Category Archives: Travel Tips Tuesday

By @ 09/28/15 in Gay travel, Jeff Guaracino, ManAboutWorld, Travel, Travel Tips Tuesday
Travel problem; Jeff Guaracino shares his tips in ManAboutWorld gay travel magazine

Menacing pirate ship or sleek black Turkish yacht?!

 Travel problems: There comes a time when even the best-planned travel can go wrong. And it is usually not your fault. When travel chaos happens, remember to focus, resolve and resume. ManAboutWorld correspondent Jeff Guaracino shares his secret.

Travel problems exist. Last month’s column said to expect the unexpected, like missed connections, lost luggage, stolen items, hotel mix-ups and tourist traps. It happens. The difference between a dream trip and a lost dream trip depends on how you react to the travel adversity. It is not what happens, but rather what you do next. If you have a travel problem:

  • Focus. Above all, take action but don’t panic. Be very specific on what you need to do now to resume your trip as planned. Don’t get distracted. Resolution or viable alternatives will be your mantras.
  • Lost or stolen credit card? Cancel it now. You are not liable for charges made after you cancel your card. If you don’t know your credit card number (who does?), don’t worry! The credit-card issuer can find it for you by asking you questions, including your Social Security number. Don’t know the number to call? Google it. You just need to know the bank’s name that issued your credit card, like TD Bank or Citibank. Credit cards offer more protection than debit cards. Your credit card can also offer lots of perks in travel drama like lost-luggage protection, overnight-card replacement or referrals to reputable businesses.
  • Missed airline connection? Get on the next available flight. If you are waiting in line to talk to an airline customer-service representative, call the airline on your cell phone. The main goal is to get to anyone who quickly can rebook your flight ASAP. Airline seats are hard to find since flights are flying full. If you wait in a long line of pesky travelers ahead of you all trying to get to the same place, you will lose time to snag that last seat.
  • Hotel doesn’t have your reservation? Take a printed receipt of your confirmation from the hotel or take a picture of it on your phone. Like airlines, hotels can “oversell” and may want to “walk” you to another hotel. “Walk” is an industry term for when the hotelier intentionally oversells its hotel with the expectation that some people will not show up and the hotel can keep the rate. Insist on being “walked” one night only and to a hotel that is equal or better than the one you book. Immediately post your experience on Trip Advisor. Right now! Hotels are afraid of negative reviews. Be specific and not emotional in your review.
  • Airline lost your bags? Airlines are going to lose your luggage. It is the most personal thing that you travel with. And who isn’t mad when you don’t have fresh underwear? Don’t pack items that you will need immediately, including medication, passports, credit cards or valuables. If you are traveling on a “code share” airline ticket — meaning you bought your airline ticket from one airline but you’re flying on another carrier — chances of mishap skyrocket. But remember, unless you are carrying the Hope Diamond, you are likely going to be able to replace everything in your bag — eventually.



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By @ 08/24/15 in Gay travel, Jeff Guaracino, ManAboutWorld, Travel, Travel Tips Tuesday

Top tips for traveling abroad by Jeff Guaracino in ManAboutWorld gay travel magazineOur correspondent, frequent traveler Jeff Guaracino has logged a few miles around his home country and outside of it. Here are his top tips for traveling abroad. 

As summer 2015 comes to a close and your travel wallets turn to fall and winter escapes, it is good to review a few top tips for traveling abroad.

Here are 5 tips to make your trip safe and fun. Keeping in mind that some trips to nearby Canada and Mexico are easier than compared to the Middle East, Asia, Europe, Africa or South America. Factors you should consider when planning a trip abroad depend on the language spoken in the country you are visiting, the currency, the political situation and the accessibility to health care or an American Embassy.

  1. Consider travel insurance. Travel insurance can be very important if you pick the right company and if the company is responsive to individual needs while traveling. A great website is Travelinsurancereview.net. The site includes reviews, guides and articles. The best part of the site is the comments from actual buyers of insurances. The positive and negative reviews will give you an idea of consumer satisfaction. There are other websites you can check out before purchasing and don’t forget to ask your friends on Facebook if anyone had an experience with a particular travel insurance company. I picked Insure and Go for my next trip to Europe. Check your own healthcare plan to see what is covered when traveling abroad and what is not. Hospitals and doctors in foreign countries might want cash upfront and ask you to make a claim when you return home.
  1. Register for Global Entry and TSA Precheck. There is no need to wait in long lines at the airport or at the border when returning home. (Unless you are a criminal). U.S. Customs and Border Protection offers a fast, easy and hassle free way to enter the U.S. Basically, this is a program for trusted, frequent travelers. The online application is simple and costs just $100. Some credit cards even cover your fee. Visit cbp.gov for guidelines and an online application. The site has very useful information on travel.
  1. Call your bank and credit card issuer. Ask your bank if they can order foreign currency in advance of your trip. You might need some cash as soon as you arrive and ATMs are not always readily available or can have high fees at places like airports. In an effort to protect consumers from fraud, let your credit card issuer and bank know that you are traveling abroad and for how long. Ask your credit card company about foreign transaction fees (look for cards that don’t have unnecessary fees). It is best to use one credit card while traveling and be sure to ask about travel insurance benefits the card might offer as part of their service.

