Four Ways to Bootstrap Your Travel Budget

August 8, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Video conferencing, data sharing, cloud computing, and mobile connectivity have been touted as the way to do business in the 21st century. Turns out, it’s hard to beat being in the room to conduct business. Face-to-face meetings facilitate better, clearer, and faster exchange of ideas. And don’t forget all the conferences and trade shows you have to attend.

According to Entrepreneur magazine, business travel is expected to grow by almost 6% each year over the next five years. How can startups and small businesses, which often operate on shoestring budgets, bootstrap their travel costs so their salespeople can close crucial deals?

Business travel is costly, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. Entrepreneur magazine’s article had some helpful ideas for bootstrapping your travel budget, and we came up with a couple of our own.

Get organized. Concur Technologies found that disorganization — failing to fully understand the true cost of travel — caused companies to waste nearly 20 percent more than large businesses in this category. Bottom line? Do a cost analysis of your frequent travel options in order to create a detailed, thorough, comprehensive travel policy that everyone must adhere to.

Business traveler walking through an airport. You can still fly even if you're trimming your travel budget.Spell out the details. The more your employees know about what will and won’t be covered when expenses are reported, the more informed decisions they’ll make when booking their trips. Create a list of preferred airlines, hotels, and rental car companies, and be explicit about how these costs are to be paid. Specify how expenses will be itemized and what receipts will be needed. Defining what will and won’t be covered stops the post-trip argument before it happens. Post your policy online so employees can look it up when they’re out of the office.

Don’t be stingy. While you’re bootstrapping, that doesn’t mean your staff needs to fly on cargo planes and eat beans from a can. Make travel enjoyable for the people who are spending days and weeks away from home. They don’t have to fly first class, but let them fly in Economy Plus, and let them keep their frequent flyer miles and hotel points. If they don’t like traveling, or they feel taken advantage of, you run the risk of them leaving, which means hiring and training new salespeople, which could eat up any savings you might have gotten otherwise.

Revise, revise, revise. Travel regulations change, prices change, and even the benefits from hotels and airlines change, not to mention your company’s own financial health. So update and amend your travel policies at least once a year. Make sure the airlines you choose still have a decent loyalty program. Double-check that your company credit card is still the best option for paying for travel. Ask for major input from the people who actually travel frequently for your company, rather than leaving it in the hands of people who rarely leave the office.

A startup or small business’s success may hinge on the ability to go to its customers, but neglecting to create and commit to a travel budget is planning to fail.

What kind of travel policies do you have at your company? How do you extend your travel budget? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: MauriceBMueller (Pixabay, Creative Commons)

Business Travelers Can Continue to Carry Laptops in their Carry-On Luggage

July 25, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The United States Department of Homeland Security has ended a four month ban on laptops in carry-on luggage on U.S. bound flights from the Middle East and North Africa. The ban was originally enacted because terrorism experts were concerned that explosives could be concealed in electronics as large as laptops and mobile tablets. It affected ten airports and nine airlines that are based in the Middle East.

The King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia was the final airport to have the ban lifted, after they and the other airlines and airports implemented new security measures designed to check for explosives in the large electronics.

Officials visited the ten airports in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, and confirmed that the security measures were in place.
Business travelers on Etihad Airways and other Middle East airlines were concerned about a laptop ban.
The airports originally affected include Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Istanbul, Turkey; Jeddah, Saudia Arabia; Riyadh, Saudia Arabia; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; Dubai, UAE; and Abu Dhabi, UAE. The carriers most heavily impacted by this ban were Egyptair, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, Saudia, and Turkish Airlines.

A ban on the citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen still remains in place, although several U.S. court hearings are challenging those restrictions.

The aviation industry has been trying to come together with a united message to governments and stakeholders about regulation and supporting the industry,” Will Horton, senior analyst at Australian aviation consultancy CAPA, told Reuters.

The ban was nearly expanded to cover all flights into the U.S. from the Middle East and Europe, which had international business travelers concerned. Since many business travelers have long been practitioners of “carry-on luggage only” travel, this could have had serious ramifications on business travel in general.

Instead, the U.S. accepted new security and screening measures from the airports in Europe and Middle East, other than the original ten airports, thus preventing the expanded ban. And now that the U.S. has lifted their ban on the remaining airlines, business travelers can continue to carry their laptops and tablets in their carry-on luggage.

That was a bit of a close call for business travelers, but we can remain productive. We’ve also talked about how to function without a laptop, should a similar ban return. How would you cope if the ban were instituted? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Alex Beltyukov (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)

TSA May Require Additional Screening for Additional Items at Airport

July 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

As if we weren’t already in the throes of the busiest season for traveling, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has announced that it might require more items to be removed from your carry-on luggage during screening. For the past 18 months, TSA has been testing how to make it easier for its officers to consistently view what’s in the bags they screen daily.

