earn a few euros), and adequate signs are frequently missing.

Been there; done that. Never again.

To add insult to injury, he used an ATM to get much-needed local currency, only to find that his wallet was missing afterward.  Not theft but more likely fumbling around with all that luggage produced an “ooopsie.”  (The hotel was later extremely helpful with the challenges faced with the missing wallet).

So what’s the takeaway?  Check in with the hotel the day prior to your arrival just to make sure everything’s “good.”  Email the concierge or manager or local reservations desk for any last-minute updates.  They should be doing this on your behalf, but just in case they don’t …

Your wish is their command. Use them.
Snippets from the Road

WHAT AIRLINES FREEBIES DO YOU TAKE?

AA pajamas

A recent Wall Street Journal column identified how airlines continue to up their game in order to entice premium passengers, many of whom still pay full fare, with freebies (i.e., swag).   Items might include duvet covers, branded shot glasses, playing cards and pajamas.  Suffice to say, they dislike the increased cost to do so.

 

 

While amenity kits continue to be provided — with things like socks, eyeshades and toothpaste — and are easy for passengers to take, apparently some fliers are walking off with bedrolls as well.

On a recent flight from London-LAX, I had the pleasure of flying First Class and cannot personally imagine walking off with something akin to a sleeping bag (shown below).  Wowza.  A small throw blanket possibly.

 

Pillows & Blankets from AA First Class

 

Maybe the pajamas (typically not in “my” color).

 

I would keep these!

 

The question is:  What would you take with you??