Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Rules of the Road

Traveling is the great equalizer. Rich, famous, poor and unknown, everyone gets pretty much the same bad treatment. Frequent travelers do get a little better treatment, but only if you are a high mileage traveler and even then the industry has gotten so competitive that frequent travelers get knocked around.

We all complain about crowded conditions, extra charges, and poor service, but cost is driving the industry and you can't have budget flights and premier services. Today, airplanes are just flying bus and taxi-services. They are low cost, easy to access and bad at service. Why? The public prefers low price to high service. I just can't complain about a $200 round-trip flight to Philadelphia when it would cost me $500 to drive and take me 4 times as long. I just shut my eyes and ears and embrace the 3 hour pain.

Here's what I do to increase my comfort and lower my cost:
  • Look for "Last Minute Deals". Flights from DFW to Philadelphia (PHL) roundtrip run anywhere from $200 - 600, depending on how early in advance you book and what the demand is. Last week I was looking for a last minute flight from PHL - DFW round trip for a long weekend home. $600. Then I noticed on the Travelocity tab a little button that said, "last minute flights": $315 plus 3-day car. I hit the tab thinking there must be a catch somewhere. But to my amazement, I got a direct flight on American plus a car with Alamo for around $350 including tax. By the way, the American Airlines website showed nothing under $600 round trip.
  • I have used Priceline for hotel rooms but don't like them for flights because of the weird flight hours you get.
  • Arrive early at the airport and ask for an exit-row seat. The extra foot makes a big difference if you are 6 feet or over.
  • Enterprise Rent A Car has great rates, great service, and if they aren't busy they will often upgrade you for free.
  • If I'm in a hurry and on business I like Hertz. No waiting in lines, on-line booking and your car is waiting when you arrive.
  • Call me crazy, but I wear a coat and tie when I travel and I get treated better than people that don't.
  • If possible travel light so that your luggage is above your seat. It saves time and will have your luggage lost eventually if you don't.
  • God's gift to the noise sensitive: foam earplugs. Great for the airplane and hotel, and inexpensive. Just try it on the airplane next time you travel. The noise level on an airplane is very high, the earplugs will relax you immediately.
  • TripAdvisor. I get a lot of help by reading the hotel reviews on Tripadvisor. One piece of advice though. Not every complaint is legitimate. Look for repeated complaints on the same issue.
  • I promise you this: a new low-price hotel is often better than an old high price hotel. In hotels, age matters.
  • Check the weather at the departure, arrival and connecting cities: my sister had to go to Des Moines recently and flew through St. Louis instead of Chicago. Good thing, Chicago had bad weather and delayed flights.
  • International travelers especially should look into sites like boo.com for advice and reviews. Another interesting site is VibeAgent.com, a kind of of Facebook for travelers.

Finally, some day I'll introduce you to my son and have him tell you about traveling the buses and taxis in Ecuador. You'll never be tempted to complain again.

3 comments:

Andrew said...

Ecuador? Hmmm... all this time I thought he was in Bolivia...

me said...

Try the british airports and you will think America is first class even on a bad day. Toot

Francis Shivone said...

Andrew -- sorry -- I was tired when I finished. It's Jorge that is from Ecuador.