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3 Huge ‘Checking In’ Travel Tips

checkinWith The 5th Annual Bay Area Travel & Adventure Show returning to the San Francisco area February 5th through the 7th, I thought I’d throw out some travel tips for my peeps based on my own traveling experiences.

You may be wondering how I qualify as an expert in this field and I’ll just say this:

In the last 25 years, I have taken over 1100 flights, stayed in over 500 hotels, rented over 75 cars, 3 long distance bus trips, 2 train rides and stayed in 2 Bed and Breakfast joints throughout 11 countries. Will that due?



I found something the hard way and I want to save you some grief. When you check in for your flight, you are telling the airline that you are 100% certain that you will be on that flight. The phrase “Check In” was created at the actual location in the past because you were letting the airline know you were “in”; you were “there”; you were ready to get on the plane.

Now-a-days, for convenience, passengers have the ability to “Check in” even when they’re NOT “in”. Unfortunately, the airline and their reservation system doesn’t have any flexibility here, so wherever you check in from, if you do not make it to your flight, there are no late fees, discounts or penalties–your ticket is just cancelled. No refund either. And to travel that day to your original destination, you have to purchase a brand new ticket–with same day expensive pricing.

A few years back, I checked in from home on one occasion and got stuck in a four hour parking lot on the freeway because there was a fatal accident 10 miles in front of me. I missed my flight and got on another one two hours later. For $1240.00.

My Advice: If you want to avoid the check in lines at the airport, check in from your Smartphone when you’re on the Parking Shuttle, already at the airport.



I don’t know why people don’t do this but I find this small tip to be successful almost 50% of the time when I’m renting a car.

Ask for the upgrade!

You’re at the counter, they’re checking your license and running your credit card, in a friendly, playful manner say, “Hey by the way, I want to thank you so much for the free upgrade. That was really cool of you.”

They will laugh. Don’t take it wrong. If you do it right, they’re not laughing at you, they’re laughing because they thought your comment was fun.

If you have been pleasant with the clerk and they feel moved by your personality, you are going to hear many of them say, “Ya know what? I may have something available.”

Know This: Most of these employees are given the power to make upgrade decisions. They don’t just give upgrades to frequent renters or unhappy folks, they also give them away as a blessing at times.

Show off your pearly whites and give them a reason to bless you.



Just like rent-a-car employees, hotel staff has the freedom to provide upgrades as well. Every shift, front desk clerks are given a certain amount of “strokes” that they can pass on to people like you and me.

The same approach I used at the rent-a-car place works for hotels as well. “By the way, I really appreciate you upgrading our room to a suite. It’s reasons like that I love this hotel so much.”

On a different note, if you don’t like the room the hotel randomly selected for you…you’re not stuck with it. Even if you call down to the desk and they tell you they are overbooked, you can still get the satisfaction you’re looking for. You just need to know the back story.

Back Story: Most hotels are never sold out. Not literally anyway. They have a “sold out” status when a certain amount of rooms are occupied but they always leave extras for high rollers or ‘never know’ type of situations.

Knowing this, if you don’t like you’re room, you don’t have to settle for their excuses that make you feel like you’re stuck. Tell them this is unacceptable and you want a different room. If they try to downgrade you to a worse room, tell them that you want to walk the available room options with a manager until you find one you like.

I know, I know, you sound like a spoiled Beverly Hills brat! But it rarely gets to that point. Most decent hotels will make you happy without you having to show your spoiled side.

Just don’t settle for their first comments. I don’t want to call them “liars” but most of them are trained to pass along a little loving deception. You’re dropping $200+ per night to sleep in the same room that hundreds of strangers occupied in the last 12 months. Make sure you get what you want.

I hope that you found these tips helpful.

If you’re in the Travel Industry, check out the Resort and Travel Show at Sign up for FREE today.


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Vegas Tip #3,421: Airport Slot Machines

Airport Slot Machines

Are slot machines at Las Vegas airport a tourist trap with bad odds?

