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Helpful Travel Tips from Dr.Theo Brandt-Sarif co-author of Guerrilla Travel Tactics

Interview By Norm Goldman from SketchandTravel.com

Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of Sketchandtravel.com and Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest, Dr.Theo Brandt-Sarif co-author of Guerrilla Travel Tactics.

Thanks Theo for accepting Bookpleasures.com and Sketchandtravel.com invitation to be interviewed.

Norm:

I wonder if you could give our readers a brief résumé of yourself and what motivated you to co-author Guerrilla Travel Tactics?

Theo:

It is my pleasure to talk travel with you, Norm. I am a self-admitted travel-aholic. My global travel as a medical researcher ignited a lifelong passion for the road, runway, and waterway less traveled. While traveling on research assignments in the quest for innovative new drugs, I learned how you travel in luxury for much, much less. In addition, I love to travel the world with my wife and three children, in search of new lands, beautiful scenery, and fascinating people. In Guerrilla Travel Tactics, I share literally hundreds of great strategies I have learned to save upscale travelers time and money.

Norm:

Why did you give your book the title Guerrilla Travel Tactics?

Theo:

I believed the best audience for my strategies was the business traveler who pays out of his own pocket. So in 1999, I approached Jay Conrad Levinson, famous for his Guerrilla Marketing books, believing my travel strategies in book format will be perfect for his customers. As an aside, 9/11 dramatically increased the target audience for Guerrilla Travel Tactics, as larger companies slashed travel budgets. And leisure travelers can of course apply all the strategies in the book for vacation planning.

Norm:

How many times a year do you travel for pleasure only? How much time do you devote in organizing your trips?

Theo:

As a family we travel about 10 times each year for pleasure, Norm, including big trips like Rio de Janeiro or Sydney, as well as a weekend in San Diego or Phoenix. Time it takes to organize a trip is variable, ranging from 30 minutes for a weekend trip where we will drive; and up to three hours for a major vacation that will include Spain and Italy this summer.

Norm:

No doubt, as your Guerrilla Travel Tactics is very comprehensive, you must have devoted a great deal of research, time and effort into its writing. How long did it take you to do the research and eventually write the guide?

Theo:

Approximately four years, Norm. By far the biggest challenge was to dig deep into my mind to uncover exactly what I do, and then to document my best practices in a way that is simple to understand, The other challenge was to prioritize--the book could easily have been double its length! Some of the chapters that never made it into the book are available as Special Reports at my web site travelexpert.com.

Norm

When travelling, do you keep a journal and how do you decide what material to include in the book and what to leave out?

Theo:

When I return, I write a summary for my newsletter Luxury Escapes, which becomes an article Destination of the Month. The focus of the article is not so much all the things to do in the destination, but what I did to get great prices for air, hotel, ground transportation and food. I usually include a few photographs now that I finally have a digital camera!

Norm:

If you could name 5 places in the world that you would consider to be the most attractive as a romantic, honeymoon or wedding destination from the point of view of ambiance, price etc, which ones would you chose and why? As a follow up, how can you apply your guerrilla tactics when it comes to organizing a romantic getaway, honeymoon or a destination wedding?

Theo:

Best 5:

  1. Bali-the ultimate destination since it is cheap, gorgeous scenery, spectacular hotels, kindest people, deep culture. Downside-monstrous distance from anywhere in North America.
  2. Hawaii-gorgeous, romantic, easy to get to especially from the west side of North America. Downside-expensive.
  3. St. Thomas-almost like Hawaii for east coasters. Culture similar to US and Canada since is part of US Virgin Islands, but isolated. Beautiful hotels-try the Ritz!
  4. Paris-the ultimate romantic city with so much to do and unbelievable food everywhere. Downsides-language barrier for most Americans (but easy for Canadians), expensive.
  5. Anywhere in Italy. Choose Rome for big city (and serious history), Florence for culture, Portafino for secluded romance, Amalfi coast for spectacular scenery. Downside-expensive.
Guerrilla Tactics to get to the top 5: Too complex to answer in a brief interview. But I will provide a few tips:
  1. Use your frequent flyer miles to get upgraded seats when flying huge distances, like to Bali. Redeeming your frequent flyer miles for long haul business or first class provides by far the best value.
  2. Seatguru.com is a great web site to check out which are the best (and worst) seats on most airlines and aircraft.
  3. If you can go off-season, the rate will be far better. For example, Italy, France and Hawaii will always be cheaper outside the summer months when schools are out, while St. Thomas and other Caribbean islands are cheaper from June through mid-December.
  4. Check out tripadvisor.com when trying to find the best hotels-it features feedback from regular travelers that enables you to find out what a hotel is really like.
  5. For hotels, always check out the Entertainment Directory rate, which can provide discounts 50% off full rate. Get details at Entertainment.com.

