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Newsletters

New Shoes Rubbing You The Wrong Way…Try This

I was recently attending IMEX America, a huge annual trade show for meeting and conference planning professionals. My wardrobe was in need of new shoes, so I took the occasion of a big industry event to trot myself out to the mall and got a nice pair of lace-up, leather dress shoes. I wore the shoes for the first time, as I walked into the Las Vegas Convention Center. Three days later, after walking the equivalent distance of Forrest Gump’s coast, to coast, to coast run, I was ready to throw my new shoes into Caesar’s fountains. I wish I had learned this break-in trick before setting out to Las Vegas with my new shoes.

Here’s the trick…Put on your regular socks, and then pull on a pair of really thick and heavy socks over those. Next, wrestle your new shoes onto your feet and lace, buckle or zip them up. Now, grab your hair dryer, and spend a few minutes blowing hot air over the parts of the shoe that give you any discomfort. Get it nice and warm so the material stretches from the pressure of those thick socks. Lastly, turn the hair dryer off, but leave the shoes on. Walk around in them for awhile until they return to normal temperature, which is when you can take them off. The whole project should last about twenty minutes.

Now that you know how to get out of a tight squeeze with your shoes, let me tell you how to get out of a tight squeeze at work. The next time your team needs a hotel for an off-site meeting, or a block of group rate hotel rooms, instead of finding the time to call hotel after hotel, and explain your meeting space and hotel room block needs over and over, you can call VenueQuest once and we will do all that work.

You will receive an easy to read, and easy to share report (see a sample right here) which makes selecting your hotel easy.


VenueQuest provides a professionally managed, zero cost way to search hotels for meeting space, and group room block pricing.  
  • Our hotel search service is provided free to any customer with a minimum block of 10 hotel rooms, for at least one night  
  • Hotel search service is not limited by hotel brand or chain
  • Hotel proposals available within 24 hours

Haircuts with Hall of Famers

Two weeks ago, legendary Atlanta Braves pitcher, John Smoltz, was inducted into the baseball hall of fame.  My son, an avid youth baseball player has an autographed picture of Smoltz in his bedroom, but he could care less about the hall of fame.  My sons interest in the famous pitcher stems from the barber shop.  We live in suburban Atlanta, and about two years ago, my son learned from his barber that John Smoltz comes into the very same shop every two or three weeks to get his hair trimmed.  Since then, I have never had a problem convincing my little guy to get a haircut because he thinks there is always a chance he could be in the chair next to Smoltzie.
2015-08-06 15.11.02

My son, posing with his autographed John Smoltz photo and baseball card.

John Smoltz is best known for being part of a trio of high performing pitchers on the Braves roster, which also included Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.  Each pitcher had his particular strengths and by working together, and utilizing each of those strengths, they led the Atlanta Braves to an unprecedented 14 consecutive Division Titles, and a World Series Championship.

Now, I don’t think there is a hall of fame for travel consultants, but I do know that the Administrative Professionals, Association Executives, and Corporate Managers who make up our clientele are appreciative, and they find our services useful.  Just like the Braves had a team of pitching specialists for different parts of each game, we form a team with our client so that they can focus on the internal agenda and objectives of their meeting, while we focus on negotiating the best hotel and transportation logistics.

If you book hotels for more than 10 rooms at a time, and you have not tried our completely free booking service, then you don’t know how easy it is.

  • One point of contact with a VQ Hotel Specialist
  • Ability to query ANY hotel in North America or Europe
  • Easy to read side-by-side hotel proposals
  • You are still the customer of the hotel you choose, and you keep any loyalty points or incentives

How Did Hawaii Get Discovered, and Why Are All the Hotels Booked?

Lately, we have been discussing Hawaii a lot around the office, because there are several upcoming Client meetings happening there (it is yet to be seen if falling oil prices will make air travel to Hawaii any cheaper). All this talk reminds me of one of the most amazing stories I have ever heard.

