Travel — Don’t Do It
by Gloria Metrick
Published in Contract Professional, Volume 5 Number 4. Reprinted with permission.

Not to discourage you, but it is not a good time for travel. As the airways get busier and everyone travelling through them gets shorter-tempered, you might as well stay home. That said, many of us have customer bases that depend on travel, at least occasionally.

Even the good things can work against you. Last week, I was doing an express check-out from a hotel, which required just leaving your hotel key in your room. This is a speedy way to avoid the front desk. Unfortunately, as I was leaving my room, my coat got stuck in the door. Fortunately, the maid was just a few rooms away from mine. Unfortunately, she spoke no English. Fortunately, after a great deal of pointing and pantomimes, she seemed to understand I needed my room opened, and understood completely when she walked over and saw my coat caught in the door.

Then, there are the trips that are doomed from the start. On my way to an interview, my potential boss insisted that the car service would know where to take me and that I did not need directions. This was my first time flying into Boston. I got into the car service’s vehicle and asked to go to Beverly, MA. The driver said, “Okay.” Once we got out of the airport he said, “So, how do we get to Beverly?” It turned out that this was not only his first day on the job, but he had just moved here from another country and did not know the area.

Then, there was the flight I got up at the crack of dawn for, only to arrive at a deserted airport terminal. After some initial concern, it turns out that I was an hour early. Even though the surrounding town is on Eastern time, the airport is on Central time. I just felt lucky it had not been the reverse situation (that’s what I told myself as I grumbled about getting up at 4:30 a.m.).

I currently fly mainly out of the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky airport . On a flight back from Paris, the flight crew got on the speaker and announced that we were about an hour from the airport and added, “Don’t panic.” After causing some concern, they went on to indicate that the Cincinnati airport really is in Kentucky, so there was no reason to think we were coming into the wrong airport. “Don’t panic” is not the thing to say to a plane of cranky people.

Travelling has its good and bad times, though. There is nothing sadder than being a standby passenger and having them shut the door to the gate, and there is nothing better than having them reopen the door and call your name to get on.

Here are a few tips for the inexperienced traveller:

    • We all know that planes overbook, so try to get to the airport as soon as you can in order to get a seat assignment and get on board when your row is called.
    • It has been a few years since I have been in contention for a doubly-assigned seat, but I am not convinced this does not continue to happen.
    • Hotels also overbook. Despite having late check-in using a credit card to hold a room, I have also gotten to hotels quite late to discover my room has been given away. If you can, check into your hotel, first, then go to the customer’s site.
    • Hotels also sometimes double-book rooms. Always have all the locks on the door when you are in the room, and do not leave valuables lying about when you are not. I have first-hand experience of popping into my room for five minutes to quickly change and did not lock the door, which was exactly when someone who was accidentally assigned to my room entered. It was just my good fortune that I was mostly changed at that point.
    • Every hotel has a different policy on phone call charges. Just because you do not see an indication that there is a charge for local calls or toll-free calls, do not assume that there is none. Look in the directory of hotel services for this information if it is not on the telephone. In some areas, such as the New York City area, even local phone calls are charged back by length of call rather than a flat rate.
    • Rental car companies usually try to tack on several types of car insurance to your rental agreement. If you do not want it, say so as soon as you check-in; however, you should check with your own insurance company to make sure you are covered before you waive this insurance, especially if renting a car for business. Do not assume this coverage extends to any other country or area, including Canada or Mexico.
    • When looking for a car service to take you to the airport, ask around for references of reliable places. Make sure the service also has sufficient cars that they can accommodate you even if the car that is supposed to take you to or from the airport is out-of-commission.
    • Get directions from your customer or the hotel if you can. On-line maps are good, but they have limitations that can cause you occasional confusion.

On top of these tips, here are a few extra tips on flying:

    • Securely strap or lock your luggage. This has nothing to do with keeping thieves out because the straps and flimsy locks can be broken off by the luggage carousel, so you can imagine that a thief would have little trouble breaking through them. This is just to keep your packed items from flying out of your luggage if the luggage is damaged.>
    • Check hard-sided luggage, carry-on soft-sided. I had a checked, hard-sided Samsonite case that was crushed during baggage-handling. Even though it was no longer usable, my packed items stayed in it, but just barely, and several of my colleagues have lost items when their soft-sided luggage ripped open. Soft-sided is better for carry-on because it is lighter and is more flexible to the varying shapes of the overhead bins. In fact, if you travel on the smaller commuter planes, a cloth-sided laptop case can be shoved under many of the seats except those in the exit row.
    • Find out where alternate airports are. If bad weather or heavy airport traffic keep you out of your destination airport, it is possible that another airport will be available where you can try to book a one-way rental car to your actual destination.

Happy travelling, but maybe you should just stay home!?