The sheer torture of air travel has reached an all-time high for those who take business trips. To the outside world, we frequent travelers live a very jet-set, glamorous sounding life. Last time I checked, I still have no private jet whisking me away in style. I am anxiously awaiting that moment!
Over the past 10 years, I’ve traveled heavily as a speaker and consultant. Over and over, I’m asked how I can endure the restrictions and regulations placed on the hard-core business traveler and not lose my mind. When I think about it, it comes down to simple, subtle “shades” of optimization of my travel experience.
The torture of travel is the entire process of getting to your destination; shuttles, taxi’s, town cars, airports, TSA, premium designations, mileage programs and special airport clubs. So fasten your seat belts, put your chairs in the upright, locked position with tray tables stowed—you’re in for a bumpy ride.
Thank you for flying with professional speaker airlines… now let’s talk about some “safety features” to protect you from insanity on the road and in the air.
Sanity Saving Rules for the Professional Traveler
The Road Warrior Essentials
1. Booking Travel: Travel Agent or Online Sites? I’ve come full circle on this argument. I used to spend hours searching for the right tickets, lowest fares and best hotel deals. The busier I became, the less time I had for the Indiana Jones school of travel booking. I finally went back to old school travel agents. Build a good relationship with one and your life will instantly become so much easier. If you insist on booking your own travel, covet your time and use great online sites such as SeatGuru.com, hotels.com and yes—cheapcarribean.com for another trip just to recover from your travel planning stress.
2. Taxi, Your Car, or Town Car to the airport: Take a town car as much as possible. Too diva-like for your tastes? Well what is your time worth? Typically I can charge back to client, but even when I do personal travel, I find the ease of being dropped off is well worth it. – Thanks to Viveka von Rosen, I want to add the app called Uber to my list of essential apps to have on your phone. It calls a town car to any location like a taxi.
Mobile Tools: the Tripit app by Tripit.com. I forward all my travel plans from my email and they show up in an organized itinerary I can access through my smart phone. No more crumpled wads of paper cluttering up my bag! TaxiMagic.com is great app to find a town car or taxi fast in a strange city. (U.S. only.)
3. Check Bag or Carry On: I am a contrarian when it comes to checking bags. Have you seen the frenzy of travelers trying to score increasingly limited overhead storage? It’s crazy. Count me out. Unless I have a complicated, multiple-stop itinerary, I always check my bags. I’ve only lost my bag once in the last three years—and that with constant traveling on various different airlines. I can go to the restroom, get lunch with a drink and still not stress over trying to board with three bags. (These days having purse, carry-on suitcase, and computer bag is a no-go when boarding—maybe this is just for female travelers?)
Mobile Tools: United, Southwest and other airlines have great apps to check in and receive mobile boarding passes.
4. TSA, Clear Pass and TSA Pre (Global Trusted Traveler): I have tried everything to get through TSA as fast as possible. No jewelry or belts, slip on shoes, clear bag for my liquids, etc. I even paid for a Clear Pass to get through faster. I finally started getting approved for TSA Pre.
(TSA Pre✓™ allows select frequent flyers of participating airlines and members of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Trusted Traveler programs who are flying on participating airlines, to receive expedited screening benefits.)
I figured out that if I go through the Trusted Traveler Program and use that number on my flight reservation, I get the TSA Pre approval almost every time. By the way, TSA Pre is still a random selection process, so no guarantees. The Trusted Traveler Program is very complicated, requiring long forms, credit and background checks, and a live interview at the airport. I scheduled my live interview six months ago. So sign up early. Complete the Trusted Traveler process and you walk through TSA Pre with shoes and jacket on, liquids and computers still in your bag. It’s heaven.
5. Mileage Programs: Enroll from day one. I find United Mileage Plus and Southwest Rapid Rewards to be best in class for member benefits. Just sign up, use your number religiously and reap the rewards.
Mobile Tool: Tripit.com will keep track of all miles programs in one place.
6. Car Clubs: Hertz Gold Club is one of the best. I’m sure it’s just a psychological thing, but there is really something great about seeing your name on Hertz’s board when you get off the bus. “They know me, they understand me!” runs through your head. It’s silly but it shaves off valuable time for you, compared with standing in line to get your rental.
Mobile Tool: Hertz and other rental companies have text message alerts to tell you the car they have for you and the slot you can pick it up. Nice.
7. Hotel Clubs: I have somehow become a favored customer of Marriot—I’m Platinum Status! Wow, great benefits… free breakfast, free wine and cheese in your room and easy to use points for free nights and upgrades. I highly recommend staying loyal to your hotel chain of choice, and you’ll see a massive difference in your hotel experience.
Mobile Tool: Marriott App is great for last minute reservations, as well as changing rooms and locations.
8. Getting Around Town: GPS devices are lifesavers. As a woman, I often feel unsafe on the road. What if I get lost? I was born with no sense of direction. Many speakers just work to death in their hotel rooms and never leave. For me, even a fantastic hotel room is similar to a prison cell. Get me the heck out! Let me take a good walk and explore for dinner. I get tons of work done on airplanes rather than hotel rooms.
Mobile Tool: The Waze.com app has free voice turn-by-turn GPS with a social component (police, accidents, and traffic are fed to you in real time.) The Yelp.com mobile app and Urban Spoon.com’s app are great tools to explore the city and find great, socially-sourced dining options close to your hotel.
9. Coming home: Check in as early as possible using your airline app on your phone. Use the FlightTracker app to keep up with flight delays and gate changes.
I hope these recommendations help short out your stress and fast-track your survival on the road, freeing you up for a more pleasurable, virtual office experience. Let’s support each other to make travel feel more like home away from home. Please send your travel recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org. See you soon at an airport near you.
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