Category Archives: Travel

Travel tips for professionals

In the modern world that we live in, it is often part and parcel of many positions to travel the country, and potentially internationally, for business meetings. I am lucky that my husband doesn’t have to travel too much, but when he does there are several things that he does to make the process as simple as possible.

  1. TSA pre-approval – It only costs $85 for 5 years and is so worth it!  Some benefits include skipping the security line, not being required to remove shoes at security, and leaving your electronics in your bag.  airport, amsterdam, arrival
  2. Frequent flyer miles – take advantage of these, whether though the airline or through a credit card.  United offers the added option of admission to the United Club Lounge, which offers free snacks and drinks and a much larger area to relax before a flight.  When we had a 12 hour layover in New Jersey with a one-year-old, the United Lounge was perfect.  There was even a room for families and children where we were able to lie him down for a nap!
  3. A powerpack that is always charged just in case – Some planes are equipped with sockets that you can charge your phone through but many are not.  Power packs are not too expensive and are life-savers when you cannot find a place to charge your phone.  Additionally, there are luggage companies now that offer mobile charging stations right in your suitcase.
  4. Eye drops – to combat the dryness of the air on the plane and the conditions within your hotel room.  This will help you look refreshed for those meetings that are scheduled right as you arrive in town.
  5. A quality carry-on bag – Find a bag that fits your needs and can also fit easily into the overhead storage compartment on the plane.  This saves time when you are checking in and also eliminates the chance of the bag being lost.
  6. Download music and movies on your phone –  This will provide some in-flight entertainment without having to pay for Wifi on the plane.
  7. Book a room that includes breakfast and has a mini-fridge inside the room – onbreakfast-hotel-1921530__340 his most recent trip, my husband stayed in a Holiday Inn and Suites and was able to collect extra food at breakfast that he could then eat when it was convenient for him without the need to go out to purchase food.
  8. Lyft/ Uber app downloaded on your phone – everything is done digitally and one of the great things is that if you leave something in the car, you can immediately contact your driver on their cell phone, which is not possible with the traditional cabs. (Bringing back terrible memories of the time I left an entire suitcase full of shoes in a London cab, never to be seen again!)
  9. Plenty of water throughout to stay hydrated – you often don’t realize how dehydrated you can get on a plane.  Drinking plenty of water will keep your energy levels up and your appearance looking somewhat normal!
  10. Expensify –  digital expense tracking to keep the CFO happy at all times!
Advertisements

Tricks when traveling with children

After our recent overseas trip to visit family in England, I once again realized how incredibly difficult it is to travel with children.  What is already an exhausting journey is multiplied 10-fold when you are joined by young travel-mates.  I thought I was prepared for this adventure, but there were some things I didn’t think of that I wanted to pass along in the hopes that it will help someone else!  Here are a few tips that I have either tried, or wish I would have tried!

(1) Take snacks with you – this is obvious, but I would recommend finding some snacks that you are allowed to take on board that actually provide some sustenance to your kids.  I packed a ton of suckers, but thankfully my mom packed a travel bag for the boys with yogurt raisins and a surprising favorite, beef jerky.  Snacks were at times the only thing that would calm them down and I felt terrible constantly feeding them pointless sugars.

(2) Give them their own suitcase or bag to be responsible for – we tried to limit our carry-Resized_20170305_084239on luggage this time around, but we did have my son’s small suitcase on wheels that held our extra clothes.  He was in charge of pulling this through the airport, and not only was it adorable but it gave him something to do that distracted him from wanting to be held.

(3) Pack a car seat – If you need a car seat at your destination, take yours with you!  The first year we traveled with our oldest, we requested that the taxis taking us to and from the airport have a car seat.  The ones they provided were very outdated and the cab drivers had no idea how to install them.  Needless to say, I was very nervous while in the car and we decided never to do that again!

