Entries in Travel (4)

Tuesday
Apr242012

Vacation Do's and Don'ts

If you have been visiting you might have noticed there hasn’t been anything new. It’s because I spent a few days away. Partly for reflection but mostly for strategy. I had to remove myself from my to-do lists and tasks to recharge. So with that - clearly I failed at making a vlog every day this April, sorry VEDA’ers. (I liked vlogging though so I'm going to keep doing it if that counts) It was refreshing though and I realized that I need to make a lot of changes. This post is not for that though. What I want to talk about today is all the ridiculous things I saw this last week and how not to be trapped by them - or get taken advantage of.
  
1. Spending for buyings sake! So I was travelling a bit and noticed something. An airport is the perfect money trap. They lock you in a gate, force you to be early and you just sit and wait. While you are waiting in some places it can look like a shopping mall. You might not be able to find a power outlet but you sure can find a full functioning retail Blackberry store. There were loads of other retailers and food vendors that would be more than happy to help you pass the time and separate you from your funds. This lesson is all about planning and being aware of your travel spending. Spending out of boredom can be dangerous. If you’re hungry then by all means eat because you won’t be bringing too much food into the gate but please be smart about making large consumer electronics or gadget purchases inside the gate. 
 
2. Greedy and self interested. I don’t know if it was because I was reading The Undercover Economist or listening to my Freakonomics podcasts but while I was away I became an avid observer of the human condition. More than likely I could find someone acting irrationally greedy. What I mean is that regardless of the environment, people, or possible outcomes - people were acting with only their self interest in mind. I felt like a kid again walking through a zoo, actually it was hilarious. The lesson here is that rudeness begets rudeness. If your sense of entitlement is so strong that it has an adverse affect on anyone around you...well be prepared. Travelling is already a high stress situation for some but acting on some self appointed caste system will really make for a bad day. So as you make your travel plans for the summer not only pack more time in but be extra patient and courteous - you’d be surprised how often you’ll be rewarded for just acting like a person in a sea of vagrants. Plus you’ll have more fun watching from the sideline.
   
3. Avoid mental math. I have definitely said this before but it’s important to repeat. Mental math and your personal finances don’t mix. It doesn’t matter how you keep track of your spending just keep track. It makes no sense to be put time and effort into creating a budget, a travel plan, or a spending plan and that do nothing to keep you honest about it. It’s easy to consume on the fly and forget all about what you’ve spent. Keep track can help you stay under budget and out of trouble. No one likes overdraft fees or overage fees on their credit cards. I’m not saying you should be keeping and filing every receipt but you should be keeping a running tally. With the number of smartphones, apps, and even pocket notebooks like Moleskine (my favorite!!) there’s no reason that you can’t avoid mental math. Plus when you avoid mental math you make it harder to rationalize expenses and it helps curve what we just talked about in the first tip.
  
4. Eat smarter and stay healthy while you’re away. Meal times were probably one of the funniest things to watch while I was away. It was like some people were eating for the first and last time. Not only is the thought of a self induced carb coma hilarious but if you are travelling to a more modern locale then odds are food at any price point will probably not be hard to come by. Ohhh those buffets though, they bring out some interesting colors. Like spending for spendings sake, eating can be another compulsive behavior that we use to battle stress.  Be smart about it - no sense in feeling unhealthy while you're travelling especially when eateries might be easier to come by than clean bathrooms. Remember we aren’t hunter gatherers anymore and if you are constantly eating to the point of exhaustion then be prepared for the consequences.
  
I hope you liked a few of my insights while I was away. If you are planning on doing any travelling try to keep these in mind - so that someone like me won’t be watching you from a distance giggling at how maladaptive you are. It will also make for better travel and more richer experiences - like I said you can make a lot of friends people watching.
Monday
Jul252011

Blogging from Cape Cod and Travel Tips

Good Morning from Cape Cod, MA!

Sorry I didn’t mean to rub that in but this morning when I look out my window I see lots of seashore and and towels hitting the beach. I’ve carved out a little time to get away with a few friends - well not really away because I’ve still commandeered one of the rooms and turned it into a mobile office. Taking time out for yourself is so important for keeping balance and your sanity but arguably more important is how to do it on a budget. Today I would like to share with you how we landed a house on the Cape and are able to relax on a budget.

1.) Everything is split 5 ways - everything from food, to gas, to parking passes. This one might sound like a no brainer but it isn’t always. If you’ve ever had a college room mate or signed a lease with a landlord you’ve signed some kind of understanding of expectations. Going into this we did something like that with the costs - that way no one feels taken advantage of and we try to keep it as fair as possible.

2.) Hunt the rental sites aggressively. To ensure the best possible rate we had to play a type of rental arbitrage. Decide when you would like to try to go, ideally months in advance and surf as many sites as you can. There are a ton of property management companies in places like this just itching to get people into their spots. Pick one where the price is right for you as a back up - then start making your calls to try to find cancellations. If people or families have to cancel their trips you might be able to profit. Sometimes this works - it’s what we did this time around. If it doesn’t, well you already had a place so no harm there.

