How to Tell a Good Travel Agent When You See One

You and your spouse have decided to go on a vacation. You’ve always wanted to get really away, and a trip to the relatives just doesn’t cut it any more. How do you plan your trip?You could go online and dig around for travel tips (which you’re doing right now, unless this article is in a physical magazine). You will find more information online than you can possibly use–and some will be contradictory. How do you separate the wheat from the chaff? Every place will say it’s the best place to visit. Everyone will claim to have the best discount. No one will tell you the gotchas. (Some places do have negative comments, but how do you know if the comments aren’t just sour grapes?) What if price X changes while you’re looking at price Y? What about hidden costs, problems you might not think of, secret discounts you don’t know about, and pitfalls in processing your documents? Many dangers lurk in planning travel beyond your usual haunts. And don’t forget–all that research takes time. What’s your time worth?

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You might visit a travel agent. Travel agents have a reputation for being expensive. After all, they have offices and all those fancy travel books and posters. As it happens, those ads and brochures are supplied by the cruise lines and travel companies. They pay the agents, too, normally. If an agent needs to charge you for a service, they will tell you up front. if you’re in a travel club, you can expect the agent to reduce or eliminate the commission, and have a ready supply of club discounts, further reducing the price. Ask yourself: What’s a travel agent’s knowledge and experience worth? They know the ropes, the pitfalls, the tricks of the trade; they have access to all the discounts, and they’ll save you time and stress–after you get to know a travel agent, one phone call can take care of everything.Of course, you have the same problem picking a travel agent as you do making travel decisions online: Who’s good? For that matter, what is good in a travel agent? And how can you tell?Here are a few ways to take the measure of a travel agent.Are you connected to the agent? (This rule is good when you consider hiring a realtor or a funeral director, too.) If you know someone in the travel industry, they are more likely to want to give you exceptional service. After all, they see you socially. Maybe you know where they live. Good travel agents can be relatives, acquaintances, friends, and friends of friends.
Is the person well traveled? If they have been to where you want to go, all the better, but travel experience of any sort seasons a person. A travel agent who has personally been around the block a few times is a font of wisdom and advice.
Is the person detail oriented? Not necessarily neat (that is a good thing), but notice whether they find your file immediately. They should know where everything is and not have to hunt for things. You don’t want an absent-minded professor for a travel agent. You never (okay, hardly ever) see a good travel agent surprised by something, and they keep their promises about when they’ll have something for you. They are ready when you show up after that first, introductory meeting.
Is the agent you’re working with responsive? Do they answer phone calls and emails promptly? This is a must. Even if all they can say is that they need more time, they don’t make you wait for a reply.
Are they cost efficient? You can tell this by the number of choices they present you with. A lazy travel agent won’t research multiple options, won’t hunt for the best price, won’t spend any more time than necessary working up your vacation. You see them look up one thing and give you a price. A good agent will hunt down good deals, think of options (a nearby nice location that costs less, for example) that you didn’t consider, check with several wholesalers. Good agents give you a lot to choose from.

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A good travel agent can handle a lot of that before-vacation hassle, and make your next trip more enjoyable while it’s happening.

Taking the Stress Out of Travel

The trick to successful and stress-free travel is planning ahead. Challenging, though it might seem, your goal is to think of every possible contingency that might come up, and take action before it happens. What will you do if your luggage is lost? If you get sick? If you forget your blue pumps? Being PROACTIVE will reduce the possibility of a serious crisis occurring during your trip.BUDGETING FOR YOUR TRIPTravel doesn’t have to break the bank — not if you are willing to plan ahead for your vacation spending. Decide first how much you can AFFORD, then make your travel plans. Start searching early for travel deals — talk to your travel agent, look for internet specials, and check with travel clubs for discounts. You can find some great bargains in package deals that combine hotel and airfare at a discounted rate.If vacations tend to get you in trouble on your credit cards, consider starting a savings account just for travel — where you put away a small amount each month toward your next trip. You should also plan to use traveler’s checks instead of credit cards to stay within your budget. It’s amazing how easy it is to go overboard when start handing out the plastic! And be sure to keep track of how much you actually spend — as compared to your budget — throughout the trip. You might keep a small pad of paper with you for recording expenses and tallying up your total for each day.If you can’t seem to make it happen on your budget, consider COMPROMISING on lower priority expenses in exchange for the higher priority ones. When my husband and I travel, we are always willing to stay in a budget hotel so we can afford to eat out and attend cultural events. We decided that expensive hotels are wasted on us because we spend very little time in our room, and we would rather spend our money elsewhere. Where are you willing to trade off?PACKING MADE EASYHave you ever been away from home and suddenly realized that you forgot your toothbrush, your shoes, or your bathing suit? Having to rush around replacing items that you left behind not only wastes time and money, it also reduces your enjoyment of the trip. And sometimes, you might forget an item that isn’t so easily replaced — like your checkbook or the report you were supposed to present at tomorrow’s meeting. But you can save yourself a lot of heartache by taking the guesswork out of packing.Start by developing PACKING LISTS for both short-term travel (from one to three days) and longer trips. You can even create different lists for different kinds of travel — camping, business, foreign travel, trips to the beach, cold-weather travel, etc. Try to include any and all generic items that you might need — clothes, toiletries, alarm clock, night light, whatever you like to take with you. Then use these lists as memory-joggers as you are packing for each trip. You can also cut down on the time you spend preparing for travel by keeping a “pre-packed” toiletry bag with duplicates of the items you use in your home. Fill your kit with samples of shampoo, soap, lotion, cosmetics, toothpaste, and shaving cream — even miniature toothbrushes and razors. These travel-sized items take up less room in your suitcase, and you will be less likely to leave something important behind.

