If the words "November business trip" strike fear in your heart, you're not alone. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the two weeks before and after Thanksgiving are the busiest travel times of the year. And the stretch between Turkey Day and Christmas isn't much better.
Corporate travel consultant Robert Anderson advises avoiding travel during the holidays. Many veteran business travelers flat-out refuse to board an airplane the week of Thanksgiving unless it's a life-or-death emergency.
If you must travel, plan ahead. Fly or drive during off-hours, taking a red-eye or an alternate route that lets you avoid big cities. "That way," says Anderson, "you stand a better chance of having a sane [trip]."
Charles Leocha, author of the book Travel Rights (World Leisure Corp.), warns that you're more likely to get bumped from a flight during the holidays because carriers tend to overbook. "If you can get a boarding pass, then do it," he says. Also, don't take ticketless travel for granted; bringing a printout of your itinerary with you could make a big difference.
Finally, arrive at the airport early. Road warriors accustomed to cutting it close to their departure times should know that in late fall, carriers are more likely to close the gate exactly 10 minutes before departure, in accordance with their regulations. Says Leocha, "Airlines don't enforce the 10-minute rule as rigorously the rest of the year."
Christopher Elliott is a writer in Los Angeles and a columnist for "ABC News Online."
Travelers head south for tropical respite.
As the mercury falls, business travelers' interest in the tropics rises. A recent study by American Express suggests that entrepreneurs favor Caribbean cruises as a way to escape the gray. "Business owners who've had a particularly good year are heading to St. Barts, Nevis, Antigua and other Caribbean islands," says Rich Miller, a vice president for American Express Small Business Travel in New York City.
Indeed, the Caribbean Tourism Organization counted 7.1 million visitors from the United States in 1996, the most current year for which figures are available, up from 6.5 million visitors in 1992. But other hot spots are benefiting from the low temperatures, as well. Travelers are cashing in frequent flyer miles for tickets to destinations like Arizona and southern Florida.
"Business owners are looking for convenience," says David Fine, marketing manager for the trendy Sheraton Bal Harbour Beach Resort and the Key West Hotels near Miami. "They want something close, something in their time zone; they want to stay connected."
- The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel in California has just opened an expanded business center on the hotel's conference level. Amenities include cell phones, as well as several high-speed PCs equipped with the latest software, laser printers and quick Internet access. For more information, call (949) 240-2000.
- Hertz is deploying new "Easy Access" courtesy shuttles at 13 U.S. airports. Able to be lowered four inches at the curb, these environmentally friendly vehicles offer improved access for people with physical disabilities. For more information, call (800) 654-3131.
- Midwest Express Airlines recently introduced service to Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina, from Milwaukee and Kansas City, Missouri. The carrier has also expanded its existing service between Milwaukee and Toronto. For more information, call (800) 452-2022.
American Express Small Business Travel, http://www.americanexpress.com/smallbusiness
Caribbean Tourism Organization, (212) 635-9530
Corporate Travel Management, 2943 Defford Rd., Norristown, PA 19403, (610) 584-6939
Sheraton Bal Harbour Beach Resort and KeyWest Hotels, 9701 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour, FL 33154, (305) 868-2510
U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics, (800) 853-1351, http://www.bts.gov