The story is about how humans first discovered Hawaii. Scientists know for a fact that the youngest islands sprang from sub sea volcanic activity around 400,000 years ago, around the same time the Rolling Stones started touring.

At some point, inhabitants in far south Pacific islands noticed flocks of migrating birds bypassing their island. The islanders had no knowledge of other land in the direction the birds were flying. So one year, a brave team climbed into dugout canoes and started following the birds. As you can imagine, the birds were fast and the Islanders soon lost sight of them, and returned to their island. They waited until the next year and anticipated the migration of the birds by rowing out to the last place they had seen the birds, and waited for the chase to resume. This became a tradition which necessarily started earlier and earlier every year. The Islanders relayed their knowledge of the birds flight path from generation to generation and according to legends, it took 400 years of persistent anticipation of the birds migration, and dangerous ocean tracking, but eventually they sighted the incredible green cliffs of the Hawaiian islands.hawaii-wallpaper-09

Every time I have thought of this story I marvel at the persistence and drive of those Islanders. Nowadays we often see travel as a necessity, and not always a welcome one. But every reason to leave the nest is a fascinating opportunity to grow and learn about the bigger world. You never know when or where you might discover your own Hawaii.

Business travel and the demand for hotel space for company meetings is near an all time high.

Contacting hotels one by one, trying to find available meeting space, may leave you feeling like you are chasing a flock of birds toward the horizon with no hope of catching up to them.

If that is the case, you should call VenueQuest. We instantly cut through the flock of hotel options out there and find the perfect venue for you. The benefits of booking your hotel through VenueQuest include:

  • One point of contact with a VQ Hotel Specialist
  • Easy to read side-by-side hotel comparisons
  • We redo all the reports after your boss changes the dates or the location of the meeting!

Best of all, booking your hotel through VenueQuest
COSTS NOTHING

We work with groups visiting any destination, and requiring 10 or more rooms per night.

The Correct Way to Peel a Banana

I am sorry to break the news to you, but you have been peeling bananas the wrong way, your entire life.  But don’t worry, I am going to help you.

There are videos floating around the internet which all feature chimpanzee’s and other monkey species peeling bananas, and they do it differently than we do.  Now, I can imagine the objections, “But Dan, we also clean our hair differently than monkeys, and I for one prefer the shower method.”  That would be a valid counter point, if not for the fact that from childhood on up, we have positioned monkeys as “the authority” on banana eating.

Monkey with banana

Look up one of these videos and you will learn that monkeys instinctively pinch the bottom of the banana (the end opposite the stem where YOU begin to peel) until it splits open, and then they simply peel back the skin from that end.  There are two major advantages…1.) They never get a finger tip smooshed into soft banana, and 2.) The strings peel right off with the skin in one step.

That’s it.  Now you know.  Peeling a banana from the other end does not change how delicious a banana tastes, nor does it detract from the many health benefits of eating bananas.  But it is cleaner, easier, and more efficient.

Kind of reminds me of the difference between your way of booking hotels for meetings:

  • Looking up hotel locations online
  • Calling or emailing several different hotel offices
  • Waiting for inquiries to be returned
  • Crunching all the different proposals into meaningful comparisons
  • Doing it all over again when your boss changes the date

…versus the same process when you call VenueQuest:

  • One point of contact with a VQ Hotel Specialist
  • We send you easy to read side-by-side comparisons
  • We revise the comparison if specs change
  • We can compare multiple cities, and multiple dates in one effort

Best of all, just like improving your banana peeling experience, booking a hotel through VenueQuest COSTS NOTHING but delivers a much higher quality experience.

 We work with groups visiting any destination, and requiring 10 or more rooms per night.

Home For the Holidays

As you know, our business at VenueQuest is brokering the rental of hotel rooms for meetings, off-sites, teams and other groups.  So, it makes me glad to hear people are traveling, especially if my company booked their hotel rooms.  However, with Christmas and the holiday season upon us, my wish is that everyone gets to go home for the holidays.