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And don’t forget your important documents – especially if you are travelling overseas. You should plan to bring proof of citizenship, an official government photo identification (driver’s license or military ID is fine), a state-issued birth certificate with a raised seal, and a passport. Remember that children and infants are also required to have a state-issued birth certificate for travel.LESS IS MOREIf you can get away with it, try not to check your luggage. I purchased a very roomy pullman carry on that will accommodate up to a week’s worth of clothes — that way, I never have to be concerned about losing my bags. If you pack “mix-and-match” outfits and plan to do some washing along the way, you don’t need 15 different outfits for a one-week trip. And if you have to check a piece, be sure to keep those items you couldn’t live without in your carry on — toiletries, a change of clothes, clean underwear, medications, maps, travel confirmations, and any materials you might need for an upcoming business meeting. But try to take no more than one medium-sized and one carry on bag per person. Remember, you can always remedy underpacking, but not OVERPACKING! However heavy your suitcase is when you start out, it will be twice as heavy when you come home.If you plan to do any shopping while on your trip, you may decide to bring along an extra bag for carrying your purchases home. Put your filled suitcase inside a slightly larger empty one — or, get a collapsible tote that will take up very little space in your bag. But the easiest option (although perhaps not the cheapest) is to have each store ship your treasures directly to your home. This is an especially good policy if you are bringing home anything large or bulky on a plane, as the airlines often charge extra for oversized parcels. And each bag you have to lug around limits your transportation options. Heavy suitcases mean cabs and porters and inconvenience and fatigue — while a light suitcase equals travel freedom.PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR BELONGINGSWhile no one wants to be paranoid about their safety when travelling, it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution when planning your trip. So let’s start with your “stuff” — list the contents of each piece of luggage and keep your list close at hand anytime your bags are out of your sight. This will save you a great deal of frustration if your bags are lost and you have to file a claim or replace your belongings. And don’t forget to mark your luggage for easy retrieval — all those black pullmans are starting to look alike, and it’s easy for someone else to pick up your bag.While you are making lists, create a WRITTEN RECORD of your credit card numbers, traveler’s checks, medical insurance, emergency phone numbers, and other important information to take with you when you travel. And always keep this information hidden away someplace secure — a hotel safe deposit box is a good choice — where you can easily access it if you need it. Do not — I repeat do not — keep this record in your purse or wallet. Think about it. Those are the first things a thief will take — if you keep your list with the credit cards and traveler’s checks, it doesn’t help much when they are stolen. You are better off sticking it in your shoe (as long as your feet don’t sweat a lot!)Finally, be sure to have a POINT OF CONTACT at home — someone who knows where you are and how to reach you. Make sure to give this person any information that could be important in the event of an emergency — the phone number and address where you are staying, the code to your alarm system, your doctor’s name, etc. It will ease your mind to know that you can be contacted if something goes wrong at home — and that you have someone who can act on your behalf if something goes awry on your end.KEEPING YOUR HOUSE SAFENothing can ruin a fabulous vacation more than worrying about your home while you are gone. But a few simple precautions can help ease your mind and keep your domicile safe. Before you leave, let the police or a very trusted neighbor know you will be gone — especially if you are planning a lengthy trip. Nothing says “not home” more than a pile of newspapers in your driveway or magazines pouring out of your mailbox — so stop your mail and newspaper delivery or have neighbor collect them. Investing in timers for your lights, radios, etc, — and setting them to go on and off at random times during the day – will make your home look lived in and keep burglars away. And if you still aren’t comfortable abandoning your home, hire a housesitter.INSURE YOUR TRIPOne thing that very few people remember to do before leaving home is review their insurance policies. This is particularly important if you are travelling overseas. First, make sure that you have the proper personal liability coverage. This is meant to insure the loss or theft of your personal possessions, injury (to yourself or someone else), your legal defense (other countries don’t operate like the US — remember that kid in Singapore who was caned?), and the repatriation of your remains should you die overseas (not a nice thought, but it does happen). Check with your insurance carriers — your homeowner’s policy may include coverage for your possessions while away from home, and your credit card company probably offers inexpensive life insurance.If you plan to operate a vehicle while on your trip, check to see what your automobile insurance covers. If you are in an accident in a rented car, what is paid for? Are you covered if you are in an accident overseas? Are there any hidden costs that you will be expected to pay? You should also familiarize yourself with your MEDICAL insurance. What actions does your insurance company require if you become ill or injured while out of state? Out of the country?If you are taking a package tour or an expensive trip, if you will be visiting a dangerous or unpredictable parts of the world, or if you have a personal or medical situation that might disrupt your travels, you should also consider trip cancellation and interruption insurance. This type of coverage can protect you in case of bad weather (ie: a cruise cancelled because of a hurricane), illness, family emergency, and even the default or bankruptcy of your travel suppliers. But remember that certain situations — like pre-existing medical conditions, terrorism, hijacking, and war — can void your trip cancellation coverage. Make sure that you clearly understand all of the terms, requirements, and EXCLUSIONS before you purchase your insurance. Does it only cover situations when someone in your party gets sick, or if someone at home gets sick as well? When does your coverage start and end? Does “medical evacuation” mean that you are evacuated to the nearest medical facility or back home? You might want to contact the insurance company yourself, as many travel agents may not understand all the terms of your policy. Don’t assume that anything is covered until you check it out for yourself.