According to Wall Street Journal “Middle Seat” columnist Scott McCartney, the X-ray machine color codes the items inside the bag based on the density, and the more tightly packed the bag is, the harder it is for all its contents to be identified. That makes it difficult for screeners to identify the items within the bag.
TSA Bag Check
TSA officials have been considering having all electronics, food, and paper added to the list of items that must come out of every carry-on during screening. Why food? Certain items, such as chocolate, are dense and mimic the shape of explosives, often creating the necessity of a second look, just to be sure. Paper, including books and notepads, obscures other things, forcing the screener to tag a bag for a manual check that slows the line.

If you haven’t heard us sing its praises before, all these measures give us another reason to urge frequent travelers to invest in TSA’s Precheck. According to the TSA, the removal of these additional items would only apply in regular screening lines.

What should you do if you can’t afford Precheck and want to make sure your bag doesn’t get tagged for a manual search? Think through your packing strategy and be organized.

Store items that you already know need to be removed in the easy-to-access exterior pockets of your luggage. Consider electing to pull out that special chocolate bar you purchased at a gourmet shop as a souvenir so that it can be screened in plain sight in a separate bin with your jacket or shoes. Have a specific place you always store that favorite book or notepad you plan to use to help you pass the time onboard.

While these additional items haven’t been added to the official list, thoughtful packing before you arrive at the airport will help you develop a few habits that could save you some time and avoid unwanted hassle if the list is expanded.

How will these new rules, if they go through, affect you? Are you an electronics-only traveler, or do you carry a lot of paper and food as well? Let us hear from you in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Bradley Gordon (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Business Travelers Rejoice! Global In-Flight Wifi Connectivity Growing in 2017

July 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Years ago, business travelers used to love or hate their flights. It was either a much-needed escape or a stint in solitary confinement. Like it or not, you were unreachable for the duration of your flight. No phones, no wifi, no Internet. If you didn’t bring out some printouts or reports to read, you didn’t have anything to work on.

Now, apart from the smaller seats, you can function as if you never left your office at all.

According to Routehappy’s 2017 wifi report, Global State of In-Flight Wifi, there is more in-flight connectivity than there has ever been. They found that 39 percent of global flights and 83 percent of U.S. flights’ actual seat miles — miles flown multiplied by the number of available seats — offer wifi connectivity as an amenity. There are also 60 airlines worldwide that now offer in-flight wifi over most regions of the globe.
Business travelers will be able to use their wifi enabled cell phones more in 2017. This is a man texting on a plane.
“2016 was the year that airlines outside the U.S. committed to high-quality, in-flight wifi at a rate only previously seen by U.S. carriers, and 2017 will see those commitments come to life,” Routehappy CEO Robert Albert said in a Business Travel News article.

Three carriers boasted the highest wifi availability: Delta, United Airlines, and Emirates. Only one US carrier, Virgin Airlines, was able to claim 100 percent availability on all its flights.

This bodes well for customers of Alaska Airlines, which acquired Virgin in December 2016. Meanwhile, JetBlue had just completed retrofitting all its planes with wifi service, but it is only available on its flights across the continental US.

While wifi connectivity is more and more prevalent on US and international flights, making the best use of it still requires a bit of planning. Downloading documents or entertainment options at home, such as podcasts or television episodes, before you fly will increase the speed at which you can access them while connected to your flight’s wifi system.

Business travelers, how important is wifi to your in-flight productivity? And will you pay for it, or only use it if it’s free? And will it be just as important to have on the flights that fall under the laptop ban? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Tom Woodward (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Top 5 Alternatives if the Laptop Ban Goes Into Effect

July 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re attached to your laptop with an emotional umbilical cord, you may need to plan how you’re going to survive the separation that may be forced upon us all if the Department of Homeland Security’s current laptop ban is broadened to include more U.S. bound flights from more Middle East and European countries.

In March, the U.S. banned laptops on flights to the U.S. from 10 airports in eight countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey to prevent bombs from being taken aboard flights inside laptop computers. They nearly expanded it to all U.S.-bound flights, but have instead created some additional security screen protocols instead.

But if you’re still coming from one of the check-your-laptop countries, you’re going to be without your laptop for a long stretch of time. So here are some ways to survive those laptop-less flights, especially with your mobile phone. (Because tablets are included in the laptop  ban too.)

You could just carry a couple books with you if there's ever a laptop ban.

