For most of us in the business world, business travel is a necessary evil. So, to help you get the most out of your traveling endeavors, I have asked the CarolRoth.com contributor network of entrepreneurs, advisors and experts to share their best business-related travel tips. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.
You may notice some of the same ideas listed, but I kept them separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.
1. Stay Packed...
I do a lot of back-to-back business travel. To save time, I keep my suitcase partially packed - with a full toiletries kit, basic jewelry, makeup bag, snacks, heels, notebook, pens and business cards always. When I get back from one trip, I repack the basics - pajamas, under-things. Then, I just have to top it off with some business clothes and I'm out the door every time.
2. More Perks!
Usually, just having a smile seems to get me what I want. I always ask when I check in however, if there is an upgrade available, if they give extra points for anything, and what specials might be available. Just last night (although at a stage theater) I asked if I could upgrade my row. Although they don't do exchanges, they made an exception and upgraded me 8 rows.
3. Less is More!
Pack as little as possible so that you don't have to check any bags if you're flying. Don't be afraid to use the cleaning service at your hotel if you need to -- that's much better than carrying too much!
4. Carry On!
I always do carry-on luggage so there is no wait at the airport. I'm at my hotel by the time other travelers are just getting their luggage. And to do so, you must be a good packer. Clothes on the bottom; suits separated by plastic from the dry cleaners (so nothing wrinkles), shoes to match all outfits, toiletries on top. Pack clothes a day ahead and put something heavy on top to get the air out so you have room for even more.
5. Travel Time, Productive Time
I travel for business over 40 weeks a year. My travel time is my most productive time. I write my blog posts on airplanes. I use hotel time to write my books -- I've written over 15 business books.
When I check into a hotel, I always ask for local delivery menus. I order in and get to work.
If I'm going to be away from home, I want to make the most of my time. Local restaurants and bars don't interest me.
Of course, I attend business dinners if that's what the client wants.
6. Pack Light in a Carry-on Bag
If you pack light in a carry-on bag, you are able to be more flexible and mobile in your travels. Make sure that your clothes can all do double duty for you. Your sleepwear can double as work-out or lounging clothes. Your pants are resilient from stains and wrinkles. Your tops are quick dry and you stay with one color scheme, so everything in every season fits in one small bag!
7. Giftcard Yourself & Save Money
If you're traveling to a "regular" city and you're not taking clients out, a great way to save money is to get a gift card
to a chain restaurant(s) you like. You save time, as you know the menu in advance and you potentially save money/hassles over unknown local options/hotel offerings. Of course, make sure that the chain exists where you're staying and this advice is for "regular" meals only - not trying local cuisine. This way, you can focus on business with one less distraction.
8. Travel Nice
Want to speed through security? Want the desk clerk to give you a great room? Want the waiter to let you linger over your client lunch? Be nice. It's amazing how much more you can get accomplished on a biz trip if you are simply nice and polite to everyone you meet. Stuck in a line...happily share about your business. If you're enthusiastic, pleasant and open, you can turn line-ups and flights into relaxation time and "gentle touch" networking. A pocket full of biz cards is fine; a smile is better.
9. Kindness Goes a Long Way
I always smile, say thank you, and compliment the people I interact with. If I like a necklace or a smile, I let them know. People appreciate honest praise. You might be the friendliest person they meet that day. I don't do it to get upgrades, but it has been known to happen. A ticket agent or desk clerk who hears complaints all day is happy to be treated as a person and shown respect. I do it because I used to do those jobs back in the day. I never regret being nice to people.
10. Make Travel Profitable
When you're traveling into a city, one of the best ways to make it profitable is to combine purposes. How much business can you do in that city while you're there? For example, can you let your clients know that you're going to be there and have a consulting day, do a one day training or host a lunch for your clients that they pay to attend? All of these work wonders to make your trips both multi-purpose and more profitable!
11. Sleep & Eat FREE!
No trick here - use a credit card that gives rewards for your favorite hotel chain and you can sleep and eat (breakfast) for free. We use our Marriott and Hilton credit cards for lots of business expenses and average around 24 free night stays each year - that's about $4500 worth of Residence Inn, Hampton Inn and breakfasts for two. Better still, use the cards to pay for business expenses and the rewards for personal trips. Pay yourself to take a long weekend off!
12. The Human Behind the Profile
When traveling, make it a goal to connect with someone you've met on social media. Of course, you want to qualify this connection as safe & relevant to building your business network.
