By Susie Reese
Traveling can be difficult—between security, finding gates, packing, and even parking the car—even seasoned travel pros can make the basic mistakes. Take our USA Procurement Leader Marie Reese (total relation) and her partner-in-crime, U.S. East Product Manager Lori Hunt.
Reese and Hunt (not a law firm) have been working together for more than six years and have globe-hopped together to Dubai, Phuket, and Bali for contracting conferences and training sessions. But their first conference of the year is always Florida Huddle, where the big wigs of Florida tourism convene and discuss their next set of contracts (and eat Bimini Bread). As leaders of procurement for Flight Centre Travel Group (encompassing GOGO Vacations and Flight Centre’s subsidiaries), Reese and Hunt meet with such suppliers as Hyatt, Hilton, the Florida Panthers, Universal Studios, and of course, the Mouse.
So you’d think by now Reese and Hunt would know, and even excel at, traveling, not just halfway around the world but also two hours south of our headquarters in New Jersey.
Not quite. Here are the mistakes our seasoned travelers and their compatriots made on their last trip to Florida Huddle.
Mistake #1: Know your gate.
Reese and Hunt took a late-day flight out of Newark Liberty International Airport. They were exhausted from a full day of work, so they printed their boarding passes at check-in, proceeded through security, and headed to their gate.
“There was no destination on the JetBlue board, just the JetBlue logo,” says Reese.
But as time drew closer to boarding with no change to the board, Reese and Hunt started to worry. Then, with five minutes left before boarding, personnel arrived and the board finally changed—to show a flight to Palm Beach International Airport. Reese and Hunt were flying to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, a very important 47 miles south of Palm Beach.
They double-checked at the counter and then dashed as quickly as they could through the terminal, reaching their new gate just in time.
Recounts Reese, “I called my mom and my sister running down the jetway. It was really close.”
“They didn’t call our names,” adds Hunt. “They never said last call. That was weird.”
Once in her seat, Hunt received the text from her husband, “You work in travel.”
This is a recurring issue, according to Hawaii Manager Jackie Brown. At a conference in Mexico last year, she and a fellow manager were waiting for their fight.
“Then we heard, ‘Final boarding,’ and they called her name and my name,” recalls Brown, who has been in the travel industry for 33 years. “We just take [the process] for granted because we travel so frequently.”
Mistake #2: Confirm your hotel room.
Reese and Hunt have contacts in the travel business, so when they decided to come in a day early to meet with preferred partners, they contacted one of their associates, who arranged for their accommodations that night. With Murphy’s Law in effect, they reached the hotel at 1:32 a.m. and were promptly “walked.”
(In travel terms, being “walked” means the hotel is full and arranges for your accommodations at another establishment. The hotel essentially “walks” you to the new property.)
“They did give us a nice little letter, and they said, ‘Exchange this when you get there,’” says Hunt.
In this case, Reese and Hunt were sent next door to the hotel where they were set to spend the next two nights, so while it wasn’t the ideal situation, it could have been worse. Had they called to confirm their room, however, they would have received preferential treatment by the hotel. Instead, they had to call the front desk when they arrived at the room since their air-conditioner frame was not in place.
Mistake #3: Always bring identification.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale Broward County Convention Center is quite unique, situated on a cruise port. You’ve heard of the trips where you can book three days on a cruise and then some time at the Orlando amusement parks? Those cruise ships pull into this port, and that means you’re in international territory when at the convention center. So every Huddle participant had to bring a form of identification to the port.
That was a problem for one of Reese and Hunt’s frequent compatriots, a regional sales manager for a major hotel chain. Having left her license with her husband by mistake, she was granted access to the port and the convention center only because of quick thinking on the part of her and her husband.
“Before my husband put my license in FedEx, he scanned it, and then sent the picture to me in an email. So that’s what I was showing the guards.”
That worked well the first two times she visited the center, but the third time, she had to wait for a supervisor.
“The time I went with Lori and Marie for lunch, [the checkpoint personnel] had the armed guard come over, and he inspected it.”
But the manager was once again allowed entrance, and that night, she returned to her hotel to find her husband’s FedEx package with her license.
