53 Travel Tips from Business Travelers

Anyone who does the same thing often is bound to become something of an expert – at the very least, it’s usually a good idea to listen to their tips on their topic. It stands to reason, then, that business travelers who are on and off of planes with the same frequency many of us are in and out of our cars would be able to provide some sage travel advice for those of us who don’t get to travel as regularly.

On BootsnAll’s business travel guide, WhyGo Business Travel, we’ve been running a series of business traveler interviews with road warriors from all walks of life, and we wanted to pull some of our favorite travel tips from those interviews for this article.

>> Do you know a business traveler we should interview? Let us know!

Packing Tips from the Pros

Pack light or you’ll travel heavy.
- Jason Cochran

No matter the style whether backpacking or staying in luxury hotels, inevitably you carry your luggage often enough that the amount begins to count.
- Kirsten Alana

My general rule of thumb – if it doesn’t fit in my carry-on suitcase, I don’t need it. I’ve traveled for as long as 6 weeks at a time out of just a carry-on… and I’m a girl. It can be done, ladies, Just be strategic in what you pack. In 10 years of travel, I have probably saved at least a month of my life by rarely having to visit baggage claim or a check-in counter. Traveling lighter = traveling happier.
- Jenny McIver

Pack light, but be practical. It’s okay to check a bag if you don’t want to have to tote it around (I always check my bag if I’m traveling for longer than a week).
- Mary Jo Manzanares

Put small amounts of liquids in extra contact lens cases, such as facewash, moisturizer, and eye cream – it’s incredible how much space this saves.
- Sarah H.

[When packing] I lay everything out on the floor, then put a thin layer of flat, rolled, clothing on the bottom of my suitcase, then a layer of bulky things (shoes, toiletries, gifts etc). Then I stuff the bulky layer with socks and small items to make it flat, and then put another layer of flat clothing on top. [For winter travel] I bring an extra empty bag to the airport for my coat, scarf, mittens, hat etc. It makes getting through the airport security and onto the airplane easier – especially when traveling with kids.
- Madeline Jhawar

Don’t overpack! Wear your heaviest or bulkiest items on the plane, so that you can get by with a smaller bag. It isn’t necessary to have a different outfit for every day – accessories can transform a look and no one will notice if you’re wearing the same shoes over the course of a couple of days. Never pack anything that will wrinkle.
- Trisha Miller

Pack light. One bag. That’s it. And take out that extra pair of shoes. You aren’t going to wear them. Heels are almost always a bad idea. At some point as a reporter, you’re going to have to run. Might as well keep your feet comfy.
- Chris Gray Faust

When I travel to multiple locations, I bring my laptop bag (with a master list of notes, toiletries, chargers, etc) everywhere and then I pack separate bags with the specific items necessary for each location I will visit. This system ensures that everything I need at any given time will be readily available, but prevents me from worrying about carrying an overstuffed suitcase all over the place or losing anything early on that I may need later in the trip.
- Robyn Davis

Always go carry-on. No matter what. I’ve just made so many flights because I didn’t have checked bags.
- Kelley Ferro

Pack as little as possible. It’s much better to go with a few basics than to lug around junk you don’t need – particularly in case of an emergency.
- Annemarie Dooling

Ladies, always pack more underwear than you think you’ll need (buying them on the trip is usually an unpleasant, expensive shopping experience), and take at least one pair of shoes out of your bag before you leave home (no one needs three pairs of black shoes on a week’s trip. You know who you are).
- Angela Berardino

Always pack in stuff sacks. Keeping stuff separate makes for easier packing and unpacking when you’re staying at a different spot each night.
- Anna Brones

Have a system where you put things when you pack. That way, you’re less likely to forget something or lose stuff.
- Chris Gray Faust

Staying Healthy on the Road

Always carry a basic first aid kit – seriously, ibuprofen and neosporin will take you far.
- Anna Brones

If you watch the food being cooked in front of you, you’re unlikely to get sick from it. And a good glass of water can cure most of what ails you.
- Jason Cochran

Do not overextend yourself. Jet lag is very real (at least for me), and I have a tendency to make a zillion plans for the one night I’m in town somewhere, and then want to kill myself a little bit for making all of them when I finally get there and can barely keep my eyes open. Leave yourself wiggle room to relax, if at all possible.
- Rachael King

I reset my watch to the time zone of my final destination when I leave (if I need the actual time to catch a flight or hop on a call, I can just look at my phone) which helps me to start thinking/feeling like I’m in the new time zone from the start and reduce jet lag.
- Robyn Davis