2.5) Make sure you check into what ever deal sites you use for the area you are going. You never know what kind of discounts you might find on Groupon for restaurants, services, or even beach passes. It takes no time and it’s definitely worth the effort.

3.) Odds are where ever you go is going to be pretty furnished. Buying groceries and like is always a bit of a challenge when you don’t know the area. So one of the first things we did when we got here was try to find the nearest year round resident community. We make our way there for large grocery and shopping centers to try to avoid as much of the vacation inflation as possible.

4.) Keeping the fuel costs low. We are really lucky to be as close to the beach as possible so walking really helps to keep us from living at the gas stations especially since prices are inflated based on the level of tourism this area gets in the summer.

5.) Last but not least - find out where the year round folks hang out. If you are looking for things to do it’s easy to be distracted by all the road signs and lights in the main tourist areas. I like to try to make a new friend while at a grocery store or at the beach. Pick someones brain to find out what soft serve ice cream spots are really worth hitting as well as where you can go to have some fun without being stuck in uncomfortable lines and overcrowding. I like to play my mini golf without having a group waiting to go behind you without even starting yet. If this means I have to drive a little bit then that’s a cost I’m willing to incur.

I think this week will be a week of travel based posts seeing as I am out and about on a mini adventure. Makes me kind of feel like Tim Ferriss from the 4 Hour Work Week (which I definitley recommend if you haven’t picked it up yet - one of my favorites)

 

Saturday
Aug212010

Cape Consult Counterpoints!

Don't forget to use that Donate Button in the side bar. Financially Digital is supporting some great non-profits in the Greater Springfield Mass area and would love if our digital community supported them too. Every little bit helps!!

Another great post from frequent contributor and good friend Shawn Durham. Enjoy!!

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything for FD but Nunzio’s last post got me thinking about the two sides of every story.  I don’t truly disagree with anything he wrote in his last post but there is more to it than just what is found above.  So as Paul Harvey so often and aptly put it, the rest of the story…

  • Be more plastic friendly – The ability to take credit cards is important in our digital currency age but so is maintaining your business.  Don’t go too far and start setting up a web-business, 1-800 number, electronic mall with e-mail lists and  traveling sales staff.  Especially if you’re selling seashells by the sea-shore sally.  Don’t turn away sales because you don’t take VISA, but don’t get too far beyond your own reach by taking VISA, Discover, Mastercard, Diners Club, AARP, Good Sam, and the Meat of the Month Club coupons.
  • Stick to your own rules – No.  As an owner or manager (with the appropriate permissions) you need to be the one who goes above and beyond the rules to make the right decision.  One of the more famous customer service stories in recent years comes from Nordstrom’s where a customer had come in to return a set of tires.  The story is amazing because Nordstrom’s doesn’t sell tires!  John Nordstrom himself attested to the fact that the return happened and Nordstrom’s legendary customer service reputation is set.  If your store only takes groups of 10 and a group of 11 comes in, bring in an extra chair.  If your store sells an item for $22,000 and the customer only has $21,999 it’s worth the dollar you lose for the $21000 you gain.
  • Differentiate – No.  Not always.  Sure there may be 100 gas stations which sell coffee but that’s because the coffee sells!  Selling tea would differentiate you from the others but it’s not brining you the business that coffee would. There is a reason why certain items are carried and while being unique in your name or business is a good way to bring in additional customers so is keeping the staple products which are expected of stores of your type.  Tourist shops should sell postcards, shoe stores should sell shoe polish, your store should sell the same basic items which are expected of a store in your region.
  • Counter presence – As much as I’d love to show you the ‘other side’ to every point there is no other side to this.  There is never an excuse to alienate a potential customer with unwarranted rudeness.  Even if you’re running asthma medication out to a customer and you barrel over a new customer you still have no excuse to not apologize as you run away to get that medicine out.  Remember the rule of 10s.  A happy customer will tell one other customer about their experience, an unhappy customer will tell 10 others.  Or in the case of the Internet, thousands.  I’ve recently purchased a new Dell for the lady in my life.  The HP’s were cheaper but the last HP I purchased had to be repaired 5 times in the year that I had it each time the motherboard was completely replaced and each time the problem came back.  I’d love to regale you with a story of how it turned out well, instead I’ll tell you how not only will I never buy another HP Laptop but I will no longer buy their printers, speakers, phones, or any other products.  I will also never recommend another HP server or networking device.  Every sale missed out because they wouldn’t solve the problem on a single $1400 laptop.  Are you listening HP?  Counter Presence, no matter where your counter is, is important.  Your business will live and die by it.

Now on to a few extra points for the Cape.