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Photo: Hernán Piñera



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By @ 05/06/14 in Gay travel, Hotels, ManAboutWorld, Travel, Travel Tips Tuesday

hotel

Booking the Best Hotel Rates

Yield management has totally changed the ways hotels are priced. Just like airfares, the price of a hotel room isn’t static, but fluctuates widely to match demand. Technology allows hotels to constantly raise their rates as rooms sell out at their own property and at nearby ones. Add negotiated rates, package deals and flash sales to the mix, and the price variation can reach hundreds of dollars a night. Frequently, the rate at a hotel’s own website (and even the rate you’ll get calling) will not be the lowest rate available. How does a savvy traveler win this game? Here are the four strategies we use to book the best hotel deals:

1. Comparison Shop First

If you’re a member of a frequent guest program, you’ll likely have to book through the program or hotel site in order to earn points. While these sites all promise “guaranteed lowest rates,” that lowest rate is often not on their site — you’ll have to find it, and then make a guarantee claim. We start all our hotel searches on kayak.com. This is a quick way to check multiple sites at once, and see if there are any major price discrepancies. When occupancy rates are high, hotels.com frequently has negotiated bulk rates that can be hundreds of dollars less. Verify the rate, and then use the “guaranteed lowest rate” procedure to match or beat it, and still get your frequent guest points. (When a hotel isn’t part of a frequent guest program, we usually book through hotels.com, taking advantage of their Welcome Rewards program.)

2. Membership Has its Privileges

The American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program offers Platinum and Centurion Card members preferential rates, along with upgrades, breakfast and other benefits. One stay can often offset the card’s annual fee. The program has been widely copied and adapted by other paid and free programs, like Tablet Hotels’ Tablet Plus, Founders Card, Want Me Get Me and Virtuoso. If you stay at larger high-end mainstream and boutique properties, these programs are worth checking out.

3. The Package Deal

We don’t like “opaque” bookings, where you don’t know the name of the hotel until after you’ve booked, but some of those same rates are bundled into package deals, like those offered by Expedia.com. Booking your hotel in conjunction with your airfare, or even just a car can often result in big savings. Many airlines also package hotels with bulk inventory deals that can mean big savings — especially when large conventions or events gobble up room rates.

4. Call in a Secret Agent

Many hotels have negotiated rates with large travel agencies and consortiums, particularly American Express and Virtuoso agencies. Using a travel agent affiliated with one of these can grant you access to these privileged rates. And since hotels still pay travel agent commissions, many agents will make hotel bookings without a service fee. If you frequently stay at high-end boutique properties, using an agent specializing in luxury travel will often get you VIP treatment on arrival as well. If you’re looking for an agent, you’ll find some great ones among our Global Correspondents.

 

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By @ 04/22/14 in Asia, Travel Tips Tuesday

 

suite

Many of us dream about traveling in a Singapore Airlines First Class Suite on an A380. But we found a way to make that dream come true.  We (the very royal We) recently had the opportunity to fly in seat 2A on Singapore Airlines flight #26 from Frankfurt to JFK. Jealous? Most of our friends were. So let us share a little secret with you, because we didn’t pay the regular $6,648.00 fare to book it. Instead, we used just 47,375 frequent traveler points to do it. And so can you. Here’s how:

1. You’ll need KrisFlyer Miles

While Singapore Airlines is a StarAlliance carrier, they don’t load First Class Suites for partner redemption.  So you’ll need to get a KrisFlyer account, and earn some miles. But you don’t need to fly Singapore Airlines to do it. You can earn them on any StarAlliance partner. You can also transfer them in from three very popular frequent traveler programs: American Express Membership Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and LeClub Accorhotels (check singaporeair.com for additional partners in markets outside of the U.S.)

2. Look for the Saver Award redemption

Singapore has three redemption levels for award tickets. Between New York and Frankfurt, you can use 67,500 miles for Saver, 130,000 for Standard, and 460,000 for Full. Plan ahead for the best chance of scoring a Saver award. Another bonus: when you book your award ticket online, you get a 15% discount. So that 67,500 becomes 57,375. (Online redemption levels start at 91,375 for Los Angeles to Singapore, and 31,875 for Hong Kong to Singapore — 3 hours and 50 minutes of inflight luxury for less than a standard domestic round trip award on U.S. carriers!)

3. Use the SPG Mileage Transfer Bonus

When you convert 20,000 SPG points to airline miles, you get a 25% bonus.  So we got 50,000 KrisFlyer points for only 40,000 SPG points. Note that the you can only transfer up to 79,999 SPG points per transfer, so the maximum transfer you can make for the maximum bonus is 60,000 points for 75,000 miles. You can only make one transfer per 24-hour period, and transfers can take up to three weeks to post to your Singapore Krisflyer account. (Mine took a week.)

4. Top-up with Membership Rewards Points

Our Membership Rewards transfer was nearly instantaneous. We transferred 8,000 Membership Rewards points on top of the 40,000 SPG points, for a total of 58,000 KrisFlyer points, redeemed 57,375 for the First Class Suite, and have 625 KrisFlyer points waiting for our next trip.

 

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