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SCHEDULING AS A SCIENCESome of the biggest frustrations people face when travelling are disruptions to their SCHEDULE — flight delays, traffic jams, getting lost, long lines, you name it. But you can take a number of precautions to make sure you are able to stick to your itinerary while travelling. Don’t wait until you arrive at your destination to learn the lay of the land. Take the time to research your trip before leaving — develop at least a cursory knowledge of the routes, directions, tourist attractions, transportation systems, and weather. Look at your options and pick a few major sights that you really want to see while on your trip — just remember that you can’t do everything! Then make as many advance reservations as possible once your itinerary is set, remembering to build the travel time from sight to sight into your itinerary. Be sure to confirm any appointments and reservations before leaving — and then reconfirm everything when you arrive. There is no such thing as double-checking too much!We’ve talked a lot about physical preparations for your vacation — but preparing yourself mentally is just as important. Determine ahead of time what your EXPECTATIONS are for your trip. What must happen to make this a successful trip? Which activities or sights you it would disappoint you to miss? Which activities or sights you it wouldn’t bother you to miss? And what problems that you have had on other trips that you would like to avoid this time? Try to admit to yourself that things may not go perfectly throughout the entire trip. Be FLEXIBLE and have other options ready (reading, other activities) if your schedule gets off track. Understand that you can not control every (or any!) aspect of travel. The more willing you are to accept difficulties and delays, the less disruptive they will be if they do occur. Happy travels!

Tricks of the Trade For Lowering Auto Insurance

The most important and meaningful factor that you need to know when looking for auto insurance quotes is that you need to shop around as much as possible and not let yourself become closed-minded or happy to settle for something when you could do better. This is the sure-fire way to finding the insurance company that will give you the cheapest quotes.It’s also important to let the insurance companies realize that you aren’t totally sold yet (when speaking with agents on the phone) and that you’re still looking around. This may hopefully cause the insurance agents to become worried that they’ll lose your business and offer you a better deal. They can do this because most auto insurance companies have a certain amount of slack that they can give, meaning that they can always lower the price just a little bit, but they won’t ever tell you this unless they’re scared of losing your business!

