The ironic thing about
traveling for a living is that when it comes time for a vacation, the last
thing you want to do is to fly anywhere.
I told my wife, “This year, I’d love to just drive up the cabin and
relax and fish for a week.” She wasn’t
having any of that. Part of our deal is
that she collects the reward points while I do the traveling. It’s the only thing that makes it more
bearable for us being apart. Trust me
when I tell you that if a non-traveling woman gets her hands on a million
Marriott points… she’s going somewhere, with or without you. There can be no doubt!
One drawback to using
points for your hotel stay is that actual cash paying guests get priority. I suppose it should be that way, but it’s
frustrating, nonetheless. For example in
February of 2009, I tried to book a beach-front bungalow suite with a full
kitchen for our Hawaii trip for Valentine’s day of 2010 (yes, I’m a “Romantic”
at heart; make fun of me if you wish, but I’ll be in Hawaii this February,
suckers), but was told “I’m sorry, it’s too early to consider a booking for
people with points rather than cash.”
This didn’t phase me. I simply
asked, “When is a good time to call to try to book this?” The reservation operator told me, “We open
that block of rooms 6 weeks in advance of booking dates. Would you like to reserve a different
room?” Ah-HA! So, the reservation bank is open, just not
the whole bank.
With some polite
“finagling” on the phone, I eventually hung up with a reservation in a
non-ocean view room and the “hope” that I could upgrade later. My plan was to call them one time per month
to ask if anything was available and if it was still to early to upgrade my
reservation. For the first few months I
was unsuccessful, but then it hit me… What if I tell them that I’m flexible enough
to move from room to room? You see, when
reservations are made, they are blocked into the computer and the computer uses
that information to determine what’s available.
I had a hunch based on this example, of two families booking rooms in a
small two-room hotel:
Smiths reserve room 1 from Sun-Wed for a 4 day vacation.
Johnsons reserve room 2 from Wed-Sat for a five day vacation.
call and ask for a room from Sun-Sat, but the computer doesn’t see an open
block of time in a room for 7 days, since both rooms appear to be booked for a
portion of the time I asked for. The
best they can offer is to have me call back to see if there’s a cancellation.
What if the computer knew I
was flexible enough to stay in room 2 from Sun-Wednesday morning, and then move
my stuff into room 1 on Wednesday afternoon to stay for the rest of the
week? If you tell a reservation
coordinator that you’re willing to fragment your stay, that will open a vastly
new realm of possibility for you.
The next time I called, I
was on the phone working with the reservation coordinator for a long time, but
I ended up with three nights in an ocean view room (and a balcony), and then I
agreed to check out of the hotel, and walk 300 yards down the beach to the
hotel’s sister property where I’ll check in mid-week to a beach front bungalow
with a kitchen.
Normally, you wouldn’t have
to make such allowances when you make a reservation a year in advance. If you’re using coupons or points, or if you’re
making some reservations at the last minute, being willing to fragment can save
you if you need to be in a certain hotel. This has worked famously for several
co-workers I know who have to attend a corporate conference at the last minute,
EXTRA: If you have questions for Ken regarding
business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc, please send an email! Your questions
will be recorded and Ken will answer the best ones in his Ask the
Expert podcast show.