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Business travel is a necessity. Whether you’re an intern or a CEO, the world of work is global. But where those traveling for leisure can afford the luxury of slipping into bed after a long flight, business travelers simply cannot. Important meetings will not be rescheduled because you made it in at 2 a.m. Conferences still expect you to speak, no matter how tired you are.
But in today’s age, business travel does not have to derail you. As travel has evolved, so have our methods of dealing with it. With the input of seventeen professionals who frequently travel for work, we’ve compiled a must-read list of over forty essential tips to help make your next work trip run smoothly.
1. Dress for upgrades.
Katherine Rothman, CEO of KMR Communications, says it’s much easier to get upgrades when you board a plane or arrive at a hotel if you’re dressed smartly and look the part.
2. Always make sure you have an assigned seat.
Katherine also says it is much harder for an airline to ‘bump’ you with an assigned seat, which could potentially be disastrous for your business trip.
3. Scan your accommodation’s Twitter posts.
Nick Gray, founder of Museum Hack, says it’s wise to scan your hotel’s Twitter posts before arriving. Many hotels run social media promotions that allow you to feel like a VIP without spending like one.
For example, sometimes, Kimpton Hotels post a social password on their Twitter account. When you say the social password at check-in, you’ll get a surprise, which could include a free bottle of wine, parking, a coffee mug, drinks at the bar, a room upgrade, dining vouchers, a hot chocolate kit, or an in-room movie.
4. Book your flight in incognito mode on your browser.
Founder of Talk Travel, Saurabh Jindal, always books flights through a new incognito window. Incognito mode does not store cookies (served by the website) on your system. Thus, it cannot track you.
Therefore, the website you are booking through cannot raise the price, which could be triggered when a user searches for the same thing more than once.
5. Check fares with Skiplagged.
David Pike, founder of the New York Trolley Company and advisor for startups at Founder Institute, always checks the Skiplagged app before booking. It shows you hidden fares to cities by missing the second leg of a flight.
For example, if you want to fly from New York to Nashville, Skipplagged might find a cheaper flight from New York to Chicago with a layover in Nashville. You wouldn’t board the second flight, hence saving money. You won’t, however, be able to check a bag.
6. Pack as light as possible.
Everything In Its Place founder Eileen Roth packs skirts and dresses, as they are thinner than slacks. Blouses are also a good choice, as they are thinner than sweaters. Less weight means you can pack more.
If it’s cooler in conference rooms, add a sweater and suit jacket in a basic black to top off the outfit and change that every other day.
7. Wear the only pairs of shoes you bring.
Frequent traveler Carmella says if you do, your shoes should be waterproof, airport-sensible, and business-appropriate everywhere from Canada down to Texas. Short black leather boots with the lowest heel are a sensible choice.
8. Even with TSA precheck, liquids are a gamble.
Between reusable water bottles, mouth rinse bites, and solid shampoo bars, there is no need to carry liquids. Pare down the toiletries and replace them with dry products.
9. Leave your designer luggage at home.
If you are traveling abroad, as much as you might treasure your designer luggage, leave it at home, says Katherine Rothman. Why advertise to thieves that you have money or make yourself more noticeable? This is not a time you want to stand out.
10. Keep a pre-packed travel bag at home.
Emily Mandagie, photographer and one half of travel blog The Mandagies, has a dedicated business travel bag on hand, pre-packed with travel essentials before any trip. Although you’ll need to pack certain things on-demand, like clothes and shoes, some items like toiletries, cosmetics, and other travel products will generally stay the same. This way, you can unpack quickly after a trip and repack, knowing you have exactly what you need for the next trip cycle.
These pre-packed items include a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, lotion, and even a small container of shampoo and conditioner. When it comes to tech, Emily will also stow away a phone charger, extra batteries, and headphones.
11. Book non-stop flights.
Katherine Rothman recommends that you try booking non-stop flights whenever possible, even if it costs more.
If you are on a business trip where you may be meeting with prospective clients or partners, saving yourself the stress of potentially missing your layover if the flight is delayed pays off in the long run.
12. Sign up for TSA pre-check.
If you’re a United cardmember, you can have global reentry and TSA precheck reimbursed, Carmella says. Skip lines and rack up miles!
13. Utilize ‘priority luggage.’
This means your luggage will be the first to come off the plane. When you check your bags outside, you can usually tip $5.00 and say, “will you ticket me for priority baggage” and 99% of the time it works – people just don’t know it can be done. Katherine Rothman has used this time-saving technique many times.
14. Save all appointments (including addresses, names, and phone numbers) on your agenda.
Local Insiders founder, Silke Wolf, says this will save you time and make your trip so much more worry-free. The same applies to the information you need to prepare for your appointments.