I’ve been to Las Vegas so many times, I have become an expert on all things Sin City.  I’ve given so many Vegas Tips over the years to friends and associates that I figured I’d just continue the trend right here on our blog.

Obviously, since this is a new blog, you didn’t get a chance to hear the first 3,420 tips I gave out to my power circle.  However, instead of starting over and back tracking to help you catch up, I decided to just keep moving and start with Vegas Tip #3,421.


When you arrive in Las Vegas for your expo, you will walk off the gate to the sounds of bells, whistles and sirens.  There are approximately 1,300 slot machines at McCarran International Airport.  And while it’s kind of fun and exciting to make that entrance,  it’s rare that you will actually sit down in front of a machine and begin gambling.  Most folks like to get to their hotel quickly so they can give all their money to that venue.

It’s only when you’re leaving town that these machines start calling to you as you wait to begin boarding.

I’ve always been told to stay away from those slots. I’ve been warned that they are programmed with less odds than the machines on the strip.  Not being much of a gambler my whole life, I believed that advice and never put anything into those puppies–until one strange two hour business lunch.

About ten years ago I was asked to fly to Vegas from Los Angeles for a business lunch.  My flight was to land at 11am and my next flight back to LA was leaving at about 3pm.  Pretty much enough time for a two hour meal and brief conversation.

The engagement was very productive and as I got back to the airport to head home, I felt pretty good about the potential relationship with this party I had connected with.  I was a smoker back then so I made my way to the smoking room at the airport to have a couple butts before my flight boarded.  In Las Vegas, the smoking rooms are full of slot machines.

“Ah what the heck,” I thought as I opened my wallet to see how much cash I had.

There were two twenties in my bill fold and I decided to stick them both in the dollar machine.  Even not being much of a gamer, I know to always play MAX credits when using slots.  It makes no sense to play the minimum bet because the pay out is much larger with all allowed credits in the game. This game had a $2 max credits requirement so with $40 on a dollar machine, I was gonna get 20 spins.

Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.

I got down to my third cigarette and my final spin and bam!  One seven, two sevens, three sevens and all the bells went off.  In my subconscious mind I knew I won something but didn’t think it was gonna be all that much so I had a very casual response as people started gathering around me.

“You just won $5,000.00,” a little elderly woman said to me with a beaming smile.

“I did?” I asked.  I looked at the machine and yes, I most certainly did.


Vegas fun for your iPhone. Click on logo to download.

Truth be told, after paying taxes on it, it was more like $3,200 in winnings, but even still, not bad for a little lunch break out of town.

According to Gray Cargill of, “I’ve seen many reports on TripAdvisor’s Vegas forum from people who won enough money at the airport to make them happy.  According to Chris Jones, Acting Manager of Public Affairs and Marketing at McCarran, two players at McCarran won $392,000 and $259,000 respectively within four days of each other in May 2008. One lucky traveler won $3.9 million at a progressive Wheel of Fortune machine in January 2005. ” released some great slot machine myths and facts.  Here’s a few below:

Myths and Facts

Just about everything that players believe about slots is untrue. Here are the most common myths and facts.

  • Myth: Slot machines are programmed to go through a cycle of payoffs. Although the cycle can span thousands of spins, once it reaches the end the outcomes will repeat themselves in exactly the same order as the last cycle.
  • Fact: This is not true at all. Every spin is random and independent of all past spins.
  • Myth: Machines pay more if a player card is not used.
  • Fact: The mechanism that determines the outcome of each play does not consider whether a card is used or not. The odds are the same with or without one.
  • Myth: The machines by the doors and heavy traffic flow areas tend to be loose while those hidden in quiet corners tend to be tight.
  • Fact: I’ve studied the relationship between slot placement and return and found no correlation. Every slot director I’ve asked about this laughs it off as just another player myth.


Of course, the best way to win in Vegas is…to simply not play.  About 80% of people who gamble anywhere on their visit go home in the negative.  Another 11% come back even.  And the remaining 8-9% return ahead.  You’ve worked too hard to hand over your earnings that easily.