Business travel tips

You can't help being on the road for business, but you can do something to make your travelling smooth. Check out these 10 tips for business travelers, so you can spend less time and energy on the travel, and more time on the business.

1. Keep a Packed Bag

One that too few people follow - is to pack lightly. I strongly suggest starting with using a packing List, because that will yield the greatest benefit in the least amount of time. Save time packing by keeping a carry-on suitcase packed with the minimal amount of clothing, shoes and accessories you need, including few toiletries in a Ziploc bag. Trade bulky laptops for thinner laptops and tablets such as a MacBook Air or an iPad. Replace hardcovers with eBooks. If you must bring a coat or bulky shoes, wear them on the plane to avoid taking up space in your luggage.

2. Fly Regional Airports

Your travel agent may steer you towards the big hubs, where there are more flight choices, but flying out of smaller airports can save you time and hassle. Security lines, traffic, parking, and the check-in process are often easier and quicker at smaller or regional airports, so be sure to consider all of your options before booking. Keeping customer-service numbers handy offers quicker access to the right people if a flight is cancelled or you need to change a hotel or car reservation, rather than waiting in line once you're there.

3. View your plane seat

View your airplane's seating plan in advance, including information about limited recline or legroom seats and in-seat power ports. Find out where galleys, lavatories and exit rows are, and request a seat change that makes working or relaxing easier.

If the plane is not packed, look at the back and see if you can find an empty row. It's a gamble, but if the plane is light you can often get the entire row. It's one way of getting the "flat seat" comfort you'd be enjoying in business class for a fraction of the cost.

Don't rush getting on and off the plane. How many times does everyone jump up as the plane gets to the gate ? only to wait in line for 30 minutes or more before the door actually opens?

4. Buy headphones

Headphones on airplanes are terrible and some airlines actually charge you for the use of a pair. But even if you don't plan to listen to anything, a good headset comes with several advantages, especially if you want to have some privacy and shuteye.

Good travel headphones come with white noise as a feature, which means that they block outside ambient sounds. Such headphones also tend to come with a converter that plugs into the strange two-plug jacks found in airplanes and the cables can often also be detached, allowing you to sleep without becoming tangled or being bothered by the comings and goings of other passengers. It is significantly more effective and comfortable than earplugs.

5. Wear comfortable shoes

Whether you are on the plane or running between meetings during the trip, you need to have the right pairs of shoes. The first thing to look at is what you are going to do during the trip. Expect to move around more than you do at the office - especially if you are visiting something like a trade fair. While looking good is important, wearing a pair of shoes that are not comfortable or broken in will cause a lot of agony.

Likewise, the travel portion can be made a lot more comfortable if you wear a pair of shoes you can easily remove. While sitting for long periods, a lot of our blood tends to move down to our legs and feet, making them swell and feel numb. Most airlines allow you to place your shoes under the seat in front of you, so wear something that you can easily slide off and on. Try to avoid laces - nothing is quite as frustrating as trying to tie your shoes while sitting in an economy seat. Finally, a pair of slip-on shoes just makes security checks more painless, since you will be asked to remove your shoes.

6. Get a power conversation kit

As any frequent traveller can testify, every country seems to have its own idea what a power plug is. Sometimes one could swear every hotel has a different idea. In reality, there are not that many different plug standards for electrical devices, but they vary enough to matter and you definitely won't be impressed when you can't charge your phone in your hotel room due to an alien wall socket.

When in a pinch, you could ask the hotel for a conversion plug, but these are rarely part of the service and tend to disappear quickly. The alternative is to buy a Power Conversion Kit - generally a plug that takes various conversions so that you can easily fit one plug into a foreign socket. If you opt to do this in the country you are visiting, you might be charged a premium by the hotel store. Tracking down a set is also tricky, as not all countries have the same kinds of stores. For example, in one place you can buy it at a pharmacy, in another the corner cafe does the honours.

7. Buy local sim card

Roaming is a convenient way to go around your business in a foreign country, but it can also be very hard on your phone bill. If you have to do a lot of local phoning, it might be smarter to invest in a local sim card of the pay-as-you-go variety.

Local sim cards tend to be cheap, though this is not a given. Some countries require a larger fee up front and most will want to make a copy of your passport. But then you can send text messages and make local calls with ease and little expense. Of course then people cannot contact you on your original number, so weigh up the need to save money on local calls and being in touch with your home base. If you really want to go all-out, consider getting a phone that can hold two sim cards or take a spare phone along.

8. Stick to hand bag

There are many reasons why hand luggage trumps checking something in. The first is that you cannot risk placing valuables in any bag that is checked in. If your valuables go missing, it will be hard to get any compensation out of the airline or airport in question and you can expect to not see your goods again. Missing bags are also a reality and even if your luggage is recovered, it could only appear rather uselessly at the end of your trip. Hand luggage avoids this hassle.

Most airlines will allow you to take one piece of hand luggage, along with a handbag or laptop bag. A backpack is the best bet, but most airlines also allow small suitcases. Resist the temptation to pack for every day and inquire if the hotel where you will be staying has a laundry service. There is also one other big benefit to hand luggage: you don't have to wait for your bag to appear (or not) at the baggage carousel, saving you time and getting you out quickly.

9. Avoid the mini bars

Mini bars are the cash cow of any hotel, which will happily charge you four to five times the amount you might pay for that same item at a local shop. Yet the temptation is always there, especially if you need a quick snack.

When you arrive somewhere, take a minute to locate a local shop and stock up on some snack foods and soft drinks (or fruit juices, if you prefer). Part of the effects of travel will be a confused body and this usually leads to a mixture of fatigue and insomnia. That in turn leads to snacking. So does boredom, which is a likely situation late at night while watching foreign TV and thinking about sleep. While such snacking will do nothing good for your waistline, it's going to be hard to avoid. The mini bar, though, will deplete your cash quite quickly and make for a nasty surprise when you check out. Also, don't think you can fool the hotel - upmarket chains tend to have sensors in their fridges that detect if something is removed; be careful, as you could be charged for just taking something out of the mini bar. And other hotels rely on the tried-and-tested room maid, who will dutifully refill the fridge if anything is missing.

10. Make reservations

Instead of driving around to restaurants at your destination, make reservations to avoid disappointments and bring a GPS with pre-loaded maps of your destination to make driving your rental car in a new place easier.

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Page Updated: 08 April 2013