Testing a Chevy Volt

My test drive of a Chevy VoltThis week I’ve been test driving a Chevy Volt.

Overall, I really liked the Volt. I felt like it had more pep then my Prius.

But I couldn’t get used to the plugging in. The Prius charges the battery as you go; the Volt requires you to find an outlet to charge the battery. You get about 26 miles on a full charge. After that, it’s all gas.

I put about 500 miles on the Volt this week so I feel I got a great feel for it.

Love the dash

I love the Volt’s dash. You get constant feedback on how you’re driving. There’s a green circle that you try to keep in the middle for optimum efficiency. And there are other displays showing how efficient your driving style is and how efficient your climate control choices are.

I’m a sucker for feedback. I think I’ll be accelerating and braking a bit more slowly.

Pardon me, could you spare a plug?

I’ve never been more aware of electrical outlets! The closest I came to a plug was at the hotel in NH. Unfortunately, the factory cord was just 8 inches to short.

So I used gas for my trips. The sticker says it only gets 37 mpg on gas. 🙁

Great for local travel

I’m returning the Volt to the dealer tomorrow. I’m keeping my Prius. I drive to a client 4 hours away each week. I wouldn’t be getting any benefit from the Volt’s battery.

But, if I still worked 1 mile away from my house (like I did for 5 years), I would definitely consider the Volt. A friend drove it for a month and only needed 7 gallons of gas! That would be wonderful.

I’d encourage you to check one out. I bet the folks at Central Maine Motors Auto Group will let you take the Volt for a spin!

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Best Hotel Travel Program?

Which hotel rewards plan is best? Marriott Rewards?
Which hotel rewards program is best? HiltonHHonors?
Which hotel rewards plan is best? Priority Club?
I recently posted a LinkedIn question asking what hotel chain had the best travel programs: Marriott Rewards, HiltonHHonors, or Priority Club?

In the less than scientific tabulation of results, the votes were along these lines:
Marriott: 42%
Hilton Honors: 53%
Priority Club: 5%

What I found more interesting were the comments and suggestions people made about travel programs. These included:

I simply direct all hotel programs to frequent flyer program.

Use CapitalOne Rewards

Hotels.com is great. “Wherever I stay, I get 1 free night every 10.”

Fairmont President’s Club

Sheraton Star Rewards

Look to see where the best resorts are. If you want free stays in Hawaii, go for hotel chains with hotels actually on the beach rather than across the street.

One of the most comment refrains went along the lines of this comment by Bernard Wilson.

“Best program for anyone is one you will use.”

My choice

While being a Priority Club member has helped me get wonderful service at Holiday Inns, I’ve opted for the Marriott Rewards program since their hotels are more readily available where I travel.

I’d love to hear what programs you like the most!

Add your comment to this post. And pop over to LinkedIn to see all the other responses.

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Belkin plug eases travel and makes friends

Belkin plug eases travel - Pitman TravelsMany months ago, I invested in this Belkin Mini Surge Protector Dual USB Charger [amazon affiliate link]. Probably one of the best $10 I’ve ever invested.

Have you noticed that conferences don’t have great access to outlets? Especially social media conferences?

Well this little job turns one plug into three. And adds a couple USB ports as well. So you can plug in your laptop, charge your phone and iPod, and still have outlets for others.

It’s amazing how grateful people are to have additional outlets! Look at how well used it was at a conference last fall!

This is also very helpful in airports

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Shoelace clips ease flight travel

Shoe clip for travel - ibungeeLast fall, I found these iBungee Stretch Laces [amazon affiliate link] for my sneakers.

I’m amazed at how much easier this has made my travel!

TSA requires us to take our shoes off through security. These little jobs have made my sneakers into slip ons. And if you’ve ever tried tying your shoes after taking them off during a plane flight, you’ll know who much better it is to have slip ons!

The best part? They’re tough enough to handle my regular exercising at the gym. I’m still amazed at how much more functional these have made my sneakers.

Shoe clip for travel - PitmanTravels

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Business travel with kids

When my wife and I decided to have my 8 year old daughter join me on this trip to New Zealand, I didn’t know what I was in for.

I’d traveled to some professional gigs with my family. It’s always a mixture of stress and reward. Stress because you feel torn between being with a conference and being with your family. Reward because you have shared memories with each family member.

