For women going places

Game On!


15" of snow in Philadelphia, no problem. I'm a Chicagoan - if the flights are going this morning, so am I. Checked United's home page, travel waivers for the Northeast allow me to change my flight without being charged. 6 a.m. is a tad early, but, it's the first flight out - minimize the delays.

Not fond of 3:45 a.m. alarms - everything seamless so far. Check in at the airport, where's my wallet?? What - NO WALLET?? It's in my other purse at home. I don't make mistakes like this, I'm the Woman Road Warrior. No seats on the next flight. Wait. I'm still checked in for the later flight, can still make my lunch appointment. Can't rent a car without my license - catch a cab.

Expressway is empty - berating myself for the error. My now new flight which was my original flight leaves out of terminal 2, plan my course. There's a check-in at the end of terminal 3, easy access to getting an iced white tea from Argo Tea. All plans need a backup. The check-in is now for employees only - the travel goddesses are NOT making this easy. Finally sitting at the gate, the sun is shining, tea & Kind Bar with me. Been up for 4+ hours and I'm still in my home city. It's only going to get better right? GAME ON!

See you on the road!

Kathy Ameche

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What Do WRW's Want in a Hotel Stay?


In a previous blog post Hotel Haven, we looked at the top amenities travelers look for when they book a hotel room. Discounts, pools and extras like spa services ranked high in a survey done by Orbitz.

USAToday then did a story specifically about what Road Warriors want in a hotel stay. Hotels are offering more perks and ramping up their pampering to attract more business travelers as they start to hit the road again in 2011. Readers (mostly male - only one woman business traveler was quoted in the story) have a long list of requests but most have to do with comfort and convenience. They include:

On-site business centers
Good desk and light in room
Microwave oven
Newspaper at door
TV channel guide
Free breakfast
Early check-in

In 2009, surveyed more than 500 Woman Road Warriors for their hotel preferences.

Our results showed they absolutely want:
#1 - Cleanliness
#2 - Friendliness
#3 - Safety
#4 - Good Lighting (especially in the bathroom)

Some other suggestions for making their stay more enjoyable included:

Free bottled water and snacks
Free wi-fi (this was a must)
Good pillows, linens & comforters
More electrical outlets
Better room service menus
Comfortable reading chairs
Female-friendly rooms
Female-friendly cable channels

What do you want in your hotel stay? Let us know in the comments.

See you on the road!

Road Reporter Vicki Zwart

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Hotel Haven: What do you look for in a room?

What do you look for when booking a hotel room? In addition to free wi-fi, what are the other must-haves when you pick a place to stay? Orbitz recently released a survey of the most searched amenities by customers on its website in 2010.

The results include:

Promotional Offers and Discounts: Customers want more for less. On Orbitz, top searches included free parking and airport shuttle services.

Pools: Everybody wants to take a dip, regardless of whether they’re a single, a couple or family.

The Extras: People want more than the basics when they book a room. Orbitz says they’re looking for spa services and fitness centers. And more guests are searching for pet-friendly accommodations.

The Crosby Street Hotel in New York is one of those places offering its guests more than an average stay. It’s in SoHo at 79 Crosby Street between Spring and Prince Streets and one block behind Broadway.

Its signature room design element is a dressmaker’s mannequin.

Road Warrior Ramey Warren, president of (online public speaking training), stayed there recently and raved about the style and roominess of her accommodation. Need a screening room with up-to-date technology, including 3D capability? A place for a client event? Or how about a meeting over a classic afternoon tea? This could be it.

And how many hotels have their own roof-top kitchen garden that supplies its chefs with fresh seasonal produce? Crosby does, along with a chicken coop where designer hens lay unique pale blue eggs.

The Crosby Street hotel is part of the Firmdale hotel group which has six luxury hotels in London, all designed by award-winning designer Kit Kemp. Yes, it can be pricey but check out the Sunday night special for the lowest rates or take a seat at the Crosby Bar and enjoy the design from there.

See you on the road!

Road Reporter Deborah Harter Williams with contributing writer Vicki Zwart

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Power of the Purse


All of traveldom is vying for our 2011 dollars and pulling out all the stops to get our attention. We’ve been bombarded with all kinds of promotional gimmicks and offers.

Virgin America is still offering to let us “Fly like a Rock Star, Pay like a Cover Band” with a New Year’s Resolution to provide “Slimmer Fares.” wants me to “clay” myself – design an avatar suitable for a Claymation character to star in its next commercial. “Concierge unpacked” is offering me a Spinnaker chair made from real spinnakers (a specialized sail) for only $2950.

Marriott and United are taking the more traditional route by promising that I can “get the most award miles possible with Marriott Rewards(R) MegaMiles. Between February 1 and April 30, 2011.”

Yes, we are the target market. Women business travelers represent some $23 billion in travel dollars, not to mention our influence on 80% of all purchases. It’s the power of the purse. Let’s plan to make the most of it in 2011.

See you on the road!

Road Reporter Deborah Harter Williams

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The Cranky Flier Weighs In on SW Rewards Changes


Many Southwest frequent fliers are wondering what the changes to the airline's Rapid Rewards program mean to them. For some perspective on the new plan, we asked Brett Snyder to break down the pros and cons for Woman Road Warriors. He is the president/writer of, an award-winning consumer travel blog.

WRW: Up until now, how has SW’s rewards program been perceived by business travelers – is it beneficial? What have they liked/disliked about it?

Brett Snyder: Southwest's traditional short-haul business traveler has generally liked the program. It's simple; they can fly a bunch of $39 one way short flights and rack up the freebies pretty quickly. But there are definitely drawbacks. You could only redeem for flights on Southwest and that meant no exotic beach vacation in the Maldives or even a beach in Hawaii (since the airline only flies within the contiguous United States). The more traditional business traveler also doesn't like the lack of elite benefits. Southwest did create “A-List” a couple years ago but it didn't have much to it. (The A-List offers frequent fliers access to the best boarding pass number available and priority lanes at select check-in and security checkpoints).

WRW: What's Southwest’s main motive for changing the rewards program? We've read it’s to attract more business travelers who tend to spend more.

Brett Snyder: This is all about attracting business travelers. It's true that business travelers tend to pay more because they either book at the last minute or they need flexibility. Those are the travelers willing to pay more for convenience, but Southwest wasn't really creating an incentive for them.

WRW: What’s the best part of the new program for business travelers? Is determining awards by price/points instead of # of flights going to make it more attractive?

Brett Snyder: It depends who's answering the question. The beefed up elite program is certainly going to be attractive to frequent fliers. And it does help build incentives for people who pay more for their tickets since they can now earn more. Using the dollar-based program will be more attractive to those who spend more, but it's likely to be less attractive to those who buy cheap tickets and those who fly primarily shorter flights. That's really how it should be, but not everyone is happy about that.

WRW: What will they be unhappy with?

Brett Snyder: Again, it depends who's talking. It takes a lot longer to earn a free ticket if you fly on low fares or short flights (where fares are lower). So that will turn the traditional Southwest flier off. It's also going to be a lot more difficult to redeem for last minute flights (when prices are higher), so people have been complaining about that. Southwest's continued move away from an egalitarian program where everyone is treated equally will also anger people. Lastly for me, it's that requirement that you have a Southwest credit card to unlock all the benefits that rubs me the wrong way. (The new “More Rewards” program which allows you to use points for international flights, hotel stays, rental cars and event tickets is only available to Southwest Airlines Rapids Rewards Chase cardmembers. If you want access to the program, you have to apply for the credit card).

WRW: If you’re already a SW frequent flier, any tips for taking advantage of the new program or things to watch out for?

Brett Snyder: Well, pay more for your tickets and you can earn more! I personally find the program pretty straightforward, but I know that others think it's too complex. The key is to pay more and then you'll earn more. It looks like there is fairly good earning potential at hotel and car rental partners, (You can earn 2 points per $1 spent on purchases at participating Southwest hotel and rental car partners), so that's a good tip for building up your points. Other than that, we'll see how long it takes for people to figure out the best way to maximize their value.

Thanks to Brett for sharing his insights. Let us know what you think about the changes.

See you on the road!

Road Reporter Vicki Zwart

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Rapid Rewards Become Rapider


Southwest Airlines’ New Frequent Flier Program Aimed at Business Travelers

Southwest, making the first change in its loyalty program in 23 years, went all out,

spending close to $100 million on the project which aims to win new customers and

deepen ties to existing business travelers, who, as we know, generally pay higher prices.

The old program was based on credits. One flight = one credit. When you got 16 credits

you got a free flight but - you couldn’t collect credits beyond 16 and there was no difference in the reward between short flights and long flights. Awards were for Southwest flights only.

The new program is based on points, which in turn are based on ticket price and fare category. These can be accumulated for larger awards and have no expiration. That is, there is no expiration date as long as the account remains active in a 24-month period. There are no blackout dates for redemption and no limit on awards redeemed per flight, according to Ryan Green, Southwest senior director for loyalty.

Points can also be redeemed through a third-party provider for international and Hawaii flights as well as hotels and rental cars, even though Southwest flies only in the continental U.S. Points can also be purchased under the new program, to speed up getting an award. Watch for Southwest to add a second elite-flier category with additional benefits for those who travel most often.

The carrier unveiled a website to explain the changes, which go into effect on March 1st.

See you on the road!

Road Reporter Deborah Harter Williams

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Northeast Snow - Take 2


Another round of snow and ice is already causing delays in the Northeast and they're expected to continue over the weekend. So if you find yourself traveling to or from the region - here are some tips to prevent getting stuck:

  • Have the airlines/travel site/travel agent contact in your speed dial. Don’t be shy about using them if you run into trouble.
  • Sign up for mobile alerts from your airline or follow it on Twitter - many airlines are now using social media to keep their passengers informed of delays and cancellations. And you're more likely to get a quicker response if you tweet them directly.
  • Keep track of weather changes through alerts, apps or hey, how about the radio or TV?
  • Check the airline’s homepage and see if travel waivers are posted and for what dates. If you haven’t begun your trip and you have some flexibility think about moving it to another weekend.

If you find yourself stranded due to snow:

  • Don't give up your hotel room if you don't have to - ask for an extension even the day of travel until you can figure out what is happening with your flight.
  • Morning flights are still best if you can get one.
  • Is there another airport you can get to that isn’t snowed in? The train that services the East Coast (Philadelphia to Boston) is phenomenal. Jump a train and get to another city and fly out from that destination. Make sure you have a confirmed seat before you embark on this trip.
  • Really desperate to get home? Purchase a new ticket on a flight you can get on. New revenue will always win!

See you on the road!

Kathy Ameche

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The Christmas Snowstorm of 2010


I’m still recuperating – well kind of. Now, it only takes three steps when I get out of bed in the morning before the back/leg pains subside and I’m not limping or walking on tip toes. A week ago all I wanted to do was stay in bed and take Advil to reduce the aches – stretching helps to a point – maybe it’ll be better tomorrow.

Let me digress. We (my husband and I) head to NYC and then New Haven, CT each year for Christmas. By December 1st, we each have collected enough air miles to keep our elevated status - a record 15+ years and counting – not sure if that is a level to be proud of. The last thing we want to do is get on another plane, this time bringing gifts, winter clothing – you know the drill.

It’s a 14-hour drive from Chicago to New York City. This year we made it in 13. I drove the entire way and thought nothing of it – after all our kids and grandson was the prize at the end of the trip. Who wouldn’t drive fast to see them! I woke up at 4am the next morning with my hands, legs and arms cramping up. Other than the lake effect snow in Indiana it was clear sailing. Guess I was gripping the steering wheel tighter than I realized. 24 hours later I was good to go and the only memory of the trip out was the left-over napkins from the rest area.

By the 26th the NY City region was under a winter storm warning. The snow started falling at 11am and we left New Haven, CT at 2pm heading into NYC and right into the snow storm. Traffic on I-95 was bumper to bumper at times but we were moving. Heading off I-95 onto the BQE (Brooklyn Queens Expressway) we were met with snow covered roads and very light traffic. Hadn’t anyone heard of plows in NY? I live in Chicago where our mayors don’t get re-elected if they aren’t on top of the snow. Mayor Bloomberg needed to take a page out of Mayor Daley’s playbook.

I kept assessing the situation: On the one hand, there weren’t many cars on the road. On the other hand, I had no clue how my car would handle itself with a foot of snow already on the ground and night having fallen. Since STOPPING wasn’t an option I did what any road warrior would do when faced with a dilemma - I made my own lane on the freeway and plowed ahead. By the time we pulled into the Brooklyn Marriot we had been in the car for 4 hours (it’s usually a 1 ½ or 2 hr trip), visibility was down to 10 feet, ice had built up on the windshield (did I mention the 30 mph winds?), the roads were covered with snow and the streets were deserted. It felt great to get out of the car and know we were in for the night. OK, not quite.

Have you ever been out on deserted streets in a blizzard with 30 mph winds? It’s GREAT. We had so much fun – walking in the middle of the street, snow falling all around us, light twinkling off the icicles that formed on the trees and knowing we were virtually alone. The few people we ran into on the street smiled and there was a mutual respect and acknowledgement that being outdoors was not for the faint of heart.

21 ½ inches of snow were recorded in Central Park on the morning of the 27th. The city was waking up from a Christmas hangover only to be greeted with unplowed streets, closed airports, stranded people, delayed public transportation and deflated holiday spirit. We forged our way out into the streets of Brooklyn on Monday and although it was pretty it was just not the same as when the first snow blanketed the ground and we were out virtually alone.

We headed back to Chicago on the 28th of December. We had picked up another passenger in the car. Our son was to fly back to Chicago on the 26th only to have numerous flights cancelled. Needing to get back to work, he hitched a ride. It was nice having an extra driver for the return trip.

Getting out of NYC and onto I-80 for the trek home wasn’t as bad as we had anticipated. For the most part the roads were plowed (except for NJ) and once we hit the Pocono’s in PA there was no snow on the ground. I don’t know if it was the drive or sitting in the back seat (the car was packed with extra luggage), maneuvering over the city snow banks or my body finally relaxing after we got home but the muscles flared up the day after our return. Or maybe it’s just a pleasant reminder of the Christmas Snow Storm of 2010.

See you on the road!

Kathy Ameche


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