  • Read offline. There are multiple apps that can be used to allow you to read all kinds of books and articles on your phone, no laptop necessary. Consider the Kindle app for those books you would’ve accessed on your e-reader. Try Pocket or Flipboard to save articles and read them later, or use Evernote to save almost anything or review notes you created at a meeting and need to digest. And there’s always a physical book, magazine, or newspaper you could bring with you. When was the last time you actually read something on real paper?
  • Speaking of paper, invest in a notebook. Thinking through an issue by jotting notes about it might actually turn out to be as productive as typing. It will force your brain to slow down, and who knows what genius moments might come of that? You can also use the notebook to make a list of things you need to do. Or you might write the beginning scene of the next great American novel. Remember doodling? It’s still a thing.
  • Update your security. Yes, you’re loathe to check your laptop because you don’t want to lose it. So do what you can to protect your device: change your passwords, encrypt your hard drive, and backup your data. Take a hard look at whether or not you can travel without your laptop altogether. You might be able to borrow a company laptop and upload pertinent files to it using a flash drive. You might choose to purchase a “burner laptop” of sorts, a very inexpensive model that would only have data specific to the trip on it. That way if it’s lost, you don’t lose everything.
  • Think through the work that needs to be done that you can’t do on your laptop. You know, that list you’ve made somewhere that you never get to because you’re tied to your screen? Now’s your chance to catch up on that. Print out reports to read, manuscripts to edit, or data to analyze, and work from paper during your trip.
  • Get a few items to convert your phone into a temporary laptop if you just can’t endure all those hours without it. Purchase a portable keyboard so you can respond to those important emails, assuming you can read what you’re typing on that tiny screen. You’ll also need something to refresh your battery since you’ll be burning through it being productive. Ventev has one that’s both a charger and a stand. And if you want to make sure your seat mate doesn’t snoop while you work, buy a screen protector.

Or you could just take a nap and catch up on your sleep.

How would you cope with a laptop ban? Would you be completely lost, or would you have options available to you? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Pexels (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0, Public Domain)

Survive the Hot Summer During Business Travels

July 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

We’re experiencing a hotter summer than normal, at least down here in southern Florida (although friends and colleagues around the country are telling me they’re feeling the heat too. There were even 120+ degree days in Phoenix in late June!)

As many people are traveling all over the country for a variety of reasons, especially from not-so-hot places to very-hot places, it’s harder to survive and maintain a sense of style without getting sweaty and rumpled. So here are some ways we do things in southern Florida to survive the heat, and these might help you on your business travels.
Photo of the setting sun on a city landscape. Business travels are hard when it's hot outside.

  • Adjust your schedule. If you travel by car to meet clients, arrange for early morning meetings so that you can arrive the night before or drive in the pre-dawn hours when the sun is not baking the highway. And don’t forget to use sunshades once you’ve stopped. They may not seem important up north, but here in Florida, you can really cook your car without them. Remember, you may be transporting your meeting partners to lunch, and nobody wants to ride in a hot car.
  • Invest in lightweight clothing. Even business attire has seasons and — at least for men — purchasing a suit in linen, cotton, seersucker, chambray, or fresco wool will help you arrive at your meeting looking fresh, not wilted. Don’t sit, either in a car or on a plane, in your suit jacket. Hang it on a hanger in the backseat or stow it in the overhead bin so that it isn’t wrinkled when you’re trying to make that crucial first impression. Consider rotating out your cotton undergarments and socks for those made with lightweight wicking fabrics. You can find them on websites that sell athletic gear and travel clothing.
  • Drink water. You knew that would be on the list, didn’t you? Did you know that choosing water over other beverages actually assists in lowering your body temperature in ways soft drinks, coffee (even iced), and alcohol can’t? Packing a cooler with water bottles if you drive, or stowing an empty water bottle in your backpack that you can fill at the office water fountain will allow you to grab and go and not pay more than you need to at a convenience store.
  • Purchase a small fan that can move the air around while you’re sitting at your desk. Electronics such as laptops and towers and even overhead lighting emit heat. Keeping the air circulating will help you stay focused on the tasks at hand, not the environment.
  • Make wise food choices. While eating hot, spicy food is a method for surviving soaring temperatures in some parts of the world, it works because it encourages perspiring. Not something you want to be doing when entertaining clients at dinner! Lighter fare is easier to digest and leaves you feeling less sluggish.

