Consultant Travel Newbie Questions

Discussion in 'General Discussion | Miles/Points' started by iharris, Jan 17, 2014.  |  Print Topic

  1. iharris

    iharris Member

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    HI all-

    I am a new consultant that just took a gig that will require me to be travelling from Boston to Chicago for the next 9 months or so staying Mon-Thu. The best airlines for travel are JetBlue and American and the closest hotels to my office are Marriott and Holiday Inn.

    Could you please educate me on how i should position the future travel and stays that I will be doing to get status as quickly as possible? The first week was tough and status would mitigate some of the problems.

    Thanks everyone in advance.
     
  2. Slow_Mustang
    Original Member

    Slow_Mustang Silver Member

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    Can't comment on the best airline program for you but for hotels, I would choose Holiday Inn. The Chase IHG card gives you a nice sign up bonus and status, a free night on CC anniversaries, and has more hotels worldwide than Marriott.

    Disclosure: I don't get any rewards for my comments, don't have a link for IHG and in no way profit from recommending IHG. ;)
     
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  3. Counsellor
    Original Member

    Counsellor Gold Member

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    Welcome to MilePoint!

    Not sure how your flights will be arranged, but if you're looking for lower cost, you might consider looking into something along this line:

    Instead of doing each week with a Monday AM flight and returning on a Friday PM flight, if you know the start and finish of your project, you could do a RT going out Monday the first week and coming back Friday the last week (you could get a changeable or "open return" ticket for this RT just in case the project goes longer or shorter than originally planned), then do RTs departing ORD Friday PM and returning to ORD Monday AM for the weekends in between. Sometimes the "weekend get-away" type of flight is priced lower than the "I'm on business going Monday and coming back Friday" ticket.

    As to hotel, I'd be inclined to go with Marriott. They have nice properties in Chicago (and world-wide, for that matter), if you get their Chase Premier (black) VISA, they give you a nice signup bonus (currently 70,000 points and credit for staying 15 nights, and automatic Silver elite before you even stay the first night) and once you get Gold (35 more nights) you have access to the Executive Lounge with free breakfasts and evening drinks and food. Annual fee is waived the first year, one free night each year (although not at top end hotels), and one bonus night credit for every $3,000 you put on the credit card plus 5 bonus points per dollar charged at full-service Marriott properties. Really adds up fast.

    More information at this Link.

    (I also don't get anything from Marriott or VISA for the recommendation -- it's just my personal opinion.)
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2014
  4. MSYgirl

    MSYgirl Gold Member

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    Welcome to MP! :)

    I prefer AA since I have always had great experiences with their customer service, and their loyalty program is still pretty good in my opinion (and to be fair I haven't flown JetBlue a lot, so can't comment about them). I like Marriott hotels, but many members here speak highly of the IHG program. As with any program, experiences vary. Good luck racking up points and status, and safe travels.
     
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  5. Slow_Mustang
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    Slow_Mustang Silver Member

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    After reading Counsellor's post, Marriott looks good too. The only reasons I am less favorable towards them is their smaller footprint and that their free anniversary award night is good only at lower end properties that I have never been able to use. IHG's free night is good on any property and the last time I/we used the free nights (2 between the two of us) was last month at the Paris Intercontinental. With roughly 180 paid hotel night stays (9 months X 20/month) coming up, I would even consider splitting between the two chains and accruing points on both (with two Chase cards) to give myself some flexibility for award nights for my pleasure trips. Both hotel chains have some promotions going on for which you are required to register (I think). Here is a link for IHG promotions,

    http://boardingarea.com/viewfromthe...promotion-codes-earn-big-bonuses-hotel-stays/

    I too like AA since I can use miles for international travel, and have never flown JetBlue. Citi has Visa and MC personal cards and a Biz card, each of which I think currently offer a 50K miles bonus with the required spend.
    http://millionmilesecrets.com/credit-cards/airline-credit-cards/
    http://boardingarea.com/viewfromthewing/

    Disclosure: I am not on staff to either Gary or Daraius and don't get paid to provide links to their blogs. ;)
    Apologies to Mommy Points for not providing a link to her blog, but it is there on either of the other blog links provided.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2014
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  6. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    Welcome to MilePoint. I have a coworker in your precise position although his gig is in another midwest city. Last week we got a Platinum Challenge from AA which required 10,000 points on AA within 90 days. As long as you are not on deep discount tickets you'll meet you challenge in six weeks and you'll be Platinum while you're doing it. Just call the AAdvantage customer service number and tell them you want to sign up for a Platinum challenge. My colleague had his new status in effect within 48 hours after signing up.
     
