A travel pro’s tips, with pirate ships
Road Warrior. It’s a title earned by many day-to-day travelers. A member of that throng is Pat Croce. Keeping him on the road three weeks out of every month is a career that’s been eclectic, from president of the Philadelphia 76ers to a turn in the tourism industry with two attractions in St. Augustine, Fla. – the Pirate & Treasure Museum and Colonial Spanish Quarter, a living history experience.
Between running these endeavors, as well as six restaurant/bar/entertainment venues in Key West and motivational speaking, Croce racks up miles. During a “layover” aboard a 16th-century replica Spanish Galleon, Croce, shared some of his rules for the road with Yahoo! Travel.
As with all successful pursuits, Croce says planning is essential for smooth travels. “I don’t have this day to do over,” he says. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone.” Checking out a destination in advance is imperative for Croce. He uses websites like TripAdvisor, Yahoo! Travel and Yelp to get reviews on everything from accommodations to dining.
Occasionally, Croce checks the destination’s visitor bureau website, but he warns they’re sometimes obligated to direct travelers towards members or advertisers. Taking things a step further, Croce reaches out via social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, alerting contacts where he’s going to be and asking for recommendations.
Like many road warriors, Croce has packing down to a science. “To make sure my attention deficit disorder is always taken care of, I have my iPad, a book and a healthy snack,” he says of his carry-on luggage. The same approach is used during twice-yearly vacations with his wife, two children, their spouses and six grandchildren. “Anticipation is part of the vacation,” he says of prepping with little ones. “Make it an adventure – from planning what coloring books, toys and munchies we’re packing to what games we’re going to play in the airport.”
In Croce’s book, catching the first flight out for a destination is key. “It’s your best guarantee for making a flight, especially when factoring in occurrences like weather changes.” Unforeseen obstacles are always on Croce’s radar. “I plan leeway in my schedule for things like not landing on time, or the rental car not being there,” he says. How he views a potential mishap. “Accept it, embrace it.”
All too familiar with hotels, Croce’s learned exactly what he requires for a comfortable stay. Vital are amenities like online check-in/check-out. Beyond that, “The hotel has to have a gym. I need endorphins to stay normal and regular,” he says. “And don’t put me near an elevator or in a smoking room.”
As with exercise, Croce has found commuter life runs more smoothly when it’s lived just like life at home. “I stick to a normal routine: wake up, work out, go to breakfast, read emails, make business calls … The only thing I’m missing on the road is hugging my wife of 35 years.”
Being the owner of attractions himself, Croce has a view from both sides of the fence when it comes to leisure pursuits on vacation. As with all things Croce, vacation attractions should be researched in advance to avoid tourist traps. Croce turns to TripAdvisor for its one- to five-star ratings. “Rating systems ensure owners of attractions, restaurants and bars kick their games up a notch.” Added to Croce’s resources are the opinions of locals. “I ask cab drivers, maître d's, concierges … Their opinions have to meld, especially when I’m looking for things off the beaten path that are safe, clean and service-oriented.”