(4) Pack extra clothes – there has been more than one occasion where our luggage was delayed or “misplaced” and we were left scrambling for a few days, washing the same clothes over and over, as well as purchasing new clothes to hold us over.  I now make sure one of our carry-on bags includes extra outfits for everyone, just in case.  Also, when you have children, there is always the chance the clothes they are wearing will be destroyed and it’s nice to have extras if you need them!

(5) Remember sanitizing wipes – I recently read that your tray is the dirtiest part of the airplane.  Which is gross, as this is where your food goes!  I brought along wipes and made sure to clean off the trays as soon as we sat down.

(6) Pack refillable cups – after our apple juice was sent flying, I decided it was time to pull out the water bottles I had packed and use those for the remainder of the flight.  I asked the flight attendants to fill those during drink service and no longer had to stress about spilling.

(7) Try to stay calm – the first time I flew with a young child, I was so worried about what everyone else was thinking.  If he made the slightest noise, I would try to quiet him downbaby-215303_960_720 and it just made me so much more stressed than I needed to be.  This time, I just focused on my boys and their well-being and it made for a much happier flight.  When my 21-month old was crying, I focused on comforting him and remembered that he was exhausted, instead of worrying about what the people around me were thinking.  That being said, you shouldn’t let your child run wild and do things that are purposely disturbing others, like kicking seats or throwing food.

(8) Look for free seats – when flying with a lap child, an extra seat is like gold.  The first time we flew with our oldest, the man checking us into the flight let us know that he switched our row so we could have an extra seat for the baby.  Laying him down in the seat next to me while he slept almost brought tears to my eyes, as it was so difficult for him to sleep in my lap.  This time, we kept our eyes peeled and before the flight had even taken off, my husband had checked with the flight attendant and found a free row of seats for half of the family to sit in.  The flight was so much more enjoyable for everyone with a little extra breathing room.

Hopefully these tips will help make your life more convenient as you travel to your next destination.  If you have any more ideas, please include them in the comments below!

Examples of incredible customer service

While traveling in England recently we experienced some great customer service that I wanted to share with you here.  Hopefully these, along with the examples from last week, will give you some inspiration for your own business!

Carillon – In Loughborough, where my husband is from, there is a famous Carillon bell tower, which serves as a memorial to fallen soldiers in the two World Wars.  The Carillon Image result for loughborough carillonalso serves as a museum with artifacts from the war.  When we visited this historic location, the gentlemen who volunteer at the museum went out of their way to share as much as possible about the monument with us. They were very passionate and one suggested that we visit the local Charnwood Museum where he also worked. He was extremely passionate about his job and clearly had a love for the history of the building that he was working in.

Plane ride – The flight attendant assigned to our area immediately made a connection with our son who shares a name with her. She took a shine to our two boys and sporadically entertained them throughout our eight-hour Trans-Atlantic flight. Not only did this make our two sons happy, it made the flight much more enjoyable for the two of us, and also put a smile on all of the passengers around us who could clearly see that this young lady was in the right business as she was clearly a people person and was focused on making people happy.

Train to Exeter – we took a train into Exeter during one leg of our trip and the conductor went out of his way to find the best value ticket available for the trip that we were making. This gentleman could easily have just given us the tickets that we had asked for Image result for train to exeter from londonbut instead he chose to find the best value solution for us given the routes that we wanted to take.

Plane on way back –  Ross, our flight attendant on the way back was just as wonderful as the one on the way there.  The lady in front of us had a dietary requirement that had been missed when she booked her ticket through her travel agent. Ross could easily have said tough luck and that he couldn’t do anything. However, instead of taking the easy option, he managed to create a meal for her from leftover meals. He then took things one step further and collected the passenger’s information so that he could pass it onto his colleagues and make sure that she receives the correct meal on her return flight.  He also ensured that we were able to get an open row for my husband and one of the boys, which made the flight much more enjoyable than if the four of us were crammed in one row!

The theme of all of these experiences is clear: it’s important to go above and beyond when you are in a customer service position.  It does not go unnoticed and it creates customers for life!

