For many, a job that requires regular travel is a dream come true. But frequent fliers know that without enough discipline and preparation, jetsetting could very well turn into a nightmare.
From booking flights to preparing luggage, adjusting to new cultures and mixing business with pleasure, seasoned business travelers share their best travel tips for making work travel a little less stressful and a lot more productive.
Travel Tip #1: Preparing for your Flight
1. Read up on political and weather conditions.
Before booking your flight, browse travel advisories, forums, blogs, news sites and weather reports about your destination. “We get too busy, we forget about weather at the other end,” observes Tom Ellsworth, president of enterprise software company Globanet. Ellsworth adds that using the FlightView app for checking weather conditions at destination airports often helps him avoid delays and winter storms.
Nine9nine Managing Director Scott Eddy asks feedback from his Twitter followers when traveling to a new country. He says, “For me, it’s all about social media. I work hard 24/7 trying to build relationships around the world, so when I travel, I really put those resources to use.”
2. Scout for deals on airfare, accommodations and other services.
Ten Golden Rules founder Jay Berkowitz travels twice or thrice a month and uses Google Maps to find hotels near his business destinations. He has made a habit of checking online promos and coupons before making a room reservation.
Downloading the airline’s company app allows passengers to monitor flight schedules and re-book with ease if necessary, according to speaker Barry Maher. He also recommends checking SeatGuru for finding the best seats and ticket prices.
When booking plane tickets, consultant and keynote speaker Brian Carter prefers the window seat “because it’s easier to sleep leaning against the wall, and you can look outside and escape the feeling of being stuck in a plane.”
Lastly, check whether your credit card company offers tie-in deals or privileges for airfare. As healthcare consultant and CEO Michael Irvin advises, “I like to pay for trips using my American Express Card so that I get access to privileges in airports, such as free wi-fi, drinks and snacks with some airlines.”
3. Secure your travel insurance and mobile phone plans.
Anything can happen on the road, so it’s best to be equipped with adequate insurance coverage. Give your existing company policy’s terms a thorough read-through before flying out. Does your primary health insurance plan include medical expenses outside your country? If travel insurance is not provided, companies like RoamRight offer packages that cover business jetsetters’ medical plans, 24/7 international assistance for emergencies and other travel concerns like lost luggage.
Syniverse executive Mary Clark advises executive travelers to coordinate with their wireless network providers for activating roaming service and choosing the appropriate voice, text and data plans for their needs. Clark emphasized the importance of familiarising oneself with international roaming rates and country codes, as well as local laws on mobile phone usage.
Travel Tip #2: Packing
4. Pack in advance and ensure that essentials are always within reach.
Keep important medication, travel and identification documents, cash and other valuables in a carry-on bag. Days or weeks before his flight, Roger Dillon of Ricardo Beverly Hills lists down all business and personal items he will need for an upcoming trip to avoid forgetting anything important.
He rolls his clothes in tissue paper to lessen wrinkles, packs them in layers, and suggests washing on the road for trips exceeding one week. “On long flights with multiple stopovers, pack a change of clothes – handy should your checked luggage get delayed or even lost. You don’t want to end up stuck without medication, clothes or your important papers,” said Dillon.
5. Travel light, but consider investing in luggage and accessories for special needs.
To save time and avoid queues for baggage claim at the destination airport, majority of executives forego bringing check-in luggage.
David Barrett, founder and CEO of Expensify, travels up to two months overseas, with at least one trip every month in between. For these trips, he brings only a bag slightly larger than a tennis racquet case and advises other business travelers to do the same.
“Aim to travel light enough that you can carry everything with you at all times — to the conference, to dinner, to the meetings, everywhere. It’s a business trip, after all, and to make the most of it you need to be out shaking hands, not ferrying back and forth to your hotel room,” says Barrett.
As an alternative to check-in luggage, Luggage Forward offers frequent fliers luggage delivery services to homes, offices or hotels in over 200 countries.
For light travelers concerned about creasing their business suits, SkyRoll produces luggage designed with a garment bag that wraps outwardly, letting suits roll up instead of folding.
Lightweight compartments like Lewis N. Clark Featherlight packing cubes keep carry-on bags organised, while also allowing storage compression for even more extra space.
6. Pack multipurpose and weather-appropriate travel clothes.
“When packing, fabric matters,” says Teju Owoye, founder and CEO of Tusodo. Her top fabric choices for travel are wool, neoprene, nylon and polyester. Bring only 2-3 pairs of footwear – smart business shoes, sneakers and other casual shoes like loafers, as necessary. Tom Ellsworth wears his running shoes during flights and uses the same for morning workouts when traveling.
7. Choose which electronics and accessories to bring wisely.
Fill your tablet or laptop with enough work materials, videos, e-books or music to keep you occupied during the flight or while waiting at the boarding gate. Back-up important files in a USB, portable hard drive and on the cloud for easy retrieval.
CEO Jay Berkowitz always packs a multi-prong extension cord when traveling. “With a four-prong extension cord, you can always share the power and charge your phone, iPad or laptop in between flights. Plus, a 6 foot or 8 foot extension cord gives you a little freedom to sit comfortably, not on the floor beside the only available outlet,” he shares.