Social media makes it possible to gain access to people we ordinarily may never have connected with or to accelerate getting beyond a gatekeeper. If you travel, take the opportunity to turn a virtual connection a human one. After all, that's what successful social media is about- creating real relationships.
13. Black Rules & Double Duty
As a road warrior, I've learned to keep color for scarves and shirts, not for jackets, pants, or shoes. Black rules there.
Additionally, items must be able to pull double duty - mixing together on different days and/or useful for non-work hours. To do so, you must pay attention to fabric texture and nap (not all fabric is created equal).
I purchase business clothes from a small list of designers. Clothes match better when all of your pieces come from the same designer and/or label.
14. Key to a Great Room
When you arrive to check into your hotel, make sure you are upbeat and smiling. Greet the hostess and say, "It has been a very long day. I'm betting that you have a really nice room waiting for me." Normally, they smile and keep checking you in. At this point, just keep quiet. I am betting you will be very pleased when you open the door to your room. A smile and upbeat personality will get you a long way.
15. Piggyback Calls on Prospects
When traveling to call on a customer, attend a conference or go to an industry association show, always schedule appointments with new prospects in the area. It isn't how much money you save on travel expenses, it is how wisely you use your travel.
16. Target Other Opportunities
Travel is a great opportunity to seek free publicity in another area if ahead of time, you pitch area radio stations or local television with something news worthy or relevant about your business or product and will be able to go into the studio while you're there.
17. Lose the Laces
As the TSA screening protocol has expanded, I've found small ways to save time during airport screening; I make sure that metal (watch, keys, change, phone, etc.) is in my computer bag - not on my person. And since airport requirements differ, I always assume the TSA will need to see my boarding pass a second time. Finally, for those wearing dress shoes through airport security, consider trading in your laces for a pair of slip-ons. You never know when you may need those two minutes you'll save.
18. Be Nice!
This is universal, but it applies particularly to travelers. Many harried travelers are such jerks to staff that when you show appreciation, you get "extras" that you didn't even know to ask for.
I'm a musician, so my hours are out of sync, but I've been treated to late checkouts, after-hours private pool time, help with publicity on return trips, and forgotten stuff mailed to my home.
I've also heard some stories of how some of those jerks get treated; NOT a category you ever want to be in!
19. Find Additional Revenue
Being hired as a Keynoter or Workshop Leader does not mean that you only have one opportunity to work. Once you have a signed contract, look for other opportunities to speak. Chambers, Business Incubators, other conferences or chapter meetings would welcome the opportunity to have a "non-local" speak and as a bonus, they won't have to pay your airfare. Bonus Tip: Add packages of instant oatmeal to your luggage for a healthier breakfast or snack.
20. Connecting with the Locals
When I travel, I am often invited to stay with a local contact. I almost always accept the invitation. Staying in someone's home provides an opportunity to get to know them on a much more intimate personal level. Either I get a home-cooked meal or we eat at the best local restaurants. The closer connection allows for a deeper, more enduring relationship...or pretty fast clarity that it isn't a good match. In any case, it adds an interesting angle to the trip. (The photo is from a recent business trip.)
21. Pack Once...Forever
Keep a travel bag ready to go at all times.
You may not be able to pack all of your clothes in advance, but you can definitely keep a second set of toiletries, shoes, and work accessories (chargers, paper, flash drive, etc) ready for a last minute trip. When it's time to go, grab fresh clothes, a laptop and everything else should be ready.
This can easily shave off 15 minutes of packing and help reduce a little pre-trip stress.
22. Stay with REAL People
When possible, even on business trips, I try to avoid hotels and stay with a member of one of my homestay networks. I find the genuine contact and family atmosphere a welcome change from conference hotels. Yes, there's some transportation logistics, but generally, I find it worth the schlep across town to make new friends and get my batteries recharged.
23. Avoid Visiting Costly Cities
If you visit costly cities frequently, set up an office there. Become a member of several airlines and hotel chains to get discounts. Buy a business class ticket. Use coupons while traveling. Carry some ingredients with you and cook your meals at hotels. Stay in corporate housing. Do online research to find the cheap hotels. Select garments which are versatile and can be rolled quickly. Become friends with the hotel staff to get perks. Involve them in celebrations to get a free bottle of wine.
24. Research the Area
When I am going on business trips, I research the area I am traveling to. I look for business conferences, lectures and seminars around the same time that I will be in that city. I make it a point to go to as many events as time will allow. This is a great way to meet other business owners and entrepreneurs in other cities or countries.
