Monday, January 21, 2013

Travel Tips & Tricks from the NY Times Travel Show

The only thing I want out of this world is to see it.  I've never understood anyone who doesn't have a passport, and even more dumbfounded when people who have one, don't use it as much as humanly possible. There are countless places to see, things to do, people to meet, and weird foods to try, and if you can find a great friend (or two or three) who travels similarly to the way you like to that you get to share the world with, then you've hit the ultimate jackpot. So when one of my favorite travel partners brought forward the idea of attending a day of the NY Times Travel Show, I didn't even ask questions about what it was and just said, "Sure, buy my ticket, I'll Venmo you the money, and see you on Sunday."

This was the 10th anniversary of the Travel Show, and it took place over 3 days at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City as put on by the NY Times.  A $14 VIP Consumer ticket (pre-bought) got us access to quite a few seminars, over 500 exhibitions, stage shows, food tastings, and an encounter with some penguins.


We chose to go to 4 of the 5 seminars (there were 3 options each hour from 10:30-2:30), and they were all incredibly well done and informative. We also perused the exhibitor floor, which was extremely lively with people in authentic costumes & dance shows. 

Session 1:  Travel & Social Media

Now, I know a thing or two about this social media stuff, but it was great to hear representatives from Mashable, AFAR Magazine, and Johnny Jet talk about how they're using it and which companies they know to be the most active.  They all agreed that social has disrupted travel and that it's an incredibly useful tool in preparing for a trip as well as fast customer service, but that most of them weren't really using it *while* traveling.  I think it's important to mention that the average age in the room had to be circling 50, and the moderator had quite the affinity for chatting about travel agents and giant travel sites like Travelocity & Hotels.com, so there wasn't much mention of modern travel startups like Airbnb, Jetsetter, or Couchsurfing.

This isn't to say that they didn't know much about social, but they mentioned the non-use of social mostly because when you travel the whole point is to soak up the culture & immerse yourself in the place that you're in, instead of having your face in a mobile device.  I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment and style of travel.  Enjoy the ones your with, save the social for before and after mostly. That being said, there probably could have been a little more social savvy on this panel that included understanding some of the more modern ways to get around the world.

Takeaway: The Cranky Concierge, TripTwit, Airfare Watch Dog

Session 2:  HomeExchange.com  // Tips for Traveling Better Cheaper Smarter

We split this session up.  Home Exchange is cool... basically if you've seen the movie "The Holiday" then you've got the exact idea of Home Exchange. The presentation was basically a giant [dry] advertisement, so we left.

Tips for Traveling was the place to be.  Full room, very funny presenter (@JohnnyJets) and he had an entire giant word document list of tips.  Basically, just check out his website Johnny Jet for any takeaways.  He reminded me I need to sign up for Global Entry that I keep forgetting about, so that was a plus.

Session 3: Maximizing Credit Cards for Free w/ The Points Guy (Brian Kelly)

This might have been the most valuable session of the day for me.  As I claw my way out of a little bit of manageable credit card debt, I'm thinking of ways to be smarter about it all and become a mileage points aficionado. I started years ago by signing up for Star Alliance (airline loyalty program), Amtrak Rewards (train), and Starwood Hotels, but this was a really good overview of how to work at getting more for your money. However, it requires a lot of research, a very good understanding of your credit score and what goes into it, and playing a little bit of a numbers game/pay for play.

The trick here is organizing yourself.  Understanding how much you're spending in categories like Airfare, Gas, Grocery, and Dining and which cards will ultimately pay out the most points for things you're doing anyway. Brian Kelly discussed using Amex, Chase, ad Starwood as his preferred systems and the pros & cons of a Transferable, Cobranded, & Fixed Value credit card, depending on what you're after. Personally I never thought about it like this before, so I'll be checking out his site to learn more.

Takeway: Communities: FlyerTalk & MilePoint, and a weird Amex/Walmart partnership for: BlueBird

Session 4: Culinary Tourism: Expanding Your Horizons

This one was a bit of a fun one. Who doesn't like to eat when they travel? As one of the panelists joked, she was the kind of person who goes to museums just to work up an appetite to eat.  Which is someone that's totally on my level.

The panelists spoke on Mezcales from Mexico, pasta & desserts on tours throughout Italy, Bourgogne's many Michelin rated restaurants, and a culinary festival & cooking school in Panama.  Not only was I thoroughly entertained, I left starving and wanting pasta.

Takeaways:  Outside of some great story telling, I look forward to hearing more from the Italian speaker as she does "Undiscovered Italy" & history lectures around New York.  

***

This was definitely worthwhile for anyone that has a penchant for traveling. If I didn't already have an addiction to travel, this would have done it, and hell - may have even made things worse.  I'll see you next year NY Times Travel Show... 


Did you attend the NY Times Travel Show?  Did you partake in different sessions?  I'd love to hear some of your thoughts & takeaways in the comments below.

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