I never thought I’d be a “Frequent Flyer”. Seems my job had other plans for me. The trips started off with one or two a year and then kind of exploded from that point forward. I like it. It’s one of those things where you get to put your best foot forward and represent your company. Work travel means that you are among a trusted few who have the opportunity to actively advance the company’s interests both domestically and abroad. I appreciate the trust they put in me as I represent the brand during travel and now, I’d like to share a few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. Some of these tips can be applied directly to business travel but most will be generic and applicable to any situation!
This is the obvious first step to any trip, but it’s arguably the most crucial. Smartly booking your travel means and accommodations can save you lots of time and hassle, as well as save you big bucks along the way. Let’s look at a few of those things that are important to think about.
There are some obvious things you need to think about.
- Length of stay
- Proximity to where you need to conduct business or desired vacation spot
- Desired level of luxury accommodation
- Hotel’s distance from the airport
When I travel for business or pleasure, I like to book a hotel that has amenities rather than luxury. The reason being is that unless you are a high roller, luxury gets old and expensive really fast.
Problem: Luxury hotels typically cost more and have high dollar restaurants built on to them. So imagine that you’re on a trip for 5 days and you eat three meals a day. In a luxury brand, you’re going to pay on average $15–20 per person for breakfast and lunch and around $30–45 for dinner. That’s going to add up really quickly.
Solution: Instead, book a hotel that is an extended stay brand, like a Residence Inn by Marriott or Homewood Suites by Hilton. Hotels like this usually have kitchenettes built into the room with microwave, stove, sink and full size refrigerator. Hit a local grocery store or market and stock up on food for the week. Plan your eating out versus eating in days and you can save a few hundred bucks over the course of your trip.
The flights are another realm of concern. Flights that have connections and layovers will not only delay you from getting to your destination, they will leave you tired and increase the risk of you loosing your luggage.
This is one area where I don’t compromise. I’d rather spend an extra $30–50 on direct flights on a single airline than change planes or worse, change airlines if I can afford it.
Lastly, pick an airline that gives you the ability to bring a nice sized carry on bag and personal item at no charge. Some airlines, like Sprit, are cheap to book but can be even more expensive than other well known brands. You’ll be charged if they have to print your boarding pass. You also get charged for luggage. Some brands, like Southwest, allow you to bring a bag. I’m sure they are padding this into the cost of the ticket but it’s worth it.
This is where the ladies and some of our pretty boy fellas get messed up. If you are going on vacation for more than 5 days, by all means check a bag. You may want to take a few things that aren’t allowed through TSA or bring home some goodies (that aren’t allowed through TSA) =)
If you can swing it, don’t check a bag. I would say I only check a back 1/10th of the time. One a quick 3 day trip to the UK I only traveled with a carry on. As a guy, I can typically get 3–5 days worth of clothes in a carry on 2 pairs of shoes, a computer, couple of books, electric shaver, cream, belt, camera, some cables, etc. Then in my “personal item” which is a backpack, I can get a few more items that I know I will need.
This is where the ladies are crying foul. “What about my shoes?” you say. “What about my…”
You don’t need it.
Here’s the trick. Let’s say you are going somewhere cold or it’s winter and you’re visiting family for a weekend. Maybe you will intend on going somewhere nice (but not formal) while you are there.
- Invest in a travel makeup kit that has a nice set of brushes, foundation, eyeliner, concealer, and blush that will fit neatly in your purse. You don’t need more unless you’re going to fashion week.
- For your shoes, pack a pair of flats and a pair of wedges and wear sneakers on the plane. You can wear the sneakers when you want to chill or workout, the flats while you’re out and the wedges for cute night. Three pairs of shoes and you only have to pack two.
- Pack two pairs of nice jeans. One pair should be for cute night and the other pair for casual outing. Pack a pair or two of shorts for warmer weather.
- Pack one dress that is appropriate for the climate. Make the dress a classy one if you need to go to church or synagogue.
- Pack 2 casual shirts, a t-shirt, and two blouses that can be used for cute night.
- Buy travel sized shampoo, deodorant and toiletries. Also invest in a mini curling/flat iron.
Most hotels have blow-dryers and if there isn’t one in the room you can typically have the desk send one up.
You can practice packing your carry on bag long before you need to travel. Experiment with different things and you will get good at it.
Guys, you should have no reason to check a bag if it’s less than a week. There are tons of videos on YouTube for methods to packing a carry on.
Here’s a nice little guide:
Firstly, print your boarding pass at home.
If you can swing it, having a friend or family member drop you and your fellow travel companion(s) off at the airport will save you time and money. At most airports, leaving your car often means dropping it off in a garage that’s not directly attached to the airport unless you’re willing to pay big bucks. Not only does leaving your car cost you extra cash, it will delay you. Most airlines recommend getting to the airport 2 hours early for domestic flights and 3 hours for international. Remember this, once you drop off your car you still need to wait for the shuttle. The shuttle has to make it’s rounds and continue picking up passengers before it takes you to the airport. This can take 20 minutes total depending on how busy the airport is.