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There are several other ways that you can get your basic insurance quote price down, but many of these are beyond your immediate control. For example, your age, your sex, and your location all make a huge difference, but like I said, you have very little force to change these. One great thing that you CAN change is how you combine your other insurances. Most people naturally have other types of insurance (other than car insurance), such as home insurance, travel insurance, life insurance, etc. It can be extremely beneficial to get these all from the same company, as it can result in you getting a large discount. Again, try talking to you insurance agent and mention this to them. Nine times out of ten they’ll be able to cut you a better deal then you’re already getting.

Agent Tricks of the Travel Trade

I’ll be forthright: I’m not a homemaker. I feel more at ease constantly on the move, city after city, mountaintop to seaside surf, living out of my suitcase and fumbling through a foreign language phrase book, than I feel even comfy and cozy, napping on my couch on a Sunday afternoon. Perhaps I’m a little crazy, but I find it thrilling sprinting to make a connecting flight (even if it’s the red eye); I believe it convenient when the airline informs me my luggage is a flight behind, leaving unencumbered to begin sightseeing immediately; and I think myself resourceful when I arrive at a booked hotel only to realize I forgot to make reservations but still haggle a room. Of course, while I don’t mind any of the perceived headaches of traveling, I do mind the high costs often associated with it. Traveling, for me, is primarily about escaping–whether it be work, commuting, obligations, sometimes even family and friends–but how is it an escape if I’m worried about how much I’m spending the entire trip?I mention cost as something that would potentially worry me were it not for the fact that, in reality, it doesn’t worry me at all. At least not since I wised up, did the requisite research and taught myself the agent tricks of the travel trade. Travel agents’ tricks that is, because in addition to being a constant traveler and writer, I am also a licensed travel agent. Not in the sense that I work for others, booking their hotels, finding their flights, or landing them a deal on an Alaskan cruise. Truth is, I only use my license for personal escapes (well, okay, occasionally for family and friends too, but only when their remarks regarding my debonair good lucks are particularly flattering).If you’ve never heard of this travel industry loophole before, this may sound somewhat (or completely) preposterous. In fact, however, it is quite common among everyday people, both those who travel often or but once a year, both those whose work relates to travel to those whose work relates only to that which remains stationary. What I mean, plain and simple, is anyone–you, me, your second cousin Otto, or my next-door neighbor Irene–can get their travel agent’s license lickety-split, and immediately begin reaping the benefits.

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First things first: when making travel arrangements for themselves, every agent knows not to book a single step of their journey through one of their own, i.e. other travel agents. Instead, they use travel consolidators.Think about the difference those terms: agent and consolidator.An agent, in any industry where they’re principal players, obviously gets something in return for the services they provide. In sports, agents represent athletes, working off the field to win their clients lucrative contracts and commercial cameos so the athlete can in turn, without financial distractions, concentrate and win on the field. For these services, agents win themselves a percentage of every deal they broker. The same is true in showbiz, modeling, or corporations where headhunters wheel and deal multi-million dollar salaries and stock incentive plans for their CEO clients. Likewise, then, in the travel industry, agents receive discounts, courtesies and other special benefits, not from the customer for whom they book a hotel or flight, but from the vendor providing that service (i.e. the hotel chain or airline) who profits from the customer. As agents for airlines, etc., they drive customers toward vendors whom offer them the most in return.A consolidator, on the other hand, does virtually the opposite. Rather than inflate the costs of travel by collecting fees, they combine, for the sake of efficiency, the expensive and unstable parts of travel into a cheaper, more solid whole. They work to maximize vendor’s numbers, ratios and the cost per head. Think about it in terms of magazine publishing: the real cost in printing an issue is not the number of copies made, but merely arranging and setting the plates that will allow the print run in the first place. Once that is set to go, the only added costs are that of extra paper and ink. The travel industry is the same, the more spaces that fill, the cheaper tickets or rooms become per person. As in any industry, consumers (i.e. travelers in this case) benefit from the sheer volume of numbers (i.e. all travelers, yourself included).You, as a licensed travel agent would obtain special contact with these consolidators and the deals vendors must offer to maximize their costs per person. But while it’s all well and good to make arrangements through a consolidator as opposed to an agent, just because you acquire a license (available online in under an hour) doesn’t mean the consolidator will believe you’re as much a travel professional as they are. To avoid common mistakes that expose amateurs from pros, you must learn the proper lingo and travel codes. For that there are volumes of eBooks (with corresponding printed versions) that provide the requisite knowledge, which you can quickly study before contacting a consolidator and easily flip through if put on the spot. Get these references. Some of them are thick, but in reality you’ll spend less than a hundred dollars on everything you need to in turn potentially save thousands on the first trip you plan with your travel agent’s license in hand.Furthermore, instead of turning to the discount fare finders like Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity or Priceline that lay-travelers search, as a travel agent, you additionally gain access to the lesser known, but more lucrative sites travel consolidators utilize.