To travel light and paper-free, save all documents to a specific folder on your Google Drive. (Don’t forget to make it available offline). This way, you’ll stay organized, and you can access all the information you need on the go.
15. Before leaving, download important maps offline.
Make sure directions, itineraries, and maps are downloaded to your phone offline, along with some music and podcasts for potentially bad service areas and the plane ride.
16. Take photos of receipts with an app.
Alternatively, save the photos of receipts to Google Drive. Being prepared pays off when you least expect, as you never know when you’ll need to show proof of purchase.
17. Keep a Xerox copy of your passport.
Katherine recommends keeping a copy of your passport in a separate place from your actual passport. If you lose your passport, this makes things much easier.
18. Never board a plane without two bottles of water and snacks.
Katherine also recommends buying two bottles of water and snacks before boarding the plane. You never know when your plane can be held on the ground for hours or diverted to another airport, and the airline crew may run out of food and drinks or not be allowed to serve.
19. Get organized with a list.
Monica Kang, founder of Innovators Box, says that when you travel for work, you have to think about your dress code, what you bring, and, in her case, also a lot of materials she uses for workshops. It’s not fun when you bring the wrong outfit or not enough materials.
Monica recommends piling a list of things you want to bring in a room at home over a few days. That way, when you pack things last minute, you already have the core things you need to take with you readily available and won’t have a chance of forgetting them.
20. Don’t plan too much.
Silke points out that planning too many activities is one of the biggest mistakes business travelers make. Always consider travel times. And add some extra time in between meetings to accommodate factors beyond your control (traffic jams, late arrivals, etc.).
This will make your business travels so much more relaxed as you won’t have to rush around to be on time. This will give you peace of mind.
21. Buy a lightweight suitcase.
Carmella says to find a lightweight, durable suitcase. Keep it extra small to fit in an overhead compartment on the express planes. If you have to check luggage, you can’t change flights to get home faster or to avoid bad weather.
Many flight attendants seem to use TravelPro, but there are also other quality brands on the market.
22. Use a 4-wheel carry-on case.
Management consultant Layton Cox says he lives and dies with three travel bags. The first is a simple four-wheel hard-case carry-on. In a perfect world, don’t get black. Everyone has black.
It also doesn’t have to be a huge brand name. Ninety percent of your clients will never see your luggage. He also suggests you find a bag with cloth or leather around the zippers, as the plastic and rubber tend to break after a while.
23. Use a briefcase with a slide.
Layton says the second bag every business traveler needs is a simple briefcase that fits over the handles of your carry-on. If you get a normal briefcase that does not fit over the handles of your carry-on, it becomes nearly impossible to operate your cell phone as you walk through the airport since both your hands are busy.
Make sure it has a laptop pocket. Your client will see this briefcase, so get black or brown leather. Nothing else.
24. Buy an anti-theft backpack.
If you’re worried about expensive and essential items being stolen, such as your trusted laptop, an anti-theft backpack is definitely worth looking into.
25. Travel with an electronics holder.
Layton’s third and final bag he always travels with is a simple electronics holder. It can be a packing cube filled with electronics and cords or a simple wallet-esque item that can hold a cellphone charger, headphones, and various other cords.
By having just one item with all of your electronics in it, you don’t have to worry if you packed your charger or that HDMI converter, as it’s always in the bag.
26. Use a rolling computer bag.
Eileen suggests that if you carry a laptop, you should use a rolling computer bag to carry papers, files, conference info/workbook, a pad of paper, and even snacks.
You probably will have extra room to add your makeup, hairbrush, and maybe a third pair of shoes or an extra purse.
27. Pack a travel adapter.
Victoria Thompson, Social Media Manager at Haystack Digital, says to always plan ahead and have a spare adaptor depending on which country you are visiting.
This will save you time and money in the long run, as adaptors at the airport always cost a fortune.
28. Bring a travel pillow.
Victoria also says packing items that are going to help you sleep is a must. Invest in a travel pillow that will help you sleep either in the hotel or on the airplane.
29. Use packing envelopes.
Nifty garment folders can help keep blouses, shirts, skirts, and slacks more wrinkle-free than trying to roll things or pack them in packing bags. Instead, use packing bags only for underwear and sleepwear.
30. Travel with a micro-router.
Team Building CEO, Michael Alexis, says the most useful item he travels with is a micro-router. You can connect a router to a wifi connection, for example, at a hotel or on a flight or cruise, and then connect all of your other devices to the router.
This setup has two major benefits. First, in cases where you pay for a connection, you only need one connection to service several devices. Secondly, you save time. Once set up, your devices connect to the router automatically, so you are entering login information only once.