Sleep when you’re tired. Everyone has a ‘tip’ for jetlag but I’ve found that the best advice is to listen to your body. My biggest tip: always stay hydrated. I don’t drink on airplanes and always try to go for a run or a workout before a long flight – it’s a release that makes it easier to relax when I get on the plane.
- Melanie Nayer

There is a real tendency to overeat when you are traveling on an expense account. I try and treat myself maybe once a trip but then try and spend more time in the hotel gym and less in the buffet line the rest of the time.
- Chris Christensen

Using Technology to Your Advantage

I use my phone to take pics of important signage (where I parked, street my hotel is on, etc) – super handy to show a pic if you don’t speak the language. And I also take snaps of all of my receipts, since I lose them constantly and need them for expense reports (am an Evernote addict for storing all this info).
- Angela Berardino

Check in for flights online, as early as possible (usually 24 hours) to get the best seats.
- Kent Lewis

Take notes with a camera. There’s a small anti-camera movement afoot among travelers, where people take few pictures or don’t even bring a camera at all, so they’ll be more engaged in the moment. Well, I respectfully think that these people are insane. You can sit down in Siena’s Piazza del Campo and write 500 words on what’s in front of you, and you should, but six months later when you’re back at home struggling to remember the nuances, having 40 pictures from 15 angles will probably serve you far better than those 500 words. When I review hotels I take pictures of every angle in every room. I take pictures of food and menus – much faster than writing it all down and letting your food go cold. And there’s always a chance that a writing assignment is going to require you to submit your own pictures. But yes, put away the camera after you’ve taken those pictures and absorb your surroundings. People, sounds and smells define a place just as much as the visuals.
- Leif Pettersen

Take a picture with your phone of your airport parking space number. That way you won’t spend hours wandering around the airport garage searching for your car (been there – it is not awesome). This also works with hotel room numbers.
- Sarah H.

Get a Google map of all of your destinations and email them to your smartphone, and know what the fare will be before you get into a taxi.
- Trisha Miller

I honestly don’t know what I’d do without my iPad. Along with that (since mine is WiFi, not 3G) comes a monthly subscription to Boingo. It’s around $7 a month, and I can connect to the internet in almost any airport that way. (Purchasing one day of Boingo internet costs $5, so if you know you’re going to be traveling more than one day a month, it makes sense to just get the monthly subscription.) And while the iPad is great for using in flight, make sure you have a magazine or “real” book for those potentially long take offs and landings, when they make you turn it off!
- Rachael King

I always pack headphones (with adapter) so I can watch movies and avoid fees.
- Kent Lewis

Be Smart About Your Money

Know when it is worth it to spend the money. Sometimes, taking a taxi to the airport instead of the metro, or spending the $150 on an upgrade for more leg room on a 20 hour flight is, frankly, money well spent on your personal health and sanity.
- Andy Hayes

I try to stay at hotels that offer breakfast, as it’s usually a good deal and convenient. When traveling with family, we prefer renting a house or condo, as you can drastically cut food costs and they are generally roomier than hotels.
- Kent Lewis

Be careful with the hotel mini bar. And not in the sense of consuming the items inside of them. But many hotels lately have gotten smart about monitoring what comes out of the mini refrigerators in your hotel room. Some even have sensor devices that threaten to charge you within 10 seconds of an item leaving the shelf. Sometimes when we travel, we need refrigeration for things like lei and other perishable items. Just be careful if you plan to use the mini bar fridge as your source of coldness.
- Nathan Kam

You can get awesome hotel deals on Sunday nights, even at high-end places; the leisure travelers are gone and the business travelers haven’t arrived yet. Never pay rack rate; there is always a discount, so ask. I’ve never found anything that consistently gives better travel-related discounts than my AAA membership.
- Sheila Scarborough

I try to use my credit card as much as possible, to limit my exposure in terms of theft (cash), maximize exchange rates and getting the benefit of insurance in certain cases.
- Kent Lewis

Be Loyal to Loyalty Programs

Pick your favorite airline and hotel program (for me, Delta Airlines and Starwood Hotels) and try to stick with them as often as possible. My airline loyalty has earned me enough miles to take a business class trip around the world every January for the past 6 years – the cost of those tickets would have easily exceeded $100,000 had I paid for them. Once you gain elite status with an airline or hotel company, your travel life will become immensely more comfortable. From first class upgrades to hotel suites, be loyal to your favorite programs and they will reward you. That said, sign up for every reward program you encounter. Even if you don’t earn enough points for a free night with a particular hotel chain, many offer perks (like free wi-fi) for all members, regardless of status.
- Jenny McIver