Remember that carry on bag you packed so you wouldn’t have to check a bag? Remember that boarding pass you printed? Guess what? You get to skip the airline counter and go straight to security. So let’s recap, we’ve saved time and money by:
- Printing our boarding pass at home
- Packing only a carry on
- Getting dropped off at the airport
My home airport is BWI. The fastest I’ve been through from getting dropped off at the curb to being at my gate was 25 minutes. No bags to check, nothing to print or get.
Another note is that airports are full of screens and monitors with flight and gate info. I’ve found that Google and most flight tracker apps are 3–5 minutes faster than Airport displays. I always check my flight status for delays on google. Just type the airline and flight number into the search bar. You’ll get gate info, arrival times, departure times and any delays.
For getting through security, there’s generally two lines. One for “Pre Check” and one for Standard. There are typically signs that say “All Passengers”, and that’s the line you want to be in. The Pre Check line is for individuals that have gotten TSA background checks because they travel so frequently. The advantage is that the lines are shorter and you don’t need to remove certain items.
You have to take off anything metal. This includes jewelry, watches, belts etc. You can’t have anything in your pockets and you have to remove shoes and coat. I never go through the line with these items on. You will waste time fumbling around trying to strip when it’s your turn to get screened. I take off my shoes as soon as I get in the screening section, even if it’s not my turn yet.
There are scanner machines that will scan you as you step through. They are not harmful, but will detect even the most miniscule amount of lint in your pocket. Having anything on you other than shirt, blouse, and undergarments will get you additional screening. This will slow you down, sometimes by a lot.
This one is easy. Just don’t do it. Don’t buy anything in the airport unless you’re hungry. The markup is unbelievable.
Be nice to the flight attendants. They are your super heroes. They can make your flight a fantastic one or not help you at all.
- Never assume that the crew are just there to serve you. There are 100 other people on the plane. Be nice, be courteous and respectful.
- Be careful lowering your seat. Sometimes you can smash a laptop if the person behind you has their tray table down and is working.
- Aisle seats have more room but you will be getting up every time someone on your row has to go to the restroom.
- Try to be one of the first to board the plane, this way you can ensure you have first pick of overhead bin space.
While we are on the subject of flights. Let’s talk about those tray tables. They are nasty and generally unclean. While they may look clean upon first glance, they typically don’t get wiped down in between flights? Don’t believe me? Next time you’re at a gate, observe how much time passes between when passengers from a previous flight disembark and the crew starts boarding again.
I’ve seen babies get their diapers changed on these tables. One thing I make sure to do is take a few antibacterial wipes with me. I’ll wipe down the tray table and my armrest when I sit down. They’re also handy for after you use the restroom on longer flights.
When you land, make sure to take note of the layout of the airport. It will come in handy when you leave to go home. If you are renting a car, ask them what times are busiest for returns. This way, when you come back you know what times of the day to avoid so you can speedily return your car.
If you can swing it, get the rental car insurance. It costs a few bucks extra, but if you get into a wreck your car insurance may not want to cover the entire cost. With the rental car insurance, the rental company will usually pay for repairs on both vehicles if you are at fault.
Make sure to walk around the vehicle and check it for problems. The last thing you want is a vehicle that has body damage and you didn’t notice it. There is a chance that you will have a finger pointed at you for the damage, and you’ll have a hard time proving it wasn’t your fault.
So! By this point we’ve made it to the hotel. If you’ve arrived early before check-in time don’t panic. If the hotel isn’t full you may be given a room early. Just ask. Always remember to be cheerful with the hotel associate at the desk. If they can’t accommodate your request, ask if you can sit in the lobby and use wifi until your room is ready. In a lot of cases, the hotel might even store your luggage for you so you can leave and come back without having to worry about carrying it with you.
After check in, I typically stick my luggage in my room and take a quick nap. I’ll use my smartphone to see what’s in the area (if I haven’t already planned it out) and I’ll go shopping for food at the market.
I try to treat the cleaning staff well and leave a little something for them on the pillow. You aren’t in your room while they are cleaning it and I promise a lot can happen (or not happen) while you’re gone. A small tip with a nice thank you note will all but ensure that they go the full measure when cleaning your room. Anything above $2 and below $5 is sufficient in the U.S
Don’t touch the cleaning carts as you walk the halls. The staff put what they need on those carts and you will make their day just a bit more difficult by grabbing extra shampoo. If you need it, the front desk will typically hand you one from behind the counter. They also almost always have other complimentary items, like toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, etc. Even if they sell these items in the gift shop.
Lastly, beware of room service. It’s nice to get served food to your room — and it’s something you should experience at least once. Just beware of the cost. a $15 sandwich and $5 coke will most likely have a gratuity added to it along with a delivery charge. A $20 meal turns into a $30 one very quickly.
Always remember that when you travel, you are not in your usual surroundings. You are on unfamiliar turf. There are criminals who make a living off unsuspecting travelers. Here’s some things you can do to mitigate having a ruined trip.
- Keep your purse/wallet on you at all times
- Lock valuables in room safe
- Some hotels will put extremely high dollar items (think diamonds) in a special hotel safe
- Lock and bolt your hotel room when you are in it (especially when you sleep)
- Be aware of your surroundings
These are just a few tips. If I think of anything else that’s of value, I’ll come back and add it.
Thanks for reading and happy travels!