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I travel. A lot. For business and for pleasure. I've flown almost 4 million miles on Delta and perhaps 500,000 miles on other airlines. I've been in almost 70 countries and I have stayed in hundreds of different hotels, including unique family-owned treasures and all the brands of the big chains.
While I'm traveling soon to be on "Good Morning America" tomorrow, I want to give you a few tips on travel based on my years of experience and my desire to get value while receiving comfort and safety.
Airlines: Try to fly the same airline (or fly with airlines in their alliance like Sky Team or Star Alliance) so that you build up miles and move up on frequent flyer categories to receive the increasing perks that go with each level. If you use a credit card, get one from the same airline so that this further boosts your miles. If you like privacy, get a window seat. If you want to stretch your legs or take frequent potty breaks, go for the aisle. Always book as far forward in the plane as possible so you get off the plane faster in case connections are tight. Don't drink alcohol on the flight, but do drink more water than you normally do. From time to time flex and extend your legs and rotate your ankles to help reduce the chance of a clot. Invest in high-quality noise cancellation headphones (Bose are the best) that allow you to hear normal conversation, the flight crew, and music or movies but dramatically reduces engine hum and other sounds that can be tiring.
Rental cars: Book a compact car, as the rental car agencies almost never have them and you'll automatically get upgraded. When you check in at the rental counter, they'll often say, "I can upgrade you to a full size for just ___" which you should translate to, "They don't have the compact I reserved and if I say 'no' they're going to upgrade me for free in less than 60 seconds."
Hotels: When you book a hotel, you have to choose between a low floor (easier to get to safety or be rescued in the unlikely event of a hotel evacuation) or a high floor, which is typically more quiet (less road noise and fewer guests coming and going) and offers a better view. When you book the hotel, ask for a non-smoking (assuming you don't smoke) room on a quiet floor in a quiet area (not by the elevator, exercise facility or meeting rooms). Like airlines, try to concentrate most of your stays in a single chain like Marriott or Hilton so that you rack up points and get increasingly accommodated and pampered. When you check into the hotel, note the exits as you get off the elevator and head for your room. Before you put your phone down, enter your room number in the notes and put the room key in the same place (I put mine in my wallet) each time. I like to take care of the small stuff immediately, like setting up my toiletries in the bathroom, getting the shower ready, getting a wake up call to back up my mobile phone alarm. Remove the comforter off of the bed (I don't need to tell you why) and carry disinfecting wipes to sanitize the remote control and the phone. I also travel with aromatherapy from Bath & Body Works, which I spritz on the pillows to help me go to sleep.
I'm at the highest level of Delta SkyMiles (Diamond Medallion) and also at the highest levels of Hilton Reward and Marriott Honored Guest (Diamond and Platinum, respectively). I'm spoiled as I'm typically upgraded to first class or suites. While complaining about airlines and hotels is for today's travelers what my parents' generation used to complain about how weather forecasters always got it wrong (they don't anymore), travel has gotten so, so much better over the years. Remember paper airline tickets and hand-written baggage tags? Consider that the vast majority of the time, both you and your bags arrive on time. There's no longer smoking allowed on airplanes (can you believe there ever was?!) and safety has dramatically improved. The newer planes, like the Boeing 787, have windows so big they look like picture windows, beautiful and relaxing LED lighting and are pressurized to a level 30 percent higher than other planes so that the humidity can be higher, and you arrive at your destination feeling much better having breathed cleaner, richer air.
And hotels, there's no place like ohmm Heavenly Beds, Cloud Nine and a new bedding called 7 Layers of Comfort. The showers have giant rain heads or multiple heads to let you relax. But of all the things that have improved in travel, the single thing I like the best is the newer shower curtains. In the old days, when you got in the shower and turned it on, the curtain immediately moved inside and clung to you like a toga. Today's showers feature curved shower rods, magnets on the bottom that attach to the tub and have features to let in light.
One last piece of advice about travel: Treat the airline, rental car and hotel employees with respect and warmth. If you're friendly, complimentary and nice, they'll move mountains to help you. As I tell my kids (ages 26 and 21, who've been in 50 and 40 countries themselves): "Nice is underrated." Nice is the lubricant that makes travel better.
Heart BEATS: "My Travel Tips"
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