25. Stock it and Go!
Keep a "travel kit" stocked and ready to go at all times. Include toiletries, makeup, sewing kit, lint remover, etc. Throw it in your bag and go; then, replenish when you get home. You can purchase travel size items or fill up travel size containers from home. You'll never be without a toothbrush on the road again.
26. Know the Language!
When traveling abroad, know the 4 key words that open doors for you in that country's language: Hello, thank you, please, and goodbye. I've used those key words in German, French, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, and Russian and have gotten big smiles, lots of friendliness, and superior service. If you can say, "I'm sorry I don't speak French or German or..." in that language and sound like you really mean it, that's the icing on the cake.
27. FedEx Your Bags
If you're a frequent flyer, you can save an astounding amount of time, improve efficiency and breeze through TSA by simply sending your luggage via FedEx to your hotel.
It sounds crazy but it works. One of our clients overnighted her bags on every trip. She measured the time spent waiting on checked bags (on extended trips) and calculated that she was able to recoup days of productive/billable time (easily offset FedEx costs) by avoiding baggage claim... and her bags were never lost.
28. Enjoy Being Unplugged!
I make the most of my out-of-touch time on the plane, in transit, or in a hotel. Instead of being a slave to email, I prepare a list of phone calls I need to make and download PDFs of documents I need to read to my iPad, so that I can work easily in the airport and on the flight. I make sure to email myself source documents and open/save them before I get on the plane, so that I can edit or write in-flight.
29. Meet People from Social Media
Grow your list of potential clients and connected friends by reaching out to people that you are socially connected with and offer to buy them coffee. This is a great way to grow your network and spread the message about what you do. To connect with a larger group, host a meetup and invite your social friends that are in the area or will be in the area!
30. Business & R & R
Business travel? Arrive on Friday to get a tax deductible R & R weekend included.
Get an AAA card or an AARP card. Lots of hotels discount for them.
Ask airlines for their MOST ECONOMICAL FARE, not what is the cost of a ticket?
Packing: Stuff your check-ins with loads of light items & your carry-on with heavy items.
If it's your favorite hotel, then you've been there numerous times. Tell the reservations manager & be simple & honest. Ask if there any perks you could possibly get.
31. Mind your Travel Manners!
This may sound corny, but in an age where travel is stressful and everyone is grumpy, you'll find you go a lot farther if you lead with a smile. I've gotten free First Class upgrades, room upgrades, even free products and services just because I was polite, courteous and cheery. Sometimes, I have to fake it -- after all, business travel is HARD, but you'll find it's easier on you and on others if you lead with kindness.
32. Less is More (No Sinks Needed)
Often, us gals pack everything but the kitchen sink. I'm always one to advocate packing only what can be used in multiple ways and dressing things up with accessories like colorful scarves, a funky belt or some textured tights. These are all small, lightweight and add wardrobe interest while taking up minimal space. I suggest never taking more than 3 pairs of shoes, even for the longest trip and NEVER take high heels of any kind, lest you want a TRIP in more ways than one. Bon voyage!
33. Sectioned Vinyl Pocket Folder
Buy a sectioned vinyl pocket folder, preferably 6 to 10 pockets, and subdivide information. Pocket 1 holds travel info like ticket information, boarding passes and car/hotel reservations. Pocket 2 might be things to do or see at your destination. Pockets 3-6 might be work to do on the plane subdivided into different projects. One pocket could hold some fun things like a word search puzzle, my favorite.
34. Always Packed!
Because more than once I have arrived at far away destinations only to find that I am missing something critical, I now keep a suitcase constantly packed.
It contains my oldest suits, shirts, ties & pants so I can leave them upon my departure, if necessary, to lighten my load for the trip home. When I return, I have everything cleaned, separately, and then repack it in my travel bag, ready for the next business adventure.
35. Meet More People!
I always make sure to send a note to my local network of wherever I'm travelling to, letting them know of my dates & plan in advance to see if anyone wants to meet or catch up casually. It's a great way of meeting people you wouldn't have otherwise and that, my friend, is a pretty good return on the money you spent on travelling.
36. Benefits of a Travel Agent
Even in this day of the internet, I still use a travel agent. Travel agents can match or beat any online price and they offer personal service, which can be especially important if you encounter any difficulties or complications while traveling.
