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Travel Tips: How to Get Great Service

Traveler Illustrations.

Photo: Illustrated by Brown Bird Design

Offer Up Alternatives

Be creative in your requests. Some hotels may not be able to afford to give you a room discount, but they can offer you things that don’t cost them much, such as an airport pick-up, free valet parking, or a resort credit, says Michael McCall, professor and chair of marketing at New York’s Ithaca College. Similarly, although airlines may not give business travelers a break on airfare, they can offer frequent fliers a free day pass to their lounges.

Pick Your Loyalties Wisely

On average, about 70 to 80 percent of first-class seats are upgrades, says former American Airlines employee and senior director of TripAdvisor flights search Jami Counter. It pays to join an airline’s frequent-flier program—but not just any airline. Don’t pick a carrier headquartered in your city, because there will be a larger pool of elite fliers. “It’s a lot easier to get upgraded on airlines that are based elsewhere,” Counter says.

Quell Your Fears

…of must-use tech products breaking down on the road. Buy extended warranties and 24-hour support packages for faster service—no matter where you are.

Remember Names

Write down the name of everyone you deal with: reservationists, concierges, and front-desk staff. If you have to follow up on a request or complaint, it pays to be able to reference the staffer with whom you originally spoke.

Show Them the Money

I always overtip,” says author Gay Talese, “especially at restaurants I want to go back to. I start with the maître d’.”

Travel Like Your Mom

“Talk to everyone—taxi drivers, doormen, anyone,” says Fred Dust, partner at Ideo. “It’s not so much about the questions, it’s about listening. My greatest tips come from something I learned through a longer conversation.”

Understand How a Restaurant Works

Don’t call during the lunch and dinner rushes. “They’ll put you on hold for 20 minutes and then talk to you for five seconds,” says Marino Monferrato, general manager of Cecconi’s, in West Hollywood, California. And know that most restaurants are wary of the 7:30 dinner reservation. “If they seat you then, they’ll only be able to get one seating at that table that night,” says Rocky Cirino, general manager of Marea, in New York. For a great table, you’re better off aiming for either 6:45 or 8:15 p.m.

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