It’s been several years since I traveled full time and I don’t miss it at all. Eight hour commutes, getting sick once a month, and old airport sandwiches wrapped in cellophane are not my fondest memories.
After a recent 2 week road trip I was freshly reminded of how much I hate business travel. So I decided to share a few unconventional business travel tips I've picked up over the years. If you have to take a trip, here are some ideas to make the road a little easier on you.
Business Travel Packing Tips
- Keep a second set of toiletries. Have duplicates of your tooth-brush, shampoo, etc. stored in a dedicated travel bag so you don’t have to re-pack them for every trip.
- Don’t check bags if you can avoid it. Save yourself 30-45 minutes of waiting for your bags when you land.
- If you do check a bag, keep essentials in your carryon. If your bag is lost or you miss a connection, have your toiletries and a spare pair of underwear at the ready.
- Print maps in advance or plug addresses into your phone GPS before you depart. And make sure you know how to use it….it can be a pain to learn when you’re already lost.
- Bring a DVD to watch on your laptop during long flights.
- If you plan to watch DVD’s make sure your battery is fully charged and you have decent noise cancelling headphones so you can hear on the plane.
- Bring reading material you can throw away. Books and magazines are heavy, so if you can dump them in the trash (or give them away) when you’re done, it’s one less thing to lug home.
- If you’ve got a long flight without meal service (like most flights these days), stop on your way to the airport and buy a cold sub. Just don’t get a drink since you can’t take that through security. It’s cheaper than airport/plane food, better quality, and will keep you occupied for a few minutes on the flight.
- Bring a plastic trash bag for all your dirty clothes. If you forget, many hotels have shoe shine bags you can use.
- Roll up socks and put them in your shoes to save space.
- Always check-in early to bypass the ticketing line.
- If you’re driving in the Northeast, be sure to bring cash for tolls. Better yet, if you have an EasyPass, bring it with you since most of the Northeast tolls now accept it.
Tips for Booking Travel
- Check Seat Guru for seat maps on different aircrafts to see which seats are best. Most airlines charge you for exit rows these days (one of my previous favorite tips), but you can still find a bulk head with just as much leg room. Just remember that you won’t have a seat in front of you so you’ll have to fit everything in the overhead.
- When picking a seat, look for boarding zones that will allow you to board early (finding overhead space is always a pain).
- If you have a choice, book air travel for earlier in the day since flight delays increase as the day goes on.
- If you’ve earned status on any airline and plan to travel on another one, write the airline a letter and ask if they will match your status level. One year I reached the 50k mileage tier on one airline so I wrote two other airlines and they both gave me the same status no questions asked.
- Book hotels near your meetings, not near the airport.
- Look for hotels with free breakfast and Internet to save money on the road.
- Sign up for the preferred program of a rental car agency. The biggest benefit is not having to wait in line and be able to jump right into your car when you arrive.
Tips for the Airport
- Remember where you park. I just take a picture of the nearest sign with my phone. Nothing worse than getting home from a long road trip and not being able to find your car.
- Don’t put your keys in checked luggage. Keep them in your pocket or your carry-on in case your bags get lost.
- Use digital boarding passes if available so that you don’t have to worry about printed tickets.
- If you have a lousy seat assignment, check with the gate agent to get it changed. Many times better seats are available that you could not get online or at kiosk check-in.
- Stand close to the boarding area and board the moment your zone is called. No, this won’t get you there any faster, but if you have a roller-board, getting overhead space while it’s still available is a must.
- If you run into delays, call into the airline immediately (while you are waiting in line). When you miss a connection, you and 100 other people are rushing to the special services desk to rebook travel. Unfortunately, the first few in line get the first few seats on the next flight out. So call in right away and you might be able to bypass the line entirely.
- If you do get delayed, don’t be afraid to ask for a meal or hotel voucher.
- If you’ve got some time to kill at the airport, wait outside a frequent traveler lounge. If someone is entering by themselves, politely ask if they would mind bringing you in as a guest. Most memberships allow guests for free so it won’t cost them anything.
- Traveling with a baby? Here's some tips great tips from Couple Money.
Tips for Getting Through Security Fast
- Wear socks (preferably thick ones). You’ll have to take your shoes off at security and airport floors (especially security lines) are filthy.
- Keep a shoehorn handy in your carry on bag to help slide your shoes back on quickly.
- Look for security lines with other business travelers and avoid lines with families at all cost.
- Ask for a hotel upgrade when you check in. If you’re on vacation, try the 20 dollar tip trick
- Use a white noise sound machine to cancel out the ambient hallway noise, icemakers, and tractor trailers driving by outside.
- If you are returning to the same hotel the following week, check a bag with the hotel valet over the weekend to eliminate carrying everything back and forth through the airport.
- Ask your clients (and front desk clerks) for restaurant recommendations.
- Keep receipts in one place for easy (and meticulous) expense reporting (and don’t forget mileage to airport). I try to write down cash expenses daily and record them all the day after I get back from a trip.
- Leave a tip on your pillow for the hotel maid. They’re underpaid and you’ll be surprised at some of the nice things they will do for you after getting a $2 tip.
- Take vitamin C supplements before, during, or after flight to keep your immune system up.
- Consider using a netti pot to wash out your sinuses. In dry hotel rooms this cuts down on how often I get sick immensely.
- Buy bottled water on your way to the hotel so you have something to drink other than less than nasty hotel tap water.
- Remember that the remote control is the dirty thing in your hotel room (worse than the toilet), so use appropriate care after touching it.