37. Keeping Track of Your Stuff
If you're like me, when you pack your suitcase, you put your special stuff in other bags, like small zipper bags inside of your bigger bag. If you're nodding, then you know ID-ing those smaller bags can be time consuming. A no-brainer remedy is to simply drop your business card into every one of these little bags, including eyeglass cases, pouches for cables and chords, makeup and shampoo bags, and even shoe and dry cleaning bags. This has saved me many a trip to lost and found.
38. What's in Your Vegas Biz Bag?
Pack light! Vegas loves to give stuff away and if you like to shop, buying a new suitcase can be pricey on the strip. So, bring an empty bag for your new stuff! Vegas in the summer is super hot- sometimes 120 degrees! You don't want sweat your clothes out before your important meeting, so dress light! Bring at least one outfit in case you get invited to dinner, a club, or VIP event as the club owners & restaurants don't allow you in if you are not dressed to impress.
39. Stay Home and Skype
Business travel can often be avoided altogether by using available technologies- Skype, Go2Meeting, instant messaging, and conference calling (available for free from a variety of services), saving money and the environment. When travel is required, make the most of it by adding a marketing & education component to each trip - attend a conference, participate in a trade show, or connect with a potential client.
40. Meeting IRL Boosts Your Biz
In today's hyper-connected online world, we often have contacts that we've never met IRL (In Real Life). When I travel, I pick 2 or 3 people who live in my destination city that I've never met in person. Then, I make it a priority to meet face to face.
People do business with people, and that face to face meeting deepens your relationship immensely. Not only has this helped grow my business, I have greatly enjoyed the process.
41. Never Fold Your Suits Again
SkyRoll is the only suitcase and garment bag that never makes you fold your suit, dress, or large clothing. The patented wrap-around garment bag feature of all SkyRoll luggage means that your suit or dress gently rolls up, so it stays looking nice. Both are carry-on size and both are like having two pieces of luggage in one.
Don Chernoff of SkyRoll
42. Get Perks Without Points
Be a regular, not just another, guest. Too often, business travelers play the "points" game to get the perks at all properties or the points for family vacations. I've changed that approach and become "property" loyal as a regular. What do I get out of that? I get the best in house upgrade all the time, at the same rate of a regular room, VIP Lounge access, and free Internet all the time. I even get rooms when the hotel is sold out, at my regular rate. At other properties, the hotel GM has me treated like a VIP.
43. Tax Deductible Weekend
Make your business travel more enjoyable by combining it with a tax deductible weekend getaway! End your business meeting at noon Friday and enjoy the weekend at your location. Have another business related meeting on Monday, such as with a business associate, a prospect or even a seminar that ties into your business. Bring a spouse with you and deduct 100% of the hotel costs and your meals. Keep records of the reason of your business both before and after the weekend, and keep all receipts.
44. Take the Pain Out of Travel
Savvy travelers take along a tube of Topricin pain relief and healing cream for easing all of the aches and pains of being sardined on a plane, lugging luggage, or hoofing it all day at an expo. It is a safe, natural biomedicine formula that rapidly relieves and soothes swollen feet, cramping legs, achy necks and shoulders--with no odor, grease, parabens, petroleum, or other chemicals, and with no side effects.
45. Manage Travel Phone Costs
For international travelers, one of the most costly items when traveling is phone calls. One of the best ways to save money is to use a spare, unlocked GSM phone. When you arrive, simply purchase a local SIM card. You can now use the phone for local calls and you can receive calls and texts free (outside the US, incoming calls and texts are free). You can also forward your work phone to your SIM number and receive calls on the road. Tell folks to send texts. It will save you money.
46. Eating Healthy on the Road
Love to eat healthy while you travel? Try HappyCow.net. After entering your destination zip code, city or state, you are rewarded with fabulous restaurants and stores that serve/sell vegetarian food in the nearby area.
47. Being There
Long distance, "The next best thing to being there!" I say, "Well, better than nothing anyway." But now, there's a new way of "being there" that I find much more satisfying. SKYPE. Be sure to install Skype on your laptop and use it for video calls home each evening. No built-in camera? You can buy one for as little as $30 if you need to. It is also good for video conference calls back to the office if those are needed (you need the "business" version to conference). I'd highly recommend it.
48. My Beloved Cosmetic Bag
I am particular about having my toiletries organized and in one place. So, I was excited to find the "Hanging multi pocket cosmetic bag" from The Container Store. The hanging hook is the key to the product. It's great to bring to budget hotels that may not have much sink space. I can hang it on a lamp or on the door, and have my shampoo, perfume, makeup, cotton balls, etc. in one place. This is a travel essential must have!
