Talking to strangers
Or, how to get a great deal on a hotel. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
One thing to know about me is that I get in long conversations with total strangers almost every place I go.
At this point in life, I play it up—both because it's entertaining, and because I like meeting people, and also because I'm sort of known for it. Case in point, from about two weeks ago:
I went to pick up our Honda after getting some brake work done, and came home to tell my wife about my brand new close personal friend Dr. Simmons, who was in the waiting area with me, and who lives in our town, and who practiced medicine for many years before retiring for health reasons, and who once bought either a used Triumph or an MG (I forget which), and had fun with the car and drove it into the ground, so to speak, but who also decided on a whim when it broke down on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge 20 years ago and had to be towed, to simply give the car to the mechanic at the repair shop and wash his hands of the whole endeavor.
It's in that spirit that I was conversing recently with a longtime hotel executive who told me his two big tips on how to book the least expensive hotel room possible, while also supporting small business owners and entrepreneurs who could use a little support right about now.
Especially for those of us who are getting back into the swing post-COVID (but is it really?) I thought I'd share. His advice went like this:
Search for the best, most favorable rates you can possibly find via the various online travel agencies (OTAs, in hotel industryspeak) like Expedia, Orbitz, Hotels.com, etc.
Then, when you've found the best deal, go to the hotel website and book directly.
First, OTAs usually aren't allowed to sell rooms at a lower rate than the lowest rate on the hotel website.
Second, the big chains offer discounts to members of their loyalty programs below what the OTAs can offer. So, if you find a great deal on an OTA but you’re a member of the hotel’s loyalty program, you should be sure to come out ahead.
Also, OTAs siphon off roughly 20 percent of the room cost, so the hotel gets less money than if you book with them. Which customers do you think they're more incentivized to treat better?
Finally, while you might not really care if a $14 billion company like Expedia gets a cut of your fee, or if it goes directly to a $46 billion company like Marriott, the fact is that many individual hotels are owned by much smaller franchisees for whom a 20 percent cut can make a legitimate difference.
Anyway, here's what I'd like to do for a Friday, besides get into intense, random individual conversations with each and every person reading this. You may have noticed that I like organizing Friday newsletters around a question, or a series of questions, so:
For those who don't travel often, what are your travel plans this summer, and how are you getting back into the swing of things, post-pandemic?
For those who do travel a lot, what is your best travel advice for the remainder who don't travel all that often, but who might be hitting the road this summer?
And for those who are like me and wind up in long conversations with total strangers, what's the most memorable one you remember having?
Let us know in the comments. And have a great weekend, whether you’re traveling or talking with strangers, or not.
7 other things worth knowing today
The US Secret Service erased text messages from January 5 and 6, 2021, shortly after they were requested by oversight officials investigating the agency's response to the US Capitol riot, according to a letter given to the House select committee investigating the insurrection. (CNN)
Interview with former President Trump, about whether he'll run again in 2024: "He wouldn’t disclose what he’d decided. Not at first. But then he couldn’t help himself. 'I would say my big decision will be whether I go before or after,' he said. 'You understand what that means?' His tone was conspiratorial. Was he referring to the midterm elections? He repeated after me: 'Midterms.' Suddenly, he relaxed, as though my speaking the word had somehow set it free for discussion. 'Do I go before or after? That will be my big decision.'" (NY Mag)
Gmail users are not happy (and that's about 11% of subscribers in the case of Understandably), after Google said it's asking the FEC for permission to push more political fundraising ads out of spam, and into your inbox. (Ars Technica)
Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic bill Thursday that would protect the rights of women to travel to other states to access abortion care legally. “There’s a child in this conversation, as well,” Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma said on the Senate floor, accusing Democrats of seeking “to inflame—to raise the what-ifs. ... Does the child in the womb have the right to travel in their future?” (NBC News)
This won’t be controversial or anything. The best state to live in is Vermont, according to CNBC. The worst is Arizona. (CNBC, also CNBC)
A previously unknown self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh has been discovered behind another of the artist’s paintings, the National Galleries of Scotland said Thursday. Van Gogh was known for turning canvases around and painting on the other side to save money. (AP)
Fate works in funny ways as one family learned Monday, when the newest addition to their family was born in a 7-Eleven parking lot in West Virginia on July 11, or 7/11. Also, it’s even more ironic because mother and son Waylon are doing well, and the station reporting the story was WBOY. (WBOY)
Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Pixabay or Unsplash or one of those, honestly I forget. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.
If you are planning to fly this summer, book an early flight. It’s less likely to be delayed or cancelled. Also, pack your patience. Be kind - you will find that you will be treated better if you treat others nicely. Bring a mask, you may find that you will want it in a crowded setting.
My best travel tip is to travel as lightly as you possibly can. For most leisure travel, you should be able to pack a week's worth in a small backpack (30-40L). You don't need anything more if you'll be gone longer, provided you have access to a sink to do some laundry. If you need help on figuring how to do this, go back and read the classic text on minimalist travel - Europe Through the Backdoor by Rick Steves.
I've never had my luggage lost, even when I have a tight connection. I can stay at funky hotels that may not have an elevator. I worry less about having my things stolen since I have less to keep track of. I save money on baggage fees. I could go on... the benefits of bringing less far outweigh having extra stuff.