I really couldn’t do what I do every week without elite status. I fly United, and having status lets me pre-reserve exit row and “Economy Plus” seating. The extra legroom makes a big difference, especially if I want to work on a laptop in flight. And since United and Continental give unlimited space-available upgrades to elite members I get to ride in first class for free about half the time. Upgrades get more frequent the higher you go in the status chain, so it really pays to concentrate with one program. You also get perks like priority check in and security lines, free checked bags and priority boarding. I almost never check luggage so being able to board early and secure a spot in the overhead bin is a must for me.
- Ryan Lile

I’d recommend joining the loyalty programs for all of the hotels, airlines, rental cars, etc. that you use (even if you don’t think you’ll use them often) because most chains provide perks to their members like upgrades, free gifts, and special pricing. In my experience, you will be treated better as a member of the organization’s loyalty program than if you weren’t one.
- Robyn Davis

My boss at TripAdvisor came out of the airline industry so he gave me a “frequent flier makeover”. I needed to focus my flying more on one frequent flyer network. Last year I earned premium status on both American and United, but the American status did not have many benefits. The United status even though it is the lowest level stats usually gets me into the Economy Plus seating with 5 extra inches of leg room. At 6′ 3″ tall extra legroom is valuable. So this year I am only flying United and will get to the next level of status, Premium Executive, with my next trip. At that level I will have a better shot at first class upgrades.
- Chris Christensen

It’s All About Attitude

Travel with a positive mindset. This has been the greatest factor in me being able to travel for all these years. I don’t let flight delays derail me. I know I’ll always get back home, so I keep myself busy and focus on the positive. I’ve always said I’ve got great travel karma.
- Carol Margolis

Smile when dealing with the TSA, even though they’re idiots. Smile in general. It can get you far.
- Peter Shankman

Do anything you have to do to be treated as a VIP! Don’t be a number! Creating “Upgrade Bags” is my specialty. These are little goody gift bags I present to the gate agent and/or crew when I travel. It makes them feel appreciated and gets me treated like a celebrity. Although I normally get a first class seat, there are times when I am stuck in coach and the “Upgrade Bag” makes it a painless experience completely. Try it and let me know how it works for you. You’ll make the day of a lot of airline people.
- Gailen David

Try not to get stressed out – it doesn’t change anything and only makes you feel worse. Be proactive, always looking for good options, from the planning stages all the way through to the end of the trip. Ask for what you want politely, but firmly. Someone else’s idea of a perfect vacation doesn’t have to be yours – don’t be afraid to try new things, but don’t be afraid to do what you like.
- Mary Jo Manzanares

Always have a back up plan. Travel is my business so I know it better than most, but anyone can download smartphone apps that can help you find alternative flights in the event of delays or cancellations. If your flight gets cancelled don’t stand in the 50-person line at the service counter; get on the phone and have a call center agent rebook you. It’s almost always faster this way, and every person the service counter rebooks ahead of you means one less seat on a flight you might want to get on. Some airlines will automatically “protect” you by rebooking you on other flights, but those flights may not be to your liking. Check what they’ve done and make sure it works for you. Agents will change it fee-free (or refund your ticket) if the new booking doesn’t work for you.
- Ryan Lile

Stay calm. Things may seem like they are falling apart – planes are grounded, there’s no rental car, your internet doesn’t work – but there’s almost always a workaround, if you think creatively.
- Chris Gray Faust

Travel without a baby or young child is a piece of cake, so quit complaining and enjoy the solitude – and help that overwhelmed parent when you can, even if it’s just to pick up a dropped sippy cup.
- Sheila Scarborough

Enjoying the Destination

Do some homework before you go somewhere new. While I’m in full support of spontaneity, nothing is more annoying than arriving somewhere amazing and spending hours trying to figure out how to get from one place to another, running up a ginormous phone bill because you didn’t pay attention to the data plan, or winding up eating in crappy restaurants because you didn’t have a few options in mind.
- Angela Berardino

Don’t stay chained to a smart phone or computer the entire time even when traveling solely for business. There’s so much you miss when you don’t stop to enjoy your surroundings.
- Kirsten Alana

Always be brave enough to strike up conversations with strangers. Let the people you meet do most of the talking and you’ll learn much more.
- Jason Cochran

