Business travel makes up a sizeable chunk of the travel and tourism industry, and it continues to grow — experts are already predicting 480.5 million business trips in 2016.
Whether you’re an airport regular or first-time traveler, these business trips can be intense. Between the hassle of security regulations, lack of time, packed schedules and high expenses (not to mention handling all of this in an unfamiliar place), you’re bound to feel overwhelmed.
To help make your experience simple, efficient and worthwhile, we put together nine business travel tips.
1. Use travel hacks when booking your flight.
When it comes to buying an airline ticket, timing is everything. On average, the fare difference between the best day to buy your airline ticket and the worst time is $236. Airlines change fares constantly, so make sure you keep this in mind when booking a flight — along with several other tips for saving money:
- Find the booking sweet spot. CheapAir.com found that it’s best to book your flight 47 days in advance if you’re traveling domestically, but 76 days in advance if it happens to fall in a summer or holiday time period. For international flights, it’s better to plan much more in advance–335 days before your trip, to be exact.
- Go incognito. Carriers will base your prices on how many times you’ve revisited their site and where you are visiting from, so be sure to clear your search history and cookies and also turn your browser to incognito mode (this will make it private).
- Avoid refreshing the page. While you may think refreshing your window many times will give you the best opportunity to find lower prices, the opposite is true. The flight’s price will go up as its demand changes.
- Check SeatGuru.com. If you’re all about getting the best seat in the house, the site gives information on the best seats, tips on which rows have more legroom, which don’t recline and which are closest to the bathroom.
- Consider flying two separate airlines. Some carriers will sell cheap one-way tickets, and the times may work out better for you. You don’t even have to depart from the same airport you arrived at.
2. Same goes for booking your hotel.
Between meetings, conference calls, dinner reservations and happy hours, you probably aren’t going to be spending a ton of time in your room–but that doesn’t mean you should overlook the hotel process. Instead of opting for the cheapest selection, get the most value by following these tips:
- Join loyalty programs. Being a member is a great way to ensure better rooms, exclusive deals and extra amenities (like free breakfast and WiFi). Every traveler is looking for different perks, so make sure you pick a program that is the most valuable to you. Instead of having to worry about carrying around all of your loyalty cards, Points Loyalty Wallet conveniently allows you to track all of your hotel and frequent flyer programs in one place to keep you organized.
- Ask to be upgraded. If your arrival date is a light day for the hotel, politely ask the clerk at the desk if you can be upgraded to a bigger room or bed. Many hotels will honor this wish if these rooms haven’t already been filled.
- Do your research. The best way to get what you’re expecting is to check as many reviews as you can (without experiencing information overload). Sites like TripAdvisor and Oyster typically offer unbiased reviews and real customer photos.
3. Choose the right credit card.
Every business (and individual) has different needs, but once you’ve identified your priorities, pick a credit card with the right perks. If you don’t want to commit to one hotel chain or airline, opt for rewards credit card that lets you accumulate points to use with the business of your choice. Use this card outside the airport–rack up points by making business purchases at the grocery store, gas station and other stores for sweet deals on hotels and airlines.
Also, don’t forget to check all the cards in your wallet. Some credit cards will cover a variety of freebies, such as rental car insurance and hotel room upgrades, and some, like American Express, offer free access to airline lounges. If you’re an AAA member, you’ll also have access to air, hotel, car rental and other vacation discounts.
Pro travel tip: If your credit card doesn’t allow free access to the elite lounges, you can buy one-day passes ahead of time or purchase a Priority Pass, which ranges from $99 to $399 a year and gives you access to 700 airport lounges around the world.
4. Sign up for frequent traveler programs.
While opting to bring a carry-on is a top time saver, the Road Warriorette swears that signing up for TSA Pre-Check is a close second. With Pre-Check, you reap the benefits of shorter lines, you don’t have to remove your shoes or take your computer out of your bag, and you pass a metal detector instead of the body scanner. Generally, this status is given to those who are low-risk (people who don’t apply with false information, don’t have transport security violations and don’t have criminal defenses or records). Simply apply for Pre-Check online, schedule an appointment or find an application center.
For international travelers, Global Entry is another great option for saving time. Under U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Global Entry allows pre-approved travelers to bypass traditional security checks. All travelers must be pre-approved and undergo a rigorous background check and in-person interview before enrollment.
5. Download the right apps ahead of time.
Eighty-three percent of people who use mobile apps on the road agree it improves the business travel experience. If you’re not sure what you need, start with the basics. Consider downloading the following:
- For paperless travel: Passbook is essentially a hub on your smartphone where you can compile all of your boarding passes, tickets, discount cards and coupons.
- For your itinerary: TripIt may just be the master of all travel apps. By simply forwarding all of your confirmation emails (hotel, flight, car rental, restaurant) to [email protected], you’ll automatically be given a master itinerary that can be accessed from anywhere.
- For taxis: Uber, which is available in over 50 countries, allows you to to request a ride, check the progress of your driver to see how far away they are and how long it will take, automatically charge the cost of your trip directly to your credit card and email you a receipt. Boom.
- For other transportation: Rome2Rio searches a repository of train, bus, plane, taxi, ferry, walking and driving routes in any city to efficiently get you where you need to go.
