If you are one of the many Americans who have jobs that require travel, there are many things you can do to streamline your experience. Following are some tips that will help make it, if not enjoyable, at least manageable.
Airports & Borders
We’ve all heard the stories of extensive TSA delays and subsequent missed flights. The airlines have since advocated for an alternative because they don’t like it any more than the travelers do. Business and first class travelers are their bread and butter, generating more revenue than most of the rest of the plane put together.
As a consequence, a number of Trusted Traveler Programs have arisen with names like Global Entry, Nexus, and Sentri, if you’re traveling internationally. There is the TSApre✓ program for local travel.
You should absolutely register with these programs at the first opportunity to decrease the amount of time you spend on interminable security check lines.
If traveling internationally, get your passport if you don’t have one already. Be familiar with the rules (some countries require that a passport be valid for at least six months longer than the last scheduled day of your visit). Don’t turn in an old passport with still-valid visas. Instead, carry both passports so you don’t have to go back to an embassy and repay for the visa services.
If you’re new to the game, focus on one or two airlines that will offer you the most suitable services for your needs. If you are “hopping” from airline to airline in order to save money, it is going to take much longer to accumulate rewards. Those rewards can be used to upgrade your flying experience, moving from economy to first class, or even business class. There is no doubt that a 14-hour business class flight to New Zealand is much better than any sort of economical fare.
Moreover, on long flights, no matter how comfortable the seats are, get up every 90 minutes or so and take a little walk up and down the aisle, if circumstances allow. Otherwise, do your best to practice some basic stretches. This is required in order to avoid getting a DVT (deep vein thrombosis), which is not only very painful, but a potentially life-threatening blood clot that form in the legs.
Some employers require you to use your own credit card to pay for expenses and then submit a bill upon return. The added benefit to this is that all of the “air miles” that you collect belong to you, not the company. When vacation time rolls around, a free flight to an exotic locale may be just the thing you need.
Be sure to keep a handy change of clothes in your carry-on bag. Baggage does occasionally get lost, but many times it’s due to passengers arriving late for check-in. Airlines ask you to arrive early for a reason; they want to make sure that you and your luggage get on the same plane.
If you can force everything you need into a carry-on, this does give you more latitude with your arrival time. Wear your comfortable leisure shoes to travel and pack the formal business footwear. Having both means you won’t have to play tourist in fancy leather shoes if you decide to do a little exploring. In any case, pay attention to the arrival times, especially if you have bags.
You can always buy extra toiletries (for example, a disposable razor and shaving cream at a local discount or Dollar Store) if the need arises, but it is smart to make a point of having your charging cables for all your electronics in your carry-on bag. The same is true if you take a daily medication. Have at least a couple of day’s supply in your pocket or your carry-on and make sure you have a prescription describing what you are carrying in case it comes into question.
The same rules apply with hotels, in that you can get an upgraded suite, free meals, and additional days at no charge, along with other benefits. Five days working in Amsterdam, for instance might be exhausting, but an additional two days all to yourself with no responsibilities would give you time to tour famous museums, galleries, their renowned coffee shops, and other attractions.
Be sure to make a point of washing your hands frequently while traveling. Your immune system may be perfectly adequate for the local flora and fauna where you live, but a foreign environment might have significant challenges to someone not used to it.
Don’t try brand new foods on your first night out. Wait until you’ve been jet-setting for a while and developed some tolerances. Drink bottled water; drink from sealed soda-pop bottles. Never accept ice unless each one has a dent in it (this identifies them as having been made from condensation rather than local water that has been frozen. Most hotels have ice machines that condense water). This is especially true if you have an important meeting in the morning and you want to avoid being stuck in the bathroom of your hotel room.
Try to steer clear of communal objects like airplane pillows and blankets unless they’re wrapped and sealed. Bring an inflatable pillow if you need it, or better yet, one of the types that store completely flat. It’s got a nice hollow for your face to provide darkness, a place to comfortably cross your arms, and it is even soft and comfortable! Getting a few hours of comfortable sleep can be just the ticket. Don’t forget the earplugs for much-needed silence!
A complete set of international electrical plug adapters is generally small and can be a virtual lifesaver. Your laptop may have enough USB ports that you can charge all of your electronics without having to bring along all their unique transformers. That saves weight and space. Sometimes renting a phone is cost effective (and required in some countries that don’t support your phone-type, such as Japan).
Carry candy or energy bars with you. One winter storm in an airport that has sold out of food is enough to make that a must-have. Also, keep a notepad handy if you’re hitting a lot of hotels on a long trip so you don’t mix up yesterday’s room number with the one you just received. Finally, always buy a copy of the local paper, irrespective of language, and carry it when you’re out. It makes you look like a local so a certain element of the population will turn their attention elsewhere.
All things being equal, the person who does the most planning and has the wherewithal to stick to their schedule is going to be the person who succeeds in enjoying their business trip rather than just “getting through it”. Plan, accomplish, and succeed!
Further Reading: Weighing the Pros and Cons of Jobs That Require Travel
Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200