An Executive Director's point of view

 

April 08, 2014: Sweet home, Chicago

Category: Travel
Posted by: David M Patt
Association meetings have led me through half-empty airports, with limited food vendors, no arrival/departure monitors, and no indoor passageways to planes.

So, returning to Chicago's O'Hare Field was a pleasant homecoming.

Yes it's crowded - and that's great. There are lots and lots and lots of choices for everything. And the place doesn't seem to close.

Airport security is excessive, but that's true everywhere. At least I've passed through pre-check a couple of times at O'Hare. Food and other merchandise is grossly expensive - but it is in other airports, too (and at hotels, too).

The airport reflects the City of Chicago - constant activity, late night hours, a downtown that is never empty (thousands of people live there), and lots and lots and lots of choices for everything.

It's nice to be back home.

May 09, 2013: Stash it under the seat

Category: Travel
Posted by: David M Patt
Airline travelers often fret about waiting too long to be seated on airplanes. They aren't worried about getting to their seats - those will be waiting for them.

They're anxious about being able to fill the limited number of overhead storage spaces with their huge "carry-on" luggage that barely falls within airline specifications.

But all that stuff doesn't need to be stored overhead. There's room for a lot of it under the seat in front of them.

I shove my briefcase and laptop under the seat in front of me and I check my other bag(s). An extra $25 isn't going to break me or my association. The wait at baggage check is usually brief and I've never lost any luggage.

My fellow passengers can scramble madly for space in overhead bins at the back of the plane while I calmly board.

If airlines charged for use of overhead storage space, maybe more passengers would realize how sensible it was to stash some of their stuff under the seats in front of them.

October 25, 2012: Phony hotel charges

Category: Travel
Posted by: David M Patt
Always contest room charges when you check out of a hotel. Many properties will assess you for items that you didn't use, like mini-bars, but will unquestioningly remove them from your bill - if you ask.

Hotels will often try to squeeze some extra dough from folks who just pay the bill without questioning anything.

August 05, 2012: The six-hour rule

Category: Travel
Posted by: David M Patt
When attending meetings within a six-hour drive of my office, I generally opt for a car. From my Chicago HQ, I've driven to Minneapolis, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Detroit.

Advantages?

1. Adhering to my own schedule, not that of the airline.

2. Carrying whatever I want and how much of it I want. My car has no baggage limit or content restrictions.

3. Car seating is far, far more comfortable than is seating on any airliner.

4. No shoehorning myself into tiny airplane bathrooms.

5. No invasive airport security.

6. No airport delays. And I can drive through weather that airplanes won't fly through.

7. Traveling time is not that much different. I can often drive to a destination in almost the same amount of time it will take to travel to the airport, walk through the terminal, pass through security, wait (and wait and wait) for my flight, board the plane, wait for it to taxi down the runway, fly to the destination, disembark, pick up baggage (sometimes), and cab or shuttle to the hotel or meeting facility.

8. Freedom. I like to drive and I can stop wherever and whenever I want for whatever reason I choose.

Also, the cost of parking a car at a hotel is not that much greater than the cost of parking at the airport or paying for cabs or shuttles at either end of the journey.

Disadvantages?

1. I can't work while I drive. But I've found that working in the airport and on the plane is not very efficient. I usually read a book, instead. While driving, I'm in work mode and can think about the meeting and other work-related items (I never listen to the radio or play CDs when driving to a meeting).

Final answer? Car trumps plane.

May 25, 2012: Traveling technology

Category: Travel
Posted by: David M Patt
"Don't access financial data on hotel or other public computers or on public wi-fi networks," advises Sid Kirchheimer, author of Scam-Proof Your Life, in his warnings for travelers.

Remember that when exploring the world from your laptop in an airport waiting room, hotel lobby, or convention center lounge.

August 13, 2011: Gimme a fridge

Category: Travel
Posted by: David M Patt
A refrigerator is the most important amenity I look for in a hotel room. I want to buy juice and milk for the next day's breakfast (I always bring my own cereal) and stash it in the fridge, so I won't have to pay for, or wait for, room service.

The Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark, where I stayed for the ASAE Annual Meeting, did not have a fridge. The nearest convenience store was four blocks away, too far to march each morning. And it may not have been open early Sunday morning, the first day of the meeting.

So, I had to buy juice and milk at the Starbucks/Yogurt place in the hotel lobby every day. It was still cheaper than room service or the room upgrade that would have given me a free breakfast (which I really didn't need), but it wasn't as convenient as already having this stuff in my room.

The hotel was very nice, but it had odd wastebaskets. They were extremely narrow and looked like stylish gladiola vases. A discarded water bottle (which I needed since the cold water faucet did not generate cold water) barely fit in the basket. An aluminum can may not have fit at all.

Perhaps that was the point, but since there was no recycling bin, those items had to be placed in the wastebasket.

On the plus side, the curtains closed properly, so I didn't have to use the hanger method to hold them shut. The internet connection worked well when plugged into the cable but was much, much slower when accessing wi-fi. I could easily get online at the Convention Center, though.

My primary goal was proximity to the meeting place. I registered too late for that. Next was cost. I achieved that by sacrificing the room fridge.

Tip: If you want good lighting for shaving, plucking eyebrows, or applying makeup, bring your own.

April 03, 2011: Getting walked

Category: Travel
Posted by: David M Patt
I was only "walked" by a hotel once. At the former Wyndham Hotel (it's something else, now) in downtown Washington D.C.

I arrived at 10:30 p.m. and was told, even before I had reached the registration desk, that my room was not available. I heard the clerk's words as I walked across the lobby and was told that I would receive a complimentary room that night at another hotel, and a free breakfast the next morning. Cab fare was gratis both ways.

I had always told myself that if I was ever denied the room THAT I HAD RESERVED WITH MY CREDIT CARD, I would refuse the freebie and campout in the hotel lobby. An older colleague had done that one time, and upon removing his jacket and tie, and opening up his toiletries bag, the hotel miraculously discovered a room for him.

(Fully booked hotels always have empty rooms. Corporations reserve them just in case a client or traveling executive needs one at the last minute).

If the meeting I had flown in for had started first thing in the morning, I might have made a fuss. But the event didn't begin until 1:00 p.m. the next day, so I was able to get back to the hotel on time. I took the free room (at another Wyndham; in Georgetown, I think).

Lesson learned? Check in early, and let them walk somebody else.
Category: Travel
Posted by: David M Patt
Sometimes. Here's why.

January 15, 2011: More airport abuse

Category: Travel
Posted by: David M Patt
An 82-year old woman was forced to publicly reveal a prosthetic breast at Calgary International Airport and a four-year-old who was afraid to enter a body scanner alone was subjected to a forcible pat-down.

Airports continue to treat passengers like they were criminals. It doesn't make me feel any safer.

January 07, 2011: Inexpensive hotel

Category: Travel
Posted by: David M Patt
For a recent one night stay, I opted for more affordable accommodations than usual. Trying to save a little bit of money, though, was not a great idea.

Here were the hotel's shortcomings:

1. No refrigerator in the room to store milk, juice, or water for the next day.

2. Nowhere in the hotel to buy juice, emergency items (I didn't need any), or snacks (I don't eat them, anyway).

3. Bottled water only available in one vending machine in the whole place (the fitness room).

4. A bathroom light with a fan that started automatically whenever the light was turned on (not good if you have a roommate and you use the bathroom in the middle of the night).

5. Strong chlorine stench in the dining area, which adjoined the swimming pool (but breakfast was free).

6. No automatic door at the hotel entrance.

7. Stained sheets on one of the beds (I didn't sleep on that bed, so I didn't care).

8. Two bars of soap that appeared to be strategically placed at the top of the shower tiles (I don't know why they were there but I didn't touch them).

9. No kleenex.

You get what you pay for (and you don't get what you don't pay for).
 
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