For many of us, business travel has become as much a part of the job as the job itself. We think nothing of flying out for that quarterly client visit or bi-weekly sales meeting. Flight delays, long security lines, middle seats, and rumpled suits just come with the territory. But, dear road warrior, help is on the way. Have a look at our top 16 tips for business travelers — they’re sure to make your life on the road feel a little more like first class and a lot less like economy.
1: Travel with good carryon luggage only.
We all know this one, but we can’t underscore how important it is. Years have been taken off our lives waiting for our bags to appear on the baggage carousel. Perhaps equally as important: Invest in a great bag. This is your most important weapon in the fight against heavy, bulky, and hard-to-maneuver suitcases. Get a bag that’s sturdy, lightweight, and easy to handle and steer. And go with a four-wheeled option, your forearm will thank you. We like this model by Travel Pro. It is expandable, includes a garment bag, and has an external USB port for about $210.
2: Use a decent luggage tag.
Make sure no one mistakenly grabs that great piece of luggage you just purchased. Get yourself a solid luggage tag. We like this one made from high-grade stainless steel by TUFFTAAG for about $16. Just drop a business card in and off you go.
3: Pack like a pro.
Rolling your clothing will not only save room in your luggage, but it keeps items wrinkle-free. Suit slacks and skirts, however, should remain on hangers in a garment bag. Gently fold the garment bag into the carryon. When you arrive at your hotel, just take the garment bag out and hang it up. Avoid subpar hotel irons and throw in a travel size wrinkle releaser for last-minute touch-ups. Here’s one from Downey. Suit jackets should be worn while you travel. Try not to sit with it on though. Lay the jacket on top of the luggage in the overhead bin to keep it looking fresh and wrinkle-free. More tips on packing can be found here.
4: Repack essentials between trips.
If you bring workout gear, wash and repack it as soon as you get home. You’ll save packing time later and won’t forget a critical piece of kit, like the right pair of socks. Do the same with chargers, an AC phone mount for your rental car, and toiletries. Replace any empties and keep them in your suitcase ready to go. Any liquids should be kept in a clear plastic bag ready for inspection by the TSA, if necessary.
5: Buy in bulk.
Here’s one of our favorite tips for business travelers: Did you know you can buy travel-size items in bulk? They’re often half the cost of buying each separately. Cha-ching.
6: Pack a few things that help you sleep.
Whether it’s those noise-canceling headphones, earplugs, pillow, or eye mask, if they help you sleep, you need to bring them. Nothing is more important on the road than getting the zzz’s you need to crush that contract negotiation.
7: Charge everything, all the time.
Again, this is common sense, but easily overlooked. Make sure phones, laptops, and other components are juiced up and ready to go – and try to keep them that way. You don’t want to miss that conference call because your battery is dead. Bring a battery pack for those times when a charger isn’t handy. We like this one from Anker for $25. It’s light, small, fast, and provides over three iPhone charges before needing its own recharge.
8: Take a photo of your parking location.
After a grueling road trip, do you really want to be wandering around the parking lot trying to remember where you parked? Take a photo of your car’s location before you head out. Apple also supports car locator functionality in the Maps app. Enough said.
9: Join travel loyalty programs.
As tips for business travelers go, this is a no-brainer. Airlines, hotels, car rentals — join them all, even if you don’t use most of them most of the time. Often, membership will make the difference between getting that upgrade, aisle seat, or king-size bed and sitting in dingy coach or cramping into a twin. Other perks can include airport lounge access or points you can use for a well-earned vacation later.
10: When possible, use one preferred brand before the others.
Get more out of your loyalty points by consolidating them in one brand. Try to use the same hotel chain, car rental agency, and airline to build your status more quickly for more and better bennies, sooner.
11: Get an airport lounge membership.
This is up there among the most important tips for business travelers. Airport lounges are quieter, more comfortable, and less crowded than gate lounge areas – all of which is worth the annual fee alone. No one likes doing a conference call crouched in the corner of a vast terminal with airport announcements blaring in their ear. Lounges generally have better amenities, too. Many have desk areas and offer free snacks and soft drinks. Staff in airline lounges will also provide help rebooking flights. Bye-bye airline customer service lines.
12: Get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.
Nothing is more frustrating than trying to make a flight while stalled in the airport security line. TSA Pre-Check, for domestic travel, allows you to get through security faster at most major airports, and at just $85 for five years, is well worth the cost. While submitting a TSA PreCheck online application takes only five minutes, bear in mind that the approval process includes an in-person interview, background check, and fingerprinting. Approval generally takes a few days; this is not something you can do in the 30 minutes before your next flight.
If you regularly travel internationally, go with Global Entry instead (the five-year membership is $100). Global Entry includes all the perks of TSA Pre-Check plus expedited processing at customs at most major U.S. gateways. More on how to navigate airport security can be found here.
13: Avoid the redeye.
Sometimes you don’t have a choice, but when you do, choose an earlier flight. The redeye can make sleep difficult, which means you’ll be dragging during that 8 am presentation. In fact, try and avoid late-day or evening flights altogether. If you miss your flight or it gets canceled, you’re there for another night. Of course, when you do have to take the redeye, be sure and check out our tips for getting a decent night’s sleep here.
14: Buy healthy snacks ahead of your trip.
Put this on your regular grocery list. Rather than stand in line for an overpriced bag of chips or candy, throw in those nuts, fruit, and other healthy options instead. They’re better for you, less expensive, and will save money when purchased ahead.
15: Take photos of your receipts.
Rather than spend precious energy keeping track of those small pieces of paper, take photos of your receipts as you go. Many companies use app-supported expense management solutions, which allow you to upload receipts from the road. BizXpenseTracker and Concur Mobile are two to check out. Do yourself a favor and get your expense report done before you get home.
16: Set your automated “out of office” email response message.
Even when everyone knows you’re on the road, an automated “out of office” message sets expectations around response times. In effect, you’ve bought yourself a little more time and a lot less stress if you encounter delays or just need an extra minute to recharge before diving back in.
Finally, if you have any great tips for business travelers you’d like to share, send them our way at email@example.com and we’ll add them to the list.