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Business Travel Really Doesn't Have to be Awful…

My work takes me all over the world, and every time someone tells me how lucky I am to travel I want to smack them square in the mouth.

On the other hand, when people grouse about how awful air travel has become I want to smack them in the mouth. One could infer that I enjoy smacking people in the mouth, but that’s not the case; heck I’ve seen travel turn nuns into maniacs,  but as torturous as air travel has become, it beats swinging a pickaxe for a living. At the risk of sounding like Hobo, the character in Slaughter House Five who, after being stuffed into an overcrowded boxcar headed for the prison camp, keeps repeating, “this aint so bad” until he arrives at the slaughterhouse dead. As bad as travel can be, a lot of it can be readily avoided.

Travel can be an enjoyable way to spend your time or it can be a Kafkaesque nightmare. To a large degree we can control which of these extreme our trip will be. Surprised? Don’t be; not only is it possible to greatly reduce your risk of travel hassles, it’s relatively easy to do.

Avoiding travel hassles starts with understanding what you are buying and the conditions placed on it.

Be nice.

No one is going to go above and beyond to help you — whether at the airport or a hotel or on a reservation line — if you start off making demands and snotty remarks. You are asking for help. Ask in a professional and polite manner most people associated with your travel plans will do their best to help you out.

Related: 11 Qualities of Nice People Who Get Ahead

Recognize the risk of bargain travel sites.

Years ago, I and a friend of mine I worked with were going to the same trade show in Dallas. She called me and suggested that I stay at the same hotel in downtown Dallas where she and her boss were staying. She had procured, through a travel cheap site, a room for an amazing $35.

I bought in and arrived (too late to get another hotel) at a skid row hotel populated by ex-cons and prostitutes. The room was so filthy that I took out the trash bag that I routinely pack (long story) and placed my bags in it to prevent leaving with bed bugs.  The bathroom was so filthy I wouldn’t enter it for ANY purpose, and the bed…well let’s just say that I’m pretty sure that Jack Ruby slept on those sheets.

Most bargain sites don’t lead to that kind of catastrophe, in fact most have terrific deals, but you need to understand that if you want a price break there’s always a catch – a less than desirable flight, a longer layover, a disappointing room or something else that makes the deal so cheap.

There is always a trade off between price and quality and only a fool ignores that. Sites that offer a deal that seems too good to be true might just be that.

Related: Screaming Babies on a Plane? This Couple’s Solution is a Poignant Lesson in Travel Etiquette.

Understand your fare and room rates.

We’ve seen the ugly videos of passengers being removed from planes. The people who bought the ticket traded a guaranteed seat for a reduced price.  When you see a ridiculously low price on a major airline with “some restrictions apply” in small print, for the love of all that’s holy READ the small print.

If you paid for a bargain seat there’s a good chance that you may have agreed to give up your seat should the airline require you to do so. Most of us don’t read that small print and while they probably won’t, airlines could add things like, “passenger agrees to clean the bathroom before deplaning” or “passenger agrees to allow the airline to harvest the passenger’s organs and sell them on Craigslist.”

The point is, whether it be an airline ticket or a trombone, you had better understand the “whats and wherefores” of the deal.

Related: United Airlines Passenger Dragged Off Plane by Airport Employees

Know what you’re buying

From airlines, to rental cars, to hotels, one of the most important things you can do to save yourself from hassle is to know terms and conditions and the change and refund policies of the company you are dealing with.

For example, you might be better served buying a more expensive ticket that doesn’t explicitly say that airport thugs are allowed to punch you repeatedly in the head before dragging you off the plane. If you are too lazy (as I am) to read all the small print than ask the company representatives flat out, about the things that most concern you.

Related: ‘Dear Mr. Human’: United Airlines Suffers Another Embarrassing Customer Service Blunder

Do your due diligence.

There are a host of resources at your disposal online from Yelp to the Better Business Bureau to the bedbug registry (no I’m not joking). Before booking with an unfamiliar hotel, airline, car rental, or cruise-line spend some time researching them.  Understand that all companies have a small percentage of disgruntled and unreasonable customers who will gripe about anything, but researching your travel plans is the strongest way of avoiding a hassle.