Norm:

Can you briefly explain to our readers why prices of hotels, cars and air fare seem to bounce around from day to day and we never seem to know if we are getting the best deal when we make a reservation? As a follow up, what happens if we discover when we are checking out of a hotel that the deal we signed up for on the Internet was not the best and that the hotel is now offering a better price?

Theo:

Travel suppliers have yield management software programs that enable them to optimize pricing based on supply and demand. Much of the predictions of demand come from historical patterns, so an airline knows quite accurately the mix of high versus low paying passengers for any flight on any given day. If demand or supply changes at any moment, prices are adjusted accordingly.

Now, if you find at the end of your hotel stay that you could have received a better deal, you are out of luck! Here is why: the signature that you provide at check-in is an agreement that the rate you selected upfront is what you will end up paying.

Norm:

What were the five worst places you have ever visited from the point of view of airports, hotels, food, etc and what were the five best places? Please explain briefly.

Theo:

Best airports: Singapore: Orlando: Heathrow terminal 4 (all have great shopping).

Best hotels: it really depends on the specific accommodations I get.
  1. My best experience was at the Ritz in Singapore where we had a huge four-room suite, including chic living room and stylish dining area, with all rooms - including the bathtub - overlooking the city of Singapore. Also loved being in the Presidential Suite of the JW Marriott overlooking Cop cabaña beach in Rio de Janeiro this past Thanksgiving.
  2. Worst Airports: Miami is really bad-American Airlines has most of the gates, which are spread out across several terminals. One may require a marathon walk (or sprint!) to reach connecting flights, sometimes requiring another screen through security. Heathrow is also terrible if your connecting flight is in another terminal.
  3. Worst hotel: We stayed at Jury's Inn in Limerick, Ireland for one night. Really unpleasant in terms of uncomfortable beds, parking was problematic, the restaurant was being used for a private function, awful breakfast etc. The Jury's hotel chain gave us two free nights in London as compensation, and we had a fabulous time.

Norm:

If you could describe 5 of the most harrowing experiences you ever experienced, what would they be?

Theo:

I know you will be incredulous, but I cannot think of any harrowing experiences, Norm! But yes I certainly have had my share of frustrations. Like being delayed in Iowa City because of snow, and then missing my connection in Chicago that required an unexpected overnight stay at the airport hotel. Or technical delays, like the one in Rio de Janeiro. A hydraulic jack applied to change a burst tyre was not removed before baggage and passengers were boarded. Our departure was delayed by one hour, resulting in a tight connection that I made by about three minutes!

Norm:

If you could describe 5 of the best and worst deals you ever experienced, what would they be and why?

Theo:

There are so many I cannot remember them all! But this will give you some idea:

Best:
  • Purchasing 179 magazine subscriptions which got me 1 million Qantas miles, good for five business- class tickets to Australia that normally retail for $7-10,000 each. Bottom line-I got five business class seats for the same price as coach!
  • While consulting for a client in New York City, I stayed at the Grand Hyatt in New York during a promotion that offered one free night for every five paid nights. We used our free nights at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, a truly spectacular hotel where rooms retail for $500 per night and up.
  • I use the Diners Club charge card for all my business expenses. Diners had annual promotions whereby all banked Diners frequent flyer miles transferred to British Airways were doubled! Over several years I took advantage of this promotion, accumulating sufficient British Airways miles for four free business class tickets to Kenya (for a safari) and five free Concorde seats just before the supersonic jet was retired.
  • I received an invitation in the mail to switch my long distance service to Sprint. The enticement was 40,000 frequent flyer miles with Northwest Airlines given over eighteen months. I switched all four lines in my house, getting a whopping 160,000 miles, which I have still not used.
  • Remember the four-room suite at the Ritz Carlton in Singapore which we discussed earlier, Norm? We booked our stay through the travel desk affiliated with my American Express Platinum charge card. The card has arrangements with some of the best hotels in the world to provide upgrades and other amenities, and we were upgraded to the most spectacular suite I have ever seen.
Worst:
    I truly cannot think of anything significant -I research thoroughly before I go. However--anytime I get a middle seat in coach is a terrible deal-but that is VERY rare!

Norm

Do you have any future writing projects in the works?

Theo:

Besides my monthly newsletter Luxury Escapes, I am currently working on my second book with co-author Dr. Stan Plog, the pre-eminent market researcher in travel. Vacation Places Rated ranks over 150 destinations based on more than 13,500 savvy traveler's survey responses. It will be the most comprehensive book ever written to scientifically help travelers choose the best vacation destinations based on their own unique personality profiles.

Thanks Theo, it has been great to have you share with our readers your profound knowledge of travel.