I’ve been accused of being a “perk” traveler. Always looking for that something extra, for free. So what’s wrong with that, and how do you do it?
I’ve also been accused of being quite chatty. And rightfully so. I’m interested in everyone and everything. So when I travel my goal is to learn new customs, language, and an appreciation of how other people live. Besides seeing sites, I always try to assimilate into foreign cultures. Showing you’re interested can have a pleasant side effect that can result in perks. So have fun with people along the way.
Traveling for 20 years or more I’ve seen and done things a lot of people would be amazed at. Some even amaze me. So herewith are several travel stories that might show you how to “yack it up, and get perks”.
- Dealing with airline’s counter and gate agents has its ups and downs. It’s important to realize that these folks take a lot of abuse from crabby travelers, both business and pleasure types. My opinion is that schmoozing goes a long way. A classic example occurred on a recent return trip from London to Los Angeles (an American airlines flight, whose agents are not known to be very accommodating). I normally travel business class to Europe, using flight miles. It helps me relax a bit even if I can’t sleep on planes (I think I’m overly aware of my surroundings, always). My flight was direct to LAX, and on a great plane…the 777. Business class is pretty good, but First has what I call cubicles. Fully reclining bed, jump seat, work table, and 2 windows. But I feel the extra mileage surcharge for First is not always worth it, so Business class works for me. So I check in early, and begin schmoozing. “I’m willing to take an upgrade to First”, I joke. The agent and I continue to chat. Then it happens. Some friends of the agent just got married, and are going to LA for their honeymoon. The agent hopes to get them into Business class as a treat. Only 1 seat is open. But I’ve offered mine in trade. Voila, I’m now in First and the happy couple sits together in nice Business Class comfort. And I get my little cubicle.
- Flight Attendants are also a fun source for perks. Especially in classes other than coach. Somehow when you sit in Business/First they assume you just might be “somebody”. So play a part and be somebody. Strike up a conversation about travel, food, or wine. For example if you obsess about the great wine they serve, you probably will get very frequent refills. And in some cases, which I can attest to, you just might get a bottle to go when you land. On a recent flight I chatted with the Attendant about French wines…and gave her my business card. “I write a wine blog”, I told her. Instant status and a fun conversation ensue. As we disembark, she hands me a small shopping bag with a full bottle of a nice French wine they served. A great perk for the first night in a new city.
- How often have you joked with a hotel clerk about getting a suite, or balcony view, when you check in? Always? Did it ever work? It has for me on several occasions. Here’s a classic one. My wife and I went to Hawaii using a timeshare week. We also booked a weekend stay at a Marriott using a “free weekend, timeshare sale” special. That’s the deal where they give you a room for a few nights for free (or cheap) in exchange for your time to attend a sales presentation. So when we checked in I joked “I assume the free room is an ocean view suite”? Well, maybe. Actually it was a corner suite hanging over the main beach with 2 balconies. Pretty nice perk, even if we had to endure a sales pitch. Well the pitch never occurred. But we really enjoyed the perk.
- Many travelers complain that French people are hostile and unfriendly. That depends on your attitude, and not always theirs. A case in point for us happened during a week-long tour of lovely French chateaus in the Loire Valley. We were not familiar with the Chateaux concept, and never heard of a club called “Relais & Chateaux”. Simply its a collection of amazing restored castles and country houses all over France (and most of Europe) that offer great rooms with the intention of having you buy an expensive (but awesome) dinner. The room prices are not generally bad, but the kicker is dinner. Our first stay in such a place happened by accident. We booked a room in a small chateaux we found in a travel book. It was October so prices were low, and rooms available everywhere. When checked in, as always I talked with the owner a lot. I stressed our love for France and the Loire area. Points? Since the chateuax was only partially filled, they decided we were nice friendly Americans…and gave us their suite shown on their postcard. Same price as the basic room. But it gets better. At checkout time I see the fancy book that lists all the Relais & Chateaux properties. We have not booked any future rooms yet, and just planned to drive the Valley until we see a good place for the night. Then a light bulb moment happens. If I decide where we might end up that night, maybe I can get this Chateaux owner to call ahead for us. Besides they all speak French, and my language use is pretty limited. It works. She calls ahead to another R&C property. When we arrive that evening, the perks continue. Another suite at base room rates. So the next day we do it again…it works again. Maybe we found the secret…let one chatueax call another. Referrals equal perks. By the way, we are now R&C members, which gets us more perks.
- A great perk getter is writing a blog. Or use your job/business and always ask for something out of the ordinary. They main key is to be jolly, happy, positive, and interested. Some jobs lend themselves to acquiring perks. Suppose you’re responsible for sales or marketing meetings. Or doing industry trade shows. Flash your business card to hotel people, rental car agents, restaurant folks, etc. Even a subtle comment (with a hidden request) can get a pleasant surprise. And what about doing a blog (I do one on wine and one on travel)? If you focus on anything travel related you would be amazed just what you can get. Many years I ago I created a website devoted to basic wine information. Its called WineNews.com and its really just a fun hobby for me. I even ordered cheap business cards that I hand out. That proves to be a conversation starter and gives you instant “expert” status. Perks usually follow. And blogs can be used to solicit lots of freebies. So get cracking/writing and get some rewards for your hobbies and avocations.