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Fasten Your Seat Belts— We’re About to Take Off

I’d like you to take a minute and remember your college days. Were you one of those people ready to try weird and wild things and considered it all a wonderful adventure? What about traveling—were you like so many college students who gamely set off for Europe, prepared to hitchhike for a month, fortified with few dollars but lots of optimism? Were you like me fifteen years ago—an MBA student huddled in a sleeping bag on the deck of a state ship, cruising through Alaska for just $200? Now, switch gears, think again for a few more seconds, and imagine yourself on your dream trip—no expenses spared. Which way would you rather travel? If you want luxury at a fraction of its cost, read on. Soon after I completed my MBA in 1986, I met and married the woman who is truly my soul mate. One of the things we have most in common is that we both love to travel. During the summer of 2000, we went on a dream trip with both our sons. This was no Chevy Chase/National Lampoon kind of vacation, but the luxury trip of a lifetime the whole family enjoyed. Many of my seminar participants, when they see our sixty-five–night, around-the-world itinerary, ask, ‘‘Will you adopt me?’’ ‘‘That’s not necessary,’’ I tell them, ‘‘if you just follow the strategies I give you.’’ In this book, I reveal those same strategies so you, too, can not only travel in style, but get the most for your travel dollar. What do you think it would cost to go around the world, living in luxury for two whole months and covering all travel and daily living expenses? Some of the highlights our family of four enjoyed: Staying at the Singapore Ritz Carlton in a huge four-room suite, with all rooms—and the bathtub—overlooking the city of Singapore Traveling first class across Japan on the bullet train, the fastest in the world, from Tokyo all the way south to Kyoto, and back Flying British Airways business class roundtrip from Los Angeles to London and Nairobi Cruising Alaska on a luxury Princess ship Along the way we shopped in Singapore, laid on the gorgeous beaches of Bali, were humbled by Hiroshima, savored salad Nic¸oise in Paris, were thrilled by the magnificence of the French and Italian Rivieras, delighted in watching our children’s faces when they hand-fed a giraffe in Kenya, marveled at the economic miracle of beautiful Ireland. Most people would say at least $250 per person each day, maybe even $400 per day, which would be closer to the retail price. I’ll tell you the answer. It cost us $84 per person, per day. Now, remember, this included ALL travel costs, meals, even the photos—let’s not forget those Kodak moments. In this book, you will learn the strategies that helped make this trip possible—the same strategies you can use to do what we did.

Why Do We Need to Save on Travel?

In today’s business environment, we need to make more money, but it’s just as important to find legitimate ways to spend it wisely. Nowhere is this more relevant than in travel, since airfares and hotel costs have been volatile over the past five years. The tragedies of September 11 placed a short-term dampener on airfares. However, indirect costs to travelers have included restructuring of airlines by dramatically reducing capacity and decreasing availability of flights, the laying off of staff with a corresponding drop in customer service and morale, and attempts to tighten security with significant inconveniences. The travel experience has been made more arduous not only by airfares creeping up, but also by increases in penalties associated with nonrefundable tickets, by costly new rules for excess baggage, and by cutbacks in meal service. An emerging variable to factor in to the travel planning process is an inversion of the old paradigm, whereby the typical leisure traveler purchased travel far in advance, while the business traveler sought airline tickets and hotel accommodation at the last minute. Specifically, we are now seeing an increase in the leisure travelers planning trips at the last minute and business travelers purchasing tickets in advance. This adds another layer of complexity to how travel suppliers will price their product. Similarly, as hotel occupancy rates have edged up toward prior highs, hotel rates have moved in tandem. All of these changes challenge the patience and resilience of world travelers and road warriors alike. With this book, however, we promise to help you find your way through the maze that travel has become, confident that you know how to get the best service for your travel dollar. According to American Express Travel Service’s annual surveys of their business clients, travel and entertainment have been the second-largest controllable business expense after salaries. The Professional Sales Association indicates that entrepreneurs and sales professionals spend an average of fifty-seven nights away from home each year. Even Internet-focused companies acknowledge that truly understanding a client or closing a sale requires face-to-face communication. So how can we help you survive the challenges of travel post– September 11? Through trial and error—and sometimes paying too much—we have learned how to travel in luxury for (much, much) less. We have invested decades researching, analyzing, and testing all the intricate rules and regulations, all the Web sites, all the books on the topic of travel savings. Obviously, we have spent huge amounts of time and money gathering this valuable information, all in one place, and refining it for ease of understanding. Before today, it has never been presented in one book geared exclusively to sophisticated world travelers and road warriors fed up with paying rising prices for air, hotels, and car rentals—all while being pressured to downgrade.

