Do you view business travel as a necessary evil? Well, necessary it may be, but evil? That depends on how you do it. To help you make your next business trip less awful, we’ve searched the top business sites for expert travel strategies and distilled them into these 5 tips every business traveler should know.
1. Have a packing plan
A good business trip starts with good packing, and good packing starts with a plan. Here are some strategies to improve your packing:
- Never check a bag. Technology strategist David Lavenda recommends packing “for today’s overhead-bin reality,” which doesn’t always allow for the single large roller bag many people try to carry on. He suggests taking two bags of equal size: one that will fit under the seat and one that is flexible so it can fit in between the roller bags in the overhead bin.
- Pack only what you need, and use accessories to spice it up. For men, this means one suit with a couple of different shirts and ties. Women should take pieces that go together to create mix-and-match outfits. Don’t forget to take one non-work-clothes outfit as well.
- Keep a pre-packed bag of your essentials. There may be times when you need to travel on short notice. Keep a carry-on bag pre-packed with essentials including underwear, socks, a pair of pants, a shirt, toiletry items, pens, and a spare cellphone charger. That way you can grab and go if needed. As a bonus, even when you have plenty of time, you don’t need to think about packing—just add whatever you need for the specific trip.
- Prepare in advance for airport security. You know you will need to empty your pockets and put all of your liquids in a plastic bag, so do it in advance. It also never hurts to have a few spare Ziplocks stashed away in a suitcase pocket.
2. Have a plan to stay healthy and stress-free
Business travel can be hard on the system, so make a plan for healthy eating, exercise, and getting enough sleep. Try to stick to your normal routine as much as possible. For example, if you are taking a red-eye flight, wear comfortable clothes so you can sleep. At your destination, search out a grocery store or local market where you can purchase healthy snacks, like fruits and veggies.
For relaxation and stress management, Brian Povinelli of Westin and Le Meridian suggests bringing a tennis ball: “It’s great to roll under your feet and even under your thighs to keep you from getting stiff/sore. It’s small, inexpensive, and easy to replace.”
3. Don’t underestimate the importance of loyalty
Travel companies are competing hard for your business travel dollars, but the best way to take advantage of what brands have to offer is by earning elite status in their loyalty programs. Elite status will get you everything from check-in snacks to free seat and suite upgrades, to free nights. Pick the airline that offers the most flights on your typical travel routes and the hotel chain that has the most properties where you normally stay. Some hotels even offer status-matching packages, so you can get elite status in multiple programs just by earning it in one.
You can double-earn rewards by paying for all of your travel on a rewards credit card, and if you book your hotel room through Hotel Engine, you can even triple-earn: the hotel rewards program, the credit card rewards program, and Hotel Engine’s rewards program. Many airlines and hotels also have deals with online vendors (for example, you can earn IHG Club points by shopping at the Apple store), so maximize your points by collecting them whenever you can.
4. Look for, and ask for, upgrades
Booking a business- or first-class seat, or a hotel suite, flat out is much more expensive that getting an upgrade later. For flights, you can ask at the gate or even upgrade your seat using the kiosk at check-in for just a hundred or so dollars extra (or a specified number of points). At hotels, if a property is not full, you can often get an upgrade just by asking—perhaps to not to a suite, but certainly to a corner room or a room on a higher floor. Even a suite is not necessarily out of the question. As business travel consultant Joe Brancatelli wrote at Bizjournals.com, “You’d be surprised how often a pleasantly uttered phrase like ‘Would $20 more get me a suite tonight?’ actually works.”
5. Use apps to stay organized
Apps have become essential for helping business travelers stay organized, and reducing the amount of paper and business supplies they need to take with them. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Travel Apps for Business Travelers for the best apps for getting there and getting around, staying productive, keeping track of everything, finding food and services, and more.
Featured image by Alessandro Prada [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Flickr