Travel for work? Then this list of the best business travel hacks is compiled with you, the business traveler, specifically in mind. However, whether you travel for business or pleasure, business travel hacks will help you improve your travel experience.
I’ve compiled this massive list of business travel hacks based on years of experience traveling for work. These business travel hacks have come through many mistakes, goof ups, and wins! Follow this list of business travel hacks and you are destined for epic travel greatness! Ok…maybe just smooth traveling.
Important: These tips, while typically used by business travelers also apply to leisure travel, so keep reading!
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101 Business Travel Hacks
- Stick with a single Airline, Hotel, and Rental Car company. Since you’re going to be traveling, you might as well get some points for it. Your company policies may make this more difficult but do your best to stick w/ a single Airline, Hotel and Rental Car company. You can accumulate points and status quicker this way. For example, I typically travel Southwest Airlines (sometimes Delta), stay in Hilton Hotels, and rent w/ National. Southwest offers early boarding privileges (which helps you get the best seat and stow your bag) for status holders. Hilton gives all kinds of privileges like free breakfast, upgrades, extra points, snacks, etc to their higher tier members. And w/ National you can often get free upgrades to nicer cars. Delta will start to give you upgrades to first class depending on your status and availability. The serious business travel hacker always gets his/her points!
- Never check your bag. Want to add 30 minutes to your trip and gamble with fate about lost luggage? Then check a bag. Setting aside bag check fees (which ought to deter your enough), checking a bag means extra time at the front and back of your trip. You have to interact w/ staff to check it, and then you wait w/ the huddled masses for it to (hopefully) arrive on the baggage Carousel. I confidently walk past all the schmucks waiting for the bags…and get the better rental car ahead of them or get to my bed that much quicker.
- Never check your bag (yes, I said it twice!). Seriously, never check your bag. It might be hard to avoid it when doing extended travel (>1 week) or international travel. If so, label your luggage with your name and something distinctive and pack a backup set of clothes in your backpack. I can say, without reservation, that this is my absolute favorite business travel hack. Seriously.
- Book direct flights. I’ve found that minimizing my actual time on airplanes is critical. Reduced jetlag, less wear on the body, etc. Time is money and the extra time sitting in airports waiting for your connection is often boring and wasted. Book a direct flight whenever you can! Sometimes you can’t, depending on where you go. I often find myself in obscure places like Minot, ND or Augusta, ME. Sorry, no direct flights from CA so suck it up.
- Skip the redeye. I’ve done a few redeye flights over the years and they are usually terrible. You might be able to save a few bucks, but honestly, it’s not worth it. If you are like me, it’s hard to get any useful sleep on a plane and so basically you are dogcrap tired the next day. Use only in extreme circumstances.
- Get a 4-wheel roller or “Spinner” suitcase. For many years I had a regular 2-wheeled suitcase and I honestly didn’t know any better. I saw people in the airport with the 4-wheel spinners, but I figured it couldn’t be that much better. I was wrong. Having now switched to a 4-Wheel TravelPro Spinner, I will never go back. I no longer have the added strain from the weight of the suitcase on my arm (from it leaning while being pulled behind me) and it slides so smoothly in the airport. Aside from it occasionally wanting to wander off, I love it. I also will set my backpack on top it and roll them both ever so easily. Again, less strain on the body. The nice thing about a spinner is that you can always lean it if you have to as sometimes is necessary on an uphill carpeted jet bridge.
- Invest in good luggage! I used to adhere to the cheap luggage principle figuring it’s just luggage who cares. But after I made the switch to my new TravelPro spinner, I am so glad I finally invested in quality luggage. Read the reviews, find out what other Business Travel Pros are doing and make the investment. You need something
that is durable, easy to use, and has been thoughtfully constructed w/ the modern business traveler in mind. I had to use one of my older suitcases on a recent trip and it was such a disappointment…
- Buy wrinkle free clothes. I hate ironing. Seriously. I really hate it. I did a ton of it in the USMC and came to despise it. But w/ the life a business traveler it’s hard not to do it sometimes. However, I invest in wrinkle free clothing. I’ve personally found that wrinkle free dress shirts are hard to find (polos are no biggie) so I still have to iron them. But wrinkle free pants are a technological breakthrough! Roll em, pack em, hang em up in the closet and you will be iron free-ish.
- Protip: If you do have some minor wrinkles, shut the bathroom door, hang the pants or jacket on the back of the door and start the shower and steam up the room. The wrinkles will usually fade away. It’s not your water bill :-).
