To say that I travel a lot might be understatement. Between March 8 and June 23rd this year, I’m scheduled to be on the road all but two weekends. Traveling for events is a skill that needs to be practiced just like any other. Now, not many people travel at quite the same pace, but all the principles still apply just the same. This is going to be a several part series, and today we’ll focus on the travel planning stage of the trip.
Personally, I try and book travel a month at a time. For instance, when I get ready to book my travel to the HAVA Family Day at Academi in June, I’ll likely book all of my travel in June (which includes the Northeast Steel Challenge, TF Dagger 3-Gun and a 3 Gun Nation Pro Series Event) at that sitting. For me, this helps keep things straight, and I don’t have to think as much about which trips I’ve made plans for in that month. Don’t travel that much? Take that principle and apply it on the smaller scale of booking your entire trip all at once. Make sure your airfare, hotel, rent car and anything that requires advance booking is done and over. Generally, you don’t have to pay for the car rental or hotel until you get there, so there isn’t really a good reason not to make sure it’s done. I like to save the confirmation as a PDF and put it in a dedicated folder on my computer so I can reference as needed.
Yep, we’ve all been there. Orbitz shows a screaming rate at a hotel that will save you a few dollars and you jump on it before it goes away. A month later when you arrive, you discover that the pictures on Orbitz are more than a few years old, the carpet is mildewed, and you aren’t quite sure what you saw dive underneath the bed when you turned the light on. One of my last experiences of this was a few years ago at SHOT Show when I booked the Imperial Palace. It cost a total of about $250 for the entire week, and shortly after arriving, I found out why. The bed felt like a board, the sheets were paper-thin, and being on the ground floor near the parking garage, getting a cell signal in the room was near impossible. After that, I learned that spending a little more to make sure you are comfortable is money well spent. Travel is stressful enough by itself, being in a dirty hotel room, or nervous about the neighborhood/location just adds to it. I also apply the same method to rental cars. My Dad and I used to always shop around for the cheapest rate available, until we had a similar experience to the Imperial Palace. Driving into the fairly remote areas of a major shooting range in a car that you have serious doubts about what maintenance had been performed adds to stress and lowers the overall enjoyment of the trip. Let’s face it, the biggest reason we go shoot matches is because it’s fun, if something starts to interfere with that, then the whole thing becomes a waste.
My suggestion? Join a solid rewards club and stick with the brand. I always rent from National Rent Car. Yes, they tend to be a little more expensive, but not excessively so. There’s nothing I hate more than trying to deal with my luggage and wait in line for a car, and as an Emerald Club member, you can walk past the counter, right to the car and leave. As far as hotels go, I try and stay with the Wyndham Group. They have a huge range of hotels from Travelodge, up to things like the Wingate and Hawthorn. The best part is that there is always a Wyndham hotel near where you need to go, and you can keep racking up points. Free nights are nice every one in awhile, but I usually go for the gift card rewards and use it to buy something I’ve been wanting for awhile but never had the money to get.
Next week we’ll talk about the packing and actual travel portion of the trip. Until then, Train To Triumph!