 

Key differences between the UK and the USA

After spending the past 2 weeks in England with my husband’s family, I thought it would be fun to share some interesting differences I noticed between the two countries. This last trip was my 6th visit to the UK, however each trip reminds me of how different our countries can be.

History – it goes without saying that the UK has a significantly richer history than the US. stonehenge_englandFor example, the high school that my husband attended was founded back in 1495 and a church that we visited was built in 669! We have some fantastic history here in the US, but the UK has simply been around longer, so inevitably their history is going to include a lot more than ours.

Driving – Whenever we visit my in-laws we always rent a car so that we have the freedom to travel whenever we want. As per usual, we got to Manchester airport after THREE flights and picked up a rental car. We received a Ford Focus Estate which thankfully was much more spacious than those we have had in previous years. Cars are much smaller over there, due to lack of space, so this car was quite a luxury for us!  Once the car is loaded, my husband then has the task of driving a manual car on the other side of the road.  This always makes me a bit nervous at the beginning, but he picks it up right away and manages to only stall it a few times per trip.

Drivers are very courteous over there, and I did notice far less honking than what we experience in America.  Additionally, their driving laws are much more strict, so I did not see one person using their cell phone while driving.

Tea vs. Coffee – The stereotype is that Brits drink tea and Americans drink coffee (or iced tea). However, these trends are starting to change with coffee becoming more and more prominent in the UK, and English teas being available at most national grocery stores across the country. Capital Teas, who are based in Annapolis, Maryland, have taken things one step further and now have stores where not only can you buy teas and associated utensils, but you can also sample a variety of brews before making your purchase. On the coffee front in the UK, Costa Coffee are the leaders and you literally see their cafes everywhere!

Recycling – The recycling policies in place in the UK are extremely rigid and have been environment-1019748_960_720for many years. Residents can be fined if their regular waste is found to contain items that could have been recycled, and they literally recycle everything. There are even drop-off points at the supermarket where you can recycle mobile phones, batteries, print cartridges, and light bulbs!

Dining out – In England, most eateries pay their servers a good wage which means that tipping is usually reserved for examples of exceptional service. The issue that I have seen with this is that because the servers are not necessarily dependent upon their tips and make enough money through their hourly pay, there isn’t as much urgency to provide exceptional service. Nor is there competition over who gets which tables. We visited a handful of establishments where the service was lacking, and there was no real ownership of our table taken by the staff that were serving us. At one restaurant we actually experienced 6 different people from arrival to paying our bill!

Public transportation – England obviously has the huge advantage that most of the country is heavily concentrated in core urban and suburban areas. There are excellent public transportation options in most areas including buses, trains, boats, and of course the world renowned London Underground. This makes things much more enjoyable when visiting larger towns and cities as you can easily avoid traffic delays and congestion. It also means that you eliminate the need to find a parking spot which is extremely challenging due to the narrow streets and limited space that is found in English cities.

Money/ Currency – After the Brexit announcement, the British pound took a hammering and the exchange rate dropped to 1 dollar: 0.78 British Pounds which is significantly weaker than back in 2004 when my husband first moved to the states and the exchange rate was 1 dollar: 0.50 pounds.  Many items are less expensive over there, so when the exchange rate is at this level, it is great for us when we travel!

While we have pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters to keep track of, in England they are responsible for coins consisting of one pence (p), 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, 1 pound and 2 pounds.  So many coins jangling in our pockets!

Sports – Hands down, the most popular sport in the UK is football (soccer to us). Other common favorites include rugby, cricket, and netball.  American football is gaining in popularity, as the English Premier League team Tottenham Hotspur just signed a contract with the NFL to host one game a year in England.

Biscuits and Gravy – This meal means something completely different in England compared to it’s equivalent in the USA. If you were to go to an English restaurant and ask for “Biscuits and Gravy” they would think you were mad as you would effectively be asking for cookies and brown gravy!  Other areas of confusion (especially for our preschooler) were English crisps, which are American chips, and English chips, which are American fries.

