Maybe when you first started out as an event planner, you had visions of yourself jet-setting from a launch party in Cancun to an after party in L.A to a wrap party in London, but after having gone on a few business trips, you’ve come to discover that the travel itself is low on the glamour and high on the frustration.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way. These five solutions to common travel problems can help ensure that your business travel is efficient, productive, and stress-free.
1. Have a Travel Go-Bag
Take a tip from expectant moms and have a travel go-bag at the ready if you’re a frequent flyer. This carry-on should preemptively well-stocked and contain all of the things you’d need for every trip so all you have to worry about the night before is packing your clothes. These items can include travel-sized toiletries and an extra toothbrush, a set of chargers for the electronics you typically travel with, a copy of important documents like your passport (more on this later), First Aid items you like to have with you, and any comfort pieces you tend to bring on planes like a sweater, eye mask, travel pillow, or Chapstick. This can greatly reduce both the stress and time it takes to prepare for a trip. Your To-Do list is already a lot shorter!
2. Store Essentials in Your Cloud
It’s long been a rule of travel to keep a photocopy of important documents somewhere other than where you store the originals, but it’s time to take this tried-and-true tip into the modern world. To help avoid a total meltdown in a worst case scenario, create a document with a digital copy of your passport, ID, and credit cards, and store them in your cloud of choice. You can update it each trip with any trip-specific information like flight information, reservations, contacts, addresses, and even room numbers. This way, not only will you have all that information all in one place, but you’ll always have a backup source for everything you’d need in case anything happens to your hard copies.
3. Make Use of Your Time at the Airport
Of course, one of the biggest pains of traveling is dealing with the airport. So how about we start with how to reduce the time you need to be there? The easiest way to do so is to avoid those aggravating lines. TSA Pre-Check allows you to apply for clearance to get through security faster, without having to go through all of the usual motions like taking off your belt and shoes. If you travel internationally regularly, you may also want to look into Global Entry where you can bypass U.S Customs. Getting this privilege involves a background check and an in-person interview, but if you’re approved you can go straight to Global Entry kiosks, scan your passport, make your customs declaration and then, you’re straight through to Baggage Claim.
Once you’re inside, have everything you’re looking for in the palm of your hand with a few choice apps instead of searching for the airport information you need. Joe Brancatelli, editor and publisher of the business travel site JoeSentMe.com, shared a few tips with us. According to Joe the best apps for tracking flight information and getting up-to-date information on gate numbers, arrival and departure times, and notifications about delays are FlightStats and Flight Aware. The app, Airport Maps, can also then help you get to where you need to go with ease with airport terminal maps for just about every international and domestic airport. And, if you’e tired of feeling like you’re wasting time thanks to layovers and delays, Joe recommends joining as many airport clubs as you can. “The more time you spend in an airport club is the less time you have to spend navigating airport bars, restaurants and gates looking for quiet places to work or recharge devices. It takes the most wasteful time of a trip and turns it into productive time.” They also often have free WiFi. Whether it’s allowing you to catch up on work, or giving you a comfortable place to nap, memberships can be a worthwhile investment.
4. Take Advantage of Frequent Traveler Programs
Speaking of investments, one thing to consider is finding a frequent traveler program that works for you. If your work involves a lot of travel, these programs can pay you back in spades. This can either be a frequent flyer membership, an elite status with a favorite hotel chain, or getting a credit card that has a lot of travel perks. “If you had to choose just one credit card for travel,” says Joe, “I would suggest the American Express Platinum card. The fee is high ($450/year), but it is loaded with perks: no fee on international transactions; a $200 annual credit on airline fees; reimbursement of your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee; free Boingo WiFi; access to about 600 airport lounges worldwide; elite status with National Car Rental; and, of course, one point per dollar charged in Membership Rewards, which allows points to be transferred to nearly two dozen airlines or hotels.” Or, for a smaller cost and more specialized reward program, he also suggests the Citi Hilton Honors Rewards Visa, at $95 per year. “It gives you Gold Level status in Hilton Honors, which is the program’s most useful level, and includes free breakfast and free WiFi.”
But, if there’s one piece of advice Joe would give when it comes to frequent traveler programs, it’s not to listen to anyone else’s advice about frequent traveler programs. “No traveler should approach a frequency program as if it is the reason to fly a particular airline or stay at a particular hotel or use a particular credit card. Frequency plans work best when they are an adjunct to what you already do. Don’t let the tail wag the dog. Choose the airline that best serves your flying needs, then join its frequent-flyer program and get its related credit card. Ditto for hotels. Find the hotel family that best services your needs and join its program.”
5. Keep Your Expenses Organized
One of the more tedious aspects of business travel is being sure to keep track of your expenses as you go in order to create a report upon your return (and, more importantly, get accurately reimbursed!). These days, there are a lot of high-tech options to help streamline this process. Concur is one of the most highly recommended organizing app for your expenses and reports, but it’s one of the more costly and can incur a monthly fee. For only $5, Jet Set Expenses has a lot of similar functions, while Expensify is free and also has the fun feature of being able to input the information from your receipts just by taking a photo of them.
But, if you’re not feeling particularly techy, you’re not alone. Even Joe sticks to old-fashioned methods. “I tend to be an early adopter of tech, but, oddly I’ve stayed low-tech when it comes to T&E reporting. My system is really simple. Grab an envelope (usually one I take from the desk in the hotel) and put all my receipts in there. I write on the back of the receipt the relevant information. Then, on the flight home, I organize my expenses into my client’s report and I’m done. It may not be sexy, but it works for me and I’ve never missed an expense or lost a paper trail.”
Follow these business travel solutions and you’ll be sure to have more time and energy to dedicate to the most important part of travel: catching up on your favorite shows! For more information check out: Travel Packing Tips for the Tech Savvy EventProf.