While most meetings in this day and age can be conducted online, the truth is that some business is better conducted face to face. And those who travel for work know better than anyone that business waits for no one. If you squander your travel day, you may find that you’re easily jet-lagged, sluggish during your meetings, and unable to respond to important or urgent tasks, which will also give you more to catch up on at the hotel or when you get back to the office. Even worse, it can distract you from your in-person meetings, which is why you’re traveling in the first place. And business travel requires a different strategy from leisure travel since you often have tight timelines and reimbursement requirements.

I spoke with several executives and high-level employees who travel extensively for work and what they shared about their business travel is a goldmine for anyone hoping to be more productive and less stressed when traveling for work.

Book Your Flight Wisely

Shot of an attractive mature businesswoman working on laptop in her workstation

One of the most common tips I heard from traveling executives regards scheduling flights. “Booking flights is a science, and when you’re working with a budget and/or booking your own flights you need to learn it,” says Dennis Madson, a top-level executive who travels roughly 7 days every month visiting clients at banks across the country. He and several other execs shared their best flight booking advice:

  • The best time to book flights, according to research, is 54 days out. Or, a little less than two months in advance. Set an alarm on your calendar to remind you to begin looking for a flight before or around this time frame.
  • Search for airline tickets one at a time.
  • Search for flights midweek if possible, as weekends tend to be more expensive. If you’re able to, set up your meetings during the week.
  • Search for two one-way fares, even on different airlines.
  • Try to fly at least one leg of your trip on a Tuesday or Wednesday, as these are the cheapest days.

Other tips involve convenience over comfort. Many executives said they preferred to take red-eye flights when possible, so they can maximize their time and avoid waiting around for meetings. Others said they prefer late-night flights home after meetings so they can avoid staying in a hotel an extra night.

Make the Airport Process Speedy

Nearly every executive said that TSA PreCheck is a must. “You do not have time to wait in long security lines when you’re traveling regularly,” said Michelle Thomas, a sales rep who attends nearly 20 tradeshows a year across the country. “Clear is even better, and often offers a corporate discount.”

Being able to fly past security not only makes the process more seamless — it can also prevent you from missing a flight if lines get too long.

Other tips for speeding through the airport include:

  • Take a taxi service to the airport to avoid parking (and paying for parking). This saves time waiting for shuttles or trains to take you to your car.
  • Call a taxi service as soon as your plane lands at the airport (if you didn’t check a bag).
  • Avoid checking bags if possible. It can add significantly to your travel time as you have to arrive at least an hour before the plane departs to get the bag on the plane, and then wait for it after landing.
  • Wear slip-on shoes to avoid having to lace and unlace your shoes at security.

Pack Smart

business, trip, luggage and people concept - happy businessman packing clothes into travel bag

Business packing is a different animal than leisure packing. Having your own system will not only make preparation for your trip smooth but can also help you avoid having to venture out of your hotel to buy things you might have forgotten. Some packing advice I received includes:

  • A fully stocked toiletries bag that stays in your carry on, regularly stocked so there is little thought required for the necessities. “I take inventory after each trip so I can purchase what I need and keep the bag stocked,” says Madson. “But for the most part, the bag stays in my carry on and I always have what I need without having to think about it.”
  • A yoga mat and exercise bands for a quick hotel workout are lightweight but effective.
  • Often, a second shirt with the same trousers or skirt will work fine for a two-day trip.
  • Bring a travel steamer if you have room for it, as it is faster and more effective than a hotel iron.
  • One pair of shoes is usually sufficient for quick trips. If not, wear your bulkiest shoes on the plane.

Work on the Plane (or the Road)

It’s easy to cash out and watch TV or sleep when traveling, but when it comes to travel for work during peak business hours (and not on a red-eye, for example), productivity pays off.

“I figure I’m already stuck sitting down for hours on end, so I might as well get some work done so I can fully relax when I get to the hotel,” says Christopher Hollis, a digital marketing analyst whose work often takes him to his company’s headquarters. Some advice I received for being productive while on the plane includes:

  • Pay for Wi-Fi. Most often your work will reimburse this as a business expense.
  • Plan ahead for the type of work you’re going to get done on the plane. It may not be the time for meetings or calls, but going over spreadsheets or presentations are ideal for plane travel.
  • Make sure nothing proprietary is exposed while you work in a public space, or get a privacy filter to ensure your work remains private.
  • Make sure your laptop/tablet/phone is fully charged when you get on the plane as you may not have a chance to charge it.
  • Download emails and other necessary documents before getting on the plane in case the Wi-Fi doesn’t work or is spotty.
  • Purchase noise-canceling headphones to better tune out the noise of the plane.
  • Watch your drink (some execs said they ask for a bottle of water in lieu of a drink to be more efficient and avoid spills on their equipment or clothes).
  • If you’re driving to your destination, make sure you have a hands-free device and schedule calls during your drive time.

Get the Best out of Your Hotel

Young businessman on bed working with a laptop from his hotel room

Your hotel is your home base when traveling and should be utilized fully to get the most out of your business travel. Depending on the nature of the trip, you may spend a lot of time at the hotel or a little, but it can still make a huge difference in how relaxed and prepared you are for your meetings.

Here’s the best advice I received regarding hotels:

  • Book a double bed. Use one bed for laying out clothes for better meeting planning the next day when you’re likely in a hurry.
  • In case they don’t offer it, always ask the front desk for a bottle of water.
  • E-check in and checkout is very efficient.
  • Map the hotel to the airport and meeting before you book. Make sure your hotel is in convenient proximity to your meetings and the airport.
  • Make sure you bring your luggage with you if you don’t have time to return to the hotel after your meetings before your flight.
  • Leaving the hotel room key by the door, even on the floor will be a stark reminder to not leave the room without it.
  • Use a hotel rewards program if your company allows it. Staying at the same brands will make the hotel feel more like home and allow you to accrue some extra nights.
  • If someone else (like an admin) books your hotels with a card not in your name, check with the hotel ahead of time to find out if you need an authorization form. If traveling with a group, make sure everyone’s names are on the room!

 

Traveling for work can be rewarding and effective for business, but it can also be exhausting. Take care of your own needs above all and make sure you build in enough time to sleep and eat so you can present your best self at your meetings and return to the office ready to go.

 

Do you have any tips we missed? Please let us know in the comments below.

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About The Author

Mandy Voisin

Hey I'm Mandy. Writer, traveler, wife, mother, author, woman, over-sharer. I like to talk about the grit of travel, the beautiful, and the people that I meet. Oh yeah - and traveling with kids.