Travel Made Easy

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Hi everyone. You might know me from my Inc.com blog "By The Book." Well, the good folks here recently asked me to get a little more personal -- and share a few of the everyday ups and downs that come with being an entrepreneur. What it means to live the Inc. Life, so to speak. So here goes.

I travel a lot. Somewhere between 100 and 200 flights a year, about that many hotel stays, and I still drive a lot of miles. It would be fair to say that I've learned a few tips and tricks over the past 10 years of heavy travel. Since my daughter was born, we haven't really missed a beat -- she's 17 months old now and has been on about 50 flights. What follows are the three best tips I can give you for travel with (and without) a little companion.

Get Loyal. Loyalty programs make travel somewhat bearable. My best advice is to pick a program for an airline, and another for a hotel, and stick with them. You don't get much benefit from bouncing between every air carrier you can find, or to the cheapest hotel for the night. I've found that the marginal savings of going with a Priceline hotel aren't worth it when I can pay a bit more for a hotel where I have status. Same goes for airlines -- saving $10 on the flight isn't worth it if I can get a free or cheap upgrade because of my status. With the many partners each chain or company has, it's easy to find a hotel in the right price range for every trip.

My personal choices are Continental and Southwest for air and Marriott for hotels. I'm platinum on Continental and Marriott -- both give great incentives for their highest level of status. I have the Southwest Companion Pass which you get if you fly 100 flights in a year. I can pick someone (my wife) who flies free anytime I board a SWA flight. Nice benefit given the crazy cost of flying lately.

Get Tipping. There is a big internal battle I fight every time I'm in a tipping situation. On one side, I see the benefit of tipping people who work hard. On the other, I'm really cheap. But when I'm traveling, I always err on the side of tipping. To take a line from Steve Martin in My Blue Heaven, "I tip everybody. In fact, it's not tipping I believe in, it's over tipping." Well-placed (and timed) tips will really help you get what you need and want during your travels. Tip freely and you'll find that travel isn't nearly as complicated.

Get Entertainment. When my beautiful daughter Susie is traveling with me, I demand two things. First, that everyone forgive any outbursts she may have. (I haven't been very lucky in this department -- I think it's karma getting me from all the times I used to complain about crying babies on planes.) The other demand is one that I can control -- entertainment. My wife and I like a three-pronged attack: many varieties of food, some basic toys, and DVDs. For the first three months of her life, flights were really simple. She slept. After that, it was more and more complicated. She is more active, stays awake, and hates being cooped up. Add her inability to pressurize her ears during takeoff and landing, and you've got a difficult situation. We practice lots of distraction, we feed her, and we let her watch DVDs during the flight (not a common occurrence at home). Airlines will let you fly with a lap child until the age of two. I'm coming to the realization that if your kid is active, you should get an extra seat somewhere between 12 and 18 months.

If you follow these three tips, you'll find that extensive traveling is much easier than you'd expect.

So now that we're under way here, I'll do my best to share stories from work and from home -- including my beautiful wife and daughter -- into this blog to make it more fun for everyone. And if there's something you'd like to ask or see on the site, or just want to share your own travails, drop me a comment here.

Last updated: Aug 1, 2008




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