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Travel school


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  • | 8:01 a.m. December 20, 2013
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Traveler: Annalisa Xioutas and her daughter, Eva

Itinerary: Xioutas is the president of FFI Contracting Services in Fort Myers. She travels all over the country managing repairs for thousands of foreclosed homes that investors have purchased. Her daughter, Eva, 10, often accompanies her mom on these business trips.

Get involved: Xioutas involves her daughter in visits to homes that her company is renovating for investors. “We're usually meeting a contractor and assessing a property,” Xioutas says. “I involve her and ask her to do the note taking, take the pictures.”

Start early: Traveling for business started early for Eva, who accompanied her mother as an infant. “When I was selling real estate I would schlep her around with me,” Xioutas says. “She'd be in the car seat while I was writing the contract.”

Find the kids club: Corporate hotels cater to busy executives who travel with children, and many have a children's club that provide activities while mom or dad is out visiting clients. “When she was younger, I would choose the kids' club,” Xioutas says. “That was the driving force.” Two chains that do a good job catering to executives traveling with children are Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott, Xioutas says. If you warn them ahead of time you'll be traveling with a child, the concierge will make an extra effort to accommodate a youngster. Xioutas remembers a particularly attentive concierge at the Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey who wrote her daughter a little note inside a goodie bag containing a teddy bear and cookies. “She still has that bag,” Xioutas says. “She loved the attention.”

Make it educational: At the Hyatt Regency in Palm Springs, Calif., Xioutas reserved a suite for six days so Eva could have a quiet corner to spread out and do her school work. A falconer on the property whose job was to chase away nuisance birds gave her a lesson in his craft. “I have her keep a little journal about her travels, what she sees and does,” Xioutas says.

Make it fun: It's not all business when Xioutas travels. For example, the last time she and Eva were in Los Angeles, they tracked down one of the winners of Cupcake Wars, a popular show on the Food Network. “She ate the red velvet one and broke out in hives,” Xioutas laughs.

Leave ahead of time: When she does business in California, for example, Xioutas says she and Eva leave the day before. She's noticed that hotels are making a better effort at customer service. “I feel like sometimes it's a furniture showroom,” she chuckles. “There's six people to greet you.”

Business lounges: “Those to me are like the life savers,” Xioutas says. Private lounges at airports stock snacks and drinks and Xioutas says she frequents both the Delta and USAirways business lounges. Children are welcome. “She likes the fact that she can make her own tea,” Xioutas says.

No good airline: Xioutas says domestic airlines provide poor service and she's concerned further consolidation in the industry will lead to higher prices. The trick to getting more upgrades to first class: “Pick your travel companions based on their airline status,” she laughs.

The worst airport: Philadelphia, a USAirways hub, because flights are often late. “I've run so many times through the Philadelphia airport it's not funny,” Xioutas says. Running to catch a tight connection with a 10-year-old is no fun, she attests.

The food challenge: Eating well while traveling is always hard. “I usually pick a restaurant by the wine list and they're not kid-friendly sometimes,” Xioutas says. “When she's traveling with me is not when I'm eating my best. It's a lot of pizza.”

 

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