Traveling for business can be unnerving for entrepreneurs at all levels. Most of us get so busy keeping shop that we forget to make the transition from personal traveler to professional traveler—and the result is wasted hours, money, and time. Below are a few tips on how to start traveling like a pro. Remember, as a business owner, your time is money!
1. Batch your meetings when possible
Let’s say you’re traveling cross-country to attend a conference next month. Instead of just spending time planning happy hour with an old college friend, why not set up some meetings with clients or media while you’re in that city. You’re already traveling in work-mode, and have likely packed business professional clothing, so why not maximize your time?
One business consultant I know would announce to her list which city she was going to be in a few weeks ahead of time, and offered one-hour consults for $250 a pop. She rented a small conference room, and booked up a full day that paid for her trip.
When a potential client knows you’re only in town for a limited time, it gives them a deadline to take action and get the ball rolling. And while our virtual world is amazing, people know that nothing beats meeting in person. (And of course, when all your work is done, definitely go out and have that cosmo with your college pal!)
2. Pack like a pro (and still look fab)
Ask any avid traveler, and she’ll confirm that packing truly is an art form. Add a woman’s professional wardrobe into the mix, and things get even more challenging. Listen, I have NEVER mastered the carry-on. I never will. My beauty kit alone is hard to lift. But I at least get everything down to one checked bag and one roll-aboard.
One way to streamline your packing is to pick one color combination for your entire trip. So, if you really want to show off your new black pumps, stick to clothing choices that complement black (instead of introducing an entirely new color palette, into the mix… like pastels). For example, on a recent trip to NYC I packed one pair of tan boots and one pair of tan wedges, three dresses that matched the boots, and a pair of jeans and a top that matched the wedges.
A few items every business traveler should ALWAYS have in her suitcase are an extra cell phone charger, a 6-foot long extension cord (for hard-to-reach power outlets), and a set of travel-sized toiletries, like facial cleansers, moisturizers, night creams, etc. Buy doubles of all your essentials and keep them in your suitcase ready to go. This is a huge time saver!
3. Go digital for all your planning
My team and I use a great travel management app called TripIt, which acts like a paperless travel assistant. First, buy your airline ticket the way you usually do. Then when you get the email confirmation, just forward it to your designated TripIt email account.
TripIt will aggregate all your travel information—your flight, car service, hotel information, meetings, etc.—into one central itinerary that you can access online and via your smartphone. The Pro version (which I use) will even text you updates in the event your flight gets delayed or anything changes, and you can click a button to look up alternate flights in case your schedule changes.
4. Go loyal (or go elsewhere)
One great thing to have your assistant or an intern do for you is to sign you up ahead of time for points programs with all hotels and airlines you frequent. As you travel more and more, you’ll find which ones you want to keep building more points for. For example, I’m a huge fan of Virgin America and try to fly them whenever possible to rack up my points. And I’ve become pretty loyal to the Marriott brand of hotels, since I began to rack up points there as well. And loyalty often pays… Thanks to my frequent hotel status, I recently got a free upgrade to a super room and view in NYC. You could even work your way up to a free vacation.
Also, consider when it’s worth it to spend a bit more. I see too many folks be cheap when booking airfare and snagging any old trip for the lowest price possible on discount sites. Even flights that require them to change planes and that take up hours more time! Those deals are great occasionally, but I see many business owners trapped when they want to change their flight and miss huge opportunities just to save a few bucks. (Not to mention the higher risk of delayed luggage when you switch planes.)
I remember once trying to convince a client to stay in town an extra day to meet with a huge connection I had for her. This meeting could have changed her business and her life. She told me she couldn’t change her flight. At first I thought it meant she had to get home that day, but then she later stubbornly admitted she didn’t want to pay the change in price for her ticket and the airline’s change fee.
Be smart about your spending, but think from a bigger perspective!
5. Stay healthy on the road
While I’m pretty good at eating “clean” at home, it’s quite a challenge when I’m traveling. Between airport and hotel food, it’s not hard to come home with some extra bloat (and I don’t mean in your luggage). Because I’m usually at client lunches and dinners, breakfast is somewhere I have more control. I pack a shaker cup, some protein shake mix, rice cakes, and packets of almond butter. While these items take up some room in my bag, they’ve been a lifesaver when I need a nibble, and who wants to spend $30 on a mediocre room service breakfast anyway?
I also know I get cranky and lose focus when I’m hungry, so I always keep a baggie of almonds and a few protein bars in my bag when I’m on the go.
And I always pack at least one workout outfit. While I may not have time to hit the hotel gym or go for a run every day, there’s usually at least one day I can fit it in, and I’m always glad I did!© Copyright 2013 Ali Brown