Doing some advance planning and making good choices will allow you thrive this summer’s business travels. What’s your favorite way to stay cool in the summer? Leave us a comment and share your secret! You can do it on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: rogeriomda (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0, Public Domain)

How to Prioritize Working Out While on a Business Trip

July 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Traveling can suck the life out of you. While it may seem crazy to think about adding something else to your seemingly already-too-full schedule while you’re on a business trip, choosing to pound the pavement or hit the gym or find your zen really can help. Exercise can restore focus, alleviate stress, boost your endorphins, and improve your sleep. Motivated now? Okay, here are a few ways to incorporate working out into those days away from home.

Plan ahead. If you’re already in the habit of working out and want to maintain your routine, the solution is simple: adjust your schedule and make the time. It may mean getting up 30 minutes earlier and making space in your luggage for your running shoes, but putting it on the calendar will give you a better shot at actually following through than if you just think you’ll fit it in “at some point.”

People jogging in Frankfurt am Mein. Could be on a business trip, or they could just live there. We don't know.

Jogging is a great way to work out on a business trip. All you need are your running shoes and workout clothes.

If you aren’t a regular exerciser, there’s no time like the present to seize the opportunities that present themselves. Let’s start at the airport. Walking between security and your gate instead of taking the train will help you stretch your legs and increase your heart rate without sweating. Those moving sidewalks can be walked on too, but don’t look at your phone while doing so. Better yet, skip the moving sidewalk and count the extra steps. (Make sure you have a good step counter on your mobile phone to keep track.)

Once you arrive at your hotel, take the stairs to and from your room, and consider checking with the front desk for dining establishments within walking distance. You might even go one step further (pun intended) and choose the location of your hotel so that you can walk to your appointments.

If you belong to a gym at home, check its website to see if there’s a location in the city you’re visiting. You know those workout rooms you’ve seen signs for or walked past on your way somewhere in the hotel? Those places actually exist and would allow you to walk or run on a treadmill or pump your legs on a stationary bike.

Swimming is also great exercise, and a swimsuit and goggles don’t take up much room in your suitcase, and your workout is only limited by the pool’s hours of operation. Investigate options for joining a class at a local yoga studio or find a mobile website or app that will provide a stretching routine you can do on the floor in your hotel room. You can also take a travel-sized yoga mat, and some higher-end hotels even provide them for guests. Do this before bed to encourage your mind to let go and wind down for the day.

Working out requires intentionality and perseverance. To help you work toward the achievement of a health goal, think about signing up for a race or setting a few goals using a fitness tracker like Fitbit, Leaf, or Misfit Shine. As Nike has been urging for nearly 30 years now, just do it. Your trip will be healthier, feel more productive, and you won’t be upset you missed those days when you get back into your routine at home.

How do you prioritize working out on your business trip? Do you maintain your same discipline on the road that you do at home, or are those a few much-needed rest days? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Robert Strauss (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

A Healthier Approach to Business Travel

June 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

While the stresses of business travel on the body and the mind have been well-documented, some of you may not be paying attention to some bad habits you’ve developed as a frequent traveler.

When we travel for business, we often look at the efficient use of our time as the benchmark to determine a trip’s success. But if you don’t factor in the extra time you spend preparing for those meetings, as well as the pressure you feel to make a great impression or close an important sale, you’re not putting yourself in the best situation to succeed.

What if, instead, you flew in a little earlier so you could give your body time to adjust to the time difference, or even experience a little down time? You might find that extra time refreshes you and reinvigorates your approach to the meeting at hand.

Hotel room in the Renaissance Columbus, OH

Be sure to get plenty of rest while you travel for business.

Prep time isn’t just completing a checklist to ensure you have everything you need before you leave. It’s psychological as well. If you don’t allow yourself the time necessary to prepare mentally — which includes getting sufficient rest — your preparation isn’t complete.

Further, when we travel, our eating discipline might also be challenged. There’s fast food whenever we need something quick, or large portions and rich foods at nicer restaurants. We’re often expected to wine and dine our clients and create an experience for them that communicates how much your employer values them.

If you go into that dinner without giving any thought to the effect the heavy food and alcohol intake will have on your body and your ability to sleep well, you’re also setting yourself up for a difficult morning after, when you’re under pressure to perform your best.

Stress, lack of adequate, restorative sleep, and poor eating all take their toll on business travelers. What if you decided to create a new game plan for your travel that would allow you to treat your body and mind well?

Consider factoring in more time to get from point A to point B, instead of creating a rushed pace. Be mindful of the prep time you need in order to function well. And do whatever you need to perform at your best. That may mean saying no to an unnecessary dinner out and working out at the hotel fitness center, or being careful about what you eat, knowing that sugar tends to stimulate the brain instead of calming it. If you have certain habits that calm your mind and center your soul at home, don’t neglect those practices while you’re traveling.

If you approach business travel with discipline and healthy habits to follow, you’ll be able to accomplish more and the recovery time afterward will decrease.

