I got my start in the travel industry teaching novice business travelers how to “learn the ropes” of the road through a training program. That’s why my company is called Travel Skills Group, Inc., a name that eventually morphed into the TravelSkills.com blog you are now reading.
I would contract with HR departments at big corporations or consulting companies to present a 2-4 hour seminar called “The Art of Traveling Smart.” In the presentation, I would supply tips and advice about business travel to new recruits in corporate management training programs. Advice covered the gamut, from determining the best seat on the plane, to finding the safest hotel room, joining the right loyalty programs or dealing with travel burnout. Instead of learning it “the hard way” attendees learned about business travel in a classroom setting.
That’s why I was pleased when National Car Rental asked to team up with TravelSkills to talk about its popular Emerald Club and the current ONE, TWO, FREE promotion — get one free day for every two qualifying rentals between now and January 31, 2015. National also offered to give one TravelSkills reader a $200 American Express gift card and Emerald Club Executive status for one year. (See below for details)
National hooked me up with one of its best customers, D. Cook, a 14-year veteran of the roads and the skies, for an interview about her life on the road and the advice she has for novice business travelers.
Cook is a Minnesota native who grew up in the Twin Cities. She’s a coordinator for a large company in the home construction business, responsible for its presence at major construction industry trade shows around the country.
She travels at least once or twice per month to cities like Las Vegas, San Francisco, Orlando and Denver. “Wherever there’s a trade show, that’s where I go,” she said. Her preferred airline is Delta where she holds gold SkyMiles status.
Focusing your loyalty and gaining elite status with an airline was the first tip she had for novice travelers: “The best thing about status is that you don’t have to stand in long lines, your baggage usually gets expedited, and it’s easier to upgrade.” She has a pretty good batting average for upgrades on Delta, too—on a recent multi-stop trip, she snagged big seats up front on four out of the five segments.
When it comes to car rental, Cook offers the same advice about focusing on elite status. As a long-time customer of National, she’s attained Executive status. To her, the best part about having that status is access to a wider variety of cars that she can choose off the National lot. Her car of choice is a smaller SUV or crossover because she feels safer when she’s able to ride up high and see what’s around her.
She also advises novice travelers to be on the lookout for promotions from preferred vendors. For example, she takes advantage of National’s ONE, TWO, FREE promotion each year. “Luckily, I get to keep the free days accrued on my business trips for personal use. Last time I used them to help cut the cost of a trip to Denver to visit my best friend,” she said.
She also used the free days to cut the cost of car rental during a recent first-time, dream trip to Hawaii. She cashed in her Delta miles for first class tickets to Honolulu, where she met her mother and rented a car to explore Oahu and stayed at the famous Turtle Bay Resort in the island’s northern end. She also enjoyed some R&R at the posh five-star Royal Hawaiian on Waikiki. She was able to reduce the cost of accommodation (from around $450 per night to about $150) by using her Starwood points.
Redeeming miles for award trips to Hawaii is notoriously difficult, but Cook was able to do it by timing her trip in November, a relatively slow period for travel to the islands.
Finally, Cook recommends that those getting ready to embark on a career requiring frequent travel invest in good luggage. “You have to be willing to spend $300 or $400 on a good, durable suitcase that will not fail you in the middle of an important trip,” she advises. She recommends Briggs & Riley bags because of her good experience with its no-nonsense warranty. “I’ve had to get my bag repaired three or four times, and they’ve always done it quickly and never charged me a cent.” She’s also a fan of TravelPro bags, which she noticed are favored by the ultimate frequent travelers, flight attendants. Cook also recommends using colorful TSA locks on bags to help make them stand out among the sea to black bags.
CONTEST: As part of this partnership, National is giving a $200 American Express gift card and an Emerald Club Executive Status for a year to one lucky TravelSkills.com reader*. To enter, leave a comment below with the advice you’d give a novice traveler, and then share a link to this post on social media using the hash tag #ONETWOFREE. The winner will be randomly selected on December 15, 2014. Good luck!
And don’t forget to register for the ONE, TWO FREE promotion! You’ll get one free day for every two qualifying rentals with National between now and January 31, 2015.
*Only US residents 18 and over are eligible to win this giveaway. One entry per person.
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