As my 43rd birthday approaches I’ve reflected on what is now a decade and a half of frequent business travel. It occurred to me that I might have done a few things different when starting up my business travel life if I knew now what I didn’t know then.Â Well, being a blogger and all….I just had to write about it.
Here is the travel advice I’d give the 25 – 30 year old version of myself.
Travel Advice – what’d I do differently when starting to travel for work on a regular basis
Stick with one airline sooner
A common mistake travelers make (and I know I did) was switching airlines too frequently (in search of the absolute best and lowest price). As a result you build status much slower which delays benefits that may come from higher status (e.g. upgrades) or collecting meaningful amounts of points/miles.
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I did this early on in my business travelers bouncing from airline to airline. Now, I stick primarily with Southwest with the occasional dalliance with Delta. Rarely do I ever fly anything else.
Sign for all frequent flyer / rewards programs – even ones I don’t use regularly
The 30 year old me didn’t always sign up for the rewards / frequent flyer programs as I bounced around from airline to airline or hotel to hotel. Even if you plan to not stay or fly a specific company in any meaningful amounts it still might be worth signing up for their programs.
Sometimes they have special incentives for new accounts and even small amounts of points can accumulate over time. Lastly sometimes you can transfer points out of one program into another allowing you to pool your rewards for more substantive purposes.
Now, if I stay at a program I am not signed up for I make sure to register before I use them–even if it’s just a likely one time event.
Status matched earlier
The travel rookie me didn’t know anything about status matching and so while I thought I was getting a little more savvy by sticking a single airline or hotel I would still occasionally use other providers…but I’d do so with no status.
A few years in I found out that many travel companies offer status matching which is essentially where you use your current status with a company (e.g. Diamond on Delta) to get another airline (say United) to offer you status right out of the gates.
Companies do this to earn your business and in an attempt to make it easier to yank a traveler away from a firm they’ve invested time and status in. Not everyone does it, and you don’t come in at the top usually, but it helps. And there are some T&Cs about maintaining it you have to follow.
The younger me could have avoided a few middle seats if I’d exercised this option a time or two when flying an airline I wouldn’t normally be on!
Never picked a job where renting from Avis was required
This is a bit tongue in cheek, but I’ve really never had any great experiences with Avis and in fact have had several really bad ones. I don’t know what it is but they just suck. The older me would tell the younger me to ask what rental car company must be used by the travel program and if it’s Avis to run, run run! 🙂
Starting not checking a bag sooner
My second ever business trip was to Oklahoma (on Southwest) and I checked a bag. And it was immediately lost. Major hassle. This was years ago, but I learned a lesson about carrying bags on, traveling light, and never checking a bag. Now, I rarely check my bag – literally maybe only once a year under special circumstances (e.g. I have golf clubs or something).
You might be interested in the #1 Travel Hack – Never Check a Bag!
Investing in higher quality luggage sooner
It wasn’t until about 2 years ago that I finally decided to invest in quality luggage. For years and years I always went with something cheap thinking it wasn’t that big of a deal. Boy, I was wrong. A nice quality piece of luggage can be a game changer.
Quality luggage is often designed with features that are intentionally nicer and useful for frequent travelers (e.g. built in chargers are popular now) or special compartments for travel items. Heck, even the quality is better (e.g. better / smoother zippers, wheels, etc). If you are just starting out into the world of frequent travel make the investment and get some good luggage!
Dumping the rolling briefcase for a backpack much sooner!
For many years the younger me used a rolling Samsonite Briefcase. It seemed like the “professional” thing to do and a backpack seemed far too casual for the business world. So I would dutifully roll my two bags around on my trips (occasionally placing my case on top of my suitecase for easier-ish transport).
Yeah, that was dumb. It was some regular NYC travel that got me to change. Ever tried to roll anything on the streets of NYC or down stairs to take a subway? Insanity.
I started to look around and realized everyone is carrying a backpack. Doh! The light bulb clicked and I haven’t looked back. I’ve been a huge fan of Ogio products and specifically use the Ogio Metro backpack which I highly recommend. Read my Ogio Metro review here or check the price on Amazon.
Chill the heck out
The older, more seasoned me would tell the younger me to chill out a bit more when traveling. Crap happens. Flights get delayed. You get sick. You miss connections, your client cancels, etc. etc. etc.
It’s not the end of the world. No need to get too stressed or irritated about things. Relax. A middle seat for 4 hours sucks but it doesn’t last forever so there’s no need to lose your mind over it.
Travel more (but for fun)
The older me would the younger version to travel more…not for work but for pleasure and to bring the family! As a frequent business traveler you get to see a lot of this world, but you often do it alone. I have brought family a few times but should do it more.
I also should use those points and miles I accrue to travel more as a family! Yolo, right?
Spend more time with my family when I am home
For the frequent traveler you are gone a lot and it can be tough on the home life. It means that while your job may be providing a nice life for your family you need to make sure YOU provide a meaningful presence in their life too.
That means BE HOME when you are home. Leave the work email alone if you can. Play some games with your kids. Kiss your wife. Take her on a date. Go to the beach. Whatever it is, be present and home with your kids.
The younger me didn’t do this so well all the time and while I still have a good relationship with my older kids, it could have gone south. With my two younger ones (who are still at home) I am FAR more intentional when I am home. I am present!
How about you? For those readers who’ve been traveling like crazy for years, what would you tell your younger self? We want to hear about it! Drop us a comment or tweet us!
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