- Get the best credit card you can to maximize your points. It’s likely you are getting reimbursed by your company and travel is expensive. If you can, use your personal credit card and start racking up the points. It might be easier to use a completely separate card for this, so you can track your expenses. Use the points to get cash back, free vacations, and more. I prefer the Southwest Chase Card and the Delta Amex. I also use my cards for personal expenses (like the water bill) to maximize points. We took a weeklong trip to Hawaii (5-person family at the time) and the only thing I had to pay for was 2 rental car days, food, and entertainment. And we got upgraded to a SWEET suite!
- Business Travel Packing Hack: Pack light (and well). This tip leads into the next one. But packing light minimizes the stuff you have to haul around, makes it easier to stuff your bag into an overhead bin, and reduces the pain when you have to store it under your seat. I do my best to use a single backpack (and Ogio Metro backpack) whenever I can. With good packing, and minimizing superfluous crap, I can make that last almost a week. For example, if you wear jeans on day 1 you can wear them again on day 5, getting that room back in your bag. Wear your jacket w/ you on the plane so it doesn’t have to go in the bag. Learn how to roll your clothes vs. fold so they store easier (and don’t wrinkle as bad)! Skip the heavy book to save room (use your iPad or better yet, your Kindle Reader app on your phone). If you have to use a suitcase, get one that rolls well (preferably 4 wheeled), fits easy into the overhead compartment, and is durable enough to stand the rigors of regular travel.
- Bring some travel-size Downy wrinkle releaser. This will help w/ the wrinkles, too! Did I mention I hate ironing?
- Skip the rental car if you can (and use Uber or Lyft). Saves you money, time, and hassle of picking up and returning a car. Especially in a big city. When I travel to NYC, Chicago or I know I will be attending a conf or staying downtown, I seldom rent a car. Simply no need.
- Get comfortable shoes. You will be on your feet a lot when you travel. Walking (hopefully not running) to your next gate, or hoofing it to the catch the shuttle, and carrying luggage, your dogs will be barking. Might as well make them comfortable. Some people say you should use slip on shoes for easy security check point removal. I am not fan (mostly cause I can never find a pair that really fit right). I can always get mine off w/out untying them, so I am golden! I also invested in some good orthopedic arch support. Orthotics (I use Archmolds) = heaven.
- Skip the escalator and especially the people movers. Burn a few extra calories by taking the stairs or walking next to the people movers if you have the time. I make it fun by trying to race-walk someone who is on the people mover. Of course, the people mover can be a lifesaver when you are hustling to catch a flight.
- Check the weather for your destination before you go and adjust accordingly. I live in sunny southern California. It’s either nice or hot. However, the rest of the country is not blessed with this weather and sometimes I forget. I’ve shown up in shorts and a windbreaker to NYC in November. Dumb. Double check the weather before you go in case they are having a cold snap and then pack accordingly. Protip: In the winter you need to bring an extra heavy coat. Get a nice one for sure, but also don’t pack it. Carry it or wear it from your home airport, then store it in the overhead bin or have the flight attendant hang it. It will keep you from having to use the larger suitcase!
- Get your parking situation sorted out. Parking onsite at the airport will usually cost you 2.3 million dollars a day and usually get your company’s bean counters giving you the stink eye. Parking off site is usually cheaper…BUT…now you have to deal w/ a shuttle which adds extra time. I happen to use ONT airport in SOCAL and they have a sort-of-close-walking-distance onsite parking area which is still pretty cheap and allows me to walk to the AP and skip the shuttle. I use it 100% of the
time. But when I have to hit San Diego AP, I’ve found a good garage that has a good shuttle system, w/ regular pickups/dropoffs and I’ve learned the process. I know how much to factor in at the start/end of my trips and plan accordingly. Figure out the best parking system for your home airport.
- Get really good at the security checkpoint process. If you’ve ever seen the movie Up In the Air w/ George Clooney (I love this movie) you will get a good sense of how some of us business travelers see the security checkpoint line and some ideas on how to through it quickly. Here are some things I do:
- Make sure you know the rules (e.g. 3:1:1 rule for liquids, or electronics rules, etc)
- Get TSA Precheck if you can
- If you don’t have TSA Precheck, then prepare before you get to the line. I take my belt off, store my wallet, 2nd phone, etc in my backpack BEFORE I enter the line. My pockets are empty except for my ID and Phone w/ Boarding pass on it. After getting the greenlight from the TSA agent I drop my ID and phone into my backpack. As I approach the bins I will unzip my laptop bag early for easy removal. When I hit the line, I am ready to go w/ minimal effort.