When planning your activities — research, get guidebooks, watch travel videos, read reviews, etc, but when you are in your destination, ask people. It’s a great excuse to talk to locals and if you ask enough people, a few key suggestions will keep coming up and you know those are the real deal.
- Kelley Ferro

Eat local foods. No matter where you are, there is usually some type of cuisine local to the area you are in. I’m a picky eater yet even I can usually find something to enjoy everywhere I go. To eat only McDonalds while traveling is simply a waste of a great opportunity!
- Kirsten Alana

I try to strike up conversations with cab drivers, as they always have good stories and are less likely to screw you over if they know you.
- Kent Lewis

The valets/bellman are your friends. When it comes to things like cars/taxis to the airport – especially for large groups like we tend to travel with – it’s smart to ask the hotel bellman for advice. I recently found out that they have special relationships with reputable car services that can get your group of six to the airport in a luxury car/SUV for the same price (and sometimes less) than a crazy taxi cab. But you need to ask to get this kind of insider knowledge.
- Nathan Kam

Be an extrovert! I’ve had some thought-provoking discussions and met some really incredible people while on the road. Sure, there are times I’d rather fall asleep on the plane than talk to the person next to me and there are times I choose that when exhausted beyond belief. However, the occasions I have pushed my limits to share travel stories with the person next to me in the hostel bar have always turned out to be great memories. Life doesn’t have to be lonely when you travel all the time!
- Kirsten Alana

Regardless of where I go, I block out time to experience something unique to the city or new for me (a walking tour can be a fun way to check out the sites and get a little exercise in); even if it’s just 10 minutes in the morning to see the sunrise over a different skyline, this helps me to appreciate the travel itself.
- Robyn Davis

Always choose the back road over the highway.
- Jason Cochran

>> Are you a frequent traveler? What’s your most hard-won piece of travel advice? Let us know in the comments!

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  • Dave Lemke said at 2013-07-25T00:29:02+0000: Join a frequent flyer program like Delta Skymiles so when flights get canceled, you don't have to stand in a long line at the gate trying to get another flight - you can do that on your smartphone with an app from the airline. Or most large airports have kiosks which will give you your re-booked ticket and sometimes even food vouchers automatically without even seeing an agent - you scan your ticket and voila, you're all set. And don't yell at the agent if your flight gets cancelled or delayed - it's not their fault and you look like an idiot to all of us road warriors. Their job is to find a way to get you to your destination and yelling will only make it harder and they might redirect your luggage to Antarctica ;).
  • Sojourn Safaris said at 2013-02-06T14:56:49+0000: I agree, eating local foods gives you a gastronomy tour of the local peoples cultures. You will also be surprised at how much you can learn from a local cab driver. The rule of the thumb is to keep an open and inquisitive mind in your business destinations. Great piece here for business travellers.
  • Marsha Neuman said at 2011-07-25T23:55:07+0000: People in bars are a great source of information and generally are in a good mood and are happy to help.
  • Sadie Heldberg said at 2011-08-16T00:46:58+0000: Business travelers are definitely the most experienced travelers out there, as they are sharing the single serving highway on a regular basis. They have seen and made the mistakes found the working short cuts and know the best ways to keep your travels smooth and as easy going as possible. I am one of those travelers as I have been for quite a while there are so many useful sites out there with great knowledge to help new business travelers. I have a couple tips that are off the beaten path but nonetheless helpful as they are what one might not think of right away. I always try to take adventures as often as possible even if it is just a short getting acquainted with the local area as a way of expanding my knowledge. This makes the trip more than just an average business trip and gives you more out of it for your soul. I also keep up with at least one of my hobbies while I am traveling which is my film blog. This requires a lot of research, which I have found a great tool to help me with so it works out great and I get the research done during my trips. I got my hands on some awesome new technology called the Sling Adapter available through Dish Network free thru a rebate, which has changed many things for me. The app downloads are free to iPads or Smartphone’s and it is that simple. It has given me the ability to access movies that are in my programming package plus access to tons of other online entertainment. With the online content, I can get tons of movies and tons of TV media for my research. This is important because my writing for the film blog is a very important part of my life. My work for Dish Network will always require travel, which will take me away from my blog, but I can research everything I need while I am away. Then when I get home, I am prepared to write. It ends up working out wonderful. I feel more fulfilled altogether, when I return plus I’m not scrambling around feeling like my personal life is suffering because my work life is dominating. http://bit.ly/ieFqCg