JOE'S BUSINESS-TRAVEL BASICS
By Joe Brancatelli
Business travel is an endless kaleidoscope of change. Except when it isn't. Some things about business travel--the war between us and the industry, the battle over prices, perks and fees--never change. The trick is knowing the business-travel basics and then applying those lessons to the current reality. Is it easy? Of course not. The travel industry specializes in making our lives difficult. We need to specialize in fighting back. (P.S.: Need tips on buying travel? Consult our annual Business-Travel Buying Guides.)
Membership Does Have Its Privileges
Life on the road is always a matter of compromise and often a matter of choosing the lesser evil, but airport club memberships are unqualified, indisputable good things. In fact, they remain the single best investment you can make in your own travel comfort and personal productivity. A network-by-network look at the recent changes in the lounge systems.
The Airport Dining Guide
Whether you prefer to dine at the airport or (like me) somewhere nearby, the situation is improving. There are more and better places than ever before. So here's my latest list of favorites diners, dives, bars and fine-dining places in and around dozens of the nation's major airports. It's completely updated with more choices and more airports than ever before.
Get It Straight: There Is NO Rule 240
Let's get one thing straight: Rule 240 is an urban legend. And far too many otherwise savvy business travelers do not understand that the long-gone passenger-protection system no longer fits into the screw-the-customer style of today's airline management. Here's how to really protect yourself, complete with links to the contracts of carriage of all of the major U.S. airlines.
Ten Tips for Effective Complaining (2008 Edition)
Are complaint letters to airlines, hotels or car-rental firms actually worth the effort? The answer is an unequivocal "Yes!" Here's a crash course--my top 12 tips--for getting satisfaction on the road.
How and Why to Travel Only With Carry-On Bags (2007 Edition)
The hardest lessons to learn are the ones that we all already know, the ones that we discard because time or expedience or simple exhaustion convinced us to ignore. So, once again, fellow travelers, it's time to learn the lesson: Never, ever check a bag. Here's why--and how to pack to make sure you don't have to check one.
Surviving the Checked-Baggage Lottery
This hasn't been a good few years for us business travelers who prefer to pack light and carry on our bags. Some of us may even have been tempted to check a bag. But, as usual, when we need the airlines the most, they're missing in action. Or more accurately, more of the checked luggage we've entrusted to them has gone missing in action. But in the face of skyrocketing lost-bag rates, I do have some useful tips to improve your chances of getting your checked baggage through the system--and some precautions to take if the airlines screw up and "mishandle" the luggage you do check.
How to Sue the Airlines and Win
Do you ever get so angry at your airline that you feel like suing? Business travelers sometimes do. And if you want to do it, there's a way to drag the airlines to the bar of justice at minimum cost to you and with maximum inconvenience to the airline. Skip the state and federal courts and focus on a small-claims court. Here's how to do it.
One World, One Phone? That's One Big Fantasy.
What we want is simple enough: one mobile phone with one mobile phone number that works around the corner, around the nation and around the world. But what we can have is a lot more complicated: a patchwork of mobile phones on competitive worldwide mobile systems that work some times, in some places, under certain conditions. Yet there is a way to have a "world phone"--if you accept and understand the limitations.
Some Tips on Tipping
Want to make an otherwise confident business traveler squirm? Just ask about tipping. No one anywhere in the world is comfortable with the topic. But I'm comfortable enough to make some suggestions for who--and how much--to tip in restaurants, hotels, airports and taxis.
Negotiating the Maze of Car-Rental 'Insurance'
Do you know what PAI is? How about CDW or SLI? They are just some of the optional insurance products that car-rental firms try to sell you at the counter. But most business travelers already have all the insurance they need. Here's why you can probably say "No!" to all the rental-car ups and extras.
Understanding the Wacky World of Travel Pricing
The tale of Theresa Bova and the "sold out" discount fare to Florida is not a bizarre sideshow in the convoluted game of airline prices. Similar economic passion plays are performed thousands of times a day, every day, around the country. Hotels, flights and cruises that are purportedly "sold out" one day are suddenly available just days, and sometimes only hours, later. Here's why.
The Ten Commandments of Travel Buying (2007 Edition)
The absurdities of business travel require that my Ten Commandments of Travel Buying be rewritten, reconsidered and road-tested on a regular basis. Here's what works right now. And remember: In this psychotic pricing environment, the travel industry has targeted you, the business traveler, to pay more. So you need to know these Commandments.
By the Numbers: Life on the Interstate
More than 20 percent of our driving is on the nation's Interstate highways. That's astonishing since the 42,000-mile Interstate Highway system accounts for less than one percent of the nation's roads. Here's everything you need to know--but probably didn't--about how to manage your travel on the Interstates.
When Bad Things Happen to Good Travelers
Like most road warriors, I have compiled a good list of dos, don'ts and rules for living on the fly. But repetition breeds sloppiness and even savvy frequent travelers sometimes break their own rules of the road. I speak from very recent experience. I've had a couple of bad trips lately and I've rued the rules I've broken.
A Generation of Useful Travel Tips
Here's a modestly depressing thought: I've been on the road for 33 years, which is one entire human generation. But business travel changes too fast to live in the past. What worked a generation ago doesn't work today. Hell, what worked on the road yesterday afternoon doesn't work today. What does? Here are some tips that work on the road now. And some thoughts about "must-have" road gear and "can't-miss" tips that are no longer valid.
The Five New Rules of the Road
The rules of the road have been written in the sand since 9/11, but the pace of change has been breathtaking. What's important right now? There are new rules about buying first-class fares and getting upgrades; about the security issues surrounding one-way tickets; about the best sites to book hotel rooms; about when to fly nonstop and when to connect; and even about in-flight food.
ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.
THE FINE PRINT All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.
This column is Copyright © 2011 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2011 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.