What can you expect if you go out for a trip that involves a flight, rental car, and hotel these days?
But first…I broke my streak yesterday. Until yesterday, I had done 86 daily Facebook Live posts in a row. I missed for a good reason, though. Yesterday I was working with a client. That is pretty significant for a number of reasons I won’t get into right now.
I plan to get back on track with two videos today, then I’m going to pretend that the streak is intact!
But Today; Today is Saturday, and Saturday is Travel day and I’m going to share my experience this week traveling to the client’s location.
Here’s a little background info:
Pre-COVID, I was traveling at least a couple of weeks every month. My engagements are usually 2 to 5 business days each. Because business had been pretty good for me, I’ve been in Delta’s Platinum or Diamond frequent flyer status for years. I’m at the top level for both Hilton and Marriott. And I’m at the top level for Hertz.
I also have the kind of American Express card that includes membership in Delta’s SkyClub, so I have access to all of their lounges, plus the Priority Pass lounge network that gets me access to hundreds of lounges around the world.
As a business traveler, I am spoiled rotten.
Here’s my first recommendation for you: Pick your favorites (airline, hotel, and car rental) and stick to them.
AIRLINE: I’ve used Delta for as long as I can remember. Every time I’ve flown with American or United, I have a less-than-optimal experience. Sometimes for convenience, I will fly Southwest.
HOTEL: I first picked Hilton because there was this nice embassy Suites I liked to stay in whenever I worked in St. Louis. I’m also a time-share owner in the Hilton Grand Vacations Club, so that keeps me in Diamond status with them.
But I tried Marriott and really love their properties. I went through their travel agent training program too, that taught me a ton about how they promote their different brands.
RENTAL CAR: I picked Hertz because USAA has an awesome discount that works with them. I’ve had good and bad experiences with them, but they’re usually easy, so I stick with them. I got mad at them a couple of months ago for leaving me stranded at the airport after their last shuttle bus ran, but trying to find anyone who does as good consistently is not easy.
All right…back to my experience this week.
For the Flight, you can expect airports to be at about 30% of the crowds I experienced pre-COViD. Lines are short. The TSA Pre-check line was really no faster than the normal line, but I get to keep my shoes on and all my crap in my backpack where without TSA Pre-check all electronics have to come out.
Delta has first class cabins on most planes now, and because of my status, I am always near the top of the upgrade list. They are loading planes with about half the number of people. On my flights, first class had a 1 seat – 2 seat configuration and they were only putting one person on the 2 seat side. The rest of the plane was 2 and 2 and they did the same – unless you wanted to sit with a loved one, you didn’t have anyone sitting next to you.
I was in three different airports coming and going this time. Columbus and Hartford are not necessarily major markets and their airports are pretty small. Most of the stores and restaurants were closed in both because there just isn’t enough demand to support the cost.
You can expect to have to go a little out of your way to get a snack or a drink.
In Detroit, it is a major hub for Delta and pre-COVID you couldn’t walk 15 feet without having to change direction a little to avoid bumping into someone.
So yesterday, a Friday evening where before, tons of business travelers would be crowding the barstools and lounges trying to make it home after a busy week, the airport was a comparative ghost town.
Detroit has an internal train in Terminal A that usually runs constantly along the 2 mile stretch from gate 1 to gate 78. It wasn’t operating. There are 4 SkyClubs in Detroit, but only 1 is open.
On the plus side, everything was spotlessly clean. Hand sanitizer is everywhere, and everyone, except for a few pilots I saw, complied with the mask-wearing order.
Yes, in all the airports and on the plane the entire flight, masks are required. They allow you to remove your mask to eat or drink but will gently remind you on the plane to keep it on.
On arrival in Hartford, I had to stop by the health desk they had set up on the way to baggage claim. There, they show a map of the US with states colored Red or green. If you’re arriving from a Green state, you’re good to go. If it’s red, there are a couple of additional steps – and several health related questions to answer first. Ohio was green there, so I was good, but Ohio was Red on Massachusetts’s map, so they required a negative result from a sample less than 72 hours prior to arrival.
Fortunately, I was good to go.
For rental car service, with Hertz, in most airports they have a President’s circle area of upgraded cars that I usually get to pick from. At Hartford they had a convertible Mustang I could have gotten, but I usually try to stick to more utilitarian cars, so I picked up an Altima. I should have gotten the convertible because the trees were changing color and the hour plus drive I had from the client to the airport would have been beautiful.
All the cars are sanitized now and Hertz puts a yellow sticker over the edge of the driver’s side door saying so. You can see that no one has been in the car you’ve chosen since they cleaned it. I thought it was a nice touch.
The hotel I chose was the Hampton Inn in Auburn, Massachusetts. I picked it because I had two different facilities to visit during this trip and it was sort of centrally located. It’s a Hilton property and I’ve stayed there a few times. This time it was a little cheaper than the Fairfield Inn by Marriott that’s just around the corner. Hilton has signs everywhere to remind you that masks are required pretty much whenever you are out of your room. The room was spotless and it too had a seal on the door saying so.
What I missed most was the breakfast area. This time, there was no breakfast area and not even any coffee. They did have an in-room, one cup at a time coffee maker, but before COVID, they had three varieties of coffee with French vanilla and hazelnut creamers that I always loved.
I don’t miss the crowds.
When you’re a frequent traveler, you learn that the most important travel accessory you can take with you is a good sense of humor. Things happen. Flights get cancelled. Passengers are dicks. The car you want isn’t available. A million little things go wrong. But with a sense of humor, you can smile and roll with it.
I still love traveling. I love airports. I love all the people going to all those different places.
I love walking past the gates in Detroit where all the big planes get ready to fly to international destinations – and wish I were on those instead.
Traveling is one of those sweet rewards we can give ourselves. I’ll be very happy once things are safe again.
Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow.