Quotes of the Day

August 29, 2006

I am currently vacationing on Cape Cod, Massachusetts with my family. While in Provincetown, we found a store that had some beautiful cards with some great quotes. Here are my favorites:

“Ever notice that ‘what the hell?’ is always the right decision?” – Marilyn Monroe

“Masquerading as a normal person day after day is exhausting.” – Anonymous

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde

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Save BIG With My Top Travel Tips

August 25, 2006

From time to time, I will post blog entries which are not directly related to the goal-free topic, but rather are related to the process I went through for pulling together the book. Topics may include getting published, blogging, or internet promotions. If there is a topic that is of particular interest to you, write me. Today I am talking about travel.

Back in 2003, I interviewed people for Goal-Free Living during a 12,000 mile road trip where I used wireless (cellular) internet access in my car to book rooms in 68 hotels ranging from 5-star luxury in Las Vegas to 1-star motels on the various highways. It was an interesting experience and it allowed me to try many different booking techniques. I have refined my approach over the years.

Here is my process for booking a hotel at the best rate

1. First research hotels on Orbitz (or whatever traditional booking system you prefer: Expedia, Travelocity, Hotels.com, etc. I will use Orbitz as the example for simplicity).

2. Next, go to Hotwire.com to see if there is a nicely priced property in comparison to what you found on Orbitz. Hotwire does not show you the property name, but it does give you the price, the general location, star rating, and amenities. The prices on hotwire are sometimes as much as 40% off the best price you will find elsewhere. Unfortunately, the savings can be close to nothing. Yesterday, I booked a hotel in Denver. The best price on Orbitz was $86. I got it for $57 on Hotwire. That’s a 30% discount. Not bad.

3. But don’t stop here. Next, go to Priceline.com and offer a rate about 20% lower than the best price on Hotwire – using the same location and star rating. With Priceline YOU name the price for a given star ratings. You might want to check out bidding support sites for some help in your bidding (I don’t bother). With Priceline, I have found hotels for 60% off the Orbitz price. But don’t go too low, or your bid won’t be accepted and you won’t be able to re-bid the same star rating and location (for a period of time). I found that Priceline is consistently the least expensive option, if your bid is accepted.

4. If your bid is not accepted, you have a couple of options. You can go through this process again for a different location or star rating. Or you can just go back to Hotwire for the purchase.

5. Research Hotwire a bit further to get a clearer picture of which hotel you might get. Go back to Orbitz and enter the search criteria. Click on the “Expand search options” link and check off the amenities listed on the Hotwire property of interest. You should end up with a relatively short list (often only one or two properties) that match. This will give you a decent idea of which property you might get on Hotewire.com. Remember, Hotwire tends to give you mainly major chains like Marriott, Hilton, Radisson, Holiday Inn and the likes.

6. Unless you find a desirable property at a large discount on Hotwire, you may want to consider booking the tradition route.

7. But before booking on Orbitz, go to the hotel website for the chain. For example, if you are thinking of booking a Courtyard by Marriott, go to the Marriott website and search. If the price is the same (or better), I usually book through the chain website as they typically have better cancellation policies and more generous rewards programs. Be sure to see if a AAA discount applies. Always double check the cancellation policies.

8. Before making your final decision, you may want to check other websites, such as sidestep.com which claims to search over 100 travels sites with one click.

9. Finally, book your room and enjoy your stay!

Tips about Hotwire and Priceline

  • When using these websites, if you stay in a hotel for several nights, it seems that the rate is determined by the highest rate for the period. So, if you are staying in a hotel Wed – Sun, you might get a better rate by booking Wed – Thu (weekday pricing) separately from Fri – Sun (Weekend pricing). Using this approach, I saved 45% extra during the weekend. Had I booked Wed – Sun as one booking, I would have paid the higher weekday rate all four nights.
  • It appears that the rate that the hotel gets paid by Hotwire is about $10 less than the price you pay (a couple of hotels accidentally printed the rate they received on my check-in documentation). I have used this to my advantage on a couple of occasions. If I want to extend my stay, I sometimes do this with the front desk and they have honored the even lower price ($10 below Hotwire.com). Don’t count on this though.
  • Hotwire has a “double the difference” policy. If you find the same hotel on the same date sold elsewhere for less, they will refund double the difference. I only had this happen once and they promptly refunded the money. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for details and restrictions.
  • Caveats about Hotwire and Priceline

  • Hotwire and Priceline are a bit risky. You are not assured of the hotel you will get. Although most of the time I have been happy, occasionally, you get a dud deal. As tickets are non-refundable, if there is a chance your plans will change. For this reason, I tend to book my hotels with Hotwire or Priceline at the last minute.
  • The star ratings are always accurate on Priceline.com (or sometimes you even get upgraded). However, on a few occasions, the star rating on Hotwire was inflated (a 3 star hotel was listed as a 4 star, for example). Both sites use their own rating system that is not always the same as on Orbitz. And keep in mind, star ratings do not mean quality. They mean amenities such as on-site restaurant or the availability of dry-cleaning.
  • You do not get frequent flier miles (or frequent stay points). This is also the case with purchases on Hotels.com and sometimes the other 3rd party websites.
  • You need to pay up-front, so if cash flow is an issue, take that into consideration.
  • A service fee is added, so consider the total cost (you are given these on the final page before confirming your purchase). An accurate comparison can be made between the total cost on these websites with the cost + tax on Orbitz. Unfortunately, you can’t always easily calculate the taxes on Orbitz.
  • Although the process might sound complicated, it does not take much time. And it can save you a bundle. Do you have any other tips, tricks, or caveats?

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    “Radio” Interview on thesop.org

    August 14, 2006

    Today I was interviewed on The Student Operated Press, an internet radio station. Click here to listen to this interview. Note that there is a lengthy introduction on the audio promoting their website, so be patient.

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    Where in the World is Innovation?

    August 11, 2006

    Today’s blog is related to my innovation and creativity work.

    I recently discovered a new Google offering, Google Trends. Type in a word or phrase, and it will show you a graph of how often that expression is searched (as a trend, not as actual volume). More interestingly, it will tell you where in the world the expression is most frequently searched. Americans like to think that they are the center of the innovation world. But if Google Trends is correct, we are not even on the map. During 2006, the top 10 regions of the world where the word “innovation” was searched are:

    1. Singapore
    2. Denmark
    3. Malaysia
    4. India
    5. South Africa
    6. South Korea
    7. Ireland
    8. Norway
    9. Australia
    10. New Zealand

    Type in “creativity” and you get a similar list, but with India leading the pack and the United Kingdom appearing in the top 10. Yes, there are more people in India than in the United States. But Singapore? Denmark? Danish is the most popular language used when searching innovation. Fascinating.

    I don’t want to read into these trends too much. Google admits that these results are approximations. And, a lack of searches for the words “innovation” and “creative” does not imply a lack of innovation or creativity. However, I find it interesting. According to Dan Pink, author of a “Whole New Mind,” as work gets outsourced to India and China, innovation & creativity will become the main currency of the United States. If these trends are accurate, we may need to print more currency.

    Thoughts?

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    Listening…Without Hearing

    August 4, 2006

    Last week I attended the National Speakers Association annual convention in Orlando, Florida along with 1,700 other professional speakers from around the world. When one is held captive with this many orators for an extended period of time, it becomes painfully apparent that speakers do indeed love to speak. A T-shirt for sale at the event captured this sentiment perfectly and read: “Help, I’m speaking and I can’t shut up.” Needless to say, by the end of the four days, I had exchanged more words with more people than I had shared in the previous three months combined.

    With so many people milling about, most conversations were brief and fleeting. Even during the more intense discussions, it was difficult to avoid the urge of looking around at the other passer-bys. So many people. So little time.

    However, there was one discussion that stood out from the numerous superficial conversations. I was intensely focused on what he was saying and he was even more focused on what I had to share. If people walked by, I never noticed. We hung on each others’ every word.

    What was so special about this conversation? Nothing in particular. What was special was the person I was speaking with. His name is Stephen Hopson. Stephen is a professional speaker, author, and an airplane pilot. These accolades are impressive enough in and of themselves. But what makes Stephen truly remarkable is the fact that he is deaf… The world’s very first deaf instrumentation pilot.

    Stephen has been deaf since birth and uses lip reading to communicate. While speaking with him, I was intensely aware that I could not look away. If I did, Stephen would be unable to understand what I was saying. As a result, I was always completely focused on him while speaking. I also enunciated my words more that usual. And given this level of attention while speaking, I ended up doing the same while listening (yes, he can speak quite well). I rarely interrupted.

    It was interesting, but I noticed that my conversations with others seemed more intense after my discussion with Stephen. I listened to them more carefully and did not succumb to outside distractions. I gave each person my undivided attention and in doing so, I felt a greater connection to the person with whom I was speaking.

    Goal-Free Living is about being present. And unfortunately most people are not present to most conversations. Try this experiment. During your next one-on-one conversation, assume the other person can only “hear” you by reading your lips. In doing this, I suspect that you will begin to hear things that you have never heard before. Ironic how I learned to listen from someone who can not hear.

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