  • Welcome to the Internet!  When planning a vacation I use the internet to look into hotels, events to attend and shows to see.  If you don’t have a simple page advertising your business you’re missing out on a great deal of traffic.  It often costs less per month than handing out flyers and the benefits are doubly useful.  Not only does it bring in additional customers who are planning their trips online but adding your website to the bottom of your current advertising makes it expand to all of your business, not just what you can fit on the ad.
  • Networking, it’s not just for geeks – Yes, computer networking is important but social networking is better.  Join the Chamber of Commerce, donate to the little league, be involved in your community and your customers will get involved in your store.  I’d rather spend money at a store that supports the local boy scouts than one that doesn’t because when I support that store, “I” support the boy scouts.
  • Read Financially Digital – Shameless plug.
  • Finally, do what you do best and outsource the rest -- You’re a great widgetmaker but that doesn’t mean you know business accounting.  Make your widgets and hire an accountant don’t expect to run the best business you can by yourself.

Shawn Durham is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer with ten years experience in purchasing, accounting and information technology.  His company, Kodiak Information Systems trains employees on the use of Microsoft Office, networking, internet resources and running a digital office.



Friday
Aug202010

Cape Cod Consult 

Don't forget to use that Donate Button in the side bar. Financially Digital is supporting some great non-profits in the Greater Springfield Mass area and would love if our digital community supported them too. Every little bit helps!!

I spent the past week in Cape Cod, Mass and it was an amazing time away with my girl and some great people. I tried to stay off my net book for as long as possible but couldn’t help checking in to work from time to time. Always having my financial coach and business consultant hat on, I kept noticing little things that as a consumer irked me but as a professional just dumbfounded me. Like I said I had a blast there and whether you’re a Mass native or not it’s always a good time. What I’m going to do is give my experience at the Cape a break down like I would for any of my consulting/coaching clients – only much more abridged and in bullet form.Cape Cod courtesy Hdreisler

  • Be more plastic friendly – I can’t tell you how many times I was discouraged because places were cash only. It makes sense that a significant portion of revenues for businesses in parts of Cape Cod are tourist heavy so why take the chance at ostracizing consumers and revenue. I did see lots of private ATM’s and local banks but when you are trying to stay cost savvy the penalty fees for withdrawal don’t always justify the purchase.  Costs for the hardware to run debit/credit transactions are at all time lows and purchases would arguably make up for (and exceed) costs of ownership.
  • Stick to your own rules – In line again with businesses stretching to capture consumer dollars this time it’s being over accommodating that’s the problem.  If you have signs that say you (the business) can’t entertain groups larger than four then stick to it. When you bend the rules it affects the experience of all the rest of the patrons. I know that when I’m away I tend to gravitate towards places that are familiar or that I’ve had good experiences with. In the short run will you capture more revenue by over accommodating –yes. But the business will suffer in the long run as bad experiences start to travel.
  • Differentiate – I love the culture out there on the Cape and here in Mass but I think I saw about 157 places called “The Lobster House”.  It’s important to try to find niches especially in a coastal environment like that where every place has the best lobster in Mass. One of the cooler places we did eat at actually looked like a giant hollowed out boat on the water. It was a blast because the environment genuinely enhanced the experience of being at a seafood place – way more so than just sea fairing stuff just tacked on the walls.
  • Counter presence – I was turned off a few times with how rude some vendors were over their counter space. Now I know a lot of those are summer jobs and that sometimes you can’t avoid language barriers that pop up but, no vendor should act like it’s a burden to take an order or ring out a purchase. That goes back with the experience the consumer has and how likely they are to be a crusader for that brand. Out in Provincetown I had a blast (not only because it was close to Carnival and the drag queens were out in force) because we were bombarded by people handing out flyers. Now you might say that you hate when that happens but the salesmanship and interpersonal attention of some of those flyer-hander-outers were on point. The conversation was what was being consumed and because I was impressed I gladly took a flyer or two (even if I didn’t get to the show).

Contrary to how this post sounds I really did have a blast out there. How can you not have fun playing mini golf, eating soft serve, sleeping on the beach, and watching men walk down the streets of P-Town whose professions are dressing as women. The only thing I regret is not taking more pictures.

Be sure to check out some of my favorite financially savvy travel posts too – we’ll call it a mini carnival!!

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff - http://www.budgetinginthefunstuff.com/2010/07/fit-in-a-fun-friday-summer-activities-on-the-cheap/

Budgets are Sexy - http://www.budgetsaresexy.com/2010/07/wanna-know-the-cheapest-way-to-travel-the-world/

Financial Samurai - http://www.financialsamurai.com/2010/06/22/west-coast-living-yes-it-really-is-that-much-better/

Wealth Pilgrim - http://wealthpilgrim.com/lost-or-stolen-wallet-what-to-do-now/

Well Heeled Blog - http://www.wellheeledblog.com/2010/08/09/joy-vacation-planning/

 Feel free to add your own experiences and travels. Are there any extra things you can think of that might make the business community out there or in places like Cape Cod more efficient?