APPEARENCES DO MATTER
Airlines want people who look like they paid for a first- or business-class ticket in the front of the cabin, so dress appropriately if you want that elusive upgrade.
If you’re trying to secure a hard-to-get dinner reservation, ask for it in person. The extra effort shows how important it is to you and doesn’t go unrecognised.
CARRY LOCAL NUMBERS
Avoid dealing with long-distance calls to offices of airlines and car-rental agencies when you’re travelling abroad. Instead, use Skype or find out local numbers in advance.
DISARM THEM WITH A SMILE
People are so used to dealing with angry travellers that if you don’t make yourself into a human being you become yet another ‘transaction’. Make smiling the first thing you do.
EXERCISE THE GOLDEN RULE
Some hotels offer cash rewards to employees who receive good marks on guests comment cards. Those people are likely to remember your praise when you return. On the other hand, if you’re rude to housekeeping, it ‘will be noted in your profile’.
FIND THE FREEBIES
Priceline recently introduced a new service called Hotel Freebies that shows you which hotels are offering upgrades, complimentary breakfast, free parking, spa credits and other such amenities.
GIVE THEM A REASON
...when asking hotels for an upgrade, be sincere and honest, try something like ‘I’m travelling alone with a child’, instead of bland old ‘do you have anything better’.
Travel companies court – and reward – early adopters. Look for special sales and exclusive perks on e-mail newsletters and company
Twitter fees. Speak up about your good experiences via social media and other online review sites (i.e. TripAdvisor). Use Foursquare, Facebook Places and other mobile check-in services to demonstrate your loyalty – and reap the associated deals and discounts.
One of the hardest parts of service is trying to intuit a guest’s tastes. Help your concierge out by explaining your specific style and aesthetic. Likewise, don’t be shy about telling your sommelier about your favourite recent wines, or letting your tour guide know of your hobbies and interests. The more they know, the more they can tailor the experience.
Car-rental agencies often have more economy reservations that they have vehicles, and are eager to hand out upgrades to those who enquire politely.
KEEP IT PERSONAL
If you’re moving from one hotel to another, ask the manager of your current property to make an introductory call on your behalf. See if the concierge knows someone at the restaurant where you’ll be dining, or if your travel agent is friendly with your cruise’s chief purser. You’ll be surprised how your social network grows.
LEARN THE LANGUAGE
Or at least a few key phrases, it will help you develop a rapport with locals and can get you insider access. A few select works, like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ can go a long way.
MAKE A GOOD IMPRESSION
On a large cruise ship with thousands of passengers, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Make a good first impression and bartenders, waitstaff and stewards will remember you throughout the voyage. If you do have a complaint or request, address it (nicely) to the staff member with whom you have a relationship or the operations manager for that department.
NOTE WHEN PEAK SEASON IS
When it comes to cruising, if you want special attention – and a chance for a better cabin – try booking your cruise during off-peak times.
OFFER UP ALTERNATIVES
Be creative in your requests. Some hotels may not be able to afford to give you a room discount, but they can offer you thing that don’t cost them much, such as an airport pick-up, free valet parking or buffet dinner. Similarly, although airlines may not give business travellers a break on an airfare, they can offer frequent fliers a free day pass to their lounge.
PICK YOUR LOYALTIES WISELY
On average, about 70 to 80 percent of first-class seats are up-grades. It pays to join an airline’s frequent flier program – but not just any airline. Don’t pick a carrier headquartered in your city, because there will be a larger pool of elite fliers. It’s a lot easier to get upgraded on airlines that are based elsewhere.
QUELL YOUR FEARS
...of must-use tech products breaking down
on the road. Buy extended warranties and 24-hour support packages for faster service – no matter where you are.
Write down the names of everyone you deal with at a hotel: reservations, concierges and front-desk staff. If you have to follow up on a request of complaint, it pays to be able to reference the staff member with whom your originally spoke.
SHOW THEM THE MONEY
Try over-tipping at restaurants you plan to return to. Start with the maître d' and work backwards. You would be surprised what a lubricated palm can do!
TRAVEL LIKE YOUR MUM
Talk to everyone – taxi drivers, doormen, valets! It’s not so much about the questions, it’s about listening. The greatest tips often come from something learnt through a longer conversation.
UNDERSTAND HOW A RESTAURANT WORKS
Don’t call during the lunch and dinner rushes. And know that most restaurants are wary of the 7:30 dinner reservation as it means they can only get one seating at that table that night. For a great table, you’re better off aiming for either 6:45 of 8:15 p.m.
If you have a bad experience, refrain from firing off a nasty letter to the president of the company. Instead, do some online research to find out who the right person is, or post a note on an online message board. These are much more likely to get responded to as complaints on social networks are routinely monitored and reported to higher-ups.
WRITE A FORMAL THANK-YOU
Had a good experience? Put it down on paper and send it to the general manager – and don’t be surprised if a bottle of champagne comes your way on your next visit.
X MARKS THE SPOT
Finding the right seat on a plane is crucial. Use seatguru.com to avoid bulkhead seats as well as ones that are drafty or narrow.
YELLING DOESN’T WORK
It just doesn’t, trust us.
If all else fails, make this your travel mantra.