Book Next Vacation While Shopping at Costco or Sams Club?

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It’s almost spring, and time to get started planning your next trip. How you elect to book your trip, may prove to be as important as your overall planning process. If you are somewhat flexible, and are willing to go with “packages”, then you may be in for a surprise. It’s called, booking with your  wholesale retail stores. You may think that this idea is a bit outrageous, but  I found that it has merits.

Major wholesale retail businesses like,  Costco and Sam’s Club have gotten into this market. Costco has been doing it for several years, and Sam’s Club just entered the market in 2014. They work the travel services as they do all other services that they bring to their customers. Partnering with hotels, rental car companies, and cruise lines, they are able to bring together significant packages. I can hear the “saving bell ringing.”

I wanted to “test” this out. So I went to each of there websites, and inserted a point of travel.  What I discovered was that Costco has good destinations from which to choose, but they are somewhat limited. There website is easy to Navigate, and if you already know where you would like to go, you can book airfare, hotel, and rental car as one package, or you can omit the airfare, and just do hotel and rental car.

Sam’s Club offers its customers  more options in terms of destinations. Also, they have a feature that I really like. They illustrate your destination and the Sam’s Club price  comparison. I liked this feature because it allowed me to instantly compare the value and the savings that I would receive. It saved a trip of having to close out and to go back and look at that information again. Either way, I think that you will be pleased with what the two retailers have to offer.

What if you are not currently a member? It may be worth it to you to obtain a pass, and look at the travel servies.  Of course, you will be asked to become a member, but if you think that you are getting a good deal, the trip and the membership fee will be worth it.

It’s almost Spring. Get those vacation plans started.

 

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Newest Trend: The Lifestyle Brand Hotel is Waiting For You

It wasn’t that long ago that you could identify the type of hotel that you were considering by the brand. The brand had a definitive market, and we as the consumer knew exactly where we fit into it. Then, the hotels began to segment the brands, which made it a bit more interesting, but at the same time confusing.

The newest trend is the “Lifestyle brand,” which essentially means that the particular hotel associated with the brand, has its own unique look and feel of the community, and neighborhood in which it resides. It’s taking us further down the path of personalization. Several major hoteliers have entered this market. Each with their own take on design, culture, and the approach to appealing to the consumer’s needs. Some properties are casual, while others are luxurious. The trick is to find the brand that best fits your personality and lifestyle choices. Here are just a few of the brands that have recently entered the market and are making a difference in the traveling experience.

Lowes with their OE Collection. This collection is initiating in Toronto later this year, and falls more towards the luxury end of the scale, but does a nice job of blending both business and luxury into the experience.  Hilton has elected to get into this market with a new brand called Canopy, that appears to be geared to those who enjoy an easy lifestyle. It will be interesting to see how this  brand does with its Curio brand that was introduced at the end of 2014. Canopy hotels are slated to open around the US later this year.  Marriott has the AC Hotels  which were primarily in Spain, Portugal and Italy but has expanded to New Orleans, Kansas City and Miami.  Hyatt  Centric Hotels are a modern urban experience and are due to open in 2015,  and the Ritz Carlton  has  The Reserve. The Reserves are strategically located  in four (4) locations around the world, with each deploying a lifestyle that is “fabulous.”

So, how do you make your selection. The brands have made it simple. There is something for every taste, price point, to accommodate your travel and vacation needs, from relaxation, high volume activity, to a place to meet with business associates.  The choice is yours. Let your lifestyle be heard. Enjoy.

I will add a menu selection on this blog that will post hotel openings around the world in this category. Check for your favorite.

Leaving a Good Tip Is Not What It Used To Be

Do you consider yourself a “good tipper?” When you’ve been served a nice meal, and your server was polite and attentive, what percentage did you leave?

To ensure that the wait staff are given their reasonable due for services rendered, many restaurants have started to post suggested tip percentages at the bottom of the bill. This keeps people who are not math geniuses from getting out their phones to do the calculations. The percentages are generally shown as 10-15 and 20% respectively. However, some establishments are deciding to use a new digital payment option, which displays tipping percentages of 25-50 and 75%. This is a “game changer.”

The New York Times did an article on just this subject, and I was stunned at this growing trend. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/01/business/dollar3-tip-on-a-dollar4-cup-of-coffee-gratuities-grow-automatically.html?  I have eaten at incredible restaurants. I appreciate great meals, and the service that is a part of that experience,  but I do not recall having ever  left a tip of that magnitude, and wonder what it would take for me to do so?

As we move into this new era of generous tipping, each diner will need to consider how much the service is truly worth. Are you tipping for the quality of the service, or are you helping to fund the wage gap that exist in the service industry? It will be interesting to see the customer’s response to this issue.Will customers feel okay at plopping down 25%, but resist tipping at the upper ranges? Is this an indication of a creep that we should expect? If so, in the next five years, how much is that final bill actually going to cost ?

I think that we have to separate the issue of paying for the wage gap, and paying for quality service. As customers, if we are doing the latter, then it is incumbent upon the establishment to provide: 1) the environment and atmosphere 2) a creative menu 3) excellently prepared food4) highly trained staff, and last 5) personalized service to incite the customer to want to pay more. It is in this area that I believe is the “sweet spot” for most restaurants. Do something different. Make the experience extraordinary, and memorable. Find a way to do that each time a person comes, and people will be willing to tip more.

Over the next few years, this will continue to be an interesting story to watch and on which to report. I will bring you updates on how this trend evolves and its impact on the traveler.  Stayed tuned.

This is the first in a series, Tuesday Travel Trends. Look for the next trend posting each Tuesday.