4 things to know before your first business trip

Before your first business trip you may think business travel is pretty straightforward.  You buy your tickets, reserve packing cubesyour rental, book your room, pack, and away you go.  However, you’ll soon find out there are plenty of pitfalls. And if you don’t know any better you’ll find yourself going about it all wrong.  Don’t worry! Road Warriorette is here to help you avoid falling into common new-traveler traps. Here are four things you should know before your first business trip.  

Don’t check your bag.  If you’ve never traveled for business it may sound like a good idea to not have the stress of hauling your luggage through the airport.  On my first few business trips I checked my suitcase for this very reason.  Alas, I discovered very quickly that if you value your possessions and time you’ll want to avoid checking your bag at all costs.  When you check a bag you have to spend time checking it, you risk things getting lost or damaged, if you have a connection a delay could cause your luggage not to make the flight, and worst of all you have to sit and wait for your luggage to arrive when you may need to head out for business or go to your hotel and sleep.  This is why I never check my bag unless I absolutely have to!  If you’re concerned about your luggage fitting in the overhead bin check out my post on carry-on luggage within airline regulations. Not sure how to fit all of your required stuff into a smaller suitcase? Here are some tips on packing light. (If you over packed for whatever reason and end up having to check your bag here are tips for checking a bag.)

Sign up for loyalty programs.  Even if you don’t think you’ll be traveling much for business you should still sign up for the loyalty programs and do your best to stay loyal to a few brands.  Not only can loyalty programs get you free hotel stays and flights, if you rack up enough points and earn status you can get other perks such as first class upgrades, lounge access, and bonus points.  I’ve written in detail about points in the past so to learn how to take full advantage take a look at each post: Loyalty programs, Credit Cards, Shopping Portals, Dining and Partner ProgramsFor a list of  common reward program signup links click here.  If you plan to be traveling regularly it may not be a bad idea to get a credit card that has travel perks for signing up.  For instance, while the Citi Executive AAdvantage World Elite Mastercard has a hefty annual fee, you get (as of 5/19/15) 10,000 AAdvantage Elite Qualifying Miles (which gets you almost half way towards Gold AAdvantage status), Admirals Club membership, first bag checked for free, Priority check-in, and more.  Just be sure you are paying attention to the details on these offers and weigh these benefits against how much you expect to travel.  Some cards offer benefits that you’ll never be able to take advantage of if you are an infrequent traveler.

Get Global Entry and/or TSA Pre-Check.  If you plan to travel often for business then Global Entry and/or TSA Pre-check are absolutely essential.  You don’t have to take your shoes off or your laptop out of your bag at security, and when traveling internationally you can pass the lengthy customs lines. If you don’t plan to travel for business often then plan on going through the regular security line.  Here are tips for making it smoothly through the regular security line.    Give yourself extra time on busy travel days such as holidays or when a conference is in town.  Wear flat shoes that can be easily slipped off and on for security. Have your ID and boarding pass ready to go when you get to the front of the line, and make sure your liquids bag and laptop are easily accessible. Finally, when you get through the line pick up your bags and bins and move to the benches to reassemble your stuff.  Be patient! Delays, lines, and crowds can make even the most even-tempered traveler lose her mind. Take a deep breath and remember that getting mad doesn’t make anything move more quickly!

Know the best time to leave.  There are benefits and drawbacks to leaving at any time.

  • Early in the morning. A 5am flight will often get to your destination in time to have almost a full day at the office, plus you get to stay at home one more night. The obvious downside is that getting up at 3am sucks, and lack of sleep may lead you to operate at a sub-optimal level.
  • Early afternoon. Leaving around 2pm allows you to have a half day to work but arrive at your destination early enough to get a good night’s sleep. At the same time you are away from home a night earlier than may be necessary. And maybe it’s just the places I fly to, but it seems like there are almost no direct flights leaving early afternoon so it takes longer than it may have to.
  • After work. The pros: A full day of work before your flight, a full day of work at your destination. The cons: You’re often on the last flight of the day, and any delays could cause you to arrive very late.

I prefer to leave early in the morning or after work, although this doesn’t always work out.

Readers, what suggestions do you have for someone who is about to go on their first business trip? 

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Be sure to check out my page on the best carry-on luggage brands!

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Comments

  1. Good tips! I agree with never check any bags. When I get back from a trip, I really enjoy walking straight from customs all the way to the taxi stand without having to wait for my luggage to arrive.

  2. I would also be sure to have a membership (or access) to the Admirals clubs, United clubs or Delta lounges, depending on which airline you mostly end up flying. (Hint: if you live in places like Houston, DFW or Atlanta, this prediction is not hard; and many companies have a “preferred” airline.)

    The lounges are nice, of course, and you can get work done there, but the real reason for membership (or access) is for the extra help they can provide with the little extras such as flying standby on an earlier flight and the big extras such as help during a weather or mechanical problem.

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