07 June 2014

Travel like a pro - Part II - Airlines, hotels

Shy Carrot

Choose your airline

I usually fly with One World carriers, mostly with British Airways. I'm willing to pay some £150 more for a direct short-haul flight flight with BA when compared to for example Lufthansa.
It's not that I'm willing to pay extra for the service or the miles on my account. It's because I know I always have a fast track for security, can go to the gate later, have lounge access, can pre-book a seat, get frequent upgrades to business and so on. All this translates to saving time and also makes it easier to work at the airport when there are delays. On an average short-haul return trip I'll save 2 to 3 hours. This makes a big difference if you fly all the time, for less frequent travel it's not such a big thing.
Even for less frequent travel it's a good idea to join the frequent flyer program of your most used airline alliance. First you need to do your homework on which airline to choose in an alliance. For example if you live in Finland and fly a lot with One World carriers, British Airways Executive Club is easily 2 to 3 times more rewarding than Finnair Plus.

Choosing your flights

Direct flights are great when available. They are often the cheapest option when flying in economy and almost always the most expensive one when traveling in business. Choosing the right airline and the right airport can make a big difference.
There are no fast and hard rules for picking an airline. I personally recommend using European or Middle Eastern airlines and avoiding the US ones. Try to avoid airports that budget airlines operate from, they are designed more to take your money than convenience. There is plenty of information online on airlines, airports and specific routes. Try SKYTRAX to get a good idea.
For business and first it's especially important to do some research before booking a flight. Business or first are not a standard offering at all between airlines, you need to understand what you are paying for. Check what type of aircraft is used to operate the flight before booking. Check SKYTRAX or Seatguru to get an idea what to expect. If the airline doesn't define the type of aircraft used just assume the worst one they have.

Where to stay

It may be a nice adventure on a holiday to choose an AirBnB or a tiny hotel with incredible value. However for business travel this gets old very quickly. We are talking about your second home and you don't want surprises with it on every trip.
My recommendation is to choose a few large hotel chains and stick with them. Personally I mostly stay with Starwood and Radisson Blu. With them I know what to expect regardless of where I travel. This means having to carry less stuff with you and as an added bonus you'll usually get upgraded to a better room for free.
I use Tripadvisor to check for hotels when I'm going to a new city. The hotel doesn't have to be the highest rated in the city, but I don't usually book hotels that are rated for less than 4 out of 5. Different people have different tastes and there is no such thing as the best hotel in a city. On the other hand there certainly are a lot of bad hotels and you really want to avoid them.
On the next week I'll talk about luggage. Take a look at all posts in this series.
Photo Credit: marcp_dmoz via Compfight cc