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Pile O’ Tips

I’ve been meaning to write up each and every one of these tips for weeks now, but I’ll never get around to fully fleshing them out so instead here’s a bunch of things I’ve learned over the past few months that might help you as well:

  • When picking people up curbside at the airport, tell your friends/family to meet you in departures, not arrivals. Especially on weekends and holidays, the arrivals area at most major airports will back up ridiculously as people hog the lanes and wait for people. A couple days before Christmas, we landed and I went out to fetch the car and pick up the rest of the family, but had to wait in a 15min long line to pick them up. The departures area was dead. I used this tip on Saturday and it worked great, as there were no lines and no waiting.
  • Last year I finally started joining frequent flier programs and when I noticed I was renting cars often, I decided to go with Hertz, and I went beyond the normal program and paid $50/year for the Gold membership. It’s the best money I ever spent. Now when I arrive at a destination, I just walk over to hertz, note my name and parking location on a big lighted board and walk up to my awaiting car and drive off. It literally saves 30-40 minutes of lines, waiting, and more lines every time I use it. For someone that rents cars often, it’s totally worth the $4 and change per month.
  • When you travel with a baby, it helps to have an extra room in your hotel so you can have some separation of space and your child won’t see you and want to be picked up at 3am. It’s not always feasible to get a hotel suite, but I’ve found a real bargain in Embassy Suites. It’s pretty much an average Holiday Inn style room, but it’s about 15ft longer, giving you a living room area in front of the bedroom complete with desks and sofas. We put the baby’s crib in there, and could put her to bed early and still read, talk, or watch TV in the other room while she slept. Plus, we could let her wake up slowly in her own room. Bonus points for this hotel giving a free breakfast buffet for two with every room. The price isn’t much higher than a typical business travel hotel and works wonders for a traveling family.
  • If you give presentations, please drop everything and read Beyond Bullet Points. It is written by someone that worked at Microsoft but hates the standard Powerpoint defaults. He teaches you basic story structure from theater and has a great system for creating dramatic presentations. I read this book and used the lessons to give a talk last year and it was my best talk ever. I got loads of compliments from the audience and I felt really confident and prepared going in (reading them online without any context leaves a lot to be desired but you can probably get the gist of it).


  1. Great tips Matt! We’re just about to have a baby in less than a month so I’m sure your hotel tip will come in handy!
    I was at your money blogging talk in Portland, and yeah, it was great! All your compliments were well deserved. Definitely one of the strongest that I attended all weekend. My only critique was that you used PowerPoint… I’m not sure how I feel about that… I give presentations at least once a month and I’m a huge Keynote fanboy! :)-

  2. Thanks for the great airport tip–that’ll be a lifesaver, I’m sure.
    Thanks, too for the link to the Beyond Bullet Points book. I’ve been looking for something to elaborate on Tufte’s warnings ever since reading The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint. This looks like just the thing.

  3. The Hertz tip is good, but I use Thrifty and get the same thing for free. Their “Blue Chip” program costs nothing, and allows you to bypass all the lines as well. Plus, I find Hertz/Avis/Budget (they’reall the same company) 50-100% more for the same car.
    Also, I get rewards from Thrifty — free rentals — I have a weeks worth of free rental vouchers sitting on my desk right now.

  4. And as kids grow, you will only want to stay at Double Tree Suites or Embassy Suites and then at some point you won’t need a suite but will want adjoining rooms and eventually seperate floors are even an okay option. I use Priceline in cities where I’m comfortable with the area I’m bidding
    It all goes so fast!

  5. Great tips, Matt…we are getting ready to travel with 2 little ones, and the hotel, airport, and rental car tips are goldmines! I appreciate finding them all in one place!

  6. Don’t be sharing the Embassy Suites tip! It’ll increase competition for rooms. We always stay there. I love being able to put the kids to bed in a separate room. Even better, I have a friend that works for Hilton Corp – so he can usually get me cheap rooms at Embassy Suites.

  7. For travelling with a baby, I really enjoy Residence Inn. We put her port-a-crib in the living room area, close the door to our separate bedroom and voila – good to go.
    Oh, and I’ve got Hertz Gold also. Good stuff, but my employer pays for it for me so I’m spoiled. :)

  8. We’ve got twins, and I’ve used the suite tip already. Makes a HUGE difference.
    Same with the departure side thing.
    Well done, young man!

  9. Great tips. I work at airports, so quite often use the pick up at departures thing. This can also work if you put your car in long stay carparks and use a transit bus. Sometimes the bus will drop off at the departures, then go to arrivals. If you check with the driver when you get dropped off – you can be seated with your bag in storage, by the time you get round to arrivals on the return leg. No queuing, or standing up.

  10. I’d echo the earlier commenter and say go with Avis or others. Avis Preferred is free and gives you the same thing as Hertz Gold (walk right to your car). I even once landed in LA fully expecting to take a shuttle downtown, and the lines were horrendous. I got on the Avis bus, called reservations, and my name came up on the drivers screen instantly. They dropped me off at my car why the others on the bus had to go in to the counter. I never understood why Hertz makes you pay for it.
    I’d also second the get an extra room. Even if the location where you are traveling doesn’t have an Embassy Suite/Residence Inn, it may be worth seeing you you can get upgraded to a suite. Even if the hotel won’t comp you the upgrade, isn’t a good nights sleep for everyone (think non-drowzy parents toting around a non-crabby baby/toddler) worth $20/night?

  11. I have a free Hertz Gold membership and hear that if you rent more than 4 times a year, they won’t charge the fee again. Hertz also rents Toyota and Premium vehicles which makes a big difference in my book. Also, when I call to make a reservation, I usually get a live human being on the first three things.
    Another airport time saving tip is to take a different security check if yours is too slow/long. Just be sure to check that they connect in the back so you can get to your gate.

  12. The pick up at Departures works, but not very well at some airports (like Seatac if you are going south). Sometimes the road used for arrivals and depatures don’t connect and you end up having to take a roundabout way to get back onto the road you need to get home. Whereas just waiting and picking up at arrivals gets you on the road you need to take quicker than driving all over hell and creation.

  13. ditto with the Las Vegas airport. Back in the day, the departure curb was a great place for catching a cab at LaGuardia airport in NYC, too; no waiting in looong lines.
    Ditto Hertz, too, though it’s been years since I’ve paid for Gold, can’t remember if it’s because of frequent rentals or because AmEx comped me at some point. Once you’re in, look around for the deal.
    And I’d love to second the Embassy Suites thing, except that we got spanked by the hotel in Cleveland when we went to visit my sister. Not only was there a single room, it wasn’t really any bigger than a normal Marriott room. After we complained, we switched to a wheelchair-accessible room, which was sprawling, with enough room around the corner to put the crib so that any head popping up over the rail wouldn’t be an automatic wakeup call.

  14. Love the tips – thanks. We travel very frequently and so any advice is appreciated.
    We too love Embassy Suites for the above-mentioned reasons.
    There are also many, many products that have popped up in the past couple years to help with traveling with kids in tow. I like the car seat that converts into a stroller and tote-a-tot, which lets you strap the car seat onto your rolling luggage – while baby is in it! There is also a seat that hooks onto your luggage too. Many options. I have reviewed many on my blog at
    I’ll keep checking your site for more ideas and information. Keep it up.

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