Won’t Your Travel Agent Help You Utilize All These Strategies?

trategies? The first key principle of travel savings is that you are the sole person responsible for obtaining great values for your travel needs. Neither travel suppliers (airlines, hotels, and so on) nor travel agents have the responsibility for expending the time and energy to find exceptional values, or even informing you when they may know of better values. In fact, if anything, just the opposite holds true. Suppliers in all industries inevitably seek to get the highest amount for a given product or service; airlines, hotels, and car rental companies are no different. It gets even worse when we consider travel agents: Agency commissions from airlines were cut back dramatically in 1997, thereby providing the impetus to charge service fees and scale back their efforts to find exceptional value for budget-conscious travelers. In 2002, airline companies reduced travel agent commissions to zero! Still, travel agents may have preferred override agreements with an airline, meaning they receive a special commission for booking in volume with a specific airline—a little secret they will not divulge to you, the traveler. However, the only two products that consistently provide travel agents with commissions of 10 percent or higher are packages/tours and cruises. Don’t be surprised when travel agents try to steer your vacation plans toward these prepackaged arrangements.

Within these pages, we expose those secrets jealously guarded by travel insiders and industry suppliers. You won’t learn about them from your travel agent—in fact, he will likely tell you that what we advise is impractical or even impossible. Don’t believe it. We’ve done it and so can you. Finally, are we completely pessimistic regarding the potential for travel agents assisting the world traveler or road warrior? Absolutely not! There are several instances where a travel agent with specific expertise or attention to excellence in service can be worth his or her weight in gold (and then some). . . .

Won’t Saving Money Take Up Too Much of My Time?

The more money you want to save, the more time you will need to invest, especially as you acquire basic skills. It’s just like learning how to select mutual funds or deliver a performance review. The more time you put in—especially when starting out—the more you will save. We acknowledge that there are points in your career when you have more time than money, and points when you have more money than time. Many of the ideas you will learn from this book apply to anybody with an interest in basic cost management—regardless of your financial situation. It’s like taking your vitamins and flossing your teeth. You may choose not to take advantage of all the skills you can learn, but just know that these powerful strategies are available to you. And we guarantee that as prudent world travelers and road warriors, each of you will find certain strategies in the following chapters that are perfect for your unique circumstances. What Is ‘‘Value in Travel’’? Guerrilla travelers never pay full price for their airfares, hotels, or car rentals. Retail travel prices are outrageously high, and most times serve as little more than a standard to make the majority of customers feel good when they get a discount! But savvy world travelers and seasoned road warriors know the value of a dollar. Also, being much smarter than the average business traveler, whose company reimburses every travel expense, they are always on the prowl for deep discounts. So who determines what value is? You do! Let’s take an example. Which is a better value: $150 at a Hilton Hotel or $250 at a Four Season Hotel? There is no right answer since it is you who gets to decide. Value is ultimately a subjective matter that for some people simply means getting rock-bottom prices, while for others it may be obtaining lots of valueadded services. The important point to remember is that the smart traveler knows what he wants and will do whatever it takes to achieve his goals. While value is absolutely ‘‘in the eyes of the beholder,’’ we can provide you with a benchmark. When the money comes out of our pockets—for business or leisure—it is unusual for us to pay more than $700 for a roundtrip airfare outside the United States or $500 roundtrip for domestic travel; $200 per day for a hotel room abroad or $120 for one in the United States; or $100 per day for an international car rental or $65 here at home. This holds true no matter where we travel, no matter what the circumstances. Taking an Integrated Approach One of the keys to slashing travel costs is to apply an integrated strategy, much like choosing a mix of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds to build your wealth. Specifically, by applying what resembles a portfolio of tactics, sophisticated world travelers and road warriors will choose from, and often combine, sale pricing, promotions, discount coupons, upgrade certificates, frequent flyer miles/hotel points, and Internet-only pricing to ensure rockbottom prices with established brands.

Skill or Experience—Which Is Important for Guerrilla Travelers?

The answer is—both! This book will help you acquire the core set of skills it takes to be a world-class road warrior. As with any endeavor, guerrilla travel is a skill set that is refined by practice and experience. The more you travel, the better you will become at identifying savings opportunities. These skills feed upon themselves . . . the more you practice them, the better you will become. This book aims to teach you the basic skills, but experience can only be gained one way—by doing it! Even though this book taps into the extensive collective experience of its co-authors, we could never cover every eventuality! Furthermore, so much of what constitutes ‘‘experience’’ is specific to each of our unique circumstances. This story illustrates the point. I landed at New York’s JFK airport late one winter evening just after midnight, right after a huge snowstorm. With treacherous road conditions, the line for taxicabs was outrageously long, and I realized it would take several hours before I’d be in a cab and on the road to my Manhattan hotel. Looking for alternatives, I asked around and found I could take a bus to the nearby train station, which would connect me to the subway into New York City. A bit more of hassle than a cab, but I decided I’d rather be moving toward my goal. I jumped on the next inner circle airport transport headed to the subway station. When the bus stopped to pick up riders at the next terminal, I noticed a line of taxis—with no customers! I jumped off the bus and into a cab, and was on my way into the city in less than one minute! I have never read about this strategy or heard anyone talk about it, but it has served me well several times since. At peak travel times, I will not hesitate to go from one terminal to another in search of a short line for taxis. Experience is a great teacher.