11.23.2008

Elements of Surprise


[Edited mainly for grammar, plus a few neglected details. Writing while tired is never a good idea.]

Business travel can be weary, but I try to take advantage of being able to do a tad of sight seeing, if only on the way to the airport. It's fun to explore someplace new, especially when I don't have to pay for the plane ticket. At any rate, the exploration may help if I choose to go to that locale again when I travel for fun.

Here are some potentially money-saving observations I made so far from business travel, including but not limited to my most recent trip:

-With respect to accomodations, you get what you paid for...right? Well, it depends what you're looking to pay for.

Last year I took my licensing exam at a pretty fancy hotel. Quite a few people stayed at the hotel, since they were going to take the test there anyway. A good number of people decided to pay less and stay at the other business-travel type hotels a block or so away (i.e. Holiday Inn Express). Luckily, due to the sweet, generous kindness of a friend, I did not have to do either, but I've heard stories from friends in both camps. The nicer hotels get you a pretty room, a fancy gym, the use of a pool. With the cheaper hotels, you get a clean room (albeit not so nice), use of a less fancy gym (if there is one), sometimes a kitchen, or if not, at least a refrigerator and a microwave.

I had the same experience when I travelled recently. I always want to save money, whether for myself or for a client. With accomodations, I only care about having a decent, comfortable place to sleep, and Internet access for work. It'd be nice to have a refrigerator to store leftovers so that I could eat it the next day instead of leaving behind food at the restaurant. But there lies a balancing act. The budget hotels usually do not have free Wi-Fi, but the mid-tier ones (like Marriot Courtyard) are more likely to have that. Some of the budget or mid-tier places also have breakfast in the morning; the quality may vary, but it saves a few extra bucks. The more expensive hotels, ironically, often do not have free Wi-Fi access in the rooms, if at all in the hotel--it's an amenity that costs extra, which is often infuriating, considering that a room already costs a lot. Also, based on my experience, the likelihood of getting a free breakfast is inversely proportional to the quality/image of the hotel. In any event, the mid-tier and higher-grade hotels do not have the refrigerator or the microwave. I'm assuming that the nicer hotels are assuming that those who can afford to stay there tend not to be part of the brown-bagging crowd.

If I'm travelling for business, I could live without the refrigerator and microwave, since staying connected and comfortable is more important. But if I was travelling for pleasure, I'd probably opt for the cheaper places--I would only care to have a clean bed to sleep in, and since I'd be vacationing, emails could wait. And as an added bonus, I can save on food.

-When driving in a different locale, pay attention to the roads and fellow roadies. Go with the flow of traffic. It can cost a lot if you don't.

I'm used to roaming amongst LA drivers who take speed limit signs as a suggestion rather than as a rule. Thus, I am often surprised to find people actually obeying speed limit signs, either elsewhere in California or in another state. When I was in Arizona, I was driving around rather nervously--there were tightly-packed photo enforcement zones on the freeways. I'm not sure how fast one would have to go before triggering the cameras, but I have no desire to discover that for myself. Curiosity, after all, does kill a cat. The lethal dose is somewhat higher for human beings, but you get the idea.

-Filling up a rental car before returning it can be tricky. The places with cheaper gas prices tend to be in the outlying areas, but if I fill up there, I would not have a full tank by the time I get to the airport, and I would get dinged for it. I usually would try to find a gas station that is near the airport, but far enough out that the price would not be affected by a "proximity tax" of sorts. It is still tricky to pin down that appropriate target distance, but I'm working on it.

3 comments:

yulanda said...

If you don't mind doing two stops for gas, you can always fill up in the outlying areas then just top off near the airport?

ambika said...

I was *shocked* when our package deal to Puerto Vallarta (we'd never been, wanted sunshine & are unlikely to go back) cost *so* much extra than we thought because the luxury hotel charged extra for everything. The gym, the buffet *and* the internet. Never again.

Sales Rack Raider said...

Yulanda--if I was travelling for pleasure rather than for business, that is probably something I'd do. Unfortunately, time is usually very limited for work trips (get in, get done, get out in time to be in the office the next day), so I would not have much time to make 2 stops for gas. Driving around to look for a gas station can take a lot of extra time, like my last experience. But then again, I need a better sense for directionality.

Ambika--ouch. Sorry to hear about that experience. That's what I hate about these "luxury" places. These extra charges defy my expectations...what exactly are we paying for with all that extra money?

Another pet peeve of mine is the charge for the morning newspaper, which I never request or read, and it doesn't stop coming unless you tell the front desk to stop it.