If experience is the best teacher, Steve Mackenzie, President of EventBooking, knows a thing or two about travel. Having traveled over one million miles since 2005 (and for 156 days in 2019 alone), this road warrior shares some of his tips and tricks about life on the move.
Most people that know me also know that I travel more than the average human, and have done so for many, many years. The sheer frequency was brought to my attention just recently when I received an email from American Airlines—notifying me that I had just become a member of their Million Miler club. In other words, I have flown over a million miles with this airline since I became a member of their frequent flyer program in 2005.
Along with my travel statistics for the year, the email also pointed out that I was in their top 1% of flyers for miles flown in 2019, which amounted to the following:
381 hours in the sky (that was just with American, not to mention the other airlines I flew)
156 days of traveling
8.25 times around the world (211,230 miles)
31 trips to 51 cities and 5 countries (many visited multiple times)
Considering the time I spend in what amounts to an aluminum petri dish, my travel stats for 2019 make me thankful for a great immune system – or maybe this is why I have a great immune system!
So other than packing hand sanitizer, here are a few tips and lessons learned throughout my time on the road and Up in the Air (which, if you haven’t seen this George Clooney flick, is a pretty good representation of the frequent flyer life).
1. Join all the reward programs you can
Hotels, airlines, and car rental companies all offer some type of reward program, and most are free to enroll! If you’re going to spend time traveling for work, you may as well get some benefits from it. Most companies are also generous enough to let the individual keep these travel rewards, which is even better. I have lost count of the flights, hotels, and car rentals I’ve been able to book on points/miles. One piece of advice on this though – try and stick to a “preferred” supplier for these things and use this supplier as much as you can. If you spread yourself across them all, you won’t achieve the higher statuses that come with additional benefits.
2. Get yourself a membership for an airline lounge
Most airlines have lounges you can buy memberships for. These often come with subscriptions to certain credit cards, or in some cases can also be purchased with points/miles. Regardless of how you buy it – buy it! When your flight is delayed or when you have a long layover, these lounges can be a sanctuary with snacks, drinks, and other amenities like fast, free wifi. It’s usually a much better place to hang out than a fast food restaurant in the concourse, where you’re squashed between crying toddlers demanding for more fries and someone who looks and smells like they’ve spent a month sitting in the seat next to you.
3. Invest in decent luggage
I have tried every brand and every type of bag imaginable over the years – and there isn’t one brand that I’d necessarily recommend as being better than another. But what I can tell you is that a hard case is generally more durable than a soft case. The biggest piece of advice I would offer on bags though is this: buy ones that have the heavy duty roller-blade wheels – not the black plastic ones. Why is this important? Most of the light duty ones work fine in an airport or the tiled floor of a hotel lobby. But try wheeling your bag from the tube station to your hotel across 500 year old cobblestone streets, and you’ll quickly find out why. The cheap ones “shred” almost instantly on these types of surfaces and then you’re stuck dragging your bag because it doesn’t roll. A not-so-fond memory of mine would be when my daughter decided to travel with a bag with broken wheels, and then proceeded to fill it to a whopping 70 lbs (31kg). We checked into our hotel, and the hallway leading to our room was just slightly shorter than the distance of a marathon. I had to drag the bag the entire way—no gym membership was needed that week!
4. Book the “We Choose For You” option when renting a car
Some of the rental car companies offer this option when you select the class of car you wish to rent—I know Enterprise often does. Usually the rate is somewhere between the Economy and Compact class. When you pick the car up, the person at the rental desk selects the car on your behalf. However, this is where your ability to “sway” the person comes into play. Several times I have booked this class, and each time as I am being walked by the rep out to the cars I say something to the effect of, “So what really cool car are you giving me today?” In pretty much every case to date, I have received either a luxury SUV or sports car. And if not, you still get a decent car anyway.
5. Protect your ears and your sanity with noise canceling headphones
Sure these can be expensive – but I liken it to the mantra of always buying a great mattress because you spend 1/3 of your life asleep. Well guess what? If you spend as much time flying as I do, you’ll want to have the BEST noise-canceling headphones money can buy. They’ll come in handy when you board the plane and find out you’re sitting in close proximity to the loudest speaking person in the world who has already embarked on their life story to the person sitting next to them, as well as everyone in rows 12 through 30. Or the family of five, whose kids are tag-teaming their screams, seeing which one can hit the decibels to crack the window next to you. No problem. Just slide those beautifully expensive noise-canceling headphones on your ears and the worries of the world just melt away—replaced by your favorite tunes or audio book or podcast. Don’t scrimp on these because the budget ones don’t work. I have tried them all, and this is definitely one area where you get what you pay for.
There are many other travel tips and tricks I have learned over the years, but I’ll save those for another post. In the meantime, safe travels and perhaps we’ll bump into one another at an airport around the globe. Which reminds me—someone asked about my favorite airport and without a doubt it is still Changi Airport in Singapore. A sanctuary in one of the busiest cities in the world!
Even after all these years of travel, I still feel very privileged to have a job that pays for me to see as much of the world as I have. I still love feeling the power of an airplane taking off, and I still get a thrill traveling to a new destination.
I’ll leave you with a tune from the great Aussie band, Hoodoo Gurus, that sums up the life of the Road Warrior – 1,000 miles away.
About the Author: Steve Mackenzie is President at EventBooking, an innovative cloud-based venue management solution with over 1,000 clients around the globe, and with regular polling of its clients has an unprecedented 99% customer satisfaction level.