As a side note, I always find it interesting that these people who are so proper look at me in utter confusion when I ask for the “restroom” and I am forced to say “where is the toilet” in order to make myself clear.  I don’t know why, I just find that so crude and hate saying it!

The weather – When we landed in the UK they were experiencing a “heatwave” with temperatures of 82 degrees! To be fair this is much warmer than the average 66 degrees that they normally receive, but this is about 20% cooler than the temperatures we are currently experiencing here in Kansas City. With Britain being an island they are somewhat insulated by the surrounding bodies of water making the temperature fluctuations much less extreme than are typically found across the continental USA.  However, because of their typically cooler summers no one has central air, so 82 degrees does feel extremely hot when you can’t cool off in your home!

Shopping – one of the things that my husband always gives me grief about is that here in the US, we do not add on tax until you are checking out. This means that items on the dollar menu at McDonalds do not actually cost $1, but typically cost $1.05 to $1.15 depending on rates in your part of the country. However, at McDonalds in England all of the items on the pound menu, do truly cost a pound as tax is included in the price that you see, and the tax is then broken out on your receipt.  This makes shopping so much easier when you know you are paying exactly what is on the ticket.

flag-logo-only

Overall, our two nations have much in common and it is very simple to acclimate yourself to the different culture.  While there are a few confusing words, it is easy to know what people are talking about and to make yourself clear as well.  Driving is probably the most difficult thing to get used to, but once you’ve done it a few times it feels just as natural as it does over here.  If you’re planning a trip soon, make sure to pack plenty of jackets no matter what time of year!

The high cost of spending less

Most people have experienced that literal fork in the road, where one direction will take you to a decent, reputable hotel chain for $100/night, and the other will take you to a $59/night alternative, that is not as decent, nor as reputable.  But it will do, right?  Yeah, let me know how that works out for you!  As someone who has indeed experienced this situation, let me give you some pointers: 1.  Don’t plan to shower.  Just accept the fact now that you will not want to get in there, and pack your dry shampoo.  2. A hoodie makes a perfect pillowcase.  You will inevitably find something icky on the one provided, and as we don’t typically pack bedding sets in with our clothes and toiletries, you will need to use what you have on hand.  3. EARPLUGS.  That’s all.

An old abandoned North American motel.

The last time I stayed at a motel with DEPLORABLE conditions, I did complain.  Because, while we aren’t breaking the bank to stay there, we should at least be able to count on our water being clear, right?  After I explained to the lady all of the terrible things we experienced in our room, she very generously gave me a gift certificate for a free night.  Umm….. ?  So I guess the last piece of advice is, don’t bother complaining.

When you are on a road trip, and it’s late and you just want to sleep and get on the road again, it’s easy to tell yourself that you don’t need anything nice – just a bed and a shower.  But as I stated above, you really can’t always count on those things in the lower end chains, so maybe if you are having an inner discussion about whether to spend the extra $40, ask yourself how much you would pay for a GOOD shower (that actually makes you feel clean) and a GOOD night’s sleep, where you don’t lie awake most of the night imagining bugs crawling on you.

The same can be said for a number of different things.  Recently, I found a toy that I thought my son would love.  It was a Melissa and Doug cleaning set, with a little mop, cleaningbroom, and dustpan.  I saw it at a garage sale, but it was gone before I could get my hands on it.  When I got home, I looked it up online and saw that the price was far too high, especially considering how much it was being sold for at the garage sale!  I just couldn’t do it.  So my husband went to Walmart and got a less expensive set, but it will have the same effect, right?  Wrong.  Upon playing with it once, all of the pieces fell apart, so now instead of a super cool mop to use while “helping” mommy clean, my kids have a less cool baton to hit each other with.  Now that our second child is into cleaning, wouldn’t it be nice if we had a nice, sturdy play set for him?  In my opinion, it would have been worth it.

