24 Travel Hacks That Make a Huge Difference

If you travel for business, it’s imperative to know the latest travel hacks that will help you make the trip a success. A successful business trip means you arrive at your commitments on time, maintain your health (and sanity), and stay productive along the way.

Last year was the second year in a row that I flew more than 200,000 miles for business-development meetings, top conferences, speaking engagements, and fundraising. I try to optimize everything in my life, and travel is no different.

So naturally I’ve optimized the entire business travel experience, with processes and hacks that help me maintain peak performance while traveling to the next big thing on my schedule. (Note, I’m not in any way affiliated with any of the companies listed below; I’m just a satisfied customer.)

Here’s a list of 24 travel hacks I’ve learned that you might find useful for your next trip.

Make the process easier

1. TSA pre-check is the biggest no-brainer in traveling. It will save you time, and could be the difference between your making or missing a flight.

2. Podcasts and audiobooks help turn all the potentially wasted travel time — boarding, flight delays, and commutes — into productive learning time.

3. Always place certain items in the same spot in your backpack or luggage. It may sound simple, but this habit will help you avoid misplacing or losing important items when you’re in a rush.

4. If your flight is canceled or gets delayed, call the airline customer service instead of waiting in line at the airport counter. It’s the fastest way to get help.

Maximize airline miles and points

5. Select an airline that operates out of the airports you visit most. Sign up for a rewards number and always use it when you book your flights. It’s foolish not to accrue miles.

6. When you fly internationally, book an airline within the same “alliance” as your regular airline. This way you can combine your points for a reward flight within that same alliance.

7. Link your hotel rewards account to your airline rewards account to receive points for a hotel stay in the form of airline miles. Mileage points often have a better dollar-per-point value when redeemed for flights than when you use hotel points for a free stay.

Capitalize on credit card points

8. Maximize your reward points by using different credit cards for different expenses. I use the American Express Gold card to receive triple points on online marketing expenses like Facebook Ads and Google AdWords. I use the American Express Platinum card to receive 1.5x points on purchases over $10,000. (Note: check the fine print for the latest terms)

9. Wait to sign up for your next card until they have a big enrollment bonus. I earned a 100,000-mile bonus (instead of the normal 50,000) when I signed up for my American Express Platinum card and reached the spending requirement.

10. Not all cards provide the same dollar value per point. Research the best credit cards on The Points Guy.

Book direct flights

11. Book direct flights whenever possible. Delays are common when you have connecting flights, and missing a connection can cause serious damage to your schedule. This is doubly true in the winter, when bad weather could impact a connecting flight.

12. Avoid itinerary change fees by flying Southwest Airlines and Virgin America. (Note: Virgin America provides free changes only if you select the “change pass” option.)

13. Here’s how to get free upgrades: If a flight is pretty empty, and you have status on the airline, book a seat one class lower than where you want to end up. You’ll likely get a free upgrade, eliminating the need to buy a ticket in the higher class.

14. Premium economy is a better value than business class in most cases. It can be up to 70 percent cheaper than a business class ticket and the only difference is that you don’t get a lie-flat bed, which you really need only for international red-eye flights.

15. Book your ticket with your web browser set to “privacy” mode. Airlines track your cookies online and can tell when you keep coming back to check on the same flight, and they’ll make it more expensive.

16. If you’re in a major city and need a last-minute hotel reservation, I recommend using Hotel Tonight. It’s saved me a few times.

Stay healthy

17. Reduce the cognitive fatigue and headaches associated with noise pollution by using earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones.

18. Beat jet lag with the f.lux app. This free app automatically adjusts the color display on your smartphone, tablet, or computer, making it easier to fall asleep at your new destination. A similar feature, called Night Shift, is built into the latest versions of iOS.

19. Try your best to eat well while on the road. I bring avocados, almonds, natural beef jerky, and healthy food bars with me on the plane and in my suitcase.

20. Pack a sleep mask to help you sleep on the plane and at the hotel.

21. Book an aisle seat and drink tons of water. You’ll be able to use the bathroom and hydration helps fight jet lag.

Make a packing checklist

22. Keep extra personal items in your carry-on so you don’t risk forgetting things like deodorant and other grooming products.

23. Keep a spare smartphone charging cord and wall cube in your carry-on.

24. Avoid forgetting important items by making a checklist before you pack and crossing off each item as you pack it.

A great business trip allows you to stay optimal and healthy while you get to your destination on time. The tips in this article will help you optimize the process and increase your chances of enjoying a great trip.

This article first appeared as 24 Travel Hacks You Need to Know Right Now on the column of Andrew Thomas called “The Mindful Entrepreneur” on Inc.com.

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