Related: Considering Escaping the U.S.? Here Are Some Deals You Can’t Miss.

Use website, behave like a grown up and check-in online.

Most airlines and hotels not only allow you to check-in up to 24 in advance, in general they allow you to choose your seat and your room. If you are worried about missing out on a potential upgrade, don’t be; most hotels and airlines put you on the upgrade list irrespective of when you check-in and if you are eligible you will be upgraded even if you have an assigned seat or room.

Be nice

No one is going to go above and beyond to help you —whether at the airport or a hotel or on a reservation line—if start off making demands and snotty remarks.  You are asking for help, and if you ask in a professional and polite manner most people associated with your travel plans will do their best to help you out.

Recognize the Risks Associated with Bargain Travel Sites

Sites that offer a deal that seems too good to be true might just be that. Years ago a friend of mine who used to work with me and I were going to the same trade show in Dallas. She called me and suggested that I stay at the same hotel in downtown Dallas where she and her boss. She had procured, through a travel cheap site, a room for an amazing $35.  I bought in and arrived (too late to get another hotel) at a skid row hotel populated by ex-cons and prostitutes.  The room was so filthy that I took out the trash bag that I routinely pack (long story) and placed my bags in it to prevent leaving with bed bugs.  The bathroom was so filthy I wouldn’t enter it for ANY purpose, and the bed…well let’s just that I’m pretty sure that Jack Ruby slept on those sheets.  Most bargain sites don’t lead to that kind of catastrophe, in fact most have terrific deals, but you need to understand that if you want a price break there’s always a catch—a less than desirable flight, a longer layover, a disappointing room, or something else that makes the deal so cheap. There is always a trade off between price and quality and only a fool ignores that.

Understand your fare and room rates

We’ve seen the videos of passengers being removed from planes and they’re ugly (the video, I leave it to you to judge the attractiveness of the passengers), but the people who bought the ticket traded a guaranteed seat for a reduced price.  When you see a ridiculously low price on a major airline with “some restrictions apply” in small print, for the love of all that’s holy READ the small print.  If you paid for a bargain seat there’s a good chance that you may have agreed to give up your seat should the airline require you to do so.  Most of us don’t read that small print and at some while they probably won’t, airlines could add things like, “passenger agrees to clean the bathroom before deplaning” or “passenger agrees to allow the airline to harvest the passenger’s organs and sell them on Craigslist” and within some limits the law will uphold the airline’s right to do so. The point is, whether it be an airline ticket or a trombone, you had better understand the “whats and wherefores” of the deal. 

Know what you’re buying

From airlines, to rental cars, to hotels, one of the most important things you can do to save yourself from hassle is to know terms and conditions and the change and refund policies of the company you are dealing with. For example, you might be better served buying a more expensive ticket that doesn’t explicitly say that airport thugs are allowed to punch you repeatedly in the head before dragging you off the plane. If you are too lazy (as I am) to read all the small print than ask the company representatives flat out, about the things that most concern you. Signing up for customer loyalty programs is a good way to ensure a positive encourage

Do your due diligence

There are a host of resources at your disposal online from Yelp to the Better Business Bureau to the bedbug registry (no I’m not joking). Before booking with an unfamiliar hotel, airline, car rental, or cruise-line spend some time researching them.  Understand that all companies have a small percentage of disgruntled and unreasonable customers who will gripe about anything, but researching your travel plans is the strongest way of avoiding a hassle.

Use the hotel/airline/rental car website

Behave like a grown up

Check-in on-line

Check-in onlineMost airlines and hotels not only allow you to check-in up to 24 in advance in general they allow you to choose your seat and your room. If you are worried about missing out on a potential upgrade, don’t be; most hotels and airlines put you on the upgrade list irrespective of when you check-in and if you are eligible you will be upgraded even if you have an assigned seat or room.

Under Pack

Remember patience is a virtue


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