When you are looking for a service provider, the same reasoning and logic can be applied. If you need to take your car in for service, would you rather pay $150 now and have a guarantee that the problem will be fixed or would you prefer to pay $75, and risk needing more repairs, requiring you to take more time off work and eventually paying far more than $150?  The answer is obvious to me. And this is why people generally try to go to a car service provider that they trust, one that they can build a relationship with, and one that they know will take care of them.

So if you are in search of a Facility Maintenance company, don’t be scared away by a higher upfront cost.  Remember what you are getting with that higher cost – better quality and more peace of mind that the job will be done, and it will be done well.  With Royal Services, you get all of that and more, including a partnership in which you can place your trust and confidence.   And remember, the price tag that you initially see does not always reflect what your total cost will be.

Worth the Money

One of the first things that we did after returning from our honeymoon was to purchase a timeshare. We both love traveling, we were looking forward to starting a family, had experienced REALLY bad vacations in the past, and liked the idea of paying a monthly maintenance fee which we hoped would “force”us to take time away from work.

We recently returned from spending the Labor Day weekend in Branson, MO where we will return later this year, and in between these two trips we will be heading to the Lake of the Ozarks to celebrate my husband’s birthday.

The way that the system works is pretty straight forward. We paid an upfront amount which gets us a set number of points each year. We then have a monthly maintenance fee and everything else is covered. We decide where we are going on vacation, find a nearby resort, check availability and book our trip. There are times when availability is limited, but for the most part we are able to get the resort that we are looking for.

If you are only looking at the upfront cost, then of course it would be much cheaper to stay in economy properties such as Motel 6, Days Inn or Super 8. However, in the Wyndham properties we experience several benefits that ultimately make the total cost much lower than staying in an economy resort, as well as giving us a much more enjoyable experience, guaranteed.

Image result for good vs bad hotel

The condos are equipped with a full kitchen, dishwasher, washer/dryer, and cleaning supplies. We love being able to do our end-of-vacation laundry before heading home so that the transition into everyday life is much simpler! We will do a supermarket run before arriving at the resort so that we don’t have to spend money on food and drink during our time away. We don’t have to take a trip to the local laundromat or pay extortionate fees at the hotel for their laundry service.  We also save money when we fly, as we do not need to pack a separate outfit for each day, increasing the number of bags required.  Instead, we can pack a few staples and mix and match outfits with the opportunity to throw them in the laundry after wearing them.

The resorts are family friendly and safe.  There is security on site, they are well lit and include well maintained grounds and literally hundreds of amenities for the entire family to enjoy. From swimming pools and shuffle board to table tennis and horseshoes, the resorts are designed for family fun. If you so desired, you could easily spend an entire week of vacation without having to leave the resort.

These are all huge benefits of the timeshare that we own, and we truly enjoy the overall experience. We know that we are going to have an incredible time in a gorgeous resort where we are made to feel like royalty.  There are never any concerns that we will check in to a hotel, only to check out as soon as we see the unacceptable state of the room.

The high quality service that we receive at our timeshare is exactly what Royal Services, the leading national rollout company want their customers to receive. Royal will definitely not be the cheapest provider when looking at upfront cost but when you look at the overall picture and the total cost, Royal will be the best provider.  There is not a concern that the job won’t be done to your satisfaction; there is no worry that it won’t be completed on time.  You won’t have to fret about losing business due to shoddy workmanship.  Royal takes pride in their work, and they are worth every penny.