How do you travel for business? Do you maintain your same discipline on the road that you do at home, or is that a mini break and a special treat for yourself? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: David Jensen (Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

The Health Risks of Longer Travel

June 22, 2017 by · 1 Comment 

While those who don’t travel for work envy those who do, those who really spend their weeks navigating airport terminals, car rental counters, and there’s-no-place-like-home uncomfortable hotel rooms can attest to its negative psychological, physical, and social effects. Aside from their road warrior stories, there is now real data that supports the negative impact of their travel.

According to the Harvard Business Review, there are now several scientific studies that corroborate these realities:

  • Those who travel frequently, particularly those doing long-haul travel (both in distance and time away from home), age more quickly.
  • Those who travel frequently are at increased risk of experiencing a stroke, heart attack, or deep-vein thrombosis.
  • A plane wing on a long-distance flight. Longer travel can have negative health effects if you're not careful.

  • Frequent travelers are exposed to unhealthy levels of germs and radiation. Yes, radiation. According to an article in the Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, an annually published report that details for employers their human resources responsibilities, travelers who fly more than 85,000 miles per year are absorbing radiation levels that exceed regulatory exposure levels for the general public in most countries.
  • Frequent travel also affects the body through jet lag, stress, mood swings, sleep problems, digestive problems, as well as the well-documented effects of the lifestyle: lack of exercise, poor eating habits, and excessive alcohol consumption.

With all the technology at our fingertips to connect virtually, why then is business travel increasing? According to an article written by Marcus Holmes, co-director of the Social Science Research Methods Center at the College of William & Mary, face-to-face meetings have been proven to “increase rapport and empathy, facilitating cooperation and enhancing bonds between the parties.”

Boris Baltes at Wayne State University says research also shows that virtual communication actually decreases effectiveness between colleagues, increases the time it takes for work to be completed, and leaves team members generally feeling dissatisfied about the process. And a 2005 article in The Leadership Quarterly said leaders found it simpler to build and maintain high-performing teams with regular, physical contact with those reporting to them.

So, what’s the long-haul traveler to do to combat the effects of his or her work-related travel? The research strongly suggests developing a strong support system at home to counteract the negative impacts. Still, the fact remains that corporations are not addressing this concern internally, nor are they preparing their employees with the tools they need to withstand the stress of frequent travel.

That means you need to take care of it yourself. You’re worth it. Find time to rest on your trip, eat healthy food rather than junk or rich food, and be sure to take time to exercise, even if it’s just a short walk before dinner.

How do you maintain your health during business travel? Do you exercise and eat right, or do you go hard and use your time at home to recover? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Fuzz (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

New Warning about Luggage Tags

June 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

As if air travelers don’t have enough things to keep track of when navigating an airport terminal, a recent report now suggests you need to be aware of potential hackers trying to access your flight reservations and other private information from your seemingly innocuous luggage tag.

The six-digit identification number located on your boarding pass, as well as on the accompanying luggage tag of your checked bags, is all a hacker needs to access all kinds of personal information — your email address, your phone number, your address — as well as your flight itinerary and frequent flier account.

This has become such a target-rich code for hackers because the airlines’ global reservation systems are antiquated and vulnerable. Put in place in the 1960s, their software coding does not account for personal privacy laws that have been instituted since that time.
Don't share photos of your airline luggage tags on social media -- the bar code is readable and contains a lot of personal information.
Since the onus is on the traveler to be alert and protected, here are a few suggestions to stop would-be hackers:

  1. Don’t post your boarding pass on social media. Hackers know our tendency to unwittingly overshare, so all they have to do is Google “boarding pass images” to reap a harvest.
  2. Consider only using a virtual boarding pass that comes to your email and uses a scannable image to get you through TSA. If you aren’t carrying a physical record that can be misplaced, lost, or captured by a hacker with a cell phone who takes a picture of what you’re carrying in your hand for anyone to see, your personal data is safer.
  3. Create complex passwords for your data so that if someone gets your information, they don’t have easy access. There are numerous apps available that create random, unique, strong passwords that are difficult to hack. The days of using one password for everything are over.
  4. Take your boarding pass when you exit the plane. Don’t stash it in the seat pocket in front of you. Doing so leaves that valuable code accessible to anyone who happens to find it.

Travel safety involves more than using a money belt or backing up valuable data before you leave. It also means taking steps to avoid getting hacked, even on something as simple as a boarding pass.

What are some extra security steps you take to protect yourself? Do you have any special tricks or even gadgets that you like to use, such as an RFID-blocking wallet? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Tony Webster (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 4.0)

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