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Friday, 16 February 2007

The Penny Pincher’s Passport to Luxury Travel

Written by Sasha Keeler Didier
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“Provide me with good service—I’m a loyal customer.  Treat me otherwise—you have competition.” As Joel L. Widzer expresses in his travel guide, The Penny Pincher’s Passport to Luxury Travel, anyone can indulge in a lifestyle of luxury with the right attitude and approach.  Outlining several elements of travel: destinations, airlines, hotels, credit cards, tipping, Widzer shows how being a loyal customer, working cooperatively, and creating alliances with the finest travel companies can make all the difference when it comes to the quality of travel.


Many travelers take advantage of incentive programs such as frequent flyer miles, frequent buyer or dining cards, all of which offer benefits for loyal customers over time.  As Widzer remarks, loyal customers add value to travel providers and in turn, they achieve their own level of elite status.  Travelers should seek airlines who need their business, rather than the ones who have the highest number of frequent flyer miles to offer.  Once a traveler has received their elite status through continued loyalty, it’s easy to be upgraded to first class.  As Widzer explains, preferred service is based on the value you bring to the airline.  Adding to the value is a positive attitude and feedback, also entailing befriending gate agents and writing letters of appreciation to the airline when preferential treatment is received.


In order to bathe in luxury for less, one must properly choose his/her location and be flexible.  Widzer recommends traveling to particular destinations in the off-season or to areas with situational uncertainty (economic depression/ political upheaval, etc).  Despite the safety hazards that may be present in such areas that are perceived to be ‘troubled,’ Widzer reminds the reader that when it comes to travel, “trend is not your friend.”


Following the same theme of loyalty as with airline travel, Widzer discusses the ways to upgrade hotel services by joining frequent guest programs, booking during off-season times of low-occupancy, and having the right attitude.  After researching hotel rates and receiving any available discounts through programs such as AAA, AARP, and other frequent flyer programs, Widzer suggests making friends with the hotel personnel to receive preferential treatment, while giving constant positive feedback and expressing gratitude.  Widzer also explained that getting in the habit of luxury by looking and acting the part, along with one believing they deserve the best is a key attitude in achieving such.


Most travelers in recent years have been relying on credit cards as their main form of payment.  Widzer suggests the use of certain credit cards that offer travel benefits such opportunities for upgrades, providing emergency cash, and flexibility for redeeming travel points.  He recommends looking for gold or platinum cards that provide the most superior customer service with a variety of conversion options, no annual fees, cash-back rewards, and more favorable exchange rates.


The last section of Penny Pincher’s discusses the importance and etiquette of tipping and how it determines the service one receives.  Widzer looks at tips as an investment in the quest for luxury travel.  He recommends to be consistent yet moderate and to tip in the beginning of a trip/meal/stay/ to ensure future preferential service.  With an analogy of “Ducks” vs. “Eagles,” Widzer warns travelers not to pay too much attention to the “Ducks,” and instead focus on the “Eagles,” who take pride in their jobs and are willing to take an extra step to make their customers happy.


Widzer ends his guide with tips for travel safety and ways to avoid travel mishaps.  He also lists useful resources and references for travelers and a glossary of travel terms.  Though most of the elements in this book are based on common sense knowledge of the effects of customer service, it may be useful for travelers who have never considered that obtaining the benefits of luxury travel can be accessible through a variety of resources and techniques.


Widzer concludes with a recap, “The philosophy behind this book is to promote an understanding of the finer points of travel, hospitality, and luxury, cultivating an environment in which you can indulge in a lifestyle of unparalleled comfort.”


The Penny Pincher’s Passport to Luxury Travel (2nd Edition), Travelers Tales.



©Sasha Keeler Didier

Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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