Sunday, April 26, 2015
How do I travel so much
Travel is something I enjoy doing. 30-years ago I dreamed of a job that would allow me to travel to 3 or 4 conventions a year. I pursued that dream, I found work that gives me a travel budget - but does not require me to be a road warrior. I have logged all of my hotel stays for about 10 years, in years when I go much past 30 nights in hotels I lose interest in traveling. Only once have I made a conscious effort to travel less the following year. I would not want to be a person who spends half or more of their year traveling, I know a couple of people who have to do this for work, and they universally dislike being on the road so much.
Budgets are always tight at work, and there are a few debates at budget time. The one thing I will rise and defend is my travel budget. Our finance person can cut office supplies and my access to our staff editor, but please leave my travel budget as intact as possible I average 3 or 4 business trips per year. Sometimes they are to wonderful places (Hawaii) sometimes they are to middle America (Columbus, Ohio) sometimes to places I would sooner not go (Austin, Texas next month.) I go if my being there is important to getting done my work. If it happens to be in a nice place like San Francisco, Chicago, or Portland all the better. Some locations I go out of my way to create reasons I need to be there.
I spend about $1,000 a year adding days to business trips. As long as the cost of the business part of the trip is not increased, I have the flexibility to fly out a couple of days early or come home a few days later and pay for the extra days myself. I paid for three nights in Hawaii, and rented a convertible for a day. The business part of the trip actually cost less, because of efficiency in airfare.
I had a consulting contract with AARP for 7 years, the first 4 or 5 years they were very flexible and actually encouraged adding a couple of days on. Then they got weird about it and wanted to fly you in at the last minute and out the minute you were done, even if it meant catching 5 AM flight and getting home after midnight and cost more then spending an extra night. Someone had complained that the training trips looked like vacations - I can't imagine anyone wanting to vacation in some of the hell-holes we went to. But travel is travel, and if the work is important, I will go about anyplace.
With the Professor teaching 500 miles away, I make a couple of trips a year to Lexington, Kentucky and have started adding stops between here and there on the outbound leg. My frail parents are in Florida and I am down there two or three times a yer. When I bought the car three years ago, part of justifying the expenditure was to start driving to Lexington and at least one of the trips to Florida. Lexington is about a 9 hour drive, airfare had climbed to over $300- sometimes closer to $400. Florida is about 13 hours driving time each way. I usually break that up. With the exception of major holidays, I can fly round trip to Florida for less then $200 from DC and I can usually find a rental car for under $200 a week including all of the taxes and fees. Driving to Orlando vs flying is about a wash on cost by the time I pay for a couple of hotels and put gas in the car. But I enjoy the drive and having the car makes it easy to haul stuff back and forth.
We usually plan a vacation. The past three summers it has been regional trips by car. Two or three short trips over the summer. Sometimes we do a major trip. Four years ago we flew to London, spent a couple of nights, took the train to France, rented a car and an apartment for a week, took the train back to London and spent a few more days. I paid for much of it, I will never try to add up what I spent. This summer we are planning a major trip to Germany. It is expensive, I have cut some corners, cashed in some frequent traveler points and made other financial commitments, It is a rare opportunity to due this particular trip, in the way we will be doing it (we will be driving a new Mercedes for two weeks) that may never come my way again.
The trip four years ago and the one this summer are leveraging the Professor's business travel. Four year's ago, I flew home while he was at a conference at Oxford. Very romantic, the day he went to Oxford I went to Windsor and we were on the same train as far a Slough - I flew home a day or so later - after the riots in south London, I think I have pictures of the smoke on the horizon taken from my hotel room, this year he is going out a week before me to a conference at Oxford and meeting me in Stuttgart. For both of us leveraging business travel has been effective. The best conferences to go to, are your spouse's conference.
I have had good luck leveraging frequent traveler programs. Step one, open frequent flyer accounts with every airline. Step two, book the travel on the airline that has the best price, watch for expiring miles, I have never lost any, but it can happen. Step three tie in third party programs that reward airline miles. I have a couple of credit cards that are co-branded with airlines, I earn airline miles on groceries and gas, things I would buy anyway and pay the bills in full. I also select cards that get me other perks like free checked bags and priority boarding - I pay a fee for these cards, but if I save on checked bag fees on a couple of round trips a year it covers the fees. Some hotel loyalty programs also give airline miles, when I stay at a Hilton or Marriott I earn airline miles, and I collect hotel points. I average two or three free hotel nights a year as rewards for the 30 or nights a year that someone pays for.