All the tablets, smartphones, sparkly jewelry, must-have toys and new cars with huge bows on them pale in comparison to the joy of reuniting with the people you love the most.  A large part of VenueQuests business comes from coordinating housing for traveling members of the U.S. armed forces, and there is no other group of people who are more deserving of a little time off and a visit home than these dedicated men and women.

So if you are not quite feeling the warm and fuzzy of the holiday season yet, grab a tissue (or two) and watch this video.  You will be longing for your family within minutes.  Thank you for your business in 2013, and keep an eye out for my next newsletter which will carry the announcement of a really exciting new special offer.

 

 

Good Clean Fun for Halloween

For all of you who read my “serious” article last time about how hotel managers pick and choose which meetings to pursue, you can relax because this week, I am just having fun.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.  Before I was a meeting planner, or a hotel geek or even just a hotel employee, I was a child who grew out of trick-or-treating early and moved on to scaring the pillowcases out of the hands of my friends and neighbors.  It all started when I took over the exterior house decorations from my parents and spent after school hours in October building a fake guillotine from scrap wood, to complement the spider webs and tombstones.


I was so excited about my decorations, I wanted to be part of the action, so I dressed myself as a grim reaper with a big gown and hood, and I sat slouched over in a chair on the lawn looking like a stuffed mannequin, while my mom waited on the porch with a bowl of candy looking perfectly friendly.  As groups would advance up the driveway, I would lunge toward them, eliciting screams and making some people run back to the sidewalk.  It was tons of fun.

Now I am a Dad, and I have my own little trick-or-treater to follow around, but I still appreciate a good clean prank.  The internet has made it possible to see how some people go to great lengths for the pranks.  One of the best is a guy who pranks fast food drive through windows.  I wanted to share one of his recent videos because it made me (and anyone I can corner in my home or office for 3 minutes) laugh really hard.  In the video, the prankster uses his invisible driver trick, along with a full size skeleton to get some truly genuine gasps from the restaurant employees he visits.  This video is completely safe for work (no bad language or violence), but you do need to be able to hear it.

And for anyone who needs a hotel for an upcoming meeting, or group trip, but is scared to start calling around and facing the terror of high hotel room rates, just call or email me at VenueQuest.  I promise I won’t scare you!  Contact me by email at dan@venuequest.com, or by phone at 678-977-1977.

Oh Baby

Everyone has heard all about the royal baby by now.  But here are some fun things you might not have known about babies in general.

  1. The protein that keeps a babies skull from fusing is called “noggin”1
  2. On average, Tuesdays have the highest number of births, and Sunday’s have the lowest number (I’m calling out doctors spending Sunday’s on their boats and golf courses and putting off scheduled C-sections and enducements until Tuesday!)
  3. The inner ear is the only sense organ to develop fully before birth.  It reaches its adult size by the middle of pregnancy.2
  4. Human babies are the only primates who smile at their parents.3
  5. Famous premature babies include Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Mark Twain, Pablo Picasso and Sir Winston Churchill.4
  6. The very best chance a baby has of surviving gestation is when its mother is aged 22, an age which has been described as “the age of fecundity” in humans. 3
  7. Adults have 206 bones. When babies are born, they have 300. Their bones fuse as they grow, resulting in fewer bones as adults.1
  8. If a person who was born 8 lbs. and 20 in. at birth continued growing at the same rate as he does the first year, by the time he reached 20, he’d be 25 ft. tall and weigh nearly 315 lbs.3

Finally, the frequent travel I embark on for VenueQuest customers was responsible for my own baby knowing how to navigate TSA security before he was 2 years old.  I will never forget being in the security line, looking down, and seeing my little guy sitting in his stroller holding his shoes in his hands!  Thankfully, that rule has been relaxed recently and children under 12 years old no longer need to remove their shoes.

