All of us travel, sometimes for business and sometimes for pleasure. Tuchman Advisory Group (T.A.G.) is very fortunate to have as one of our members Ed Pizzarello with Revolution Cleaners in Denver, CO. Ed is an expert on travel. He describes his interest in travel this way: “My goal in life is to fill my family’s passports with stamps, creating buckets of memories along the way. You’ll find me writing about realistic ways for normal people to travel the world, whether you’re on a budget or enjoy luxury. I enjoy taking us on the occasional detour to explore the inner workings of the travel industry.”
We recently had a conversation in which he used the expression “smart travel.” The answer to this first question began what has become my in-depth two-part question and answer interview with Ed.
How do you define the meaning of “smart travel?” “Traveling smarter is very important in today’s business-travel world. Planes are fuller than ever and airline tickets continue to increase in price. Hotel chains, and car-rental companies offer products for all types of travelers. Smart travelers know how to find the cheapest airline tickets while avoiding Basic Economy. They know how to react when a flight is delayed. They know how to find the best value for hotels and car rentals.”
What are the best websites to use to find flight deals? “Flight deals come in all shapes and sizes. I usually recommend people start with Google Flights. Once you understand the interface, it can be a pretty powerful tool. The Flight Deal (www.theflightdeal.com) is one of my favorite resources. I keep a keen eye on their Twitter alerts. You can always subscribe to www.pizzainmotion.com for the latest travel deals, news and tips.”
What are the best times of day or best days to travel? “Baseball player Wee Willie Keeler said, “Hit ‘em where they ain’t.” That’s your strategy for finding the best times to fly. Monday morning is an extremely popular time for business travelers. Flights during those times tend to be more expensive. The same can be said for Christmas, Thanksgiving and Spring Break. As a general rule, Tuesday and Wednesday flights tend to be a bit less in demand than Monday or Friday. Try alternative airports as well.”
How do you differentiate among each airline’s checked bag and carry-on bag policy? “Carry-on bag policies used to be easy. Then, the big three U.S. airlines (American, Delta, United) came up with Basic Economy (https://pizzainmotion.boardingarea.com/2017/09/09/united-losing-money-basic-economy/). These days not all fares come with the right to carry-on baggage, and, to make matters more confusing, Basic Economy means different things on different airlines. Further down the rabbit hole, those baggage allowances can change on longer flights. The best thing I recommend is to read the fare rules very carefully when purchasing. As a rule, I prefer to buy tickets on the airline’s website, since third party sites tend to do a worse job disclosing the various rules.”
Packing is far more complex than it used to be. What are your suggestions for packing more efficiently? “Business travelers need to be ruthlessly efficient when packing. Checking a bag on business trips wastes time and adds complexity. A checked bag can complicate your ability to change flights if you have an unexpected delay. Packing “cubes” can be a great way to maximize space if you do need to take more with you on the road. Think about items that can have a double purpose, like shoes that work for multiple occasions. Along with your checked suitcase, consider a carry-on that has enough space to store a change of clothing in case your bag is lost.”
How important is travel insurance? Is it necessary? “Travel insurance is not critical for folks traveling in the U.S. Once you start traveling abroad, it’s definitely worth consideration. It is important to understand what your health insurance already covers. Evacuation by helicopter can be incredibly expensive overseas. Travel insurance can give you peace of mind in situations like that.”
What is your best advice for getting through security in a timely fashion? “The best advice for getting through security is to sign up for Global Entry, your shortcut to the most consistent security lines and the least invasive process. Some people will say the right decision is to sign up for TSA PreCheck. However, Global Entry is essentially the same price and gives you expedited customs clearance along with expedited security in the domestic U.S. I could rattle off strategies about how to pack your bag and select shorter security lines. In the end, all of that is a waste of your valuable time. Go get PreCheck and spend that extra time working instead of figuring out how to get through traditional airport security quicker.”
What programs (i.e., T.S.A.) do you recommend signing up for that let you zip through security? “90% of travelers will do just fine if they invest in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. For truly high-volume travelers, you may want to consider a CLEAR membership. CLEAR is only helpful in airports where the TSA does a bad job, such as Denver or Las Vegas. CLEAR saves me at least 15 minutes every time I have a flight departing from Denver.”
What is the smartest and least expensive method to upgrade to business class or first class? “Upgrades are so hard to come by nowadays. If you are traveling more than a few times per year, it makes sense to try and consolidate all of that travel with one airline. That gives you a better shot at getting a complimentary upgrade, though those are a lot rarer than they used to be. Frequently you can find cheap upgrades at the time of purchase. What used to cost thousands of dollars can now cost as little as $100 to upgrade a flight. Airlines will also offer discounts to upgrade, as you get closer to booking, and assuming they have not sold all the premium seats. If you want a better shot at a cheap or free upgrade, try to fly when business travelers are not. Monday, Friday and Thursday evenings are generally very busy times to travel. It is harder during those times to score an upgrade without paying an arm and a leg.”
I always drink a lot of water when I travel. Do you have any drinking or eating tips in general to make traveling more pleasurable? “Water is the biggest suggestion I have. Especially as we get older, with dehydration comes lack of energy. By the time you feel thirsty you’re already behind the curve. Do not rely on the airlines to keep your glass filled. After security, buy a bottle of water before you board your flight. Also, being a member of a hotel loyalty program will usually entitle you to a couple of complimentary bottles of water.”
How do you deal with, or, if possible, avoid jet lag? “Jet lag affects pretty much everyone. I think I am in a perpetual state of “tired,” given how much I travel. I like to say that my body clock broke years ago. Now, I have an egg-timer which I wind by sleeping whenever I have the opportunity. I recommend getting on the local time schedule as soon as possible. Adjusting your meal schedule to meet your local time zone is a great way to get a head start. Exercise can be a big help as well, including getting outside in the sunshine early in the morning to help reset your body clock. I am also a big fan of napping. A 30-minute nap can help you power through the day. Lastly, don’t be afraid to try Melatonin or other sleep aids. I generally start with Melatonin before reverting to a sleeping pill.”
Stay tuned for Business Travel Tips – Part 2 in next month’s Cleaner & Launderer. Ed and I will continue our Q & A interview which will focus on how to get the most out of miles and points when you travel. This important and rewarding aspect of travel is not to be missed! Please be sure to share your favorite travel tips with our readers in the comment section of this on-line article.
If you have questions for Ed, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his blog www.pizzainmotion.com and his new new podcast www.milestogo.boardingarea.com, where all the latest travel tips and tricks will be discussed!