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  7. Sweet Willie
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    Sweet Willie Gold Member

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    While Jet Blue does travel to a few international locations, AA is the easy choice if iharris has desires to travel to international locations other than Jet Blue's small international footprint. The international aspect & the following post by jbcarioca makes AA the easy choice of airlines.(in my opinion)
    As far as hotels, I've rarely had IHG as my primary hotel chain, they have mostly been my backup chain. That said, their points have come in handy PLENTY of times and they have a larger footprint than Marriott for travel.
     
  8. Slow_Mustang
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    Slow_Mustang Silver Member

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    I, not being a business traveler any more with the ability to earn buko hotel points with paid stays, tend to make sure that I have evenly distributed levels in Starwood, Marriott, Hilton and IHG accounts. This appraoch gives me the flexibility that I need for different foreign destinations. So, I am a fan of reward nights, rather than a fan of a chain, out of necessity. Since the OP asked for choice between IHG and Marriott only, my suggestion would be to split the stays between the two chains. My experience with Hilton at their overseas properties has been the best, since just with gold status, I have been getting complimentary breakfasts and access to their lounges which are open all day long with drinks in the evenings. For that reason, I prefer Hilton, if one exists in the travel town and I have enough points to pay for it. Otherwise my choice is made by the points balance in different accounts. Anyway, next up are Hilton in Dubravnik, Double Tree in Zagreb and Hilton in Venice for me. Thank you Hilton Surpass, Hawaiian airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Citi Hilton (and Vanilla reloads) for making that possible.
     
  9. Pizzaman
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    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    What is your goal? Do you want to redeem points for international travel? Domestic travel? I, too, prefer AA to JetBlue, but it ultimately depends on what you want to do with the points.

    As for hotels, is there a limited service SPG or Hyatt property that's not too much further away? I think you'll find those programs more rewarding (though with a smaller footprint). If you're renting a car anyway it's worth considering a slightly longer drive. Plenty of SPG and Hyatt properties in the Chicago area.
     
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  10. bigx0

    bigx0 Gold Member

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    Yes, IHG has more properties but in my experience they are of quite inconsistent quality. And elite status really doesn't get you very much and most properties.

    I'd get the IHG credit card. You get instant highest level status, so when you decide to stay at an IHG property you're all set. But I think you'll be much happier at most Marriott properties.

    Sure, there are exceptions, but that's why it's a good idea to have the IHG credit card.

    Now, for international travel things get a bit murkier. IHG platinum doesn't do you much good internationally but earning status there will help. On the other hand most non-US Marriotts are great if you have status. Those lounges are super worth it, with most even having free alcohol.
     
  11. iharris

    iharris Member

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    Thank you everyone for the quick response and the great level of detail. Is there an equivalent "platinum challenge" for Marriott or IHG?

    I need to process all the information and will be sure to let everyone know how i fare. Thank you everyone
     
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  12. iharris

    iharris Member

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    My goal is status for the short term, but would probably use the points i obtain for domestic travel.

     
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  13. bigx0

    bigx0 Gold Member

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    Marriott used to have an established "platinum challenge", but it's no longer codified. They now take things on a case by case basis. You can call their Elite customer service line, explain your situation and ask what they can do for you.

    I don't know about IHG. Never heard of one but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
     
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  14. Pizzaman
    Original Member

    Pizzaman Co-founder

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    I'd seriously give consideration to other programs. As others have said, IHG points don't stretch too far and the service levels are inconsistent. Some folks swear by the Marriott program but it really doesn't offer as much as value as it used to.