- For food: Foodspotting rates specific dishes to help with cravings, detailing what’s good and where to find it. Even better? It included images with reviews from friends and experts.
- For entertainment: Field Trip serves up recommendations on what to see, eat and do based on your current location, preferences and interests.
- For language barriers: iTranslate uses voice recognition to type and listen to translations using text-to-speech in over 90 supported languages.
Pro travel tip: Want to save money on international calls? You can use Skype for free!
6. Stick to a carry-on.
I know this may seem a little difficult, but stay with me here. What’s usually your biggest travel time-sucker? Dealing with baggage. As the Road Warriorette explains, limiting your luggage to only a carry-on will eliminate the need to check your bag when you arrive to the airport and also retrieve it once you land. Not only will you save time, but you’ll save money, since most carriers charge anywhere from $20 to $150 per bag. Plus, there’s no chance of the airline losing your things.
If planned out right, you can actually pack a two-week business trip without checking your bags. To get by with only a carry-on for a trip lasting up to two weeks, plan strategically:
- Pick a color scheme, only packing items that offer multiple uses and functionality. Stick to fabrics that are versatile, washable and wrinkle-resistant, like ponte knit, crepe and traditional jersey. Solid black dresses, cardigans, skirts and blouses are all perfect examples of items that can be reworn with different accessories for various occasions.
- Stick to dark colors. Something like a black skirt can transition from day to night, and dark colors will also hide any potential stains when you’re on the go.
- Wear one pair of shoes and pack another. Each should have its own purpose (one for business wear and another for walking around).
- If you have an extended stay, invest in your hotel’s laundry cleaning services. Prices will vary, but it’s pretty simple to use.
Pro travel tip: Did you accumulate more than your luggage can handle? Ship it home, instead. Not only could you save money, but FedEx and UPS offer tracking options, better insurance if things are damaged or lost, and less opportunity for theft.
7. Remember the business travel necessities.
Be sure to pack these essentials to keep you prepared, organized and ready to take on your business trip:
- Portable charger: This one may seem obvious, but it can’t be emphasized enough. Especially if you must check your bags, be sure to pack your chargers in your carry-on. You can also choose to bring a backup power bank charger to charge your phone when you’re not near an outlet.
- Power strip: When it comes to business travel, you’re not going to be the only one searching for a power source to charge your electronics. Bring a power strip to share outlets at the airport, lobby or hotel room.
- Travel adaptor: Again, your business trip will be seriously compromised if you can’t charge your gadgets. Unfortunately, though, there is not one universal outlet. Especially if you’re traveling internationally, research the proper travel adapter.
- Wrinkle-release spray: The downside of business clothing? It’s usually prone to wrinkles. While your room will probably come with an iron, pack a travel-size wrinkle release spray to quickly freshen up your wardrobe.
- Emergency kit: You can’t eliminate all sticky situations. What you can do, though, is be prepared. Pack a kit with pain medicine, bandaids, stomach aids, bobby pins and safety pins to use on the go.
8. Have a healthy plan for jet lag.
Jet lag is no myth — nearly 93 percent of all travelers will experience it at some point. Jet lag is a disturbance to the body’s natural rhythm or internal clock, and it’s largely caused by air travel across one or more time zones.
It isn’t fun, either. Jet lag can lead to fatigue, disorientation, loss of appetite, nausea, headaches and even mild depression — none of which are a nice addition to a business trip. The best way to combat jet lag is to plan ahead of time. To minimize its effects, follow these tips:
- A great way to feel good is eating healthy. The processed foods on airlines aren’t always the best option, so bring TSA-approved snacks such as dried fruit, trail mix or an apple with peanut butter packs.
- Eliminate, or at least seriously reduce, your caffeine or alcohol intake since these sources can also dehydrate you. Because planes are not pressurized to sea level, alcohol actually has a much stronger effect on you when you’re flying, so be sure to keep that in mind.
- To prepare your body for new time zones, go to bed later if traveling west or earlier if traveling east.
- Stow a light blanket and neck pillow in your carry-on so you can get plenty of sleep. Since you can’t control the temperature, wear layers (like a cotton t-shirt and cardigan) in case you get warm or cold.
- Stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water and decaffeinated green tea. This will help with headaches and stomach issues.
9. Be aware of your safety.
In most business travel situations, there’s a good chance you’ll be completely on your own (or even just separated from your group from time to time). To keep safety at the top of your mind, follow these solo travel tips from Jessie on a Journey:
- Don’t tell everyone you’re alone. If you’re alone and a stranger asks who you’re traveling with, tell them your spouse or friend is in the bathroom, or move to a more public area and start talking to others.
- Let the U.S. know where you’re going. If you’re traveling abroad, sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. This way, the government will be able to assist you in case of an emergency, and you can also receive warning and alerts.
- Make copies of documents. To save you the hassle in case anything is lost or stolen, organize your documents by making copies of your passport, driver’s license, credit card or any other important documents. Leave a copy at home with someone you trust, and take another with you to hide with your belongings.
- Ask your hotel for important information. If you’re in a new area alone, ask your hotel clerk to map out what areas are safe to explore and which spots should be avoided. Make sure you grab the hotel’s business card, too, so you can easily hand it to your taxi driver if you need to get home safely.