- Protip: Some airports make me take my belt off, some don’t. So I just take it off now.
- My shoes are not slip off, but they do slip off quickly w/ no untying. Easy on and off.
- I always grab two bins. It’s all I need. One for my laptop, one for my shoes.
- I stack the bins on top of each while on the table. Latptop bottom, shoes tops
- I keep my backpack and luggage OFF the table until the last minute. I figure save the space for everyone else, and it’s easier than trying to push everything along while you wait for the belt to catch it.
- I also try to pick the lines that have more business travelers in it. This is common sense. If you’ve ever been stuck behind a family who hasn’t traveled in 9 years, or college students who have no clue what’s going on, you learn to seek out the pros. This doesn’t always work, because sometimes you get just get screwed.
- Also, some airports have their terminals connected, other’s do not. Some have less obvious security checkpoints or “hidden ones” that are just around the corner. Figure those out if you can. I’ve went through a United Terminal checkpoint because it was less busy than the Southwest Terminal checkpoint before because I knew the Terminals were connected. Make sure they are though, or you will be making a trip out and then back through security! Ugh!
- Protip: I am a bit of a germaphobe. So, I never stand on the yellow footprints outside the xray machine. I stand to the side of them. My little silent protest if you will, but also…yucky sweaty feet.
- On the other side of the line, depending on the pace of the scanner I will either start putting some of my stuff back together at the belt or pick everything up and get the heck out there making room for others. There’s usually a bench or something nearby for you to put your life back together again.
- Learn the airports. Every airport has its own idiosyncrasies. Over time, you will “know” what to expect at certain airports. Some have really smooth security checkpoints, others are known for being slow in security. Some airports have better food selections outside of security vs. inside. Sometimes you have to switch terminals and if you know the airport you can know what to expect. This is especially true when you flying to a small airport. The larger connecting airport may have you trekking to some remote outpost for the tinier plane. This is true at places like MSP or DTW. Some airports have off airport rental car facilities, while others are onsite allowing you to quickly drop the car and go. All of this information helps make your trip go a little smoother.
- Get TSA Pre-Check. I’ve been remiss in this. I used to have Clear when I was really traveling hard, then it slowed up and I let it wane. Now that I am hitting it hard again, it’s time to get TSA Pre-Check. I’ve heard from enough other fellow travelers that’s it’s worth the time. Best thing is you don’t have to take your shoes/belt off or unpack your stuff. Time to get it done! This is probably my personal second favorite of all of the business travel hacks.
- Learn how your selected airline’s boarding system works and then make sure you board as early as you can. Work the system. Let’s be clear, this is all about overhead bin storage and if you travel Southwest, an aisle seat. With airline status you will likely solve this problem, but sometimes you may need to take extra steps. Like checking in exactly 24 hours in advance on Southwest (set an alarm!), or spending $15.00 to upgrade your boarding zone. Learning how the boarding system works falls in the category of “clever business travel hacks!”
- Get some good headphones! See my review on the FX-Viktaria headphones. Or go for something more substantive with the Beats 3 Solo headphones!
Enjoying this list of Business Travel Hacks So far?
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- Bring a multi-plug adapter. This is a little less important these days w/ everything being USB chargeable, and the extra power bars you bring, plus all of the plugs you now see at airports and hotels. But it’s not a bad idea to find something just in case you have to compete for a spot or you are staying in an old Hampton Inn that hasn’t been modernized for the business traveler.
- Get a backpack! Skip the roller suitcase. See my Ogio review here. I always travel as light as I can. If I am just doing a few days of business travel, I will skip the suitcase and load my backpack. It’s amazing how light you really travel if you work at it. It also makes the travel experience simpler. One less bag to stow in the overhead bin = a little less worry when you forgot to check in on time. The only downside is having to lug your backpack around instead of resting it on a suitcase most of the time, but that’s a small price to pay. Pack smart and light, and travel more smoothly!
- Mark & Label your luggage. If your gonna use luggage (instead of just a backpack) then you might as well try not lose it and plan for the possibility you might. Try not check it (duh), but if you’ve labeled it and maybe added a colored strap to it or tassel (or even bought a non-black bag) it will be easier to see on the baggage claim carousel or pull from the overhead bin. Put your contact info on it in case someone else grabs it or it gets lost. I will admit I am not great at following this tip. While I always label my stuff, I usually get a black suitcase (I just can’t bring myself to get a purple suitcase or something) and I usually don’t put a color strap on it. But I really need to.