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Together, the benefits will materialize almost immediately. Buy plane tickets the day before the flight’s scheduled to depart, but only pay what you would have had you purchased tickets two months in advance. Get a spacious cruise ship cabin beside the captain’s quarters for the price of an ocean-level closet. Find yourself lodging in the seaside, honeymoon suite for the price you might have paid for the basement hide-a-bed beside the ice machine.Finally, the travel industry is a weird and wonderful creature, in this case, thankfully profit driven as much as other industries we often loathe. To those who present themselves as viable agents, promoting and thus earning money for the industry as a whole, it means endless perks. I get more special offers from airlines, cruise lines, and packaged tour companies than I know what to do with. For me, casinos, theme parks, and luxury resorts are not necessarily what I strive for, but if that is your cup of tea and your hocus pocus agenting appears legitimate, you’ll suddenly find yourself choosing between the best of many worlds: free weekends in the Napa Valley, first class seats to Tokyo, an all expense paid safari, a cruise down the Nile…So what are you waiting for, get started! Find a comprehensive eBook or alternate guide that takes you through the process of becoming a travel agent, step-by-step. Don’t sit on this opportunity, but rather start traveling cheaply, today…As for me, I’ve got a flight to catch…Now, where did I put my passport?Copyright 2006, Robert K. Blanc. All Rights Reserved.

Business Travel Secrets Revealed by a Frequent Flier

I’ve had people ask me many times for advice on airlines, hotels, traveling with children, etc and I figure its about time I share some tips and tricks I’ve learned. Some of these seem like no brainers to the experienced business traveler, and some are little tricks of the trade I’ve learned the hard way.Booking a flight:1. Unless absolutely necessary book at least two weeks in advance, preferably three. If you have elite status, the earlier you book, the better chance you’ll have of an upgrade.2. Stick to one airline and choose an airline that makes sense with regards to where your home airport is. If you’re based out of Chicago, you should make United your airline of choice. Based out of Dallas, fly American. Based out of Philly, Fly USair. I have people tell me all the time that they refuse to fly a certain airline because of a bad experience they had with one airline. Let me tell you, the good, bad, and ugly exist with all airlines and in the end likely even out. (Although the luggage handlers at PHL have successfully motivated me to avoid US Air at all costs in that city, thanks guys.)3. Save your frequent flier miles for expensive flights. Was it really worth it to fly for two years so you could cash in your miles for a $200 ticket to Denver? Frequent Flier miles should be cashed in for First Class flights, Hawaii, or International travel…enjoy your reward! Also, don’t fall victim to those up charge fees to get additional miles when you check in…the value just is not there.4. Get Elite Status anyway you can and fight to keep it. If you’re not going to be able to keep your elite status, call them up. If you’re close, some airlines will allow you to keep the status. Elite status is not just for the upgrades. For example, I fly United Airlines. With elite status, I get moved to the top of the list if I’m on standby. I don’t pay to check bags. Yes, I know Southwest doesn’t charge you to check bags…but as a business traveler, is Southwest really worth the hassle? As an Elite, you also have a separate 800 number for customer service, which greatly cuts down the “on hold” time.5. Layovers are not necessarily bad things. To get closer to elite status or the next tier, consider taking layovers to boost your flight segments. I do recommend that you limit these to return trips only. Missing your connection on your way to business meeting can throw off an entire trip. Also, its wise to choose your layover city carefully. Choose layovers in big cities, preferably the hubs for your airline. This way, if you miss your connection there is likely another flight available later. I try to book my United layovers in Denver as I know they fly to Chicago about every 90 minutes or so