According to other executives like David Barrett, however, cordless batteries and chargers are for more convenient: “Even if there are outlets where you’re going – and why take that chance? – it’s never cool to fumble with cords at the start and end of a meeting, or be stuck huddled around a conference’s lone charging station. The technology exists and is readily available to go cordless, enjoy it!”
If you intend to do a lot of reading during your trip, be ready to bring your own portable light fixtures. Having struggled on airplane seats with broken reading lights and dimly-lit hotel rooms in the past, Barry Maher never travels without bringing a book light and a night light.
Many frequent fliers count earphones or earplugs among their travel must-haves, and Brian Carter explains why: “They can decrease airport noise, signal to a seat partner if you’re too tired to converse, and help you sleep if there are weird hotel sounds.”
Travel Tip #3: Departure
8. Check in early and position yourself near the boarding gate.
Avoid missing your flight by taking a seat looking out the window. If the waiting area is full by the time you arrive, Carter suggests sitting by an unused gate nearby, ensuring that you have a good view of the boarding gate. If you think you might doze off while waiting, set your phone alarm to go off 10 minutes before the designated boarding time.
9. Be courteous to the airport staff and cabin crew.
Carter further enjoins business travelers to empathise with gate agents, as well as shopkeepers, airport and airline employees. They deal with a lot of people who are at their worst,” he explains, “so your courtesy goes further and can lead to extras, bonuses and upgrades. Avoid acting entitled.”
Scott Eddy experienced firsthand how accommodating airline staff could be to business travelers, despite the inconvenience on their part. “When I was late for a connection on Singapore Airlines one time, the staff let me hop on their van on the tarmac just so I could go a little faster,” Eddy recalls.
Travel Tip #4: While Traveling
10. Coordinate with hotel staff for room requests before settling in.
Upon check-in, Carter always checks out his hotel room before unpacking. If he finds anything disagreeable, he calls the front desk to ask about a room change – instead of heading down to reception – for two reasons: not only does placing a call seem more courteous, it also saves him a trip in case they are fully booked.
Carter also keeps the hotel keycard in a separate pocket from his phone and credit cards to avoid demagnetization – and another trip to the front desk.
11. Learn basic phrases of the language spoken in your destination.
“There’s something very satisfying about having a full interaction in another language – even if it’s as insignificant as ordering coffee,” says David Barrett. Interactive apps like Translate and the audio-based Pimsleur Course Manager allow frequent fliers to learn basic language skills on the go. No time to learn? Barrett suggests learning the vernacular for these four phrases, at the very least: “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me” and “one.”
12. Take breaks and treat yourself.
Barrett echoes the sentiments of beleaguered business travelers everywhere in saying, “Even on the best of days, business travel pretty much sucks. It’s a strange combination of incredible stress and pretty much the only genuine running most adults will ever do, to discover your flight is delayed and you must sit in an uncomfortable chair for hours, awaiting the privilege of sitting in a different uncomfortable chair for hours more, followed by a sterile hotel in a town you don’t have time to explore, a single long-shot meeting that will probably amount to nothing, and then the whole thing over in reverse.”
To cope with the rigors of corporate jetsetting, Barrett suggests indulging in activities that take your mind off work, with or without company.
13. Budget your meals accordingly.
“Eating out in an expensive city all the time can make an expensive trip into an exorbitant one,” says Marc Anderson, founder of language instruction site TalktoCanada. This is especially true for business leaders and family men like Anderson, who travels three to five times a year with his wife and two sons, a five-year-old and an eight-month-old.
To counter the expenses of eating out, Anderson prints a map of places near their lodging and buys from nearby groceries, convenience stores and pharmacies instead. For those concerned about the quality of drinking water or the cost of bottled water in their destination, a company called Grayl produces handy water filtration cups ideal for travelers on the go.
14. Expect – and embrace – the worst.
When Teju Owoye missed her flight home to the U.S. after a trip to the Balearic Islands, she found herself stranded in Barcelona for about two days. Owoye took her situation as a challenge and soon relished it as an unexpected opportunity to explore the city. “When traveling, you have to roll with the punches and try to make the best out of every situation,” she says.
Travel Tip #5: Arrival at your home airport
15. Time your arrival strategically.
Having just landed from yet another 15-hour flight, you’re eager as ever to crawl back home – but so are the hundreds, if not thousands, of other people shuffling around the airport. How does an executive flier beat the crowds? Tom Ellsworth swears by booking the next-to-last return trip to his home airport. Based on his experience, frequent business travelers enjoy priority on later flights, especially when there are delays due to mechanical issues.
Jon Parks, CEO of 401k Strategies, is a firm believer in taking control of his flight schedule: “Don’t let the client or the company force you to travel at stupid times. Being exhausted the next day because you’re expected back at the office at 8:30 A.M. from a midnight flight is unwise. Stretch your expense account and turn up at the office at noon the next day from the airport. You’ll get more done, and you’ll be a lot happier!”
Business travel may not always be exciting or convenient, but let these pointers help you make the most of the experience. Which of these tips will you try out on your next business trip? Tried using a board portal for your travel convenience? Got any favorite tips and travel hacks of your own? Share them with a comment!