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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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There’s a Reason I Chose ‘The Friendly Skies’

planeI was talking to a friend this morning about basic customer service skills and how companies and employees need more training in this area. As we were sharing horror stories, I was reminded of an experience I had with a reservations clerk from United Airlines about 15 years ago.

I was on my way to a job interview in Sacramento on an early morning flight from Los Angeles. When I arrived at the airport, I was informed that the flight was cancelled due to mechanical issues with the plane. Okay, things happen. I wasn’t that concerned because it was so early in the morning and I was confident they would re-book me on a different flight soon enough.

As an hour went by, followed by another one and then another one, the reservation clerks were blowing me off and not answering my questions or giving me new flight instructions.

I called the company I was supposed to interview with and they were very understanding about the matter but said, “see what you can do to get here before 5pm today because we are deciding between you and another guy tonight.”

Obviously, a bit nervous about missing this opportunity, I asked one of the UA clerks if she had any suggestions or ideas that could help me in this desperate situation.

When I finished my inquiry, the agent snapped back at me like a cornered bobcat and verbally let me have it. Her response was so harsh and inappropriate, I almost jumped over the counter and forced her down the luggage chute. Not only was she unwilling to make an attempt to help me, she belittled me in front of a line full of people.

I was upset, there’s no doubt about it. However, instead of lashing back [like my flesh wanted to], I simply looked at her and with a calm voice I said, “Ya know, there’s a reason I chose to fly ‘the friendly skies’.”

She paused. She smiled. She looked up at me and said, “I’m so sorry. Everything is a mess today. All schedules are delayed or cancelled, I was stressed and I took it out on you. Let me see what I can do.”

She immediately went to work and found me multiple options that consisted of crazy flight changes, even some options with other carriers. She ended up booking me through a couple of other airlines [at no cost to me], and got me to their terminal where my new tickets were waiting. My UA agent, made sure her baggage handling team brought my luggage over to the new terminal in just enough time to make the flight. It was amazing how she pieced this together because there really weren’t any airlines that offered flights to my location. Determined to help, this agent found a way to cooperate with multiple carriers to get me to my destination. My routes were out of the way [something like LAX to Phoenix to Vegas to Sacramento], but I was able to make it to the job interview before the end of the day.  [Side note: They offered me the job. I declined and took an offer from New Orleans instead]

The United Airlines agent initially forgot what her job expectations were and how important it was to provide a quality service to her customers. Thankfully, with a loving nudge, she redeemed herself and performed her responsibilities with excellence. And because she reversed her position on the matter, I wrote a letter to United Airlines that day, expressing my thanks for her outstanding efforts. They wrote me back and thanked me for informing them of her customer service skills.

The UA agent contacted me a few weeks later, as well. She wanted to take a moment to thank me for giving her a good review with the corporation. As it turned out, after upper management received my letter, the agent got promoted to supervisor.

You never know who you’re serving when you’re dealing with customers. You never know the impact any given client could have on your future or the future of your company. Treat everyone like royalty and provide the best service possible. This kind of commitment to excellence never goes unrewarded.