Dear younger traveler....The Five things all frequent travelers wish they new earlier
If you had a time machine, what would you go back in time and share with your younger self?
That was the question I posed to the American Airlines Executive Platinum Flyers group I am a member of on Facebook and the response was immediate and enthusiastic. All frequent travelers have their various secrets and strategies for maximizing everything from space in their suite case to the ‘value’ of points (more on that in a second) but what were the secrets they developed over time that they wish they knew on day 1? The answers this group gave to the questions were quite diverse but there were 5 themes that really came to the surface that I want to share with you.
If there was one theme that was expressed more than any other it was to be nice to all of the ‘staff members’ you come in contact with, even when things go wrong. Heck, especially when things go wrong. And let’s be real, things will go wrong at some point in your travel experience. They just will. The gate agents have no control over the maintenance of the aircraft nor the weather. They do have control over the next steps in your journey. As important as being nice is, being prepared and empathetic it is critical to maximizing your experience. It was routinely brought up on the thread that you are much more likely to get what you want if you enter the conversation with a plan of what you would like your next steps to be.
But even if nothing is going wrong, you still want to be nice. One commenter shared to always ask for the upgrade when checking in. It never hurts to ask – all they can do is say no and if you are consistently nice, especially if you travel to the same spots regularly, your chances of getting the upgrade will greatly increase.
Take your time
This advice came from two camps – 1) Plan for the delay & 2) Enjoy the journey.
Camp #1 stressed that if you have a morning session, fly in the night before. If you are doing dinner/event with partners in the evening, stay the night and don’t kill yourself taking the red eye flight to the next city or back home. In either case you are going to be better rested and more on your game if you are not trying to pack everything in to as brief a time frame as possible.
Camp #2 stressed the importance of enjoying where you are at. If you have the opportunity to take a slightly later flight in order to see the sites that city has to offer, do it. If given the choice of lunch downtown while working or working from the airport – choose Downtown. One of the commenters shared that she had recently retired with over 7 million miles flown and had ‘never really been anywhere’. Open your eyes while you are on these trips because everywhere has something to offer. Take the time to take it in.
Understand the value of points
This one takes a bit to truly grasp but let’s start with picking a brand and sticking with it…..almost without exception. Status makes travel infinitely more bearable so chase the status with a single airline & hotel chain. Additionally, invest the time to understand the point structure when it comes to both earning as well as redeeming points. Using 30k miles for a $175 flight is not the same value proposition as using them for a $1,175 flight. One class of flight might earn 3 times the points as the bargain loss leader ticket. In other words, not all points are created equal. Figure that game out quickly.
Never check a bag
I was shocked how many times this one came up in the comments, not because I don’t agree but because I thought everyone was already religious about carrying on. This practice not only ensures you will have your items with you at your destination but will also save you time on both the front end (ticket counter) as well as the back end (baggage claim). My favorite comment in this vein was there are only two types of bags – carry on & lost.
There are no do overs
This is what I would personally tell myself in retrospect. Dance recitals cannot be postponed. Baseball games are not re-positioned to meet executive’s schedules……sales and support meetings can be. After years of traveling and prioritizing the first choice of the client for the calendar at nearly all costs, I have learned that our clients are also humans with families that they prioritize. They will understand why you need to do the session on option number 2 vs. option number 1 if you are transparent.
Bonus Tip: Free is not necessarily free
Most frequent traveler programs with any type of status recognition include all types of free snacks, meals, drinks and the like. Yes, they are free in the sense that there is no additional monetary cost. There is definitely a caloric cost though. Several commenters expressed that they would tell their younger self to be more health conscious earlier. Exercise more. Eat better. Just because it can go on an expense report does not necessarily mean you should eat it. There is plenty more to share around this on other posts so I will let this one sit as just a bonus and let you explore alternatives all over this blog.
So there you have it, the top 5 tips (plus a bonus) the top echelon of frequent travelers would tell themselves if they could. Now you have them and we did not have to figure out quantum entanglement in order to make it happen.
How about you though? What would you go back and tell your younger self about what to do/not do on the road?