Identification is especially necessary for TSA passengers where your photo ID means the difference between being allowed to check a bag, get through security, and ultimately board a plane to your destination, versus taking a trip home, returning for a later flight, and accepting wallet-busting exchange fees.
Mistake #4: Lock up your important possessions.
Things go missing. It’s a part of the travel process. Keys fall out of pockets. Phones are left at counters, and there’s a safe in your room for a reason. While traveling abroad, you should lockup your passport and keep a copy of it in your wallet in case of emergencies. Likewise, when carrying diamond earrings you received from your husband for Christmas, the safe is your best friend.
Hunt brought the aforementioned earrings with her by mistake and instead of locking them in the safe, kept them in her makeup bag. Unfortunately when Hunt returned home and unpacked, she found the pair missing.
So remember—safes are for safety!
Mistake #5: Arrive at the airport on time.
After days of meetings, late networking dinners, and several Bimini Breads, Reese and Hunt decided to sleep in. Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is a full service, but smaller hub. The airport’s website estimates 23 million passengers travel through its corridors a year (compared to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which sees more than 55 million passengers annually). So they arrived at the airport 70 minutes before their flight, not the recommended 90 minutes in order to check a bag.
“The line for check-in was ridiculously long, and the lady at the ticket booth called, ‘Who’s going to Newark, Who’s going to JFK? Who’s going to DC?’” remembers Hunt. “And she took those people before everybody else. So everybody was rushing for time because they kept letting these other people go.”
“The real key here is to know the busy times at the airport,” explains Reese. “It’s not that we didn’t arrive at the right time, though we urge people to observe that 90-minute window for the airlines. What’s most important is knowing when the airport is busy.”
For morning flights, airports generally see more traffic, so if Reese and Hunt would have taken a later flight from Fort Lauderdale, the 70 minutes would have been enough.
As it was. Reese and Hunt just made the cut for the bag check and headed through security. They barely had time to see the bathroom, grab a muffin, and head to the gate. For this flight, they were the second to the last ones to board.
“Well, we made it,” laughs Reese. “Maybe next time we’ll skip the muffin and bring Bimini Bread instead.”
Because they travel so much (Reese and Hunt take to the skies a minimum of 10 trips a year), they observe travel mistakes passengers make every time. After this particular journey, Reese and Hunt urge passengers to:
– Order child safe drinks – Reese notes, “Lori switched seats, so a father could sit with his two children, and he ordered a hot beverage. Every time one of his kids had to go the bathroom, he asked me to put the cup on my tray. I didn’t mind, but other travelers might. It’s just something to consider when ordering your snacks.”
– Know your destination’s food specialties – “I’m allergic to several different types of fish, so it was very difficult for me this trip to eat where our suppliers served dinner because fish is such a part of the region’s cuisine. If you know the area’s food ahead of time, you can either pick a different destination or tell the people you’re meeting of any allergies, so you’re not eating chicken at a fish restaurant, crossing your fingers that the same pan wasn’t used to cook both.”
– Keep tabs on your belongings. – Hunt explains, “For the brief time we were at the gate in Florida, another passenger asked the flight attendant how much time she had because someone stole her electronic bag. It had her computer, her kindle, everything. She was pretty sure it happened at security when she was putting on her shoes, so just make sure you keep your bags close.”
– Have your boarding pass out when going through security. “Marie didn’t realize she needed her boarding pass when she went through security,” points out Hunt, her voice carrying over the short wall between her and Reese’s desk.
“I never needed that before!” exclaimed Reese.
“So she got yelled at,” Hunt laughs. “Her ID needed to go back in her bag. Her boarding pass needed to be in her hand, and the TSA officers got very angry when parts of the family were not holding their own pass. Each person in the party needs to be holding their pass.”
Note: Bimini Bread is a sweat bread, served with honey butter, at a Bimini Boatyard Bar & Grill, a favorite restaurant of Huddle participants.
About Susie Reese
Susie Reese is a copywriter for FC USA Artworks. She loves to travel (you know it!) and has ventured extensively across North America. She enjoys short walks on the beach and comic cons. She writes On the Go: A Magazine for Travelers and on her free-time, comics and short stories.