I travel a lot for work, probably not as much as some people, but a lot more than most people.
According to Tripit.com stats, I have been to 69 cities and have flown 176,000 miles in the past few years. I’m not a million miler and I admit for some hard core travelers that is not much. But for me that has been a weary adventure in the air and at the airport. Along the way I have discovered a few things that help make life a little easier. Here are some of my business travel tips.
1. Use Tripit.com to keep track of all your travel – Tripit is a great way to collate all your plans. When I have four trips within a two week period, with three of them to the same city, it is so important you are organized. I use the automation of tripit to sort out my plans and keep things organized.
2. Focus on one or two airlines and accumulate as many miles/points as possible. I use United and Southwest. United for anything outside California and Southwest for my frequent up and back trips to Northern California. I am a Gold Member on United and will be an “A-lister” on Southwest at the end of this month. What this does is it allows for priority boarding and other perks. Key among these perks is the ability to jump to an earlier flight with a higher standby priority than the majority of travelers. Another benefit is free flights based on miles/points. I fly so that I can vacation.
I also try to accelerate my miles accumulation by using the United credit card from Chase. We pay everything on that one card so we can accumulate thousands of miles each month that add to the accumulated travel miles. Additionally, when I reserve my hotels, I use Rocketmiles which gives me typically 1000 miles per night (to whichever airline program you belong to). A three night stay equals 3000 miles. Most hotel programs give you 500 miles for the entire stay. In the past year, I’ve accumulated 105,000 miles from hotel stays. That is almost 4 free domestic flights or 1.5 international flights that could be had on miles!
3. The best travel action I have taken in the past couple years was to sign up for Global Entry from Homeland Security. For $100 for five years, you get registered with Homeland Security for quick access back into the US on international trips. You simply present your passport at a kiosk, put your hand on the reader and get your entry receipt. You skip the long passport control lines and zip to your luggage. Saves a lot of time. But that is not the best part. The best thing is that there is an agreement in place with TSA that allows you to automatically be put on the TSApre line on domestic flights. So you do not have to take of shoes, remove your items from your bags and you breeze through airport security screenings. One caveat that I discovered is that there are random times where you do not get the wonderful TSApre logo on your boarding pass for randomized security screening. But in that past year, that has only happened once. Plus if my wife or someone else is on my reservation with me, they get to take advantage of TSApre as well.
Some people might argue that they don’t want the government knowing all about them. I look at it as: unless you are living off-line, without credit, and without any identification, the government already knows all about you, so why not take advantage of it. They only ask for your last 5 years of employment (already found on Linkedin) and your last five years of residence (if you own a home, it is public record). You also have to get fingerprinted. I worked at a bank in my early 20’s, so I am already on file. They probably run a credit report too, but as I inferred, not a big intrusion here. To me it is worth it to save five to thirty minutes in a security line week after week.
Another travel expressway is the Clear Program. You essentially register your biometrics with Clear to allow you into the TSApre line and you get escorted right up to the TSA agent. It is a private company, so their may be pros or cons as compared to the government. I signed up and tried the Clear Program, but I didn’t find that it saved much time, when I already have the Global Entry pass. You may want to check it out if you fly in-and-out of the clear equipped airports. Plus with a yearly subscription, it is more expensive than the Global Entry program.
5. Travel light – this cannot be stressed enough. I still find myself over packing even on a three day trip. Go with the minimalist approach. If you do not really need it, do not pack it. Mix and match clothes over a period of days. You can re-wear clothes (provided you are not in a hot and humid environment) for an extra day. Reuse if you can to reduce weight and complexity. Simplification is essential in repetitive travel. You do not need to pack everything in your medicine closet. Which leads me to another tip: Keep a second set of personal care items in a bag just for your trips. Two toothbrushes, two razors, etc.; one for home and one that stays in your travel kit.
6. Use Evernote for so many travel related items. I keep a packing list that I use over and over again to ensure I didn’t forget anything. Keep a list of Frequent Flyer numbers (and hotel and rental car loyalty numbers). Along with the numbers I have the customer service phone number for each airline, hotel, and car companies with the frequent flyer number. Take a photo of your passport and driver’s license and store it in Evernote. I’ve never had to use it, but if you need a copy of your passport when traveling overseas, you have it. One more Evernote secret is to take a photo of the hotel room number outside your door. That way when the hallways all start looking the same and you get lost in the maze of identical doors and abstract carpet, you can refer to Evernote to see the number that was most recent in your travel log.
7. Keep extra power when traveling. I use my cell phone a lot and often my tablet too. So I need to constantly be hunting for power. I solved that problem with a portal battery charger. For about $40 you can get multiple recharges with this little device. Essentially it is a small battery that has a USB cable that can be plugged into the wall and then reversed to plug into your phone. I have an Android, so the cable is USB to MicroUSB. I have to reverse the cable when I switch from the wall plug to the phone itself. Works nicely, charges faster than plugging the phone into the wall, and keeps 2-3 recharges for one battery pack charge. So you charge both your phone and battery pack before you leave, then when you run out of battery on your phone, plug in the charge pack and within an hour or so, you have a full battery on your phone. Saves time looking for airport power jacks.
8. Lastly, the best travel tip I can give is to keep your cool and always be courteous. I find that travel is stressful, but if you keep your cool, you are better able to deal with the unexpected situations. If your plane is cancelled, it is not the end of the world. Yes it is an inconvenience, but I have been able to work through issues such as these by being courteous to the agent and offering a few words of kindness will often get you a whole lot further than those that try to push people with anger or frustration.
Also, do not be afraid to ask for things. I have been able to get on last minute flight changes with no change fees, simply by asking. Want an upgraded hotel room, ask the front desk courteously. You may not get what you ask for, but sometimes you will. And the accumulations of those sometime benefits add up.
I hope that these business travel tips will be useful and assist you in making your crazy travel life easier. If you have some tips, I would love to hear about them. Post them as a comment below and let’s see if we can accumulate a great list of ideas.