The Brancatelli File



November 20, 2003 -- So what's rarer: A good Thanksgiving Day song or something to be thankful for on the road?

The answer, you'll be happy to know, is a good Thanksgiving Day song. In fact, I can only think of one: "I've Got Plenty to Be Thankful For," a minor Irving Berlin ditty from 1942's Holiday Inn. It's no "White Christmas," Berlin's masterwork from the same flick--but it's really the only Thanksgiving Day song I know.

But things to be thankful for on the road? You and I actually have plenty to be thankful for. I know because you told me so after a recent column requesting your thoughts on this very topic.

So, while you're figuring out how to get an upgrade on your flight home for Thanksgiving, don't forget that we business travelers already live lives of extraordinary privilege. We've got more to be thankful for than Irving Berlin
ever dreamed.

Life on the road is a long, hard slog, but, sometimes, it's just a little thing that makes us thankful. ... "I adore those rocking chairs at the Charlotte airport." ... "The flower arrangements in the lobby of the Four Seasons in Paris make me happy and they are strikingly beautiful." ... "It's great when room service brings me my morning coffee in a silver pot." ... "Shopping at Takashimaya in Tokyo and watching a middle-aged shopper in a kimono examining the sale table just like your mother used to do at B. Altman's." ... "The savvy hotel clerk who upgraded me to a three-bedroom suite because I wrote nice things about him on the feedback form the last time I stayed at the hotel." ... "Going for a run early in the morning and coming back and seeing everyone's newspaper waiting for them in the hallway." ... "The view of Hong Kong Island from the Kowloon Star Ferry Terminal." ... "Sitting in a restaurant in Sausalito, drinking white wine and watching the sun set on San Francisco."

The neighborhoods around airports are rarely pretty, but one traveler is thankful for the roads near Albuquerque airport: "The highway overpasses are salmon and turquoise, colored to blend in with the natural landscape. It's a pleasant road-trip surprise."

We all have little routines when we travel and they make us thankful for the time we have in faraway places. For example: "When traveling in Europe or South America I find a local grocery store and buy a practical kitchen device, such as a pizza cutter or spatula. I use those items every week and they bring back a memory of that country and it's better than some silly trinket that I'd never look at again. Grocery shopping also forces me to see everyday life in other parts of the world."

I come from a shoe family--my dad was a shoe retailer and his father repaired 'em--so I couldn't help but notice how many folks are thankful for the quality of the humble airport shoe shine. ... "I love getting my shoes shined at Houston Intercontinental. It's relaxing and they do a great job." ... "I love the shoe shine people at Denver International Airport. I actually look forward to changing planes there so I can get a shoe shine. They are pleasant, efficient and their shine is the best I've ever had." ... "The best shoe shine stands in any U.S. airport are located at Lambert International in St. Louis. For the huge sum of $4.00, you get a shine totally done by hand. When they finish, you can really see a reflection in them."

We've all got a favorite stable of hotels, but some properties more than others make us thankful. "I love the toy box in every room at Hotel Avante in Mountain View, California. And the hotel has a terrific CD collection that you can use in a room solely dedicated to the enjoyment of music." ... "I've been going to the Amsterdam Marriott twice a year for three years and the bell captain actually remembers me every time. He even buys me tulips!" ... "My favorite is still the Las Colinas Four Seasons. The staff is just pure perfection!" ... "The Conrad International in Hong Kong has great service, a very well-trained staff and a good location. There's even a gourmet supermarket in the basement." ... "Thanks to my Hilton Hhonors gold status, the Hilton Garden Inn at BWI Airport slips me a $5 coupon to use at its market pantry." ... "The Davenport Hotel in Spokane is an old property purchased by a local couple and completely re-habbed into a luxury-class hotel. The accommodations are exceptional and the people outstandingly friendly and helpful." ... "I've found that the JW Marriott hotels in Asia are really, really good at looking after me."

Life on the road isn't as charming as it once was, but the gear we bring along is better than ever. A lot of business travelers are thankful for ... "My Bose noise-reducing headphones." ... "My laptop with the integrated CD/DVD player so I can play the music and watch the movies I want." ... "My lightweight travel hotpot that boils water for tea that doesn't taste like coffee-pot water." ... "My Garmin global-positioning device that allows me to walk anywhere and get back to my hotel even when I can't read the street signs in Moscow or Tokyo."

Not surprisingly, you offered up precious few kudos for domestic carriers, but many of you were thankful for the opportunity to fly international airlines. ... "I am impressed by the quiet, comfortable civility of British Airways' upper deck Club World service on their Boeing 747s." ... "I got a connecting flight via Dubai in first class on Emirates and discovered true pampering. The snacks in the first-class lounge are spectacular. And Emirates has a few rooms with a bed and an en-suite shower available. I really slept for a while, woke up, took a shower, dressed, had breakfast and then went to my next flight." ... "I love Malaysia Airlines and their cheapest Y-class seats, which can be as good as any business-class seat. The legroom and the entertainment systems and the food are all fabulous." ... "I know this sounds silly, but I really appreciate being able to choose olive oil instead of butter with my bread when I fly in Raffles Class on Singapore Airlines." ... "I tried Lufthansa's all-business-class service between New York and Dusseldorf and I thought it was great. The flight went off with typical German efficiency."

Life on the road takes its toll on relationships, especially marriages. But one reader made an amazing discovery: "On a recent project six of us were having dinner and we discovered that, even though we all worked on the road, none of us were ever divorced and we were all married for more than 20 years. So we decided that working on the road makes us appreciate our spouses more and them us. It also means every homecoming is like a wedding night."

Frequent flyers are experts at turning little inconveniences into little victories. You wouldn't think we'd be thankful for stuff like this, but... "I like the adventure of travel, like using a credit card or the morning newspaper to scrape ice and snow off of a car because the rental-car company forgot to put an ice scraper and snow brush in the car." ... "Being on the road means I'm not in my messy home office." ... "Narrow coach seats encourage me to keep the pounds off."

Happy Thanksgiving...and, wherever you are, don't forget to give thanks.

This column originally appeared at

Copyright 1993-2004 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.