You’ve just found out from your boss that you’re being sent on your first business trip. Don’t panic — we’re here to help! Here are several tips we’ve compiled from our veteran road warriors to get you off on the right foot as you learn the ropes.
First, plan your trip according to your company’s policies. If you have an internal travel agent, make sure you connect with them to get your flights and hotels booked. If you need to handle this yourself, that’s a bonus! Investigate which airlines go where you need to go and consider becoming a loyalty member. There are numerous online reviews that will provide you with details about seat width, legroom, and on-time records.
A few things to consider: Try to pick an airline that you will make your favorite, since you could be flying with them for years. And don’t always pick the cheapest airlines out there. Some of them are the cheapest for a reason.
Download the carrier’s mobile app so you can check-in online and have your boarding pass right on your phone. Going paperless means you have one less thing to manage. The app will also alert you to any changes in your flight’s status.
If this is the first of what will become many business trips, invest in TSA’s PreCheck. It’s only $85, and it lasts for 5 years. That’s $17 per year of not wasting unnecessary time standing in the security lines.
Who hasn’t thought while standing in a slow-moving TSA security line, “Couldn’t somebody do this better than the federal government?” There actually is somebody, and there may be a way for your airport to replace the TSA with a private firm.
And after a very hectic travel summer, with reports of up-to-three-hour waits at some security lines, a lot of people started asking that question.
A relatively unknown program, actually operated by the TSA, called the Partnership Screening Program, allows the federal agency to receive bids from private security firms to replace the TSA’s services at the nation’s municipal airports. The private contractors provide screening under federal oversight, and must offer similar wages and benefits for their employees.
In fact, the option to fire the TSA dates back to the inception of the agency in 2002 after the September 11 terrorist attacks. At that time, five airports were allowed to contract with private firms as a way for Congress to assess and compare its approach with one offered by the private sector: San Francisco; Kansas City, MO; Rochester, NY; Tupelo, MS; and Jackson, WY.
Kansas City and San Francisco’s international airports were the only two major airports in that original five. But since then, 17 other regional airports around the country have fired the TSA and, with the exception of Kansas City, contracted with Trinity Technology Group, a Department of Homeland Security Safety Act certified company, for their security screening process. Kansas City works with Akal Security.
There are several categories of traveling business professionals: the occasional business traveler, the frequent flyer, and the road warrior. Road warriors spend significant portions of the work week traveling between clients, and have a few tricks up their collective sleeves that save them and their employers money.
The occasional traveler might still be learning the ropes, and don’t yet know all the tricks of the trade. But Insperity.com had a list of their most important ones, which we agree every business traveler should know.
First, fiscally responsible road warriors don’t incur expenses that aren’t reimbursable. They research their company’s travel and entertainment policies — the amount of their daily per diem, for example — and stick to them. This means they aren’t surprised by rejected submissions that leave them stuck with the bill.
Fiscally responsible road warriors know their corporation’s budgets for flights, hotels, meals, and entertaining clients. They seek pre-approval if they need to spend more than is typically allotted, and then proceed to execute their plan with confidence.
Fiscally responsible road warriors live by this simple axiom: time is money. They know they can’t afford to waste time standing in long security lines, so they apply for TSA’s Pre Check. Even if they only travel a few times each year, the $85 security preauthorization is good for five years, and more than pays for itself during that time. (If you’ve ever stood for two hours in a single security line, you’d be ecstatic to escape it for $85 just once!)
Whether you’re staying at a high-end resort or a budget motel, there are some aspects of staying in public accommodations that are universal. Everyone should do them, no matter in which part of the world you’re resting your head for the night.
Look for bedbugs. They’re hard to spot, but evidence of their infestation is not. Examine the mattress pad, comforter, and furniture for brown bloodstains, which are the fecal remains of the insects’ processing of the blood they ingest while you sleep. If you see evidence, ask for a new room. Bedbugs are not the kind of souvenir you’re looking for from any trip.
That light switch you’re about to flip is full of germs. Don’t touch it until you’ve sanitized it with a portable wipe or a washcloth from the bathroom that you’ve squirted with some liquid hand sanitizer. Wipe down the remote control, door handles, bedside clock radio, and phone. (Especially the remote control.)
Travel was pretty difficult for some this past summer, as the TSA struggled to clear long lines at the security checkpoints. Travelers faced waits as long as three hours, causing them to miss their flights. The ordeal was eventually sorted, and people were able to get to their destinations as usual.
But this problem could be avoided, said the TSA and a few Washington lawmakers, if the airlines would just get rid of their checked baggage fees.
Jeh Johnson, the head of Homeland Security, and TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger asked the nation’s airlines to consider waiving or eliminating baggage fees in order to encourage more people to check bags and alleviate the security process clogged by travelers who only have carry-ons.
Not surprisingly, the airlines said no. They’ve had these fees in place since 2007, and it’s how they have been able to remain profitable. How can you do your part to keep the security line moving? Here are some simple, practical reminders to consider:
- Apply for TSA PreCheck. Even if you only travel once a year, at $85 for five years’ certification, you’ll eliminate most of the hassle that comes with the regular TSA lines: you won’t have to take off your shoes or jacket, unpack your toiletries, or remove your laptop.
- Make sure your toiletries are the standard 3.4 ounces and that the bag you carry them in is transparent and accessible, like a kitchen reclosable bag.
