Whether you travel once in a while or are a road warrior like me, business travel can be expensive, tedious and even inefficient.
So, how do you make more out of your time out of the office? I have some of my own favorite tips and also asked Scott Hintz, angel investor and startup advisor and co-founder of TripIt, weigh in. Here are our best suggestions.
Enroll in Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check
“The Global Entry program is starting to go mainstream,” he says, “but I'm surprised how many people I know who haven't signed up for it yet.”
A passenger enters a new expedited security line for PreCheck passengers at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta in 2011. (AP/David Goldman)
It costs $100 to sign up for Global Entry, but it's good for five years and includes membership in Pre-Check. For U.S. domestic travel, Pre-Check membership gets you access to special security lanes at the airport, where you get benefits like not having to take off your shoes or remove your laptop from your bag. The line moves quickly and it's a lot less hassle.
If you travel internationally, Global Entry allows you to go to a kiosk upon return to the U.S., skipping long immigration lines entirely.
Maximize Your Work Time
Business travel often involves a lot of down time - there’s plane rides, cab rides, and even nights in hotel rooms. While you may want to sleep, surf the web or watch movies on your iPad, one of the best things that you can do is to plan out your down time to include productive, business-related tasks.
I use my travel down time to write - everything from articles and blogs to return emails. I also make sure that in between meetings and appearances that I find a location where I can get some real work done that is conveniently located near my next appointments.
I typically turn to my client Regus’s business lounges since they are in more than 1,800 locations across the globe. This way I can have the privacy that lacks in a coffee shop and resources without giving up convenience and get more done on the road.
Stay Ahead of the Pack
If you are traveling regularly, to maximize your time (and ensure that you don’t forget anything) have a travel bag that you keep packed at all times.
Make sure to include all of the basics that you need every time you travel. For me, this includes staples like my beauty products, make-up, hairbrushes, accessories, shoes, etc. Then, I just add in whatever clothes and extras that I need based on what and where my trip is and… voila! I am all good to go. When I come home from a trip, I replace any items that need to be washed or restocked, so that I can quickly get ready for my next trip.
Customers wait to check luggage at O'Hare International Airport. (Photo: AP/Nam Y. Huh)
If you stay at the same hotel regularly, inquire on whether you can store your main bag there to cut down on the back-and-forth. And finally, when possible, only bring a carry-on bag with you. This way, you can avoid the extra fees and wait times that accompany checking bags.
Sign up for TripIt Pro
Since Scott founded the company (although he no longer retains a financial interest in it), he explains the benefits of TripIt Pro better than most.
“It saves you time by monitoring all your flights, no matter which airline you fly, and alerting you to delays and cancellations, often before the airline's own alerts arrive (if you've signed up for them). It also monitors your seat assignments and constantly looks for better seats that open up, in addition to other handy features. But TripIt Pro also saves you money by monitoring airfares and letting you know if your ticket price has dropped and you might be eligible for a refund or credit from the airline. And you get discounts with providers like Hertz and Regus.”
That’s well worth the $49 annual fee (and it costs even less with a corporate membership to TripIt for Teams).
Connect to Your Offline Network
Another great way to make the most out of your business travel is to connect with people. Let your existing clients, potential clients, social media contacts and even other businesses know that you will be in town. Try to book consultations, speaking engagements, or whatever is appropriate for your own business to make extra money while you are in town.
Even if it’s just meeting up with a social media contact for coffee, face to face interaction can garner more business than you can imagine.
Scott suggests that you may also want to manually enter status updates on social media accounts (e.g., "I'll be in Atlanta from Jan. 12-15 if anyone wants to meet up") or connect your LinkedIn account to TripIt to automatically post travel updates. This way, a broader section of your network will know you'll be in town and that can lead to additional business meetings and networking while you're on the road. I am a bit more concerned about privacy, so I prefer to update one-on-one, but either way, travel networking helps you to maximize the value you get from those precious travel dollars and hours.
Join Airline Small Business Programs
If you own a small business, this is a great tip from Scott. It's free to enroll your business in programs like Business ExtrAA from American Airlines, where your company will get points for all flights booked by your employees. Those points are good for things like free tickets, upgrades and passes to airport lounges. Your employees still get their normal frequent flier miles, so the points your company gets are on top of that.
While you can’t always avoid air travel, you can make it better. Hopefully you will implement many of these tips to get more out of your future trips!
Carol Roth is a contributor for CNBC, bestselling author of The Entrepreneur Equation, recovering investment banker and a small business advocate. She also has an action figure made in her likeness. Twitter: @CarolJSRoth
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