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Professional business travelers do not just get special treatment because they are gold status with their airlines and hotels -- they know how to get special treatment. If you just travel occasionally you can still get full access on a tight budget.
Make sure you sign up for the free rewards programs. Oftentimes just being a member of a reward program gets you perks at no additional cost. When you get ready to travel, sign up for the rewards program for the airline, hotel and car rental company.
The Flight: Book your airfare at least two weeks in advance and between Tuesday morning and Wednesday night. This is when most airlines release their specials. When you get to the airport use the kiosk to check-in and take your bag to the “drop” counter. Getting through security quickly requires preparation. Keep your ID and boarding pass in your pocket and put your phone, headset, keys, and wallet into your bag. Keep your laptop accessible and liquids in a Ziploc bag. Wear easy-to-remove shoes and of course take your belt off before you get to the TSA checkpoint. Avoid any line with children or people who look confused. They will only slow you down. Once inside, you can get free Wi-Fi by sitting outside any airport business lounge. Before your flight, always check with the gate attendant to see if they can give you a better seat. Always be nice.
The Rental Car: Since you signed up for the free rewards program, you get to cut the entire line and go straight to your own special booth and just pick up your car. After you say hello, follow up with this exact phrase: “I wouldn’t mind if you want to upgrade… only if you want to.” More often than not they will upgrade you for free. Never take the gas options they offer you. These are tactics to make more money. Instead always fill the gas tank before you return the car. You have about a 5-mile radius to fill up, so look for the gas station on your way out.
The Hotel: Look for the rewards line and smile as you pass by the long snaking line. When you approach the counter say hello, smile and always ask about their day. Then before they assign you a room say: “I wouldn’t mind if you want to upgrade…only if you want to.” Again, works like a charm and almost always leads to an upgrade. Before you pay for Wi-Fi go to your room and see if there is a free Wi-Fi signal within reach from a local coffee shop. Now, go downstairs and ask the check-in counter if they have any extra free drink coupons, which they always do. Say thank you, grab a drink and smile. You are now traveling like a pro on a budget.
Jabez LeBret is the author of the Amazon No. 1 bestselling law office marketing book How to Turn Clicks Into Clients. As a partner at Get Noticed Get Found, a legal marketing agency, over the last nine years he has delivered over 800 keynote addresses in six countries. His main area of expertise is managing Gen Y in the workplace, advanced Facebook strategies, LinkedIn strategies, Google+, SEO, local directory optimization, and online marketing.