    Since your likely to do domestic travel with the points you accrue, JetBlue still may be a good fit for you. Certainly if the Caribbean is a likely destination I'd stick with JetBlue. But, if other areas are likely for award redemptions I'd lean AA.

    Let us know what you decide.
     
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  15. moongoddess

    moongoddess Silver Member

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    It costs you nothing to sign up for a frequent flyer account or a hotel program account. Why not sign up for both AA's and JetBlue's frequent flyer programs, and both Marriot's and IHG's hotel guest programs, and see which programs work out the best for you over the next several months of actual use? When you see a pattern emerging, you'll know which credit cards to get to supplement the points and miles you're earning by your flights and hotel stays.
     
  16. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    iharris,
    Welcome to MP! You've gotten much great advice here! The only thing that I have to add - I often travel for a similar work schedule - is to consider booking flights when possible on off-travel days/times. I fly Southwest quite a bit, and find that there is often greater seat availability (and cheaper airfares) on advance booking of flights on Monday morning versus Sunday evening, and Friday morning versus Friday evening. I'm unsure how difficult it is/change fees incurred when changing flights with American, but with Southwest (and I'm assuming also with AirTran), it's simply amazing that there's still no charges for changes/cancellations, when done in advance. Good luck! ;)
    Newscience
     
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  17. Santander

    Santander Silver Member

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    The free bags/changes and relatively painless awards on WN are nice, but the relative lack of non-stop frequencies compared to UA or AA would make it less appealing for me unless my office was close to MDW.

    Personally, I'd fly UA and stay Marriott. Even if I will be among the AA FF ranks soon enough, I just can't get excited about OW for international travel, at least not compared to *A. Plus, UA is Chicago's true hometown airline! Marriott generally doesn't have the best hotels, but it's not like IHG does either and at least Marriott has nice little program quirks like cashback sites and LNF to help you out during your personal travel.
     
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  18. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    Hmmm, and we absolutely need to hear SweetWillie's opinion on all things Chicago! @sweetwillie ;)
     
  19. ab3i
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    ab3i Silver Member

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    Iharris, i am sure you have received enough advice on your initial question and some other suggestions. I would offer a couple of other suggestions (that have been covered for the most part and are slightly redundant), that you might want to consider. I have been with a Big4 firm for around 8 years (glutton for punishment and no life), so take these as you will. At any rate, safe travels and welcome to the world of MP. :)
    1. if your travel is being booked from a central corp. travel portal, then the cost of the fares would not be a concern. however, you might want to confirm with your team what they expect the weekly travel to cost as well as arrival/departure times, as that might determine whichever airline program you end up choosing
    2. For the hotels, i would actually recommend marriott especially if that is where your team is staying. if you are working for one of the bigger consulting firms, and not as an independent contractor/consultant, a lot of times your hotel choices will be limited by the client/project budget/team preferences. usually, these will boil down to Marriott / SPG / Hyatt. Since you asked to choose between Marriott and Holiday Inn, go with Marriott.
    3. Business travel can be very different. You will have to most likely charge things to your corporate amex, your airline and hotel choices will be determined by timing rather than pricing, as well as project team leadership and their preferences. If you are planning to be in consulting for a while, think more long term. Marriott/SPG properties are more common consultant hotels than Holiday Inns. UA/AA/DL are more common airline programs for consultants than Jetblue and Southwest. dont just think about the current project, but take a long term strategic view.
     
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  20. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    By way of qualifications my firm both contracts to and subcontracts for, several of the major consulting and IT firms. In addition, following a few decades as a consultant I have made a career of making sense of arcane rules applicable to my clients both partners and end clients. This stuff is not simple and it undergoes constant changes, not always for the worse.