 

Not another sales presentation…

My husband, two boys and I made the 3 hour 15 minute trip south to Branson for Labor Day weekend this year. We have visited the town on several occasions and keep returning as there are lots of things to do, it’s a relatively short drive from our home in Kansas City, and we really enjoy being at an exceptional resort that is well maintained and has plenty of activities available to entertain all members of the family.  We love that we own a timeshare with Wyndham and can experience a weekend getaway at a moment’s notice without worrying about a dirty room, poor service or an unsafe location.  However, while we are owners and not required to attend sales presentations, they offer many incentives for us to listen to a speech for an “hour” during our vacation, and despite almost every single experience being negative, we continue to get sucked in time and time again.

timeshare

 


This article about timeshare presentations is hilarious if you don’t mind a little bit of language.  My favorite sentence:
“Will, our sales associate, came over and met with us. He was a gangly, mid-20’s asshat from Dallas who looked like he was cut out from a business casual ad with dork scissors.”
www.ruthlessreviews.com

And for even more hilarity, check this one out:

“I said hell yes I’d like to take just one hour of my time to hear about an exciting way I could save money on future vacations. I mean, it sounded pretty awesome to me,” Jones said.

The promised one hour presentation turned into a two and a half hour adventure once Jones arrived at the all inclusive Global Sun Grand Resort. Jones expressed gratitude that she would be privileged with more time in the company of such esteemed individuals.
sarcasticnewslive.com

 


On our first Wyndham vacation together, we went to Las Vegas and had an amazing time.  The incentive to sit with a sales representative and listen to his schpeel was a meal at a nice restaurant, so we thought “Why not?”  It was actually a great experience, the man did not try to sell us anything, simply educated us about new locations we could visit, as promised when we made the appointment.  After that, our experiences have all gone downhill.  Again and again, we check into our room and are offered something seemingly awesome – a one hour meeting in exchange for dinner certificates, Visa gift cards, sometimes with a meal included at the meeting, sometimes all of the above.  Again and again we tell the person that no, we will not attend because the one hour meeting always ends up being two or more hours and we do not want to spend that much time of our vacation being sold to when we most certainly will not be buying anything.  Which prompts them to say “Oh no!  We promise it will only be ONE hour, and the purpose of this meeting is to teach you about something new and awesome that you don’t already know about!  No selling involved!”  Inevitably, we agree because their offer seems too good to pass up on.  And inevitably, we leave feeling angry and saying “NEVER AGAIN! NEVER!”  Labor Day was no different.  As current timeshare owners, our experiences are not as bad as what was portrayed on the famous episode of South Park, where the characters are held at gunpoint during their presentation.  However, sales people will be sales people, therefore we get to experience a little of the cliché pressure whenever we choose to attend.

south-park

We arrived at the meeting with the boys in tow (they wouldn’t allow just one spouse to attend this “educational” meeting about website reservations – that should have been our first red flag).  The young man who sat us down at his desk was very new to the game.  He was trying to play it cool, low pressure, just shooting the breeze until the required hour was up.  I mentioned the website changes we were supposed to learn about and he had no idea what I was talking about (red flag number 2, ignored). We did learn a lot about his life, and he about ours.  We shared laughs and told horror stories about our past sales meetings.  As we were closing in on an hour, the boys were beginning to get restless, I was getting extremely warm and my husband was trying to wrap things up.  Just as we thought we were about to be dismissed to collect our gifts, he mentioned something about a VIP package; upon seeing the blank looks on our faces he immediately realized he probably should have been doing his job the whole time.  He left the table to get a senior representative and that is where things went sour.  Our first guy bailed, and the new guy began the hard sell.  When my husband pointed out we had been there an hour and were ready to go, without purchasing anything new, the man completely ignored him.  When we pointed out our fussy children ready for naps, we were again ignored.  Finally my husband got stern and told the man that we were leaving.

As we left, we discussed how little the operations and sales teams worked together.  There is clearly no communication, and while they have different intermediate goals in mind, would it not suit them to work together on the ultimate goal, bringing people back to your place of business, and creating evangelists at the same time?  Ironically, one of the things the salesman was “educating” us on was the four things that Wyndham owners have requested to change – one of those was the sales meetings.  Yet there we were, in another sales meeting.

I did call to complain, and they did send us a fruit basket.  Very nice, and much appreciated (#harryanddavid #yesplease).  But when will enough be enough?  When we will we wise up and stop attending the meetings?  And when will Wyndham wise up and think about what their current customers want, as well as potential future customers?