If you are sitting at your desk thinking, “Oh baby, how will I get all this work done, and find a hotel for our next meeting?” then you need to call VenueQuest Global Meetings & Travel.

Like a good Nanny, we will treat your meeting with care and give it all the attention it needs until it grows into a fully planned and executed meeting or conference.

You will be shocked at how easy it is to book hotels for a meeting when you start by calling VenueQuest:

  • No contracts with VenueQuest
  • No extra expense
  • No hotel sales reps calling to bother you
  • You keep your bonus points
  • We make you look like a hero
or email me at dan@venuequest.com
1. Morris, Desmond. 2008. Amazing Baby. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books.
2.“Fascinating Baby Brains.” Live Science. Accessed: June 14, 2011.
3.“It’s Important to Have Your Baby’s Hearing Screened.” National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. May 2011. Accessed: June 14, 2011.
4.“Famous Premature Babies.” Premature Baby. 2011. Accessed: June 14, 2011.

Return Your Seat to it’s Upright Position…and what the heck is a cross check and all call?

Flying commercial aircraft is a sensory overload.  From the battle between cars, taxis and shuttles at the curb, to the plodding steps through security and finally the feeding frenzy of the boarding process, air travelers are constantly hit with instructions and rules.   parts of the experience are easy to figure out, but there are a few things I have always wondered about, so today, I am going to share what I have learned about the some of the things we all experience on airplanes.
#1 – First of all, what the heck is a “Cross check” and an “All Call?”
Flight attendants announce the completion of their cross checks and all calls at the beginning and end of every flight.  I was raised in Michigan where we are serious hockey fans, and I sure hope the flight attendants are not announcing they have completed that kind of cross check.  My research has revealed that once the jetway has pulled away from the plane, flight attendants at the front of the plane check that the doors on each side are properly locked, and that the emergency evacuation slides are armed to deploy if that door opens.  Then, as an extra precaution, the two flight attendants switch sides and check the door their partner has just finished inspecting. Once they agree that both doors are properly prepared, they use the public intercom to announce the completion of the safety step to the flight attendant in the rear of the plane, and to the pilots.

#2 – The recirculated air inside the plane is full of germs
Makes perfect sense to passengers right?  I have often developed a cold shortly after flying and blamed it on the stale air in the cabin.  However, it turns out most commercial planes are equipped with either sophisticated air cleansing systems, or mechanisms that draw in fresh air from the outside to keep the cabin air pleasant.  Some planes even use both systems.  I found reports of studies that have shown only a 1 or 2% difference in the occurrence of colds in passengers who flew on planes with air cleansing systems, and passengers on older planes with no such system.  However, those studies also found that people who fly are far more likely to develop colds than those who do not fly.  That leaves the experts to speculate that the real culprit of your cold is the transfer of germs from the surfaces you touch which rarely get cleaned (ie: the plastic bin at security, the escalator handrail, the handles and rails in the people movers, armrests on your seat, the tray table, the door of the overhead bin, and your own luggage for crying out loud!  When was the last time you washed a suitcase handle!!)

#3 – All electronics must be fully turned off and safely stowed when the plane is below 10,000 feet.
The myth on this one, which the airlines and the FAA would like everyone to believe, is that your personal electronics give off just enough signal that they could interfere with the electronics which help the pilots fly and navigate the plane.  Numerous studies have failed to prove this point with any kind of conclusive evidence.  The real risk is subtly alluded to in the reference to “safely stow” those devices.  As with many rules on an airplane, the reasoning begins with, “If this plane was going to crash land…”  In an emergency, the plane can move erratically and by keeping devices in bags and overheads, they hope to limit the number of passengers who get pelted with flying iPhone’s and Kindles which have become projectiles after being dropped.