I’ve even traveled a few times with my son, the first time when he was 7 or 8. I know it can be really rewarding to have him with me. Making memories, introducing him to my work, seeing cool sites. He’s a great travel buddy and I love the one-on-one time I get when we’re on the road.

But that had been all in the U.S. And all for only a few days.

This trip is 2 1/2 weeks in New Zealand. My daughter hasn’t ever been away from the rest of our family for even overnight camp. I knew I was in for a different trip when on the runway in San Francisco, she started crying and saying, “I want my mommy” and “I want to go home.” She was quiet enough to not disturb people, but seeing her like that tore at my heart.

That was a couple weeks ago. The tears still happen daily, but we’ve had some great moments too. I didn’t expect having to teach her things like:

  • it’s ok to feel sad but you have to move on anyway
  • some things you simply can’t change (like travel dates) and you need to find the good in the situation
  • just because you feel sad doesn’t mean you need to inflict that on people who are trying to be nice to you

But I also didn’t expect:

  • skipping across the street in Auckland (really skipping with her hand in hand!)
  • playing “yellow car” and “punch buggy” while in a foreign country
  • learning how serious she is about wanting to learn about rescuing animals and
  • seeing what a calming, centering influence animals have on her

And I didn’t expect the impact we are having on people, even in the airport in Boston. Parents were looking at us longingly. You could read the “I wish I’d taken my daughter on this trip” in their eyes.

Everywhere we go, my daughter brings a smile to people’s faces. Without even knowing it, she brightens their day. We’ll be walking down the street and you can practically see people’s countenances lift. It’s been fun being able to point out the impact her very presence has on people. She doesn’t “get it” but I try to remind her that she doesn’t have to “get it,” it’s still real.

Having kids on business trips does force me to slow down. I normally work more-or-less 24/7 when on the road. Not so with a child in tow. She is insistent on getting her school work done, some of which is dependent on me. And I want her to see more of the places we visit than I might if traveling alone.

A huge benefit of traveling with kids is that I don’t feel as homesick. As the kids get older, traveling is getting tougher. I still love life on the road, but being away from my family gets harder and harder. So having at least one with me, makes it much easier.

And it’s so much fun seeing her grow. At the last seminar, she manned the book table. People automatically started giving her money for the books they were buying. She just did what needed to be done without even checking with me!

I’m really intrigued to see what she remembers of this trip a few decades from now. But I’m definitely enjoying having her with me! (And I’m treasuring the fact that she still wants hold my hand!)

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Tours and travel: Getting the most out of your time away

When I travel, especially for business, I often try to do something I couldn’t do at home. For instance, if I have some free time, I opt to not go see a movie but to see a play or musical performance instead.

I’ve tried doing lots of “Wellington things” with my daughter but I still felt I was missing something. So today, we did the “Wellington Explorer Tour” with Wellington Rover Tours. This did the trick. Our tour guide, Laura, was enthusiastic and very informative. This one tour not only pulled together the individual things we’d done in the city, it also helped us get a feel for the city in the context of New Zealand. (She’d also let us know we’d been in an earthquake yesterday. Not sure how we missed that!)

I highly recommend taking a tour of the place you’re in!

I lived in Jerusalem for a year, so I know that not all the things tour guides say are necessarily accurate. But the folklore and anecdotes are fun to hear.

If you’re in Wellington, I’d recommend checking out Wellington Rover Tours–especially the longer Lord of the Rings versions!

[UPDATE: I came to do my last seminar in Napier. My daughter and I decided to go on the Art Deco Trust’s 2 1/2 hour walking tour. Terrific! We would’ve missed out on most of this city without the tour. And my daughter really go into the architectural features!]

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Indulging while in Wellington

I’ve now spoken 8 times here in New Zealand. And my daughter’s endured my budget conscious lodging choices. So we decided to splurge on a “real” hotel while here in Wellington and make these three days a real vacation.

I’d tried to book a room online from the Top 10 Park but I really wanted my daughter’s input in the decision. (Not so much because I was feeling generous. More so that I wouldn’t be saddled with all the blame if she didn’t like the next place!)

Well, booking the room didn’t happen. I did narrow it down to a couple locations. We got to Wellington, had a delightful lunch with James and Susan from the Fundraising Institute of New Zealand, and then got down to finding a room. Not surprisingly, many of the hotels had filled up since this morning.

