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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.

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Do I need to rent a car while I’m in town for the Expo?


Make sure your NYC taxi cab has a meter and a posted hack license.

As your planning your trip to your next convention, one of the things on your check list is transportation.  Unless you’ve had previous experience in the city you’re going to, you’re probably wondering if you should spend the extra money on renting a vehicle.

Obviously, there are a lot of factors involved here and every situation is different.  For instance, if you know that you’ll be taking clients off premises for dinners and meetings, you’re going to probably want to have a high-line rental in the hotel parking lot so you don’t kill your budget with car services.  Additionally, if the only hotel you were able to book is quite a distance from the convention center in a town that doesn’t offer good public transportation, you may also want to consider locking some wheels down.  Heck, there are towns that are either so humid and sticky or cold and windy, I’ve rented a car even for short distances so I didn’t have to deal with Mother Nature at times.  I’ve also taken cabs one block at times so that I looked and felt fresh when arriving at the show.

Only you know all the specifics of your trip so you’re on your own there.

What I’d like to do is tell you about specifics in a few cities I have a lot of experience in.  Let’s start in my old neighborhood…


Apart from a couple cities overseas, The Big Apple has the best public transportation system in the world. 13 miles long and 2 and 1/2 miles wide, this small island in New York is home to 1.6 million people. During the work week, over 600,000 more people come to work from 3 or 4 different states. 2.2 million people in 22.7 square miles. Do you really want to drive in that?

The good news is, you don’t need to.  Even if you stayed in an uptown hotel, there are plenty of transportation options to get you downtown to the show.  While you still have to be very careful of your personal belongings, the crime rate has dropped considerably and riding the subways in the day time is very safe.  Unfortunately, there’s still a strong smell of urine on the New York City streets, but sadly enough, you get used to it rather quickly and it doesn’t bother you anymore.

You’ll probably fly in to Jersey or Queens.  If your hotel doesn’t offer a shuttle, then take a yellow cab.  DO NOT take a car service on the fly.  In other words, unless you ordered it before you arrived, don’t fall prey to non-licensed car service guys who promise you a great deal into the city.  Make sure your cabby has a license and a meter.

The trip into New York City from Newark, La Guardia or JFK should all be under 30-45 minutes if there’s no traffic.  Unfortunately, there’s usually traffic.  Just keep an eye on your route.  Some cabbies take the long way to pad the meter.

One you arrive at your hotel, you can survive on cabs and public transportation for the rest of your stay.  It’s so much more convenient.


When you land in Sin City, the airport is only a few miles from the “strip”.  It’s very easy to take a cab to your hotel and you really never need a car again–until you cab your way back to the airport.  But…it’s Las Vegas.  Who wants to be stuck in one place in this exciting city of lights?

There are a few positives and negatives when considering having your own wheels.

For instance, if you have a car, you have the freedom to take off whenever you need to and go anywhere you want in a very exciting town that allows you to park almost anywhere for free. Seriously, this is probably the only city left in America that offers free parking at almost every major venue. Obviously, they are keeping your pockets full because they assume they will get that money anyway, once you get inside the casino. But free parking is a huge plus that could really save you hundreds by the end of your trip.  No cab fair, no parking fees , no public transportation…it’s a beautiful thing.

On the other side of the coin, Las Vegas is a party city.  Even if you’re not much of a party person, this town inspires even the strong to say, “Ahhh what the heck” and participate in some smooshjing.  It’s very easy to make a mistake that you can’t take back.  An out of town D.U.I. is no fun (minimum of $10,000 in fines), but worse yet, one careless choice and momentary lapse in judgment could take a life–yours or an innocent tourist.

I’ve talked to so many expo-goers over the years who lived responsible, respectable lives in their home town, but came to Las Vegas and made the police blotter.

Take my advice, unless you’re strong enough to be the trip-long designated driver, don’t even rent a car.


Another city focused around party time.  I mean, come on, they serve daiquiris at drive-thrus. Go and have your fun, but get a hotel away from all the wildness. This choice will force you to rent a car to get around, but you’ll thank me later for it. If you do want to stay in the French Quarter, aside from one or two of the larger hotel chains, there isn’t much to choose from.  I don’t recommend staying anywhere near Bourbon Street. There’s a Double-tree in Metairie (10 miles away) that is clean, modern and a great place to escape the craziness.

On a side note, everyone that goes to New Orleans wants to eat at “Emeril’s” restaurant.  Most nights he’s there in person, cooking and shouting out ‘bam’! But if your budget doesn’t allow multiple five star dinners on your trip, skip the touristy-trendy spot and make sure you dine at “Mr. B’s”. This is right in the heart of Bourbon Street but the food is so delicious and the service is top rate.  Great place to take clients you’re trying to impress.


This city is way too spread out to survive without a rent-a-car.  In addition, the taxi drivers here are the worst when it comes to honesty in routing.  If you get in a cab here, make sure that you map the route in your phone GPS and let the driver know that you’re doing so.  These guys are sharks.

However, if you do rent a car, be very careful in downtown Miami.  One wrong turn can take you right into a neighborhood that may resemble something from Scarface or New Jack City.  I’m a die-hard Miami Dolphins fan but I’m at peace with loving them from Los Angeles.  Seriously, there are so many beautiful areas in the Miami area, but some neighborhoods you need police escort to make it out alive.  Be careful!

If you do rent a car, I highly recommend that you stay at the Westin Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood.  It’s right on the beach, reasonably priced, clean and gorgeous. I’ve stayed at the Westin a dozen times and always had a great experience.

Many other places along the beach look great in the pics online….and only online. If you want to visit South Beach, feel free but let me save you a few dollars.  Don’t pay hundreds of dollars just for the luxury of sitting in a vip area of a club.  Once you sit, you will then pay $400 for one bottle of alcohol valued at $24.95 at the local liquor store.  You will also pay hundreds of dollars for cranberry juice and other mixers. Do all your business stroking at the hotel.

If you want to do something different and not rely on alcohol driven events, Miami is a great town for water rentals. boats, jet skies, fishing, snorkeling and swamp rides are just a few of the events offered that you may consider inviting peers to.  Give your clients or employees a day of local nature and plan something they will remember for the rest of their life.

Here’s a few other towns and considerations:

CHICAGO – Rent-a-Car

WASHINGTON D.C. – Public Transportation (Clean and safe)

ATLANTA – Rent-a-Car

PHILADELPHIA – Rent-a-Car (Don’t get lost, rough town, streets hard to navigate)

SAN FRANCISCO – Public Transportation (Bart System) is awesome


DALLAS – Public Transportation

SAN DIEGO – Rent-a-Car

LOS ANGELES – Rent-a-Car

ORLANDO – Rent-a-Car

LONDON – Public Transportation