Your plane hasn’t even left the gate and you already feel defeated by another harried day of travel. If you’re one of the many Americans who travel regularly for business, flight delays, traffic, and forced downtime are your frequent, unwelcome travel companions. You can, however, make huge strides in overcoming travel obstacles and reducing anxiety; you just have to adopt the right tactics to travel smarter. (You may even have time to explore the city you’re visiting.)
Tips for Smooth Travel
A successful trip is defined not only by how productive you are; it’s also about staying healthy, mentally and physically, so that you can actually enjoy your time on the road. To that end, consider the following recommendations:
Enter all itinerary information into your smart phone. Don’t underestimate the value of having easy access to confirmation numbers for your hotel, rental car, flight, and so on, as well as phone numbers for each of those agencies. Sooner or later, your plans will change when you’re on the go, and having all of the pertinent information at your fingertips can mean all the difference. Plus, you’ll have instant access to your flight information, and you’ll be able to deal with any last-minute changes.
Take a (great) seat. If you’ve ever watched The Amazing Race, you know that contestants always jockey for seats at the front of the plane so they can be the first ones off when it lands. While you might not need to be as strategic with your seating as those racers, keep in mind that an aisle seat does have its advantages. It allows you, if necessary, to easily get the items you need out of the overhead bin (although you should plan what you’ll need during the flight so you won’t have to keep opening and closing the overhead.) Also, a seat in the exit row and on the aisle makes it easy to get up if you have to use the lavatory (and let’s face it: drinking lots of water is one of the best ways to stay healthy while traveling).
Become a preferred customer. Having preferred customer status with car rental companies, airlines, hotels, and other key travel vendors can be a big help if you go on more than a handful of business trips a year. If something goes wrong, preferred status helps you resolve a situation more quickly. For example, if you’re a preferred customer with an airline, you can board the plane early, allowing you to snare space in the overhead bin.
Join the club. Invest in a club membership with the airline of your choice. This gives you access to the airline’s club lounge, so you’ll have a calm, comfortable place to wait when you’re waiting for your flight. You may also have access to free snacks and drinks and wi-fi.
Always carry cash. Always have some cash on hand so that you won’t be left stranded without a way to pay a cab driver or without money for lunch. Additionally, you never know when a problem with your bank or credit card company could cause a vendor to deny your card, especially when traveling internationally.
Carefully plan where you’ll stay. Even if it’s tempting, try to avoid touristy hotels or those in very busy areas. Too often, the hassle of a busy lobby, overcrowded parking garage, and constant traffic just isn’t worth it. Once you do choose a home away from home, it’s a good idea to call your concierge ahead of time to find out about restaurants, entertainment venues, and so forth. in the area and to get feedback on how best to get to your meetings while in the city. Note, as previously mentioned, being a preferred customer with a hotel is a great way to get timesaving advantages like no-wait check-ins, better rates, more involved service from hotel employees, etc.
Don’t go hungry. On short trips I always take a Balance Bar or a bag of nuts in my carry on. For flights longer than five hours, I make sure to include time in my schedule to grab a sandwich, salad, and a bottle of water at the airport. Before you travel, call the concierge at your hotel and ask about lunch and dinner options within walking distance or a short car ride from your hotel. If you’ll be arriving late, ask about late night options. This will not only save you time searching for food once you arrive, but it will also help you ensure you go to quality restaurants while on your trip.
Know in advance how you’re going to get from place to place. Getting lost can be a huge time waster once you arrive at your destination. It can also make you feel anxious, frustrated, or downright panicked. Prior to leaving for your trip, think about how you’ll get around. Are your meeting locations within walking distance of your hotel? If so, what’s the quickest route? If not, is it best to take a cab? Do you need to rent a car? If you already know you’ll be driving, make sure your rental comes with GPS or be sure to have your own device ready with a map or written directions as a back-up.
Avoid traveling during the busiest times of day. If you can, avoid planning your meetings, arrivals, and departures during the busiest travel times of the day. For example, in New York City, taxi drivers change shifts around 3:00 p.m., so getting a cab to a meeting that’s scheduled for mid-afternoon can be difficult and time consuming. The same goes for traveling to and from the airport (or anywhere) during rush hour in any big city. It can be difficult to get a cab during those times, and if you’re driving you could end up wasting time waiting in traffic.
Get inside information. If you frequently travel to the same towns, get to know the locals. They’ll be able to tell you the best places (restaurants, entertainment venues, etc.), especially those that might be off the beaten path. They can also recommend the best routes to use while getting around or put you in contact with other locals whom you might benefit from meeting. Plus, it’s always nice to see a friendly face, wherever you go.
Become a tech master. Learn about the features of your smart phone, laptop, and tablet, so you can use them to their full advantage. Apps and software can save you tons of time. There are apps to help you find great places to eat or visit in your destination city and to help you to check in for your flight while you’re waiting for a meeting to start or in the cab line at the hotel. You can even use the phone’s alarm to remind you to stop shopping in the airport bookstore and get to your gate.
Don’t forget about your phone’s camera. It provides several time-saving options you may not have considered:
- Use it to take notes. Instead of digging around for a pen and paper, simply snap a picture of books and items you want to buy or price-check online, restaurants you want to visit, billboards of shows you want to see, etc.
- Use it to remember your rental car. Take a picture of your rental car and license plate (t seems as if they’re all silver or beige) so you wont have to wander around a parking lot pressing the open door button.
- Use it to remember your parking spot. Take a picture of your parking lot space number and parking structure floor.
- Use it to remember your room number. Take a picture of your hotel room number, especially if you’re traveling to several cities or traveling very frequently. After a while, especially if you’re in a different hotel every night, the rooms all start to look the same.
Finally, let your contacts know where you are. Tell your clients and contacts the basics of where you’ll be going and when. You may find that you and a current or prospective customer will be in the same city at the same time, or that a layover destination is a client’s home base. You may be able to plan an extra meeting or build in some valuable face time with a person you wouldn’t otherwise have seen.