Traveling Like a Pro

Last year I flew domestically 100,000 miles. I hit the 1,000,000-mile mark with United in less than 10 years. I think some people find traveling that much unsavory, but I think there’s another breed of us that are road warriors. We’re the ones who flash hotel and airline reward cards like we’re Secret Service and know the TSA personnel on a first name basis. While I wish I could claim I was doing something glamorous, like eating my way through Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe, I’m usually overnighting in a hotel with a free continental breakfast and wi-fi in cities like Broomfield, CO, Overland Park, KS or Newton, MA. I’m the species known as the business traveler, and here is some hard-earned travel wisdom from life on the road.

Beyond the obvious tip to never get in the security screening line behind anyone with small children, here are 15 tips to make your travel easier and more convenient.

  1. Purchase everything on one credit card when traveling and earn as many reward points as you can. Same goes for flying on one airline. You  want to earn status as fast as possible because those perks can be lifesavers! Ever had someone mandated to give up his or her seat for you to make a connection? It’s awesome.
  2. Never check a bag. Period.
  3. Booking the very last flight into your destination is like playing Russian roulette. You never know if you’re going to make it. If you have an early morning meeting the next day, you could find yourself seriously out of luck. You can’t drive from Denver to Chattanooga in time. I’ve tried it.
  4. Buy two sets of all chords/adapters for all electronic devices. One set stays plugged in at my office and the other set travels with me. That way I won’t forget anything important, like a projector adapter when I’m making a pitch to a Board. And it makes packing way easier.
  5. Get a TSA-friendly laptop bag. Yes, it’s a pain to have to take out your laptop and screen it separately but it’s non-negotiable so deal with it. What would be worse? Dropping your laptop as it comes off the conveyor belt. A neoprene laptop bag makes it quicker to grab your laptop out of your briefcase and easier to hold on to, avoiding horrifying drops.
  6. On travel days, keep your attire simple. No big jewelry, belts, shoes with buckles or laces. But please do not wear workout clothes or pajamas. You’re going on a business trip not to the gym or to bed. Plus, I’ve found the nicer I’m dressed, the better service I get.
  7. Be ruthless with your shoes. OK, this one is mainly for the ladies but I know there are fashionable men out there. Since we’re not checking a bag (right?!), shoes take up a ton of prime real estate in your carry-on. So bring one pair of business shoes, which I suggest you wear on the plane, and pack one pair of “flat” shoes (ballet flats, flip flops, etc.). Sure I’d like to bring a different pair for every outfit but I simply force myself to find a pair that works with everything. I’m an avid exerciser but I give up working out on the road and forego my running shoes. I know for some people exercising on the road is imperative. If you fall in that camp, you might want to invest is those weird running socks (you may look foolish but you’ll get your workout in), or just be very scrutinizing with the rest of your packing.
  8. It’s brutal when you fly from the West coast for an early morning meeting on the East coast the next day. 8 am EST definitely feels like 5 am PST. Each second of additional sleep is precious. Who can afford the time to iron a shirt? Well, firstly, I probably wouldn’t even pack something that required ironing, but most men’s dress shirts never survive unscathed. In that case, after you get out of the shower, turn the water as hot as it will go—full blast, hang your shirt on the curtain rod and close the door. It creates a steam room and in minutes you have a pressed shirt with no ironing. And time for a large cup of coffee.
  9. Don’t waste precious space by packing shampoo, conditioner, body gel, soap or a hair dryer. The hotel has all the essentials. Maybe they’re not salon quality, but they’ll do. Your hair can live with some parabens and sulfates in it for a few days. Men, I know you just use the hotel bar of soap for all purposes anyway, so on to the next tip. . . .
  10. Try your outfits on completely before a trip. Many times it’s been late at night or I was rushed for time when packing and threw some outfits into my suitcase, only to find that when I put them on while on the road, they didn’t match, needed repairs (i.e. button is cracked due to dry cleaning), weren’t comfortable, or something important was missing—like the pants to a suit! You want to feel and look your best for business.
  11. Bring a lint brush. Who wants to look like they just spent 6 hours on a plane—when you haven’t been on a plane for 6 hours? Some fabrics can be like Velcro, attracting every particle within a 100-foot radius. Look sharp. And throw a few safety pins and band-aids in your suitcase. When you need them, you need them.
  12. Unplug your phone charger from the wall as soon as you remove your phone and put it back in your bag. Few things are worse than traveling with a dying phone battery and no charger. I’ve come to realize people really don’t like to share.
  13. Carry a small, compact umbrella in your briefcase. I have one that I swear can’t be more than 6-inches long. I’ve learned my lesson the hard way: It sucks to show up to a client meeting looking like a drowned rat.
  14. If you find yourself spending a lot of windshield time in rental cars, stash an auxiliary cable in your bag to plug in your iPhone or iPod for some good tunes. It can be hard to find a decent station or one with a strong signal when you’re driving among the cornfields.
  15. Buy a membership to your airline’s club. Or get an AmEx Platinum card, which often grants access to a number of different airline clubs. As much time as you spend in airports and still have to be productive, you need a place to make calls, and get on the Internet. Oh yeah, and enjoy some free cocktails. You earned them.



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