Programs & Loyalty Schemes
31. Get a Rewards Credit Card.
Nicole Sutherland, travel photographer and writer at Eat Live Travel Drink, recommends the American Express Platinum. This gives her access to a bevy of perks that include airport lounges around the world, including their own private Centurion ones, Priority Pass, and Delta lounges.
32. Companion Pass Hack on Southwest Airlines.
Nicole also recommends applying for both the Southwest Airlines personal and business cards if you run a small business. Each card gives you bonus miles when you spend a certain amount of money.
And, if you earn a certain number of miles in a year, you earn the companion pass, allowing a companion to fly free with you every time.
33. Get TSA Pre-Check, Clear, and Global Entry.
Dave Pike says TSA Pre-Check, Clear, and Global Entry can save you hours every time you fly. The $85-$110 investment is well worth it and is deductible if your employer requires it.
34. Score free upgrades using airline loyalty programs.
Torben Lonne, diving enthusiast and founder of Dive In, says one of his favorite travel hacks is getting a free upgrade to business class. Your chances are lower than scoring a last-minute seat change in the same class, but it’s still possible.
If you have air miles or loyalty points with your preferred airline, this increases your chances of getting upgraded to business class in the event of an overbooking. The passenger with the highest loyalty points gets automatically upgraded when this happens.
If there are more overbookings on the same flight, they will choose the passenger with the second most loyalty points and move down the list accordingly.
35. Get a co-working space membership.
Upflex CEO and co-founder, Christophe Garnier, says the last thing you want to think about is being confined to a coffee shop or hotel room for work.
When it comes to business travel hacks, the ability to easily find and book a good co-working space is paramount. It will help you save time and money while making local connections and making you more productive.
This is why co-working booking platforms are becoming business travelers’ new best friend – they aggregate available workspaces from around the world and let professionals book them on an as-needed basis.
In-Flight and Transport Tips
36. Make your final seat selection at the last moment.
Torben recommends waiting until the last moment before making your final seat selection. You can do this through your smartphone via the web or the airline’s app and guarantee a window seat with a little patience.
Every flight has cancellations and last-minute seat changes, so all you need to do is wait until 30 minutes before boarding to book your final seat.
This is perfect when you’re stuck with a bad seat from when you booked the flight initially as a zero-cost ‘upgrade.’
37. Book your parking beforehand.
Head of Digital Marketing at YourParkingSpace, Gregory Golinski, says one of the worst challenges faced by business travelers is finding a parking space. You don’t want to be late for a meeting with a client because you’ve been circling around for an hour looking for a parking space.
He suggests pre-booking a parking space via online parking marketplaces such as Spothero in the US, YourParkingSpace in the UK, or Parkhound in Australia.
These platforms can help you book a private driveway or garage in advance so that you don’t have to look for a parking space for hours and can be on time. This can help you save time, money, and your sanity while on a business trip.
38. If you are a woman traveling alone, ask for a room closer to the elevator in your hotel.
A safety tip for solo female travelers from Katherine is that you book a hotel room closer to the elevator. This way, you are not walking through long hallway mazes at night.
39. Make sure you get enough sleep and downtime.
Monica is extra mindful of where she spends her time, how much she sleeps, and what she eats. If she’s booking her time to meet other people and socialize, she will be too tired to deliver her work.
She also recommends downloading a few shows to binge-watch to decompress and rest. At the end of the day, if you show up feeling tired to do your work, why would they want to invite you back?
40. Be careful with the hotel wifi.
Ben Sadeghipour of Hackerone says it’s so easy to make fake wifi networks to track everything you’re doing online. At a hotel, you might see “Hotel Wifi” and “Hotel Free Wifi” and not know which one to pick.
Pick wrong, and a criminal will be able to track when you’re on their network or out of your hotel room. Also, never trust something that requires software to be installed. This is a sure sign of malicious activity.
41. Don’t post your boarding pass on social media.
Even if you cross out the numbers, you’re still at risk. There’s information hidden in QR codes that can be used to steal your personal data.
42. Be wary of public charging stations.
Public charging stations are a godsend when you are constantly on the go or your flight is canceled. However, anyone can steal information from your phone via USB. Always make sure you bring your own charger to plug into outlets or use a USB data blocker.
Essential Business Travel Tips Summary
No matter how important or time-sensitive your business trip may be, don’t let the stresses and strains of travel get in the way of your success. Use these expert tips from successful business travelers to plan a trip that runs smoothly, allowing you to deliver your world-class presentation or land that lucrative client.
We’d love to continue adding to this list. If you have a little-known expert tip, feel free to reach out to us and share your words of wisdom.
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