- Roll your clothes to minimize wrinkling and fit more in the suitcase. Do it. Live it. Love it. This is an old trick I learned from the Marine Corps. You can keep the creases out of clothes and you can typically fit more into your bag. I made this switch years ago and never looked back.
- Pack your clothes in a set then layer it in your suitcase for daily access. Some people like to fully unpack their suitcase and use that dresser they provide you. I only do that if I am staying greater than one week. Instead, I pack my clothes by day (or least the pants and shirts – I can tuck my socks, underwear and undershirtsaround things to get better storage). Then I can save a little time by leaving everything in the bag and pull it out as needed and in order.
- Use mobile boarding passes. I seldom use paper boarding passes anymore. The tech is much improved from a few years ago and has yet to fail me recently (last 4 years). The TSA checker is pretty good, but the Southwest boarding pass scanner is a little finicky IMO. Could be better. Still no need to go find a printer and have something else to carry. Go mobile baby…
- Keep your stuff charged. Get a charging routine. I always charge my stuff the night before my trip and even in the car on the way to the airport. In fact, I charge just about whenever I can. Nothing more frustrating than your phone dying in the middle of Better Call Saul as you are flying over Oklahoma.
- Get a power bar. Seems like everything runs on batteries these days. I invested in 2 power bars that I charge every night at the hotel and at my house the night before I leave on a trip. Rather than hunt around for a plug at the airport, I just plug into my power bar and recharge my gear.
- Make sure your phone has a case. You will be in-transit a lot. Tossing stuff into overhead bins, walking from gate to gate, in and out of cars, etc. You WILL drop your phone. Make sure it’s protected. Maybe you can get away w/out a case at home, but no way no how here on the road.
- Be the guy (or gal) who invents a useful cord system for keeping cords untangled. For the love of God! Cords get tangled. It’s like a rat’s nest and nothing I’ve tried really works. Please invent this! And then share it with us. #IamBeggingYou For now, a cord organizer might do the trick.
- Use Facetime or Google Hangouts or Skype to keep in touch with loved ones at home. Most of us have some loved ones at home. I have 4 kids and wife and only while only 2 of my kids are still at home, I miss them all terribly. I always text my wife where I am at w/ my trip (e.g. Made it to the AP or Hotel), and I try to use Google Hangouts w/ the wife and kids a few times each trip. It’s a great way to stay connected to home.
- Document your experience on social media for fun. You are traveling, and it can be fun or at least seem to be fun to other people. Might as well upload a pic to Instagram or Facebook and tell everyone where you are. You will see some funny stuff while you travel – take a pic! I am on social media w/ a bunch of other business travelers and we always post our itinerary using the airport codes and see if we can figure out where they are. (SNA to ATL to MSY anyone!?! That’s Orange County to Atlanta to New Orleans, btw).
- Download your content to skip the Internet fee on the plane. Delta charges some ungodly amount of money for Internet access on a plane and while Southwest is a bit cheaper, it’s still $$. I prefer to download a few shows, movies or books on my Kindle app using my home or hotel Internet and skip the fees. Plan ahead!
- Have a good routine and stick to it. I personally always unpack immediately after I get to the Hotel Room. I hang my clothes. Iron the next day’s clothes (usually just a shirt, as my pants are always wrinkle free). I lay out the rest of my stuff (socks, etc). I also set my toiletries out and on especially early mornings I go so far as to lay the towel out on the floor next to the tub, physically move the shampoo into the shower, hang my towel next to the shower, and get the coffee pretty close to ready. I will even lay out my Allergy pill and partially open it. I am usually in a different time zone, and know I will be running on fumes in the morning. Those extra few seconds seem to add up and give me a little buffer if I am running slow.
- Set 2 alarms for the morning. I always set two alarms for the next morning. Usually 15 minutes apart. This is especially important if you are dealing w/ a big time zone swing (e.g. West Coast to East Coast).
- Get your travel toiletries in bulk! You can get these at Amazon like I do, or at places like Sam’s Club or Costco.
- Set out your toiletries the night before – get a few minutes of extra sleep!
- Get the coffee maker ready to go for the AM – get a few minutes of extra sleep!
- Train your body to not care what time zone it’s in. Maybe it’s the Marine Corps training, but when I am really in a travel groove I can adjust my body to the timezone it’s in pretty quick. Some folks say to try to stick to your local normal timezone, but I find that impractical and hard. So, I just adjust. The first day is harder, but you can get it done. I think this is more mental than anything, but it’s hard to say.
