One thing that’s inevitable when writing a book is that not all of the chapters you write or the interviews you conduct will make the final cut. Nevertheless, this chapter on business travel featuring Acquania Escarne was too good not to share. If you want to learn how to make the most of your time and resources when traveling with a nine to five, order a copy of my latest book Traveling With A Full-Time Job. This book is jam packed with tips including how to become your company’s vacation policy expert (and why it’s important), ways to travel using minimal paid time off, and more. Let me introduce you to Acquania Escarne, a business travel expert, a blogger and podcaster over at The Purpose of Money.
Acquania Escarne is a U.S. Diplomat who contributes to the formulation and implementation of the President’s foreign policies. As a U.S. Diplomat, she lived in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) for three years. After working in Dubai, she returned to Washington, D.C. where she has traveled all over the United States for work. From small towns like Pine Bluff (Arkansas) to big cities like New York, she was on the road as much as two to three days a week. She used this opportunity to see the United States, explore our country’s best restaurants and museums, and secure status with the largest hotel chain in the world. She shares her favorite travel tips for business travel with us.
How To Make the Most of Business Travel
With Acquania Escarne of The Purpose of Money
How do you plan for fun on a business trip?
Acquania Escarne: On business trips, I plan my lunch and dinner meals based on the best restaurants in town. If someone I was working with wanted to come, we could enjoy the experience together. If not, I would go alone. I don’t have any issues eating a good meal solo.
My job paid a set amount for meals depending on the travel location. I could eat for cheap or splurge, my reimbursement amount would not change. If I spent less on food, I could keep the difference. Plus, when I traveled with my family, the food perks would cover another adult too which meant more savings for my family.
If I had meetings for most of the morning, I’d visit the local museums in the afternoon. When I had recruiting events on a Saturday, I would try to arrive on a Friday and use that day as my free day since I was working over the weekend.
Although I had an idea of where I wanted to go, I also asked locals about places to visit as well. Sometimes the internet points you in the direction of the fun, touristy stuff. Locals will show you where the real fun spots and good food is. Try the new suggestions you did not find on Google.
You mentioned securing status with the largest hotel chain in the world, how did business travel help you do that?
Acquania Escarne: Before you start to travel all over the world, pick a hotel chain and airline you love and stick with them. Sign up for the member loyalty programs immediately, they are free.
Here are factors to take into consideration when choosing your brands:
- Are you required to fly a certain airline or book a certain hotel if your job is paying for it? For example, some companies only reimburse employees for flights on U.S. airline carries.
- What airline flies to the places you want to go to?
- What hotel has the most partners in the travel industry and the most international locations?
- Which company is willing to give you the best bang for your buck on personal trips?
- Does your job let you keep your points and miles earned?
Fortunately, my job lets me keep my points and miles even if they pay for the trip. Secondly, I have to pick hotels and flights based on a price limit. That dynamic gives me the flexibility to choose the best brands that work for me as long as I don’t go over budget.
If I was going to visit a place that did not have my favorite hotel chain or I had to fly a new airline, I signed up for their loyalty program. This way I would get credit for the flight or stay. And if I ever used them again, my trips would add up.
While recruiting, I was on the road for more than 75 hotel nights a year. Since I used one chain for most of my hotel stays, I was able to reach Platinum status with Marriott in a few months. When Marriott merged with SPG, I hit the jackpot. I found myself a member of the world’s largest hotel chain. That is huge because when you have status, you get more perks whenever you travel. For example, platinum members get access to the hotel lounge during trips. The lounge provides free meals, appetizers, and sometimes drinks throughout the day. Free meals and drinks meant I spent less money on food for personal and business trips.
My status also allowed me to get free upgrades to suites if one was available at check-in. When traveling alone, the extra space didn’t matter. However, when traveling with my family, extra space meant we had room to spread out. In the past, I have had rooms with dining room tables for eight, two to three bathrooms, and office/working space too.
Many business travelers swear by credit cards to earn additional points and miles on their business trips. Would you recommend getting an airline or hotel-branded credit card?
Acquania Escarne: Not only did I sign up for the free Marriott loyalty program, but I signed up for the credit card too. This meant I got triple points for hotel stays and meals at hotel restaurants and other seasonal promotions and bonuses throughout the year.
Translation: More free travel for myself.
The faster I racked up points, the faster I got my next vacation booked and paid for. My job did not require me to use a particular credit card and reimbursed for official expenses, as long as I submitted my travel receipts after the trip. I submitted my receipts immediately, never incurred interest, and watched my points grow. It was a win-win if you ask me.
A special thank you to Acquania Escarne, the host of The Purpose of Money Podcast for sharing her business travel tips. Her blog and podcast is an excellent resource for living a purposeful life and building wealth. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
Did you enjoy this bonus chapter? Read the introduction to Traveling With A Full-Time Job here.