- Wear slip-on shoes so you don’t hold up the line untying shoes or unzipping boots. If you can’t do this, loosen the laces or unzip the zipper so that you can ease your feet out quickly. Read more
What’s your number one worry as a business traveler? Most travelers say missing their flight is their top worry. But the other answers on a Booking.com survey are a bit surprising, especially when there are obvious ways to manage those anxieties (or at least the causes of them).
If you have any of these concerns cited by your fellow business travelers, maybe we can help you avoid them altogether. Most of these solutions come in the form of mobile apps, so fire up your wifi and see if you can find your solution online.
- Worrying about missing your flight? Download the app for your airline, especially when you’re getting ready for your trip. It will update you with any scheduling changes for your flight, and also let you check in 24 hours before your flight.
- Don’t know the language where you’re going? Take a little time, even if it’s on your flight, to familiarize yourself with a few key phrases and words with an app like DuoLingo. Next, get the Google Translate app, which can provide instantaneous translation of signs and menus. And remember, the natives of the country you’re visiting already know you’re not fluent in their language, but they appreciate any attempt you make to communicate in their tongue. Read more
We’ve come to rely on technology so much, we’ve sometimes made things more difficult when the technology is supposed to make our lives easier. And one little tech mistake on your travels can throw off your whole trip, or add some unexpected expenses. USA Today shared several tech travel mistakes we can avoid to ensure our next trip is pleasant and glitch-free, and we picked a few of our favorites.
- Don’t forget the power sources for your mobile devices! Nothing can stop you in your tracks faster than a dead battery, so consider purchasing an extra wall charger that stays in your luggage at all times. Some battery packs take up less space than a wallet, and can boost your device for a day if they’re fully charged. Take along a separate charging cable that will allow you to charge your phone using your laptop’s power, and if you’re going to be driving, pack your car charger. Better yet, purchase our new Crew™ 11 21″ Spinner with a built-in USB port for on-the-go charging! Be sure to label the cords and wrap them so that they don’t become a tangled mess, and check your rental car and hotel room thoroughly so you don’t accidentally leave one behind.
- Airline earbuds are complimentary for a reason. They get the job done, but often they don’t fit your ears well. That means those around you are forced to eavesdrop on your conversations or “enjoy” your music selections. You may live in a state that doesn’t mandate Bluetooth use when driving and talking on a cell phone, but you may go to one that does. Buying a set of Bluetooth-enabled earbuds will do double duty for you. One heads-up, though: this type of earbud system runs on batteries, so re-read #1. Read more
Flying business or first class is a dream scenario for many business travelers. For a variety of reasons that cushy seat just isn’t in the cards. But what if there was a way to get said ticket economically or even free?
Over 30 airlines offer travelers the option to bid for a better seat. Knowing how these systems work, following their rules, and not getting caught up in the emotion of bidding (think eBay) will help you figure out if there’s a way to make an upgrade possible. U.S. News and World Report offered these suggestions on how to play the upgrade game.
First, do your homework. There are numerous online forums where you can educate yourself about how to go about this. Once you understand the process and know what you’re willing to spend, go directly to your airline’s site and investigate whether upgrades are available. All that’s necessary is to list what you’re willing to pay, supply your credit card information, and wait to hear. The window for this opportunity varies from airline to airline, but for most it’s open 24 to 72 hours before the flight.
Business travelers often have to find ways to extend their travel budget, or reduce some of their travel costs. It’s possible to reduce the costs of a night in a hotel, with just a little research. These are a few ways we’ve found, thanks to a recent Business Insider article and our own travel experiences.
- Hotels located in business districts are usually not busy on the weekends and resorts are usually looking for guests mid-week, so check out these to see if you might benefit from the chain’s need to fill rooms during its off-peak time.
- Corner rooms or rooms at the end of the hall often have more square footage without an extra cost. It never hurts to ask. This won’t save you money, but will still feel like an upgrade
- If you’re hoping for an upgrade, try checking in at the end of the day and asking what’s available. Be careful to procure a reservation before arrival, though. This strategy might boomerang if you arrive late and there are only premium rooms left.
- If you have some flexibility in your arrival and departure times, as well as where you stay en route to your final destination, consider checking out Hotels.com’s Hotel Price Index, or registering for alerts through Kayak. You’ll get real time information on prices paid, including taxes and fees, and when prices are dropping. It’s like having your own travel agent.
A few years ago, I went on my first all-inclusive vacation. I just wanted to get away and have the luxury of not thinking about anything once I arrived. Mission accomplished! It was nice knowing all my meals, my drinks, and my activities were covered by the package deal.
Some people question whether all-inclusive resorts are a good value or not. If you’re trying to keep costs manageable, they actually can be. According to the Family Vacation Survival Guide, you can save up to 25 percent by choosing resorts for your vacation, compared to paying for lodging, meals and activities as you go.
Consider the following trip expenses that are included when you choose a resort vacation:
- Transportation. Complimentary shuttle service to the property from the airport is often part of the package, and if you want to leave the property for a nearby destination, you may be able to use the resort’s shuttle service or hire a cab.
- Tipping is usually factored into the cost, eliminating the need, especially in a foreign country, to carry and calculate local currency. While I found this awkward, I was assured repeatedly that gratuities were not expected by the staff. Be sure to check before you go, so you don’t feel uncomfortable because you didn’t know the resort’s policy.