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6. Get miles for other things you normally do. Make sure your credit card gets airline miles. Join their dining clubs and get miles for eating at places you normally eat at. When shopping online, especially with United Airlines, use the United Shopping Mall. Most major retailers are partners and they simply just ask you to log in and then transfer you directly to the retailers website. Popular stores such as Best Buy, Toys R Us, Target, and many others participate. This is also a great way to make sure your miles are not taken away if you do not fly much as most airlines require some sort of mileage activity each year or so.7. For the best rates and mileage benefits, book directly with the airline on their site, not through Orbitz or other bulk travel websites.8. Be polite to the gate agents, pilots, check in staff, etc. Remember, they work hard, have their benefits/pay cut often, and most importantly…it wasn’t their fault that your flight was cancelled or delayed. They didn’t make the call to have your bag pulled for inspection and they ultimately want to help you any way they can to make both of your days more pleasant.9. Be efficient going through security. Don’t make a scene or count on being singled out for a more “thorough” search. If you’re chosen to go through the new body scan machines, it’s in your best interests to make sure that your pockets are completely empty. Otherwise, count on getting a pat down. If you are chosen for a pat down, don’t give the TSA worker a hard time. Their just as thrilled about this part of their job as you are. Wear shoes that can be easily taken on and off. Always take off your jacket before going through. Learn which belts/watches/jewelry/etc will go through the x-ray machines without you taking them off. And yes, your laptop/iPad does have to go in its own container. Be aware of the carry on rule for liquids. Following these tips will get you through quicker and lower your chances of being selected for a pat down.10. Most US flights are either on Boeing 737’s or Airbus 320’s. Airbus seats are slightly wider if that is a concern. Aisle seats will give us bigger guys a little more room. When you book your flight, try selecting a seat at that time. Getting stuck in a middle seat is about as bad as it gets, especially if you’re not tiny.11. When the flight attendants ask you to turn off your computers and cell phones, do it. Your email is not important enough to the hundreds of other passengers on the plane to delay the entire flight.12. Understand that children will cry on a plane. They are likely scared to death by this new experience and the vast majority of the time, parents are doing their best.13. Be the good guy. Good Karma is a great thing to have when traveling. Offer to switch seats so that a parent can sit with their children or a couple can sit together. Speaking as a parent, I can’t tell you how much it means to me if someone switches seats with me so that I can sit with my children. It also doesn’t hurt to offer to help put a bag in the overhead bin if you see someone struggling.14. It’s your right to recline the seat, but do the person behind you a favor and do it slowly.15. Share the armrest.16. Chatting with your neighbor can make flights go by quickly, but if they don’t want to talk…don’t force them.17. Say hello to the flight attendants when you board. I can’t tell you how many times I see flight attendants say hello and people just brush them off. A smile and a kind word can brighten anyone’s day. It’s always safe to assume that someone gave them a hard time already today. If you’d really like to brighten their day, bring them a candy bar or two.18. If the pilot is saying good bye when you leave, say it back. Landing is the most difficult thing for a pilot to master. If you want to brighten his day, mention how smooth the landing was.19. Turbulence happens, but if you ever hear a pilot tell the flight attendants to take a seat…it’s going to get real rough, real quick.

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20. Don’t abuse the carry on privilege. Put one item in the overhead. And don’t act surprised if you are asked to gate check an item. Some travelers just don’t understand why they cannot bring their golf bag sized carry on with them.Hotels1. It should go without saying, but try to always stay in the same hotel or at the most, choose two brands and stick with them. Points clubs are free to join and rewards are easy to get. Some, such as Hilton Honors, gives you hotel points and airline miles. One way to choose is pick a hotel that you’d like to vacation at and book your business stays with that brand. I usually book at Hampton Inns as there are many Hilton’s that are great for vacations. La Quinta also has a decent program and in particular, there is a very nice, new facility in Scottsdale, AZ that I will be taking my family to for vacation due to my points.Rental Cars1. Go to a web based travel site, such as Orbitz or Yahoo Travel and get the rates for all of the rental car companies in the area you are going to travel and then go directly to the companies website and book direct. You’ll get the best rates and you’ll have a chance to enter your frequent flier number.General rules of thumb:1. Dress the part. I can tell you from experience, you’ll get treated better in a suit than you will wearing torn jeans and a vulgar T shirt.2. Arrive to airports early. You can always get a coffee, snack, beer, etc if things go quickly. No one is concerned that you are in a hurry because in all likelihood, they are in a hurry too.3. Do everyone a favor and don’t bring food that stinks on board. Most flights in the US are only a few hours at most and you can buy a snack on the plane or eat before/after.4. No one likes a drunk sitting next to them, exhibit self control at the bar.5. Don’t put disgusting things in the seat back cushion before you leave, I’m likely to reach in there on the next flight.6. Be patient.I hope some of these tips are helpful to everyone and happy/safe travels to my fellow frequent travelers!