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How to go on vacation like a boss, a literal boss

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It doesn’t matter how high up you are on the corporate ladder: you need to take a break or risk burning out. Here, members of the C-suite share travel hacks they picked up while earning frequent flyer miles.


Inanc Balci, CEO of Lazada

He left his job in London as an investment banker to fly to the other side of the world—the Philippines—where he cofounded Lazada, the country’s biggest online retailer. Inanc Balci, the young Turkish CEO who has been running the company for over six years, makes it a point to step away from the screen and recharge in the great outdoors.

“For a sustainable career, anyone needs to create time for activities. In my personal time, I travel to other Southeast Asian countries and to local destinations with activities such as surfing in Siargao and La Union or diving in Coron, Palawan, at least once or twice a month,” he said.

When not in the country for work or pleasure, he is out with his family. “Getaways are my favorite because I live away from my family and don’t have a lot opportunities during the year to meet them. We travel to a unique destination every year for two weeks,” he said.

Spend time outside the hotel.

“Depending on the travel schedule and duration, the flights may be different classes, in case we need to rest during the flight. However, there is no ‘always.’ If it is a sports activity trip like snowboarding or surfing, I usually book modest accommodation as I try to spend most of our time outside of the hotel.”

Check messages on a schedule.

“My phone is permanently on me, and I check my e-mails/messages/calls every 15 minutes as our business is very dynamic.”

Go with the flow.

“I try to construct a general itinerary for the main attractions to see, but no daily schedule to follow. I like visiting high-energy and interesting parts of the cities with a lot of interactions with local people. The days usually flow spontaneously.”

Use packing cubes.

“I travel a lot for work, so I’ve become very efficient over the years. I can pack a week-bag in 10 minutes with all the clothes, cables, chargers, sunscreen, etc. My travel ritual is to beef up my iPad with media (Netflix, podcasts, Audible books) so I won’t get bored during the flights. And I’ve had my eye on noise-canceling headphone to make the flights more pleasant. My travel hacks? Compression packing cubes!” (Available at Lazada, of course.)

Donnie Tantoco, President of Rustan’s Commercial Corporation

Rustan’s Commercial Corporation’s President, Donnie Tantoco, is used to having the best of the what the retail world has to offer around him, so you’re sure that Mr. Tantoco knows what’s best for him when he goes out to travel the world. His family has established relationships with some of the world’s best designers and brands through strategic visits to the world’s fashion capitals, a tradition that Mr. Tantoco and his generation still continue today. He has a knack for mixing business with pleasure, so even leisurely strolls around cities can turn into opportunities for expanding the business. The top three things he looks for in a hotel are: “A very good location, a clean bathroom, and a gym.”

Bring a pair of running shoes.

Mr. Tantoco strides through airports in a black Longchamp Le Pliage in ballistic nylon as a carry-on bag. “I love to run. I can’t go anywhere without running. I always have running shoes. [Also in the bag are] my toiletries, because hygiene is important. Maybe a scarf.”

See a musical.

“I like discovering places through theater since I’m more of a musical kind of guy. I also like to go to places where locals love to congregate. From their conversations, you find out what they care about. Of course, I visit stores. I’m constantly looking at stores, looking at new concepts out there.”

Aileen C. Clemente, CEO of Rajah Travel Corporation

Having been traveling since the age of four and now heading one of the country’s premier travel agencies, Aileen C. Clemente, president and chairman of Rajah Travel Corporation, knows how to squeeze the most comfort and convenience in all her trips. Her personal criterion for choosing hotels? Thread count—“I need a minimum of 750-count sheets. If not, I usually bring my sheets.”

Get multiple mileage cards to make travel more rewarding.

Ms. Clemente usually travels—on average—three times a month. She has a mileage card for each airline alliance (Star Alliance, SkyTeam, and Oneworld), plus flag carriers.

“Whatever airline you fly, you are covered and can acquire the points on your card. Also, always use your credit cards even if you have no plans to amortize your payments. Because your cards earn points. If you can afford it, apply for gold cards or higher because the computation of rewards can sometimes be different. Plus some of them have lounge access at the airports.”

Be smart in redeeming miles.

“Be smart about how you compute miles redemption: It is never good to redeem one way because you tend to have to pay a higher price for one-way tickets. Compare the redemption of a full flight on business vs. buying an economy ticket and use miles for upgrades.”

Shop on the plane.

