Whether it’s wanderlust or work-related, travel is both a blessing and a curse. Wonderful in the sense that it opens doors to the world, new adventures and fascinating cultures. Wearisome in the sense that … oh, heck, if you’ve hopped even one flight in your lifetime, you know travel can be a pain in the part that comes in contact with the too-skinny airline seat.
As with everything, there are tips, tricks and little-known secrets that can make life on the road much more enjoyable. Here are 10 for your consideration…
Centralize and organize all travel-related info – That thing you always have on your person isn’t merely a mobile phone, it can be an invaluable, mobile repository of important travel info – flights, hotel confirmations, ground transportation arrangements, restaurant reservations, appointment schedule, etc. Check out the TripIt app (available for iOS and Android) which keeps all travel data conveniently in one place. Also, don’t forget to shoot a picture of your rental car, your hotel room number and parking lot space number in case it slips your mind. Store those images in the TripIt app. It’s also a wise idea to shoot a photo of your driver’s license, auto insurance card, medical insurance cards, list of prescriptions and your passport
Think twice before booking the last flight out – Yes, you’re busy. Yes, you’ve got back-to-back, all-day meetings. And yes, you’re catching the last flight out. Bad idea. If that flight gets canceled, you’re cooked and that big presentation you’ve been slaving over for weeks will never pass before the client’s eyes. Don’t risk it. Always give yourself a secondary option in the event of inclement weather, mechanical breakdowns, etc. Also, if you’re traveling to a more remote location and there’s only one flight per day, go a day early.
Maximize your commute time – Consider booking an executive limo or sedan service vs. driving yourself to and from the airport and renting a car at your destination. The average biz traveler spends an hour driving to the airport, then another hour after renting a car upon arrival and
driving to their destination hotel. Add another hour for driving around to “get the lay of the land” then reverse the whole process for the return trip. That’s five hours that could’ve been spent polishing that presentation or following up on urgent tasks. Research global limo services, set up an account, and you can leave the ground transpo up to your trusted limo provider. Of course, there’s always easy and (mostly) convenient Uber or Lyft which is becoming more and more mainstream with business travelers. Just be sure to assess, in advance, their presence in the market to which you’re traveling.
If you must rent a car, be selective – Travel + Leisure recently released its annual list of leading of U.S. auto rental companies. For the fifth year running, National was tops with a customer satisfaction rating of 80.4%, followed in order by Enterprise (78.7%), Hertz (76.4%), Alamo (74.5%) and Sixt Rent a Car (73.9%). Business travelers particularly noted National’s clean fleet, high-quality customer care, and vehicle availability. They also like the Emerald Club loyalty program which allows members to bypass the check-in counter and choose their own vehicles from dedicated aisles.
It’s OK to pick your (airline) seat – Experienced business travelers overwhelmingly turn to Seat Guru (part of the TripAdvisor family of services) when it comes to choosing airline seats. Seat Guru offers seat maps, flight shopping, in-flight service listings, seat advice, user comments section, and a Guru Factor comfort rating system. Other similar service-providers such as Seat Expert, Expert Flyer, Seat Plan, Skytrax and Seatlink offer data regarding available, in-flight power ports; cabin crew ratings; seat widths; leg room; overhead bin space; and the ability to create an alert when a more desirable seat becomes available. (As an added FYI … the U.S. Senate last week overwhelmingly passed legislation that extends funding for the Federal Aviation Administration for another five years. Included in that legislation is the mandate the FAA come up with minimum seat widths and minimum space between rows of seats. Stay tuned.)
Worst-Case Scenario: Your flight’s been canceled, you missed a connection or you got bumped. Now what? – It happens, so be ready and be smarter than the masses. Don’t sprint to the nearest ticket counter or start dialing the airline’s 800 number where you’ll be on hold for extended periods of time. Tweet at the airline for help. Most major carriers have Customer Service Reps monitoring Twitter 24/7 and they will respond to you quickly and provide rebooking assistance.
Look before you book a hotel – Yes, many business travelers are loyal to the hotel flag that will help them build the most travel points but that may not always be the right strategy. Unless you’re booking a room simply to lay your head down, you’ll need more than a comfortable bed and soft pillow. It’s likely you’ll be spending some portion of your “road time” working in your room. Do a little legwork and find out about in-room workspace, electronic connections, WiFi speed, on-premise business facilities, ambience, lighting, etc. All these factors will have an impact on your productivity. Look for a location convenient to the airport, client’s office and restaurants. You might even want to scan the Room-Service Menu in advance if you expect to be working late. And when it comes time to de-stress, be sure there’s a fitness facility onsite or a nearby walking trail or park.
What’s in your wallet? – There’s a wide array of premium credit cards specifically targeted at business travelers. Check them out and compare. A recent article by “The Points Guy” who has made a career of “gaming” the system and amassing huge amounts of travel credits to explore the world at little or no cost, recommends The Platinum Card from American Express. Beyond the well-known perks of access to Centurion Lounges (located at nine major airports with three more coming soon) and $200 in annual airline fee credits, the card grants you elite status at Hiltons and Marriotts (good for upgrades and bonus points), baggage insurance, car rental loss and damage insurance, roadside assistance, purchase protection, and even $100 in annual purchase credits at Saks 5th Avenue.
If cavemen invented the wheel 5,500 years ago… – Why did it take so long to put wheels on suitcases and laptop bags? And why did it take so long to realize four wheels are better than two? You’re behind the times if you’re totin’ anything other than a 360° spinner, those sleek 4-wheeled suitcases that stand upright with wheels that spin in all directions. They’re becoming more common and prices are coming down. Check for a sturdy polycarbonate casing and equally sturdy wheels that will hold up under trying conditions. Some spinners offer built-in USB chargers, TSA-approved combo locks, scratch-resistant exteriors, Bluetooth tracking technology, even a handle that doubles as a luggage scale.
Do-it-yourself, in-room laundry service – Who has time to Google “Laundromats near me”, much less spend an hour or two washing, drying and folding clothes? Probably not you. And who has the deep pockets to pay for a hotel laundry service? Definitely not me. There’s a simple solution. Pack a Ziploc gallon bag or two, fill with water, laundry soap, and soiled clothing then seal and shake, shake, shake. Rinse thoroughly and hang to dry overnight. Use your in-room iron and your clothes will always be fresh, clean and neatly pressed. There are also travel clotheslines for hanging clothes near windows, fans, radiators or in showers. Travelon makes a line of dry laundry soap sheets which start as solids and dissolve in water. And if you’re a water conservationist, multi-task and wash your clothes while you’re taking your shower. (Shampoo works well as a substitute laundry detergent.) And don’t forget to pack a stain stick to make sure that red wine Oops! from dinner — or lunch if you’re in France or Italy — doesn’t permanently set.
These are but a few travel tips and shortcuts to make business travel a more enjoyable experience. Wander if you wish. Travel if you must. Either way, make it as pleasant, comfortable and efficient as possible. I’d love to hear your biz travel secrets!
Business travel is both a blessing and a curse. Be at your productive best by keeping any (or all) of these travel tips in mind next time you hit the road.
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