Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Business Travel on the Up & Up

Within a year of graduating college I was certified gold. American Airlines Gold that is. Along the way to gaining that irrelevant title I picked up on some tips and tricks to make business travel as stress free as possible.
The more you travel the more you understand how much time you need at your home airport. For domestic flights you need to check in 30 minutes before departure and 60 minutes for international (without checked luggage). Those are the minimums, I'd recommend adding another 30 minutes to that in the beginning, less if you're an experienced traveler. If the flight is running on time, boarding starts 30 min prior to departure.

Save 3-5 minutes and a piece of a tree by checking in on your smart phone and getting an e-ticket. The 2D bar code is scanned at security and again as you board the aircraft. Set your phone's screen saver to delay a minute or two before shutting off so the image is ready to be scanned when the ticket is requested.

Airport attire should include shoes that can be taken on and off without being tied, and if you can go without wearing a belt- do so. If your everyday carry items include handguns, ammunition, lock picks, tactical pens, knives, your other knife, C4 from your last mission, tactical toothpicks- whatever, make sure it stays in your car in the airport parking lot. You'd be surprised at how many people "forgot" they had that with them. Leave your hat in your bag- you can put it back on at the gate. Hoodies are generally the fast track to getting a pat down.

Men, if you need to check luggage to be out of town for a few days, you're doing something wrong. One carry on and maybe a personal bag will get the job done. Generally, I can pack my briefcase in my carry on so that I only carry one bag in the airport. Pack that one carry on bag as if you'll be going through a TSA security checkpoint- because you will. Streamlining makes the process so much more efficient and could shave an extra 3-5 minutes of wait time versus the average traveler. [For a detailed list on how to get through security most efficiently skip to the end of the article.]

If you want to be an ultralight businessman, ditch the laptop entirely. Tablets reduce the weight significantly with the device itself and all the heavy power supply cords and cases required to transport this ever increasingly obsolete piece of equipment.

Make sure you're enrolled in your air carrier's miles programs. If you travel frequently it can be quite rewarding. Angela and I got to take a vacation to Disney World and paid for most of it with my miles.
Rental Car
Have all your confirmation numbers pulled up and ready to go. Some companies offer gold memberships where preferred customers can jump right into the car and not need to stop at the desk to do all the paperwork.

Drop off all your bags. Inevitably, your clothes got wrinkled so go ahead and iron everything now and hang your clothes in the closet in the room before you go to bed the first night. That's an extra 10 minutes in the morning you can be sleeping instead of ironing.

Free Time
Some of the most common pitfalls are how we choose to use our free time on the road. Depending on the trip you may be too busy to do anything except work and sleep, but in the chance that you'll have some time to yourself, think ahead about how you'll use it and make a plan.

Don't neglect your time in the word. Start out your day in Scripture and prayer- just like you do at home. When our schedules get changed up that part of our routine can often land on the chopping block, leaving us vulnerable to attack throughout the day. 

Trips can be a great time to explore a new city. Check our TripAdvisor to see what's around your hotel. From great food to local attractions, TripAdvisor can show you the places that are worth your time.

Catch up with friends. There aren't too many places I've traveled to where there hasn't been a friend nearby after everyone spread out after college. They can be great local tour guides too.

See if your hotel has a fitness center or if your home gym has a branch close by (i.e. 24 Hour, LA, etc...) so you can work off those extra calories from the business dinners.

Find a way to relax that doesn't involve your smart phone, computer, or the TV in the hotel room. Make the decision to check your email and finish your reports on your laptop in the hotel lobby so that your laptop doesn't even come out of the briefcase in your room. Catch up on the backlog of books you've been meaning to read instead of scrolling facebook. Again. (You'll save a lot of money by hitting up your local library instead of grabbing a novel last minute at the airport newsstand.)

Make nightly phone calls to an accountability partner. 

Above all, be the man of integrity. Don't take shortcuts. Don't pad the expense report. Don't get yourself trapped in compromising situations. And when people take notice, tell them the real reason why you're doing things differently. This is an excellent time to share Christ, not to shy away with a lame excuse as I have been guilty of several times. You don't need to be abrasive or condemn your coworkers, simply explain that you won't participate in x, y, or z because you want to be a man of integrity to honor the Lord. Being seen as a "moral person" is fine, but God gets none of the glory for your behavior if you don't intentionally point people to the reason for your decisions.

I've gotten to see some neat places in the name of business travel: MLB spring training in Phoenix, the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, sunset on the Florida Keys- to name a few. Not every trip is memorable, but if you do your homework ahead of time (and you don't get too bogged down with the mission at hand) business trips can be quite enjoyable.

*From the "process engineer" portion of my mind, here's how to expedite your time in the security line. 
  1. Before you get to the ticket/ID checker, place your keys, cellphone and any other contents of your pockets (save for your wallet and ticket or smartphone if you have an e-ticket) into an outside accessible pocket in your bag. Also identify if they have a dedicated lane for experienced travelers (not to be confused with 1st class or airline elite passenger lines). If you follow my steps, this lane is for you.
  2. After presenting ID and about 90 seconds prior to your turn to grab one of those tubs remove shoes, belt, and undo the zipper to the outside pouch holding your laptop and liquids.
  3. Grab two tubs. Place laptop in one, stack the other tub on top and fill with your shoes, jacket, wallet, 1 qt. ziplock bag of liquids, and keep moving down the line. Stacking the tubs keeps you from having a train that you need to move down the tracks.
  4. Place the tub with personal items on the scanning belt first, then your laptop, and then your bag(s). 
  5. On the other end of the conveyor, put your shoes on first, then re-stuff your pockets. Stack the empty tub under the laptop tub, re-secure laptop and liquids in carry on. Move out of the way. Replace belt while walking to your gate or while waiting for the slow coworker behind you.
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