Making Business Travel More Tolerable
The first business trip you take is like magic. You get to fly somewhere far away, stay in a nice hotel, and enjoy tasty meals as you build your business. By trip number 10, the bloom is off the rose, as they say. Business travel can be an exhausting experience, and instead of being magical, it becomes something you have to do and nothing more -- compounded for small business owners by the fact that there's no one upstairs to foot the bill for all of this.
We can't make travel much cheaper for you (at least not in this post), but here are a few tips to at least make business travel a little more comfortable.
Get yourself elite status - If you're going to be traveling a lot, getting elite status with your airline, hotel, or even car rental agency is key. For airlines, it can mean bypassing the long lines, getting better seats, and yes, getting upgrades. You need to fly 25,000 miles in a year to get elite status on most, but there are some shortcuts. American, for example, offers an elite challenge which can get you the coveted status with as little as one trip.
Hotels and car rental agencies also have elite programs that can make your trips run much more smoothly. Take a look at getting a hotel credit card for a shortcut to elite. Starwood (owner of brands like Westin, Sheraton, and W) offers partial qualification just for having the card in your pocket.
Find the ideal travel bag - It's a given that you don't want to check a bag, so you need to find the perfect one to suit your needs. Do you have a bad shoulder? Make sure to get a roller bag. Prefer to sprint through airports? Maybe a duffel will work. Always need your clothes to look pressed and perfect? A garment bag might be your best bet. Just find the one that works best for your needs. Go online to a site like eBags, LuggageOnline, or of course, Amazon to find what will likely be the best purchase you make all year.
Use smaller airports - Often, the biggest hassle of the trip can be navigating the airport experience. It doesn't necessarily have to be that way. Going to downtown LA? Try Burbank instead of LAX. San Francisco? Look at San Jose. Heading to the northern 'burbs of Chicago? Might want to think about Milwaukee. Smaller airports won't have as many flights, but they can be closer to your destination and will most certainly involve less hassle.
Travel with airport security in mind - One of the biggest hassles at the airport is the security line. Not only can it slow you down, but you'll have to empty your pockets, take off your shoes, remove your liquids... you know the drill. You know you're going to hit this hurdle, so travel with the pain in mind. If you have a laptop, get a case that's TSA-approved to avoid having to remove it. Have your liquids set aside in an easy compartment, so you can take them out quickly. Empty your pockets into your bag before you get in line. Wear slip-on shoes. These alone can make it a lot easier to put yourself back together after going through the line.
Get internet everywhere - One of the most frustrating things about traveling is that you rarely have consistent access to the internet. You have to bounce from hotspot to hotspot and hope that anything that arises in the middle can be handled on your smartphone. But there's a better way. Certain smartphones can be tethered, meaning that you can turn them into your own personal Wi-Fi hotspot for logging on from anywhere. Don't have a phone that can do that? Invest in a wireless card for your laptop. All the wireless providers have them, and for about $60 a month, you can be connected wherever you are with as much bandwidth as you would likely need.
Stay comfortable onboard - Even though you might think they're all equally painful, airplanes seats actually can vary greatly by airline or even airplane. You should start with a site like SeatExpert or SeatGuru to pick the best seat you can find on the airplane. You can also look for flights that will be more comfortable than others. For example, an AirTran 737 has more legroom than a 717 but you have a higher chance of getting a middle seat on the former. Figure out what matters most to you and pick your poison.
Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for PriceGrabber.com. Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.