- Bring your workout gear. This is a hard one for me. Because bringing running shoes automatically puts me into my suitcase (and thus not able to bring only my backpack). However, staying healthy is important and a quick workout on the road can relieve stress, help you sleep better, and burn some of those restaurant calories. Note: My last trip, I brought my gear….but never used it. So yeah, bring it AND use it.
- Workout BEFORE dinner. When I was really traveling hard, I let my health go. When I finally got it back under control, I started running. I had a rule. I would be happy to eat dinner “with the team,” but only after I worked out first. I 1000% guarantee that you will NOT go work out after the team dinner, a few drinks, and a heavy meal. Not gonna happen. And in the morning, it’s tough – especially in a different time zone. So, get it done immediately after you get back to the hotel, but before dinner. #GameChanger.
- You might be interested in this article I wrote on how to stay healthy while you travel entitled: The 7 Habits of the Healthy Business Traveler: How to Stay Healthy While Traveling for Business
- Pack a snack. I always bring a granola bar or piece of fruit in my backpack. Flight schedules seldom line up w/ meal times and so I am eating at off times and I try to avoid the pricey airline food (if the airline even has it!). Better to have a snack for the 3rd hour of your 4 hour flight than get a monster headache.
- Hydrate your body (but not so much you have to go to the bathroom 9 times on the plane). I actually kind of do something unhealthy. The men in my family are cursed w/ small bladders and large prostates. So, I drink a bunch water the night before, but limit my water (or liquid in general) consumption the day I am actually traveling. This keeps me from having to hit the bathroom on the plane so often. I then water bomb my body when I get to the hotel. I doubt this is healthy, so buyer beware, but it works for me.
- Go when you can. I learned this trip from the Marine Corps. Basically, you eat, sleep and use the bathroom whenever you can. If you don’t have to get up and use the lavatory on the plane, then don’t. Go whenever you can, but especially before flights and on layovers.
- Get a travel pillow. I can’t sleep on planes. Best I can do is the “Takeoff Nap.” But occasionally when I am beat-down-dog tired I am able to catch a few winks. Having a handy travel pillow like the Trtl is a game changer.
- Don’t bring a face mask. How good of sleep are you really going to get anyway? Besides you look like a tool w/ a facemask on a plane. If you simply must get one…try this kitty cat one (ps…we will all be laughing at you and you will be laughing when you see the one I picked for you…haha).
- Skip the chain restaurants – eat local. The thought of another Chili’s meal makes me nauseous. Besides, there are so many good local restaurants. Find something local and non-chainy. Not only will you support small businesses, but you might have a better dining experience. Often the hotel clerk can point you to something good. Or ask the customer!
- Don’t forget to eat healthy. Seriously, do it.
- Use Yelp to pick a good restaurant. If the clerk didn’t have anything, that ask Yelp! Or if that doesn’t work, ask the “Foodie” on your team. Chances are he/she has already scoped it out!
- Better yet, go shopping for food. If I am staying an extended period of time in an area (as often happens on my visits to Nashville) I will hit the local Kroger and grab some breakfast or dinner foods. Most hotels have microwaves and some fresh fruit and oatmeal in the AM is nice. Some even have kitchens…but I don’t cook on the road.
- Learn the history of the area you are visiting (e.g. Wiki Minot, ND). I was briefly a history major in college and I grew up literally reading encyclopedias. Regardless, I always try and learn a little bit about where I am staying at. I recently visited Minot, ND. Pretty cool little town w/ some interesting history. It might give you something to talk about w/ the customer or impress your colleagues with your vast knowledge. And you might be able to squeeze in a quick visit to some cool American attraction that you’d never otherwise see. At the very least it’s something to do in the Hotel room besides watching John Oliver on HBO.
- See if you can squeeze in a quick visit to the major tourist attraction (e.g. Sears Tower). This is often hard to do because on business travel you are rushing from one place to the next. Still, there are times when you can squeeze something in. For example, I visited a cavern when I was working in Sierra Vista, AZ w/ a colleague for a month. I’ve toured a lighthouse during a long drive up the Oregon coast. Visited NYC attractions during long stints in the City (like a Yankee’s game). Went to the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial and the 9/11 Memorial. The Foodies amongst us are always on the search for the great food places. Have fun. You are THERE so you might as well try to see some of this great country.
- Take the long way back to the airport. In several instances I’ve had some time between when a customer meeting ends and my flight. Or I will intentionally book one-way trips to/from different airports that may be a few hours apart. Not only can I get in a few more customer visits, I have the opportunity to see the country. For example, recently I flew into Bismarck, ND. Met w/ a customer there, and then drove up to Minot, ND and met w/ 2 more customers. We got to see some pretty cool windmills on the drive up. I’ve also driven up the coast of Oregon meandering my way to PDX for my return flight the next morning. If you get the chance, drive a bit. See the country!
