There seems to be a lot of complaining these days about the state of business travel, so I guess I am in the minority, but I find this to be a fairly amazing time to travel. Not only is it more affordable than ever, but there are a lot of great tools out there to make it both productive and more enjoyable.
I travel a fair amount, both around the country and internationally, mostly speaking about small business and making media appearances, so business travel is something I take seriously. Not only have I learned a few tricks along the way, but I am able to pick the brain of my colleagues, and have therefore compiled a pretty decent list of business travel tips.
Here are seven of my favorites:
1. Get elite status: Nothing beats having being an elite member of an airline insofar as travel goes as the perks are just great: Faster lines, free upgrades, first class upgrades, the ability to use their lounge in the airport, etc.
So, how doe you get that elite status? Of course the obvious way is to travel a lot with a single airline. But there are other ways as well:
- Use your frequent flier mileage number when you rent cars and check into hotels. For instance, a hotel that I stay in a few times a year gives me 500 miles towards my airline of choice every time I stay there.
- Use their credit card. This is probably the easiest way to get to an airline’s elite status. Use their credit card and every time you charge and you get miles. I have a pal who goes to Hawaii twice a year and hasn’t paid for an airline ticket in years because he uses his airline credit card to pay for everything the rest of the year.
2. Disable the seat recliner in front of you: Is there anything worse than, an hour into your flight, having the person in front of you recline their seat and take away a quarter of your space? No. One way to prevent that unenviable experience is to use the “knee defender,” a nifty devise that you position that physically prevents the person in front of you from leaning back.
3. Get a great four-wheeled rollaway: This is vital for two reasons. First, checking bags is for amateurs, so having one great bag is critical. Second, a great rolling bag makes travel so much easier since a rollaway with four wheels can stand without you having to touch it, thus freeing your hands. Mine is made by Atlantic and looks like any other two-wheeled rolling carry on bag, but when needed, you can hit a button and two more wheels pop out, thus effectively turning it into a cart that cannot tip over.
4. Get some noise cancelling headphones: No, they are not cheap, but they are worth it. Being able to shut out that crying baby, or engine noise when you are seated above the wing, can’t be beat. Noise cancelling headphones were once the sole domain of Bose, and Bose makes some excellent ones, but worthy rivals come in from Beat, Sony, and AKG.
5. Bring along some backup batteries: For your laptop, yes, but also, did you know you can buy an external backup battery for your iPhone? You can, and on a long trip, it’s worth it.
6. App up: It would be impossible to list all of the great apps that are out that make travel better and easier, but here are some of the top ones:
- TripIt easily turns flights, hotel, and car reservations into a simple itinerary. Additionally, the app allows you to get flight status, driving directions, and more.
- SeatGuru gives you detailed airline seat analysis, comments about seats which have limited recline (yes!), less legroom, bad windows, etc.
- HotelTonight: Book same-day, last-minute hotel rooms for less.
- TripAdvisor: When going to a new city, TripAdvisor’s crowdsourcing reviews of hotels, restaurants and more are invaluable. TripAdvisor is the world’s second-most-popular travel app (Google Earth is #1); it is estimated that it is downloaded 25 times per minute.
7. Never buy car rental insurance: Not only does your normal auto insurance probably cover any problem you may have with your rental, but so does your credit card in all likelihood.
Steve Strauss is a senior small business columnist at USA TODAY and the author of 15 books, including The Small Business Bible. Steve is your host here at TheSelfEmployed.com.