“I am a heavy buyer of good technology gadgets on board the flight. Usually, I buy solar power banks, good headphones and bluetooth speakers and the like. I recommend buying gadgets that are not usually available in other online stores.”

Never go for what is “cheap.”

“With the assumption that you have prepared and researched about your trip, the first thing you should do is appreciate the culture and the sights that await you. Look at everything with open and positive eyes and just suck everything in, for what it is.

“You should have your bucket list for the place and see which ones you can visit. Immerse in the culture and choose the local food. Don’t just go for what is ‘cheap.’ Plan ahead and save up. Don’t sell yourself short and try things just because they are cheap.”

Selfies aren’t the point.

“Do not sell yourself short and just take selfies just so you can say you saw the popular attractions. Make your trip about YOU. What YOU want to really experience.”

Also, look closely at the tour inclusions.

“Just like anything else, you can compare prices and convenience. If you want to start taking short hops, use the train—because you waste less time in the process and you get to see more.

“When you are canvassing for your tour, look very closely at the inclusions. It is in the inclusions that drive your prices high, so don’t be fooled by the package rates. If there are big-ticket items that are not included in your tour, you will tend to pay for them once you get to your destination. This is what makes your trip expensive. One big plus of planning right and looking at all the inclusions, you then get to really relax on your trip—you will have nothing to worry about too.”

Monique Pronove, CEO of Pronove Tai International Property Consultants

“You do not have to be a CEO to be able to travel frequently, be it as part of your job or as part of your holiday,” said Monique Pronove, CEO of Pronove Tai International Property Consultants as traveling was a frequent endeavor even when she began as a research analyst. Nowadays, as the CEO of a 100% Filipino-owned property consultancy firm, she travels for both business (as “it is imperative to be up-to-date with the property trends across the Asian region primarily”) and leisure (“to observe and listen to local goings-on.”)

Local destinations are a priority.

“I travel because travel is the best teacher of culture, of history and of new concepts.

“I consider the local attractions first; the accommodations and the accessibility, second; and then, the affordability. I say affordability as the last because if you go during non-peak season, there are always airfare and accommodation promos.”

Plan ahead.

“Planning overseas vacations should be done eight to 12 months prior because of the schedules of children. For local travels, give yourself a month or two prior to departure.”

Always think about accessibility.

“I look for accessibility to the attractions and to public transportation where I want to visit. Then, I look at the comments and feedback of people who have visited the hotel.

“My room needs to be a non-smoking floor. Next, it needs to be near the lift lobby. Third, the view. Fourth, if it’s a small town area where we are visiting, the room should not be along the major street especially if it’s a low floor because of the noise from the cars and pedestrians.”

Express gratitude at the end of every trip.
“Thank the concierge and hotel staff.”

Jagan Srinivasan, Country Manager of Philips Lighting

Through his father’s employee benefits, Jagan Srinivasan began traveling around far-flung areas in India and rode the train for free with his family as a child. Since then, the current Philips Lighting Country Manager in the Philippines continues to be adventurous and prefers to travel around a country via road trips.

Be spontaneous.

“I travel whenever I can have time off from work. Of course, we make some choices to avoid known periods of crowds, traffic jams, and other travel concerns that may affect our plans.

“We (family) mostly plan last-minute vacations and sometimes ad hoc. Setting off in a packed car and figuring out the destination along the way is how we do it most of the time. That’s how we end up with many surprises and exciting adventures. In the Philippines, such spontaneity has brought us to parts of Kalinga, Rice Terraces and other parts of Batad and Banaue. I guess that spur-of-the-moment attitude is what makes vacations all the more thrilling.”

Look beyond resorts and hotels.

“I usually prefer something simple and no-frills. In fact, most of my preferred destinations don’t really have resorts. That’s why I always travel with a tent.

“We usually prefer to combine nature with physical activity. We do not usually enjoy the laid-back, chill-and-relax type of holidays.

“I always have my mobile phone for planning our itinerary for the next day, a tent or a sleeping bag just in case we need to spend a night without a commercially available accommodation.”

Do not leave without giving lighting suggestions.

“It’s always a must to take pictures that help us relive the vacation. Fascinatingly, I also give unsolicited suggestions for improved ways of lighting places that we visit.

“Given how spontaneous and flexible my leisure travel schedule can get, I need to always keep in mind my return date so that I plan and head home in time. Getting ‘carried away’ while on holiday has cost me many a mad rush and long drives to get back home in time.” — High Life staff