As quirky as having a mobile internet connection can be, it does come in handy. After talking to hotel clerks at the Wellington Intercontinental on the phone, I was assured they only had 5 rooms left–rooms that were decidedly out of my price range. On a whim, or just being stubborn, I decided to check Orbitz. Orbitz still showed rooms available at a great discount. I quickly booked the room and drove to the hotel.

My daughter had asked for a “real” hotel, but hadn’t expected this. The woman at the front desk took a fancy to her so upgraded us to a much nicer room with a harbor view and “club” access. I did have to pay more, but I ended up saving money because I would’ve had to pay for internet and parking and meals anyway.

After so much do-it-yourself travel, this level of customer service overwhelmed my homesick child. The woman had made it clear she was doing it for my uber-cool kid, not me. 🙂

The room was great. Shortly after getting settled, the woman at the front desk called again. She hadn’t been able to do something she’d wanted to do (I didn’t really understand what that was) so she was sending up a chocolate platter for my daughter as an apology.

Free chocolate, free drinks in the Club upstairs, free hot breakfast, free wifi, free parking, free laundry facilities, awesome location in the center of Wellington, no tipping expected. I could get used to this.

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Camper parks and budget conscious travel

Remember how a couple days ago I mentioned I tried to keep our lodging a bit flexible? Well I had two Ask Without Fear! fundraising seminars in Lower Hutt. So I decided to find where I was speaking and then find a place to stay.

It just so happened that the Wellington Top 10 Holiday Park was immediately adjacent to my first seminar location and about five minutes from my second. Perfect.

Top 10 Holiday Parks are a New Zealand campground park. This one had lots of plug-ins for RVs but is in an industrial part of town so the constant hum of highway traffic was distracting.

The accommodations were reasonably priced but pretty sparse (although yet again, my daughter was able to get her own room). The self-contained unit sort of felt like a slightly larger camper van. The smell was like that of an old cabin. And the sliding glass door in entrance right in front of my bed and the constant hum of highway traffic added to my “exposed” feeling.

But if you’re looking to travel on a budget, this is a possible option. The grocery store wasn’t too far away. Be careful, most stores and restaurants close by 8 p.m. here. So if you arrive late, you might be out of luck until the morning.

We were charmed by the ducks and rabbit that seemed to crave my daughter’s attention!

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Motels can work too

I don’t know when I picked it up, but I have an aversion to motels. I think it has something to do with the door to your room opening to the outside.

But I chose to leave some of our lodging flexible so we could make changes on the road. So yesterday we spontaneously visited both Hobbiton (Matamata) and the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves.

Both were amazing experiences (although the caves really scared my daughter). I’d intended to visit the Hawera Rotary Club last night. But what I thought was a 2 hour drive was really a 3 1/2 hour drive. Arriving long after the Rotary meeting would’ve ended, finding a place to stay became our top priority.

Fortunately, we found The Park Motel. It was pretty much across the street from where my next Ask Without Fear! fundraising seminar was being held.

The price did seem steep, especially for a motel. But then we saw the room. It was a small apartment: kitchenette, queen bed, bathroom, and a separate room with two twins. I was immediately embarrassed that I’d dickered over the price.

The stay was quite pleasant. And getting to see some TV was a nice treat too. The Maori channel was intriguing to listen too, but we both settled repeat episodes of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and The Mentalist.

It’s nice to realize that not all motel’s are created equal.

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Overnights with host families

Ever since my time as an admissions counselor back in the mid-1990’s, I’ve been pretty firm about not staying in the homes of the people that host me. I normally find it very draining. Not only do I have to be “on” for my speaking, but I have to stay “on” for the whole time.

But last night, I was pleasantly reminded how nice it can be to stay with a family. My hosts were wonderful. And I was glad my daughter could see normal family life in another country. The free Wifi was a plus too. 🙂

We had a wonderful night of fish-and-chips on the beach with two other families. Just hanging out in another country with people being “real” is great. It happens to a point at conferences but it was even more authentic on the beach Saturday night.

I think my daughter and I both benefited from the “normal-ness” of being around a family too. We are definitely missing the three other Pitmans back home. So the hub-bub of siblings and parents was a welcome change to the hostel and apartment we’d been in.

I know myself well enough to know that it’s not in my best interests or my client’s best interests for me to make a habit of staying with them at their home. But it is nice to do every now and then.

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