Tuchman Advisory Group (T.A.G.) is very fortunate to have as one of our members Ed Pizzarello of 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.”
Taking advantage of every opportunity to save money by using miles and points when traveling may be the most important travel tip of all. My conversation with Ed continues.
What are the key points one needs to consider when choosing a flight? “There are so many choices today when it comes to booking your flights. The largest of the domestic U.S. airlines (American, Delta and United) offer similar benefits and restrictions. Basic Economy can be a real thorn in the side. If you are flying more than two or three times a year, holding the airlines’ co-branded credit card can save you on fees for things like checked baggage. Southwest offers a huge route map to a number of smaller cities as well as big ones. They have a straightforward awards program and easy booking processes. They also have lower fees for baggage and changing/canceling your flight. There are a slew of discount carriers like Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant that can save a bunch of money if you do not mind no-frills travel.”
How do you stay connected when you are traveling? What are your tips on wireless modems, extra batteries and choosing connecting airports based on Wi-Fi availability? “Connectivity is such a big part of business travel. If I know I’m going to be on a long flight, I am conditioned to download any work that I might need to review. I will load up webpages in off-line mode to prepare for the likelihood of weak connectivity. Sad to say, that is the situation more often than not. Wi-Fi in airports is prevalent but inconsistent. If you are a business traveler who needs to get work done, you should take matters into your own hands. I prefer using my Verizon wireless personal hotspot to tether my laptop. A Boingo wireless subscription is another great option. There are some credit cards that come with a Boingo subscription, like the Starwood Preferred Guest American Express business credit card. An external battery for your phone is essential today. I rely on my phone for so much. There is only one battery that has a permanent place in my backpack. Anker is my go-to brand; they last longer and are more reliable than any other batteries I have tested. To read my comprehensive review of Anker batteries, go to https://pizzainmotion.boardingarea.com/?s=anker+batteries.”
Is there an advantage to elite-status perks, e.g. be at the “Diamond Level” for airlines and hotels? “Elite status definitely has some perks. Regrettably, they might not be as beneficial as they once were. You are better off consolidating 50,000 miles of flying with one airline than trying to fly 25,000 miles on two different airlines. Lower-level elite status (generally at 25,000 miles) does not come with a lot of benefits. Once you get to the 50,000-mile level you can expect the occasional free upgrade, a decent number of bonus miles and other perks.”
What are the advantages and disadvantages of buying rewards points? “Buying rewards points is kind of like skydiving. Proceed with caution when you start and get an instructor for your first few jumps. Buying points can save a ton of money on travel; however, conditions change quickly and sometimes without notice. I would not buy points unless you have a clear plan of how you want to use them.”
What is the best way to take advantage of double-point promotions? “Double-point promotions are a lot less frequent nowadays. The best advice I can offer is to make sure you register for all promotions when they are announced, even if you do not plan to stay at a particular hotel or fly a specific airline in the near future. Plans change in the world of business travel quickly. You do not want to get stuck staying at a hotel where you could have earned bonus points, but did not because you forgot to take thirty seconds longer to register.”
How do you get the most out of travel-associated credit cards? “Credit cards are a huge part of maximizing earning points while traveling. There are two keys to making sure you have the right credit card. First, make sure the cards you carry earn the most points for your travel patterns. That might seem obvious; however, for quite a while the Hyatt credit card was not the most rewarding at Hyatt hotels: an American Express card was offering a better deal. Second, make sure you know what you want to redeem points for. Economy travel in the United States and business travel to Europe are two very different types of awards.”
What is the best way to choose a hotel? “If you are going to have more than three or four hotel stays in a year, it may make sense to combine them all into one hotel chain. Elite status can come with perks like free upgrades and bonus points to get you to your next vacation quicker.”
Keeping track of different airline frequent flyer miles programs, hotel points and associated dining/shopping programs can be overwhelming. There are apps, like TripIt, Award Wallet and Milewise available. What do you recommend? “Great question about apps! I definitely think newbies and “experts” alike can benefit from travel apps. AwardWallet is one of my favorites. It allows you to track all of your point balances in one place. AwardWallet will notify you if points or miles are going to expire. TripIt can be good to help organize trips, especially if you’re planning a vacation for a larger group of folks. One of my favorite tips for an app involves Google Maps. That’s my go-to app for navigating when I’m in a new place. Google Maps will allow you to download maps before you leave on your trip via Wi-Fi. That can save you a ton on data charges in foreign countries!”
We have had great success at T.A.G. by offering family fun over the weekend following our business meetings. For example: While in Orlando, FL we had the unique opportunity to tour the Walt Disney World Textile Facility. During the process of planning that meeting, I consulted with my Disney contacts on ways to maximize family enjoyment. While in Louisville, KY, our host, Michael Jones of Highland Cleaners organized activities that included tours of horse farms and a bourbon distillery (no children allowed!). When in Buffalo, NY, at Colvin Cleaners, Paul, Cyndee and Chris Billoni organized opportunities to see Niagara Falls. After our San Francisco meeting, many members enjoyed a special city tour led by a much in-demand tour guide and the opportunity to see the unique San Francisco theater experience Steve Silver’s Beach Blanket Babylon. Before and after most of our meetings, golf and fishing excursions are offered. This combination of offering business and pleasure travel options is what makes T.A.G. rewarding for our members and their families. These thoughts prompted my next question:
What are the benefits of combining a business trip with a family trip? “Combining business trips with pleasure/family vacations can save money. For starters, your airline ticket is the same amount of money or can be even cheaper if you stay extra days. Conference hotels will typically offer special rates to attendees for dates before and after a conference. You can sometimes get discounted attraction tickets. The biggest takeaway here is that business travel to somewhere fun is a great excuse to get your family to see more of the world. Make the most of it!”
Anything else I forgot to ask that you would like to include? “There are so many areas to cover. I could talk about this stuff all day long! My parting comment would be to think of miles and points like currency. You would not throw away 100 Euros at the end of a European trip, right? You would find a way to convert or spend it. The right strategy for how to use your miles and points is not always obvious. Using the right strategy can save you a lot of money in the long run.”
If you have questions for Ed, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his blog www.pizzainmotion.com and his new podcast www.milestogo.boardingarea.com where the latest travel tips and tricks will be discussed.
Please share your favorite travel tips in this article’s online comment section and read part one of this interview in the June, 2018, issue of Cleaner & Launderer.