#4 – Place airmasks on yourself before assisting others.  
As a parent who has flown with my young son numerous times, I always go through an internal debate when I hear this one.  I know my natural instinct would be to immediately help my child.  But here is the part they don’t tell you.  For a plane flying at an altitude above 30,000 feet, if there is a rapid loss of cabin air pressure, tests have shown that passengers may have less than 5 seconds to get that mask on before they start losing consciousness.  Most commercial planes cruise at an altitude much higher than the very top of Mt. Everest and the climbers who reach the top of that mountain usually need the assistance of oxygen tanks well before they get to the top.

Finally, we want to acknowledge that flying commercial is not all doom and gloom.  Delta Airlines has recognized the absurdity of some of the rules they are bound to follow and they are now showing a safety video on some flights which I have found very funny and informative.  Watch this video and see if you can spot Abe Lincoln.

Unfortunately, there is nothing VenueQuest can do to make the commercial air travel experience more enjoyable for you or your co-workers.  However, we can help to ensure that once they reach their destination, they will have an excellent experience at their meeting destination.  Our meeting site selection services ensure that you have the best hotel selected for all the goals and objectives of your meeting, including, a productive environment, compliance with your budget, proximity to services and amenities which are important to your attendees and good quality food.

If you will be seeking a venue for a meeting, conference, or team event, please let us know and we can show you a better way to find the hotel and meeting space you need.  Get started right here, or contact us at dan@venuequest.com.

My Favorite Hotels…for now

What is the best way to choose a hotel for vacation?  As my entire career (including my college days) has orbited around the idea of travel and using hotels, people often ask me what my favorite hotel is, or where I most like to travel.  I always smile and sigh.  I love the question because no matter what I am doing, that question sends me hurtling down an imaginary hallway where I get glimpses of all the amazing places I have had the good fortune of visiting.  Asking me to choose a favorite is quite honestly like asking a parent which of their children they like most.  I can’t do it.

With the large number of requests we have received recently for planning leisure trips, another variation of the question has arisen…”Which one would I pick?”  Customers ask me that question when they have narrowed their choices to 2 or 3 really attractive options, and it is a flawed question.  Just because I like it, does not mean it would be right for you.  And that is what I encourage people to keep in mind when they discuss vacation plans with friends and family.  As professional travel consultants, we remove our own preferences from the equation and look at your trip from your perspective.

So as you plan your own vacations and ponder where to go and where to stay, consider some fundamental questions about yourself and your habits.

1. Money vs. Hassle –  Vacations are about indulging and splurging, but everyone has their limits on how much they will spend.  Cost and Hassle are yin and yang in travel.  The less you want to spend, generally the more you have to tolerate hassle and down time.  While planning, ask yourself very honestly how content you will be waiting for shuttle busses,  crowded elevators and long hallways.  Now imagine those wait times while also burdened with beach towels, ski gear, camera bags, toys, strollers, etc.

2.  Big vs. Small – Hotels and resorts are often the first venues we think of when imagining vacation lodging because they have a large physical presence, and often have large marketing budgets to keep themselves top of mind with their customers.  I bet even if you have never been to Jamaica, you’ve heard of Sandals.  I tend to like smaller hotels because they are easier to navigate and I feel that a smaller pool of guests makes it easier for the staff to give great service.  But guess what?  I also like cruise ships, and I’ve had incredible service at resorts with upwards of 500 rooms.  And let’s face it, a small intimate resort cannot provide the vast array of services a big resort can.

My personal list of favorite hotels in the world is below.  This is a dynamic list and is always subject to new inspiration and discovery.

1. Tabacon

This resort is small in its number of rooms, but large in it’s unique offerings.  It is hours from the beach, and nestled in the central mountains of Costa Rica, directly at the base of the famous, and active Arenal Volcano.  The volcano fuels an ever tumbling and pooling series of hot springs amidst a tropical landscape straight from your dreams.  There are only 102 rooms, and you will need to sit through a solid 2-3 hour ride over narrow bumpy roads, but trust me…it is worth it.  Don’t cut your time short, stay here for at least 2-3 nights…and longer if you can.

