Business travel can be a tough racket: heading straight to a meeting after an 8-hour flight; spending lonely nights away from loved ones; and… gasp…breaking your exercise and diet regimen. That being said, business travel can be pretty fun too. Store these aces up your sleeve if you’re a first time business traveler.
1. Join a Loyalty Program
If you’re traveling for work, you might as well reap the fruits of your labor. Sign up for an airline and/or hotel loyalty program. Even though it’s tempting to sign up with all of the major players, make one or two airline/hotel loyalty programs your go-to. The point of signing up is to be able to cash in your points for a comped room or free plane ticket. You won’t be able to do that if you’re spreading your points across different programs.
Also, remember even if you’re only taking a couple of business trip per year, there are still some noteworthy perks to be had even if you won’t be racking up points. Some programs’ base tier, such as the Fairmont President’s Club “Club” tier, offer perks like free Internet access or in-room delivery of fitness gear.
2. Ask for an Upgrade at the Hotel
It’s rare that a front desk agent will hand over an upgrade, but you’d be surprised by how far you can get by simply asking. That being said, there are a few unwritten rules you should definitely abide by. First, ask politely and don’t expect to get an upgrade just because you asked. The front desk deals with rude guests all day long and being a jerk won’t get you anywhere. Rude behavior could even end up getting you on the upgrade blacklist.
Second, the more specific you can be with your request, the better. Instead of just asking for an upgrade, try asking for a room that has a view of the lake (or what have you) or to upgrade from your current room category to the next one up, such as an upgrade from a standard to a deluxe room.
Last but not least, arriving later in the day or in the evening increases your likelihood of an upgrade. The front desk has a better idea of what the hotel’s inventory looks like for the night as the day goes on. Cancellations may have been made and rooms the staff hoped to fill could still be empty, so you could enjoy the benefits. Just remember, the allocation of upgrades if often based on availability, and sometimes there’s simply nothing the front desk agents can do.
(Photo: Lymberia hotel Rhodes island)
3. Create an Itinerary
We recently surveyed frequent travelers and found that most people still carry around printouts or rely on email to manage their travel details. While this can certainly work, it definitely isn’t the most efficient when you’re running from place to place.
Use TripIt to organize all of your travel details and confirmations in one central location so you’re not left scrambling at the last minute trying to find out where you need to be. You want to give your boss the impression that you’re organized and reliable, and showing up where you’re supposed to be at the right time is essential. If you really want to cross your t’s and dot your i’s, try TripIt Pro to get real-time flight alerts, snag the best seat on the plane, and even track your loyalty points (reference tip #1). Because after all, it’s the little details of your trip that can make or break the travel experience.
4. Carry-On Whenever Possible
Unless you’re going on an exceptionally long business trip, there’s no reason to check your bag. It takes up valuable time and there’s always the possibility that the airline will lose your luggage. And believe me, there’s nothing worse than lost luggage on a business trip.
There are a few cardinal rules of carry-on luggage, though, that the most experienced road warriors abide by when carrying on luggage. First, make sure your “carry-on” is actually the mandated carry-on size for your airline. You don’t want to be that person who tries to cram an oversized suitcase in the overhead compartment. Airlines are starting to crack down on this so please spare yourself the hassle and embarrassment. If you don’t have one, now may be the time to invest in a high-quality carry-on suitcase. Tumi makes some great ones, as does Timbuk2.
It’s also important that you’re prepared for TSA. Make sure you don’t have any full water bottles or other odds and ends that are not allowed on the plane. Also, be sure to have all of your toiletries (liquid must be 3 ounces or less) in one clear quart-size zip-top bag. Security lines back up very easily so don’t be the one who contributes to the hold up.
5. Always Give Yourself More Time
Just as time management is an important business skill, it’s also an important business travel skill. Airports, taxi lines, trains, busses, security lines, meals, meetings … everything takes longer than anticipated so try to build your business travel itinerary with as much flexibility as possible.
Arrive at the airport at least an hour and a half prior to departure even if you’re certain you only need an hour. Allow yourself a half hour to get between meetings even if they’re in the same building. Make dinner reservations with colleagues a little later than you’d like just in case something comes up. Ultimately, you know your schedule best, but business trips can be unpredictable and you don’t want any of these uncontrollable factors to cause you to leave a bad impression on any of your colleagues or clients.
What tips for first-time business travelers did we miss? Add in the comments below.