In a nutshell: A little preparation can save you a lot of frustration the next time you fly for business.
Instant messaging and video chats can bring you closer to your clients and collaborators, but sometimes there’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction. Sometimes, this will require you to get on a plane.
Whether you’re a business travel newbie or an experienced flyer, here are some great tips that will make your next trip more enjoyable and rewarding.
Rack up Miles and Points
Business travel is an ideal opportunity to collect frequent flyer miles and hotel reward points. Sign up for loyalty programs before making any travel arrangements and, if possible, give your business to the airlines and hotel chains that provide the best benefits. After a few flights and stays, you might have enough miles and points to redeem for a vacation, where you will be able to escape thinking about business for a few days.
Earning and redeeming miles and points can seem complicated at first, but there’s a very useful primer at The Points Guy, a well-trusted website and resource for travelers. One helpful tip is to consider using branded credit cards that can earn you additional miles and points.
Determine the Dress Code
Before you begin packing, find out what you’ll need to wear. If your clients have a formal workplace, you don’t want to show up wearing a polo shirt. Conversely, if you’re visiting with people who will be wearing T-shirts, you should leave ties and pantsuits at home.
If you’re meeting people for the first time, you might not know the dress code. Just ask in advance what everyone else will be wearing.
If you’re going to be traveling for a few days, try to choose clothes that you can wear more than once. The goal is to have a mix-and-match wardrobe that you can wear in multiple combinations, instead of one outfit for each day. Black and blue are good color choices, as they don’t show dirt as easily as lighter colors. And it never hurts to bring a Tide Pen for occasional (and sometimes unavoidable) accidents.
Unless you’re going on an extended business trip, use a carry-on suitcase. Many airlines now charge you for checking in a bag, which costs money. Plus, you won’t need to check it in or wait for it to emerge at baggage claim, saving you time. Carry-on suitcases come in a wide variety of styles and prices.
Don’t forget to pack:
- Any medication you take
- Workout clothes
- Charging cables (for your laptop and cellphone)
- A travel umbrella
- Business cards
Anticipate the TSA Checkpoint
Lines at the security checkpoint are unavoidable, but there are ways to speed up the process.
First, recognize that the shortest line is not always the best one to choose. Families with small children often take a long time to get through security, so a long line of business travelers might move more quickly than a short line with a family.
Second, get ready while you’re waiting in line. Have your ID and ticket ready to present to the TSA agent. Make sure you’re ready to pull your laptop and toiletries back out of your luggage as soon as you need to. Take everything out of your pockets so you don’t get a patdown or secondary screening.
If you’re wearing very bulky jewelry, be prepared to take it off. Ordinary wedding rings, necklaces, earrings, glasses and so on can stay on.
Stock up on Food
Unless you’re sitting in first class or on a very long flight, don’t expect more than a soft drink and a small bag of snacks — pretzels or peanuts — on the flight. Before boarding, buy a sandwich, salad or snack in the terminal. Airport food is expensive, but there are more options than ever before — including healthy choices — and higher prices are preferable to going hungry on the flight. Plus, you might be able to expense your meal.
Don’t forget to pick up plastic cutlery and lots of napkins.
Cut Down on the Noise
Airplanes are noisy — you have to contend with the roar of the engines and the chatter of people sitting around you. Noise-canceling headphones won’t insulate you entirely, but they do a good job of cutting down on ambient noise. This can help you focus on work or, if you’d prefer, take a nap.
Noise-canceling headphones are available at many different price points. We recommend you check out the online reviews before making your purchase.
Know Your Transportation Options
Don’t wait till you land to figure out how you’re going to get to your hotel. If you’re staying near the airport, the hotel might have a shuttle. Contact the hotel or look on the website to find out when the shuttle runs.
Taxis are often easy to find at an airport, but ride-sharing services might not be. Some airports have designated areas for Lyft and Uber pick-ups. Check your app to find out where you need to go.
Have Fun on the Plane
Even if you need to work on the flight, set aside a little time for yourself. Appreciate the fact that you can disconnect entirely from the world beneath you. Bring a book you’ve been meaning to read, or download a TV show to your tablet. You’ll be grateful you did something enjoyable on the trip.
What’s your favorite travel tip? Let us know in the comments section below, or tweet us at @BAIupdate.