 

2. Catamaran

It’s not the flashiest, or the fanciest, or the best known hotel, but the Catamaran in San Diego to me, feels like what San Diego should feel like.  It is easy to get to, provides simple access to either the bay or the beach and provides perfectly nice accommodations and friendly local service.  The Catamaran is privately owned by a family that has been in the hotel business for generations and they know their stuff.

 

3. Beaver Creek Lodge

You didn’t think I would focus only on warm weather locations did you?  The Beaver Creek Lodge is at the top of the resort town in Beaver Creek, Colorado.  Everyone knows getting a condo at a good price during ski season is tough…but what you might not realize is that although prices are lower in the summer, the number of available condo’s falls dramatically because the owners know that summer is a fantastic time to be in the high Rockies.

Tips For Writing New Years Resolutions

Re-post of the VenueQuest newsletter 1/2/2013 – I predict this could be the most un-read newsletter I will send this year.  The timing stinks because many of you are off this week. And, what is more predictable or cliche on January 2 than a newsletter about New Years Resolutions, ugh!

But I am writing it anyway, because for the topic of New Years Resolutions, the timing is fantastic.  I used to set the same goals every year…get in shape, make more money, blah blah blah.  Until I realized how quickly those broad resolutions could be forgotten because I had no follow through.  In 2008, I set some strict guidelines to get very serious about my New Years Resolutions and I have built on it each year since then.  The first year with specific goals did not go even close to what I had envisioned though.

I was carrying some credit card debt from a recent interstate move, and I had been suffering on and off from a variety of annoying health symptoms including itchy legs, coughing, fatigue, etc.  My personal resolutions going into 2009 were to eliminate my credit card debt, and find a small practice doctor who could work with me to solve all my “little” health problems.  By January 9, I had found the single practice doctor, and after a series of scans and tests, he told me I had Stage 3 Hodgkins Lymphoma and I would be going into chemotherapy right away.  I did not get out of debt that year!

Fast forward, I am healthy again, and I still write down my resolutions.  I used to type them up in big bold fonts and print a copy which would be taped to the wall next to my desk so that I could cross them off as I completed goals.  I love checking something off a list.  Since discovering Evernote, I have replaced my taped up list with an Evernote “note.”  If you are not familiar with Evernote, Google it.  I have yet to meet any users who can say they would be better off without it.

So, without further delay, these are my suggestions and tips for writing New Years Resolutions:
1. Write them down…someplace permanent…that you will see on a regular basis.  Writing them is not enough.   I turn to my computer, type them up in Word with big bold fonts and then print it out.  Next I tape that sheet right next to my desk.

2. Be specific.  There is a little room for ambiguity, but avoid “Get in shape.”  Instead, try “Plan 20 minutes of exercise three times per week (or whatever is realistic for you).  One of my goals for 2012 was to send 10 email newsletters…For anyone counting, yes, this is #9.

3.  Make time to review your list periodically.   Schedule a meeting on your calendar in three months, and give yourself a review.  It will be interesting for you to discover what remains important and what you feel less strongly about.  If you really want to get serious about this, invite another participant to your meeting who can hold you accountable to your goals.

4.  It’s never to late to make a commitment.  If you formalize your list of resolutions, then it becomes a living thing and it can grow.  As the motivation and circumstances strike, you can add to the list.  Setting goals is not just for January 1.

Here are some of my other resolutions for 2013:

1. Grow the VenueQuest Facebook page by 200 new Likes.  Currently at 63, so I need to be at 263 by next December.  Anyone care to help me get started with this one???
Like us on Facebook

2. Hire a new employee.  VenueQuest is growing and we need help.  I am hoping to find the right person for the job in the first quarter of 2013.

I will schedule my review meeting for March 20 and I will let you know how I am doing with this list.  Happy New Year.