- Eat at a nice (expensive) restaurant for lunch. Without blowing your daily per diem you may be able to sample some of the “nicer” restaurants in an area by visiting them for lunch where you can find a cheaper version of some of their favorites. Get your Instagrammable experience for less $$.
- Bring a water bottle. I personally don’t employ this tip (see my views on hydration on the plan elsewhere in the post). However, when you do need something to drink, paying 3.99 for a bottle of water that would cost .99 at any grocery store is hard to swallow. Many airports now have water bottle fill stations near their drinking fountains. Empty before you go through security and fill up on the other side.
- Build a medical kit (or at least some bandaids, pain relievers, and Cold Medicine, cough drops). You never know what will hit you while traveling. You are tired, in a different time zone, around other people in a confined metal tube, etc. My go to kit is (preferably in travel quantities):
- Bring some hand sanitizer! Germs abound while traveling. Tray tables, security bins, seatbelts, door handles and more. A little hand sanitizer can save the day!
- Bring some wet wipes. Travel size, of course. Tray tables are disgusting. Use the wipes to clean it off before you drop your phone onto it. Bonus, you never know when the sandpaper toilet paper in the airplane stall isn’t going to cut it. You can also use it to wipe the hotel remote down.
- Bring a sewing kit. I’ve popped buttons off of shirts or ripped items. A sewing kit is a handy thing to have!
- Bring a small eyeglass screwdriver. You never know when something will fall apart – especially if you have glasses. I always carry a small tool w/ me. Something that won’t get flagged by TSA as the next terrorist threat. Something like this Wallet Ninja perhaps.
- Figure out where you are going the next day and map out your route and arrival times. I always put my destination address in Google Maps the night before to see how long I need to travel. Then give my self some buffer. Adjust for traffic if needed and then start setting up my alarms. No one likes late people.
- Keep your computer’s firewall on when using the Hotel Internet. No real explanation needed for this one. Networks are not safe. You should know that by now. I recently wrote an article on staying secure while you travel. You should check it out: Don’t get hacked on your business trip: 7 Cyber Security Travel Tips for the Business Traveler to Stay Secure
- Ask for the upgrade! Doesn’t always work, but every once in a while you can get an upgraded room, car or even a boarding position. This happens more when you have “status” with the company, but it also helps if your nice. Give it a try.
- Flip the door latch in your hotel room. I can’t tell you how many times this has paid off. From another traveler who was given a key to my room by the front desk, to the cleaning crew – you never know when someone will burst into your room. Also, it’s a good idea from a safety perspective.
- Glance at the alternate exit plan for the hotel. Just about every hotel has a sign on the inside of the door that shows the emergency exit route. Believe it or not, I’ve actually been rousted out of my room at 3am because the hotel was on fire. You will be one step ahead and if you really need it (e.g. 9/11 scenario) it could save your life. Also…grab your backpack on the way out (but skip the suitcase).
- Put the do not disturb sign on the door when you leave the hotel room. I use this trick when I don’t want the staff in my room when I head down for breakfast or out for a beer. Obviously if you want them to clean the room, take the sign down. If I go out for a beer I am usually leaving my laptop in the room. No need to make it easier on the staff. The illusion that someone is room might be enough to deter them.
- Get to know the staff (if you are staying there for a long time or multiple visits). I stayed in a single hotel in Sacramento 3 days a week for 4 months. 2x a month in NYC for almost 2 years and lately 1x a month for a year now in Nashville. The staff got to know me and started to do things like leave extras in my room (beyond my status stuff) or welcome me warmly when I arrive.
- Use the Hotel TV’s HDMI cable. Most modern hotels have HD cables/tvs. Hook your laptop up and watch Netflix in all of its glory rather than hunched over your iPhone. Or, if the TV supports it, “cast” it to the TV. This is probably one of my more “clever” business travel hacks. Pro travel tip: I actually like to carry an HDMI cable with me. Never know when you might need it w/ a customer, or you can use in your hotel room.
- Be nice to the staff! (airline, shuttle drivers, hotel desk clerks, etc). I actually try to avoid interacting w/ people on my trips. But sometimes you have to talk to the desk agent and of course you will have to talk to the hotel clerk. Might as well be nice. I always say hi to the Flight Attendants and try to be courteous to those helping me out. Sometimes you might get a free upgrade too. Or at the very least, when your hotel room’s shower doesn’t work, the desk clerk might work w/ you to get a new room instead of telling you that you are stuck w/ it. Be nice, show an interest, smile.
