Your Neck Pillow is Not an Accessory, and Other Travel Tips

I recently celebrated my first anniversary as head of strategy for A Hundred Years, helping purpose-driven organizations across all sectors maximize their social, environmental, and business impact. With offices in Los Angeles, New York, and Berlin, and clients all across the globe, I’ve got business travel down to a science. Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way (and yes, I’m writing this on a plane):

Choose a frequent flyer program and stick with it.

I’m not in it for the free flights, which I think are a myth. (Any airline that says “no blackout dates” is straight-up lying to you.) There’s really just two reasons to reach “status.” The first is guaranteed access to Earth’s most precious resource: overhead bins. The second is no-fee upgrades to premium economy seats — also known as seats that can actually fit humans.

Get TSA Pre-Check.

It feels like you’ve won the lottery every time you zoom past all those people holding their shoes in one hand and a stuffed ziplock bag in the other.

Pack your suitcase in 15 minutes.

Get a set of toiletries and kit that you only use for travel. Pack your dress shoes since they take up less space (and place them inside a canvas tote, which you may need later). Buy exercise shoes that pass as streetwear to wear on the plane. Roll your clothes, using socks to fill in voids.

Please don’t wear a velour sweatsuit at the airport.

You might be comfortable, but you’ve also given up on life. And your neck pillow is not an airport fashion accessory. Have some dignity.

Never check your luggage. Ever.

This tip was passed on from another frequent flyer. Be sure your clothes can mix and match and won’t wrinkle easily. For longer trips, make use of the hotel laundry. It’s costly but cheaper than replacing the items in your lost suitcase.

Skip the airplane food, but enjoy the wine.

All those travel experts who say to avoid alcohol on planes need to live a little. Drink a glass of wine with your Wolfgang Puck Gourmet Express. You’ve earned it.

Jog to beat jet lag.

A morning run through a park or neighborhood is a great way to experience a new city and reset your body clock. Or, use the hotel gym. I use the same fitness app, Keelo, at home and on the road, since I can select the equipment available to me. The Westin also has a $5 workout gear lending program if you want to save room in your suitcase.

The hotel bartender has better recommendations than the concierge.

Pull up a chair for a night cap. The rest of your trip will be the better for it.

“Star” things-to-do on Google Maps before you arrive.

As I read about a restaurant, bar, coffee shop, small museum, or record store anywhere in the world, I’ll “star” the location on Google Maps. At this point, I have hundreds of stars in cities I may never visit, but it has come in handy for impromptu trips to Seattle and Mexico City.

For international trips, book a long layover or take a weekend to explore a new city.

There’s something to be said for getting to your destination as soon as possible, but there’s also nothing like a 10-hour layover in London. It’s just enough time to head into the city and you can stow your luggage at the train station while you explore. Same goes for taking an extra day or weekend before heading home. Flights within Europe are cheap and quick. 1–2 days in Athens or Budapest is better than none.

What are yours? Add them in the comments.

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