In this section I’ll review certain hotels, airlines, attractions etc.
Also will provide tips & tricks that I have learned through my travel experiences.
Firstly, would like to talk a bit about my booking strategy. Over my extensive global travels I have found that the best way to book is to use the hotel or airline’s direct website rather than any aggregator sites, and make use of their loyalty and rewards programs. This is certainly more beneficial over the long run.
In the past I was using sites such as Booking.com, Expedia, Priceline and the like who offer you short-term gains in the form in the form of small discounts on the booking cost, but nothing else beside that — usually you end up with non-refundable and non-changeable bookings and get poor treatment from the service providers who stand to gain little from your cheap booking.
When I started to book directly and join programs, I felt the big difference. My points accumulated quickly and soon I was eligible for flight and room upgrades, free stays or trips, discounted meals and services — which added up to more than cover the “discount” I would have gotten on the other sites. Moreover, I get treated like a king everywhere I go and all my requests or complaints get handled with priority by being a premium member.
Currently I am a Diamond member with Wyndham group, Platinum with Accor, Gold with Starwood and Silver with Hilton. I also hold Gold and Silver levels with some major airlines that pretty much go everywhere, so with these perks I can fly and stay anywhere in the world with great benefits.
Just to note before reading here, I worked for a major airline before and know the ins and outs of the industry!
For airlines I usually prefer large premium carriers that operate wide-body aircraft for comfort in long-haul flights. With my loyalty points I am usually able to upgrade to business class and thus benefit from the increased privacy and flatbeds etc. The top example here would be the Emirates A380 planes that have the best business class seats I have tried.
With these global airlines usually prices do not change much seasonally or for advanced booking, except when there are special offers. Usually the ticket prices you will get from an agent site are not much different from the ones you get directly from the carrier, and the benefit of earning reward miles would outweigh any price difference.
I tend to avoid low-cost carriers and “cheap” airlines as much as possible as they are usually not worth the trouble. Here are some stories of poor quality and treatment I faced when I made any sub-optimal flight decisions.
AirAsia on a short domestic flight
- No confirmation email of the booking after purchase, or any time afterwards
- Very high flight change fees
- Extremely tough baggage policy, must physically take things out of the bag and cannot simply pay for extra weight
- Unhelpful and unfriendly staff both at the airport and onboard
- Poor seat assignment different from expected, and cannot change seats onboard due to “cost difference” of each seat
- Meal shortage onboard, could not find anything to eat
Turkish Airlines on a medium international flight
- Filthy bathroom onboard, toilet had not been cleaned since last flight or not even toilet flushed
- Dirty/cluttered area under the seat, large box occupying the legroom area and no seat pouch to store things
- On-screen map system not working, counting things in reverse
- Announcements made in poor spoken English and could not be understood
- Service call light was dismissed, when I asked was told they don’t take it seriously because most people just press it by accident, rude crew responses overall
- Tried to fill out the on-screen survey to give this feedback, but conveniently it also didn’t work
- Seems there was carry-on policy, some people had 6 items with them which caused the bins to be overstuffed
Hotel fiascoes like misplaced booking etc, are common but usually don’t happen to me because of my elite membership status, hotels typically assign specific rooms for members in advance and hold them without error. Inescapable though are in-room problems such as broken devices, noise or light issues, and staff or guest behavior.