- Tip the shuttle drivers. For the most part, they work hard. Give them a buck or two per bag. My one rule though is you have to load my bag to get a tip. Some drivers (often female) won’t load bags. So no tip (although I did meet this great lady in Las Vegas who was a bag loading machine and pretty funny too). But if you grab my bag, I will tip you. $2.00 a bag seems fair, $5.00 if the bag is large or crazy heavy or a set of Golf Clubs. Better yet, skip the shuttles whenever you can (on airport rental car facility and parking anyone!)
- Use SeatGuru.com to pick the best seat on the plane. Cool website that can you help avoid the crummy seats on a plane (like the ones that seatback’s don’t recline, or where there is a weird bulkhead that cramps your legroom).
- Use your loyalty apps. Every airline, hotel and rental car company has an app now. Some are better than others, but most seem to have your boarding pass sorted out and provide update on flights, etc. You can use them to check in, select your car (don’t get me started, Avis…), even to unlock your hotel room if you really want to avoid people.
- Don’t leave valuables in your suitcase (and make it hard to get at). I don’t travel w/ too much valuable stuff anyway, but occasionally I have to leave my laptop in the hotel or something like that. But when I do, I employ a little trick I think works (although I have no idea). In addition to burying it beneath a stack of clothes and zipping it up and sticking the suitcase in the closet, I throw a pair of underwear on top of it. Gross right. I figure they aren’t touching it! #LevelUp
- Protip: Take your tooth brush with you during the day. Aside from being able to brush your teeth after the Philly cheese steak lunch, the maid can’t jack w/ it.
- Pack the night before your flight/check out. I always pack the night before an early morning flight. Get a few extra minutes of sleep in the morning and minimize any of my low-energy goofs (like leaving a 500.00 jacket in my hotel closet! UGH!).
- Consider joining the airline’s airport club system. It’s a little pricey usually, but sometimes w/ status it can be discounted or even free. The clubs are really on nice during long delays, or to grab a super quick meal between flights (for “free”) or on international travel.
- Skip the airport souvenir shop. It’s pricey, baby! If you have little ‘uns like I do, you like to grab a trinket or two every once in a while. When I am really on my game, I will hit a Walmart for a “local” trinket.
- Stretch regularly. Before, during and after the plane try to get some stretching in. On long flights my lower back is known to act up a bit. I can mitigate this by stretching a bit before I get on the plane, then when I get up to use the bathroom I will usually stretch it again. After I land I do a few more if it’s really sore.
- Book morning / mid-day flights to mitigate travel delays. If you are the last flight of the day and it gets delayed, you are stuck in a hotel or airport lounge for the night. When feasible, book flights that give you a little leeway.
- Be careful with layover times. I hate layovers. Especially long ones. But super short ones can be risky too. Any little hiccup can cause you to miss a connection because you have no buffer. If you do find yourself considering a short layover, make sure you know the airport (and what kind of gate switching you might have to do) and consider the time of year and weather in the area.
- Dress Comfortable. Some folks suggest you should dress nice – I guess for the mental image it gives you. Power suit! On my outbound flights I am often not meeting w/ anyone until the next day. I usually wear jeans and polo shirt. On the return flight I am usually leaving a customer site or office and am in business gear. I will often change into jeans after I get through security. Sorry…comfort outweighs image.
- Have some spare cash – small bills. Most of our life can be dealt w/ via electronic transaction, but having a few bucks is handy. Tipping the shuttle driver or as a backup in case you lose your card. I try to carry about 40.00, w/ at least 5 one’s.
- Bring your passport as a backup form of ID. Nothing sucks worse than losing your ID. Typically your Driver’s License is all you need but bring your passport as a backup form of ID in the event you need it!
- Store a backup credit card in your carry-on bag. In case you lose your wallet, you will have some form of payment, plus if you followed the previous tip, you will have an extra form of ID.
- Stay close to the airport for those early morning flights home. Make the early morning, pre-coffee trek w/ a few extra minutes of sleep.
- Skip the rental car insurance. It’s a waste of money and your company probably already has their own.
- Sign up for the rental car rewards program. It’s surprising how many people will take care of the airline and hotel rewards, but not rental car. A good rental car program like National’s can make your travel experience much easier. Speaking of rental car hacks, you might like this article I recently wrote about the 9 Secret Rental Car Hacks they don’t want you to know about.
