Travel…  Business or Personal?

What’s your experience with travel as a business traveler? How do you choose loyalties and loyalty programs? How do they treat you? What are your experiences with the quality, the value, and the treatment you received? These are mine…

I’ve always lived by a saying, “I work to live, not live to work!”  So as I’ve changed jobs multiple times, travel requirements have changed.  The amount of travel had a direct correlation to my family, both positive and negative.

Most of the time, people focus on the negative reasons for travel; however, there are a number of benefits that go along with it. As a family man, vacations are important, and the travel provided some advantages to that perspective. It also presented a question of loyalty…

Not loyalty of family or travel, but who do you trust with all your travel needs?  I often wonder what my travel loyalties are worth, and these days, loyalties are getting harder and harder. I find that many business travelers I associate with tend to gravitate their travel needs based on geography, availability of resources, quality of life or resources, and simply how they are treated. 

Vendors (Hotels, rental cars, airlines, taxis, parking, etc.) are all trying to compete for those business travelers since they comprise a majority of all travel aside from holidays. Each have an approach to customer satisfaction, some work and some don’t. This blog is an opportunity for me to express my travel experiences, and for the readers/followers to comment on anything they’ve encountered that is similar. After 20+ years of travel, I find my loyalties challenged almost daily. The challenge that vendors have is the realm in which a travelers experiences like mine reach. Wife, kids, brothers/sisters, parents, in-laws, aunts, uncles, friends and pets…  the list is endless, and all of them know I travel a lot. Who do they talk to about their travel issues?  Who gets the pleasure of booking travel?  

Loyalty does have privelages and burdens, and in today’s loyalty plans, vendors seem to be missing the mark. The very items that drive consumers like to to selecting a loyalty plan (availability, quality, and treatment) are not the focus of program changes. How many inventory seats are available on flights for 25,000 miles?  They are dropping every day…  how many points to get a hotel room?  More and more each day…  rental cars? Smaller, smokier, and fewer…  trends in parking, taxi/Uber/Lyft, clubs, etc are all up and coming, and their entire focus is on ease of use, customer comfort, and lots of options.  I can get an Uber from just about anywhere, and the size and style varies based on what I want to pay for.  The quality requirements are monitored tightly. The traditional travel needs are not as focused. 

These are my stories of the places I’ve traveled, the experiences with loyalty programs, the feedback I get from friends and family. 

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TSA & The Rule of 18

Do you travel without ID? Here’s an example of a loophole that use some attention.

I recently traveled through Denver airport, and I was graciously given the ultra elite privilege of TSA pre check! What a joke that has turned into, but that wasn’t the situation that got my attention this particular day…

In front of me, I had a very short line of only 1 person. This gentleman (age unknown) had a full on beard, backpack, casual clothes, and some rough look about him. As we both approach the very unbusy TSA elite members, I noticed that he presented only his boarding pass. When requested for his ID, this man said that he was under 18?!?!? What??? Under 18 rule! Brilliant! The TSA person had to profile the traveler to asses if he “believes” this individual was indeed under the age requirement. Not wanting the weight of the world of that decision, he called over is buddy, and got his opinion on the matter. “Sure, He looks 18…”.

The TSA handed him his boarding pass and sent him through the least evasive security line of the entire airport. So I asked myself, “self… do you feel good about this policy?” First off, the person HAD to be over 16 at a minimum to have grown that much facial hair. Over 16 usually at least have a drivers license, or at a minimum some sort of government issued ID. Also, I’m pretty sure I would have to provide a birth certificate at a very minimum. Second, where is the parent or guardian? Under 18 would require someone to vouch and or authorize this person to travel alone. Wouldn’t that be considered a “run away”? I couldn’t believe that they didn’t require to have someone to verify this person verbally. And lastly, why the heck did he go through TSA Pre Check. Doesn’t that mean that the person has been vetted? How on earth can you have someone without identification be verified? In order for me to PAY for pre check, I needed 2 forms of Identification and be there in person. How did he get that on his boarding pass? Especially if you don’t know who this person really is, and send him through the security line with no body scan, don’t have to take liquids and computers out of your bag, and you don’t have to take off your shoes!

So what’s the plan? Are we really allowing anyone to travel with this amount of freedom? Europe requires a passport wherever you fly. We don’t even need to have parents or anything. What if the guy just has a real baby face? Do we just let him through? I’m hoping this isn’t the
same people that are boarding my plane… #TSA #Under18 #Crazy

Safe travels!

Timeshares Associated With Loyalty?

Having a timeshare where you keep your loyalty points may not be all bad. What’s your experience?

Do you have a timeshare with the same company you earn valuable loyalty points with?
Many if not all the major hotel chains have a timeshare option. I’ve invested years ago in my timeshare and that has been a great thing for my family. It forces the once a year vacation and it was an investment that the property value now has gone up significantly. Not sure where they go from here in terms of appreciation, but in the 15 years that we’ve owned it, it’s more than doubled in value. 

There are also the clubs that do the points vs the weeks. Being a hotel point hoarder, points are much more attractive to me, and the ability to put my unused points of the timeshare into my hotel points makes it really easy for me to make sure I don’t loose any value out of my annual dues.  That’s the bite that comes at the beginning of every year, but I figure I would pay that or much more for some accommodations throughout the year. 

From the Wyndham to Ritz Carlton, they’ve all started some timeshare concepts.  I find some are great if you like to stick to a specific region like Mexico, and others are better because of the large hotel network as an alternative. Just like the hotel chains, I’ve found that some have a strategy of brand diversification so as to have a revenue potential at all scales of economy, and others keep the focus on what they are good at. As a traveler that can end up in large, medium and small cities, the big diversity was key. Nothing worse than having a loyalty with a brand that isn’t everywhere you want to go…

Another thing to consider is that the accommodations are not the standard rooms you get at hotels around the world. These are condos that provide cooking and family style amenities that make it easy to prepare your own meals. From studios to 3 or even 4 bedroom condos, we are able to spread out, bring other family, or vacation with friends. It’s not the same experience S the typical day at a hotel. After building thousands of hotel points from excessive hotel stays, the last thing I want on a vacation is to feel stuck in another 20×10 hotel room with the same mini-cooler (not stocked), boxed soap and the same shampoo I’ve used for 60-70% of the year of travel. I’m looking for an escape that has a different feel than the norm. 

One thing to be cognizant of, lessened learned, is to be careful of planning a friend vacation for drinking and letting loose in a resort that has a high volume of kid friendly accommodations. I’ve been on both sides of that when I’ve been at a resort with my kids, and there is some half-baked macho man screaming and hollering leaving me to have something to explain to the kids. 

Affiliates, exchange organizations, and property diversity has been fantastic to leverage.  It’s only been a disappointment when I can’t find something where I want to exactly go. And the cruises, house boats, and RV’s seem to be a terrible exchange plan unless you just have a ton of points you are going to loose. 

With the name brand that you value, you are almost sure to get an experience that doesn’t end up worse than you expect…