49. Traveling With Your Boss?!
Never do these 9 things! 1. NEVER forget that your boss is evaluating you at all times. 2. If you are on a business trip, it’s because you’re supposed to be part of the solution—not part of the problem. 3. Don’t be late. 4. Never be rude to staff—any staff, ever. 5. NEVER drink too much. 6. Don’t be difficult or ask for special favors. 7. Don’t let your boss lull you into behaving unprofessionally. 8. Keep your cell phone out of sight. 9. Never cry or lose your cool, no matter what happens!
50. Forget the Roundtrip Flights!
When booking flights, particularly between US & Canada & other international destinations, compare booking 2 one way flights vs. roundtrip. Due to different taxes, I've saved hundreds of dollars on business travels (when I was an agent, I did it for my clients) by taking this route. It doesn't work 100% of the time, but for the few minutes it takes to compare, always check it out. And don't always feel the need to fly both ways with the same airline. I've also saved hundreds by using 2 different lines each way.
51. Eating in Strange Cities
Two words that make eating easy when in many strange cities? "Whole" and "Foods." This gourmet grocery has a prepared food section that rivals the best restaurants in many cities and is priced so well that for half of what you would spend at the hotel dining room, you can walk out with enough food for the entire team. Plus, the wood-oven pizza, quite simply, rocks!
52. That's Entertainment
When it comes to travel and entertainment, my recommendation is that you bring your own. Your laptop is a media center, and with the addition of a small external drive and some light speakers (or great headphones) you can carry with you a huge collection of music, movies, and TV shows. So settle in, brew a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and fire up the latest episode of 30 Rock! This way, you also avoid hotel room pay-per-view movie charges.
53. Stay at Hotels for FREE!
Got a blog, newsletter, or media show with a sizable audience desirable to the hospitality industry? You can leverage any of these to make complimentary hotel arrangements, if you're willing to review the hotel in your pub. or on your show.
Contact the hotel manager or sales manager, send them to your pub. or show site. Offer a minimum 250 word piece + 3 photos. Set a 3-4 day deadline for a decision. I've done this successfully for six years!
54. Is There a Doctor in the House
Before your next business trip, scan your documents (e.g., passports, traveler's identity, and vaccination records, plus any other important medical information) and send them to your email address. If you run into a problem, you can have them printed out at a local internet café, hotel business center, or they can be viewed on a smart phone.
55. It Does Not Hurt to Ask!
When I go on a business trip, I always ask for a room with a great view, even if I have a standard room. And most of the time, I get a free upgrade of my room! This happens just because I do not hesitate to ask. Don't forget to ask for better service, free upgrades, etc. when you go on a business trip. It does not hurt!
56. Booking Wisdom
Are you lured by clever commercials that promise 4 star accommodations for the cost of a 1 star? Consider this: Booking directly with a hotel or chain has far more value than a quick fix. Here's why: Generally, hotels will not take your money until you show up. If you no-show or cancel, they will take only 1 night's cost, no hassle changes can be made to your reservation, and their website always has to have a better deal than what you can get from those 3rd party 'tempters'. Choose wisely!
57. Low-tech Lifesaver
With all of the technology, I work anywhere and everywhere. The problem- running out of power and there’s never a free outlet. In airports, people charge their cell, iPad, and computer. They have all of the technology too. I never travel without a little gadget-a travel power strip. Now, I just ask to share an outlet. This low-tech gadget saves me from wasting time. Travel a lot? Invest in one; they're about $10. Of course, if running out of power gives you an excuse to relax, that’s good too.
58. Never Stop Working
Technology affords us the opportunity to work wherever we are. Take advantage of these opportunities to get to know other business travelers' needs and find ways to serve their business. Wi-Fi enables you to be easily connected, so there is no need for a delay of task completion. Display your web page and view others. Show interest in what they do and what they have to offer, and don't forget to leave them with your card! You never know when one chance encounter may lead to a big break.
When you’re always traveling for your job, you’re always expected to be ready. But what about jobs like a truck driver or freight broker? These workers are constantly on the road to the point where their office can be considered “on the road”. Because of the nature of these kinds of jobs, you have to be prepared more often than not and have a great plan in place for when the road calls.
Do you have another business-related traveling tip that wasn’t included? If you do, please share it below. And as always, many thanks to everyone that contributed to this article!