- Take pictures of your receipts (or better yet use an App to track them). I use Concur’s expense reporting app because it ties into my corporate system, but there are many other apps that help you track your expenses. At a minimum, take a picture with your phone’s camera of any receipts you get (unless you already get an electronic copy).
- Stay on top of your expense reports! It is easy to get behind on expense reports if you are not careful. And once your behind it is you that’s footing that credit card bill not your company. Make expense reporting part of your routine. I often will start them on my trip and finish them on the very first full business day I have back in the office.
- Use apps like Tripit to integrate w/ your calendar. I like Tripit because it loads all of my flight and hotel information right onto my calendar. No need to go hunting for emails or printing itineraries out. The address of my hotel, the phone number, the next flight, etc. It’s all there for me right from my calendar.
- Return the rental car the night before your flight home. If I am staying close enough to the airport to where the shuttle ride over will not be a pain in the rear I will turn the car in the night before. One less thing to worry about in the AM, plus it saves the company a little $$. This is especially helpful if the airport has an off-site rental car facility where you are in a shuttle anyway (like DFW, LAS, etc).
- Always gas up your rental before you return it. No need to pay the crazy gas fees at the rental car company. Stop and take 5 minutes to fill it up. No big deal. This goes in the don’t be a bonehead business travel hacks category.
- Bring your own conditioner and hair products. This tip really applies more to women than to men and in fact was shared with me by a fellow woman business traveler. The theory was, as she noted, your hair is used to certain products and switching to something provided by the hotel (even if it’s good) is just asking for problems.
- Carry a personal safety alarm. Another tip shared with me by a female traveler. She noted that sometimes you need to feel safe or be safe. Having the ability to trigger a siren on a key chain is comforting. Better yet, learn Krav Maga.
- Get a travel makeup case. In the female category having a travel makeup case was recommended to me as a great tip to simplify your travel life. She buys 2 of everything and keeps one set in her “home” kit and one set in her “travel” kit. Sounds smart to me.
- Consider a laptop/purse combo bag. Why carry a purse, a suitcase and a laptop bag? I was turned on to this concept (I had no idea it existed!) when I was traveling with a seasoned sales rep a few years back. She had a stylish purse, but inside of it was a laptop case – built right in. Pretty slick. That’s the guy equivalent of stuffing your laptop in your wallet.
- Bring backup eyewear. I wear glasses and there’s few things more frustrating them losing or breaking your glasses while on a trip. I used to bring an actual backup pair of glasses in a hard case. However, now I’ve switched to a pair of disposable contacts – much smaller load to carry.
- Place a dryer sheet in your suitcase to reduce static (and improve smell!). If you washed and dried your clothes correctly you probably won’t have to deal w/ static anyway, but this is a nice tip. In fact, I really love this business travel hack – as do my fellow passengers.
- Prebuild good playlists for your Spotify app. Whatever app you use for music, prebuild a few good travel lists. I have lists for sleeping, for calm/de-stressing, for workouts and for pump-up times.
- Share your wisdom w/ the younger travelers. We all had to start somewhere. Pass on your sage business travel hacks! Or better yet, share it w/ us! I will post your travel hack (if it doesn’t suck).
My final tip for you: Stay even keeled and realistic. Travel can suck sometimes. You will have delays, you’ll be tired, you’ll get stuck in a middle seat sometimes. The hotel bed will suck, the lady in the hotel room next to you is enjoying the pleasures of matrimony all night, etc, etc. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do. There are things beyond your control.
So just roll w/ it. I’ve been stuck in a middle seat for 6 hours on the way back from JFK. It sucks, for sure. But it doesn’t last forever. I’ve also done that same flight in first class. You win some you lose some. No need to lose your ever-loving mind because you had to store your backpack under your seat for the flight back from SLC to SAN. Remember, nothing lasts forever.
Thanks for sticking through to the end, I hope you enjoyed this massive list of business travel hacks. What are your favorite business travel hacks? Share them with us by leaving a comment or joining us on social media. And don’t forget to check out the rest of blog – including funny business travel memes that are sure to make you chuckle!
For other great content, including other business travel hacks and more, you might like these articles:
- The 9 Dumbest Travel Tips I’ve Ever Heard
- Don’t get hacked on your business trip: 7 Cyber Security Travel Tips for the Business Traveler to Stay Secure
- The 7 Habits of the Healthy Business Traveler: How to Stay Healthy While Traveling for Business
- 2018 Holiday Gift Guide for Business Travelers – Find the Best Gifts
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