    From that perspective I have a couple additional suggestions also:

    1) Depending on your firm, Hilton properties are very frequent also. Otherwise, if you
    expect travel to Europe, several consulting firms tend to have excellent arrangements with Accor and Sixt (for rental cars) in addition or in place of the US chains. That is especially true for companies from Europe (CapGemeni, SAP etc...).
    2) As ab3i points out there are 'project', 'corporate' and 'event' rates. Those three types are very important. Otehr things remaining equal 'project' rates are usually cheapest, followed by
    either of the otehr two. 'event' rates, for conventions etc, can sometimes actually be more expensive. YMMV, so check every time. 'project' rates for consultants that have very large local contracts sometimes are very, very cheap, but you'll need to know the code. It will usually be directly managed by project administrators. IME, most project administrators will share those codes if you're possibly connected to the project. However, in many cases the Corporate travel office normally manages those, and, especially if it is contracted to the one mentioned by ab3i they will not help get the project rates. Routinely I get those rates and apply them when I check in to the hotel. That requires that you know the code or that the check in desk knows you. FWIW, hotel front desk people soon will become your best friends if they are not already. A small tip consistently does improve service.
    3) Corporate airline contracts are a constant thorn in the side of many consultants. depending on the firm you are with those can be a huge PITA. I have been a consultant for many years and have noticed increasingly cumbersome bizarre rules governing airline ticketing. More or less in order, at the moment, Delta has the most corporate contracts, including deep discounts and rebates for the majority of large consultants, including It and strategy firms as well as specialists. Following Delta are American and United. American was in the lead only a few years ago, so you'll see changes in those preferences. Lately Southwest has been making major inroads, and BOS is one location where taht is happening. Thus I recommend joining all those programs.

    Depending on who your employer is the policies can be very specific or quite flexible. If you want more details you can send a conversation to me or one of the otehr people you think might know about your specific company policies.
     
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  21. daninstl

    daninstl Gold Member

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    I would stay at all the nearby hotels to find which has the best rooms and service that fits your needs. Sounds like this is Marriott or IHG in your case. Pick your primary program based on how nice "that" individual hotel is since you'll be doing it so much. Get the credit card for both to get as much status as you can. With Marriott make sure to sign up for the promos (look for them on Milepoint) they offer like the stay 2x get a free 1-4 cat night, etc. On the IHG side if you get the credit card it will give you Platinum status. Then once you start staying at that one hotel a lot speak with the manager to see if you can get anything extra for your business at the local level like upgrade, free food, etc.
    I don't know jack about Jetblue but I have seen their planes. Again pick your favorite of the two and get the credit card for that airline to get any extra perks like lounges, boarding plus the extra miles of course. If you pick AA see if you can get a status challenge to quickly ramp up your status with them.

    Personally I like IHG the most because they give me the most miles, have the best promos and "most" of the properties are very good. Like my advise above each hotel will vary. I also like AA because they fit my travel needs and airports better than other airlines with the exception of SW which won't get me to Europe anytime soon.
     
  22. iharris

    iharris Member

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    Thank you to everyone for the insightful responses. I have been treated incredibly well by Marriott, after just asking :), and am in a Gold (hopefully Platinum) Challenge with American Airlines. All of your advice has been great. Thank you
     
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  23. WilliamQ

    WilliamQ Gold Member

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    Congratulations and do enjoy the perks that certainly helps make the frequent travelling a bit less harsh.
     
  24. Terry Yap

    Terry Yap Gold Member

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    Marriott would be great now as there a Megabonus promotion and an apparently stackable new member promotion...;)
     
  25. traveltoomuch

    traveltoomuch Silver Member

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    This sounds like a great fit for you at this time. Congratulations. I'm particularly glad to see that you chose Marriott over IHG.

    Two closing bits of advice:

    If you do wind up using other hotels or airlines on occasion, make sure to collect the points and miles, whether in the vendor's own program or a partner's. Small drips can still build up over time and eventually be handy. (e.g. IHG "pointsbreak" awards for only 5k points.) No point in leaving money on the table.

    And: consider spending your own money to enhance your experience. For example, if a transcon mile run will help you meet that Platinum challenge, it may be worth $300-400 of your own money to make the trip.
     

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