10 Tips for Frazzled Business Travelers

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Road warriors are out in full force in 2013, and even more will be hitting America’s highways and airports next year, as the Global Business Travel Association projects an increase in the number of trips.

In fact, business travel spending is on the rise as the economy improves. The association predicts that in 2013 spending growth on domestic travel will rise 15.2 percent, and in 2014 it will increase 16.9 percent.

What do all these travel stats mean for you? Airports, rental counters, and hotels are about to get busier.

Here are some travel tips to help ease your way through the madness.

1. Connections can make you — or break you.

Make sure you create a comfortable cushion with your connection times, whether booking yourself, or through a travel management company. While it might seem more efficient to schedule the minimum amount of time between flights, cutting it too close might derail your entire trip.

Consider Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, for instance. The airlines will say 35 minutes between flights represents a “legal” connection. But that’s a stretch. Maybe you’re not the fastest airport sprinter. What is common practice for airlines and travel companies might not work for you. Be sure to specify a minimum connection time for your comfort zone with flight bookings.

2. Another kind of connection is important, too.

If you’ve spent far too much time “outlet-less” in airports, you know that finding an available electrical outlet in many airports can be challenging.

Prepare to share outlets by packing a power strip or three-way outlet adapter. That way, you can keep power and maybe make a friend (or a sale) by offering any spare.

3. Seasonal weather patterns are worth watching.

The weather might not be predictable these days, but general weather patterns are — and they should be considered, because they could adversely affect your travel plans.

Why schedule a flight through Chicago’s O’Hare airport in the middle of winter if you could just as easily be routed through Dallas? The same can be said in the summer, when avoiding stops in cities with the highest likelihood of thunderstorms is advisable, if possible.

Another way travel interruptions can be avoided is by booking flights to start early in the day. Especially in summertime, strong storms tend to develop in the afternoon hours.

4. Be proactive: Change plans early when wild weather is brewing.

Today, meteorologists keep us posted on huge weather systems as they develop over a period of days. Superstorm Sandy, which hit the East Coast in October 2012, is a good example. Travelers who exercised undue optimism until the morning the storm hit, hoping flights would go as scheduled, were left high and dry at airports around the country for an extra two or three days. Conversely, some travelers took the airlines up on their offer to waive all change fees two to four days in advance of the storm. They changed plans and got out of the path of the storm. Change now or change later: the choice is yours.

5. Organize your trip on a Mobile app.

Consolidate all your travel arrangements — flight information, rental car or grand transportation, and hotel info — using mobile itinerary organizers like TripCase and TripIt. These are among the applications you can use to track all your travel arrangements with one application, and they can be downloaded for free.

Staying well organized keeps you on track when traveling, with airline, hotel and car rental information at your fingertips — as well as a map from the airport to your destination. These platforms can alert you to flight changes and are indispensable resources for road warriors who have trouble remembering what city they have landed in, and certainly have trouble tracking myriad details once they arrive.

6. Take the “line” out of “security lines.”

Get with the pre-screening program via two U.S. government programs that offer expedited screening. Check before you sign up, though, since not all airports participate in the domestic version of pre-screening.

With TSA Pre✓™, eligible participants use dedicated lanes for faster screening. With Global Entry, travelers proceed to kiosks at 25 international airports to expedite the process. Prescreening is required for both. Learn more at TSA.gov (domestic version) and GlobalEntry.gov (international).

7. Pack smart by planning ahead.

While this is not exactly “new” news, the beauty is in the basic-ness of this often-overlooked advice. Planes today are more full than ever. Schedules have been cut. If you want to carry on luggage, it might pay to invest in the nominal fee that will give you early boarding privileges.

Overstuffed carry-on luggage should be checked. Airlines offer perks for pre-checking bags online, so a second checked bag might be free in advance, as it will likely cost significantly more at the gate. Also, check out the “checked bag policy” of your carrier. Southwest Airlines does not charge for the first bag, so there is no point in playing the game — which some travelers do — of bringing an over-sized piece of luggage to the gate knowing it will be checked for free by airport personnel.

8. Stay healthy.

Bring anti-bacterial wipes on your flights, and use them.

With cold season around the corner, it’s a good time to remind people that “re-circulated air” is not the reason people get sick when flying. Airlines’ air filtering systems are better than ever, so it isn’t the germs in the overhead blowers that are making travelers sick. Studies show germs on the tray tables and lavatory door handles are the most likely culprits.

Experts advise avoiding the bathroom if possible. If not, always wash hands and use a paper towel if you have to touch the door handles. Clean off your tray table with an anti-bacterial wipe.

9. Take some laughs.

Your business trip doesn’t have to be all business. Make plans to inject some humor in your travels. Save a funny article on your mobile. Order up a movie that will make you laugh. Listen to your favorite comedian, or watch a YouTube moment that is just priceless. Saving up — and savoring — some humor can take the tension out of some frustrating moments during business travel.

10. Look for the 8th wonder of the world — your world.

So you’re stuck in airports, in traffic, in hotel rooms. What wonders are waiting for you around the corner? Look for surprises on your trips, and collect them.

Remembering terrific meals, fascinating people, beautiful scenery, amazing movies, great books, early morning exercise, and exciting deals will help you find the great adventure around the corner on your next business trip.

Joan Meagher is vice president account management for Omega World Travel. She has served in multiple business development and account management roles at Omega for the past 14 years.

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