10 Brands That Can Help Make Business Travel More Bearable
1. Best Buy
Forgot your phone charger? Crave an iPod, new headphones, a video camera? From an eight-city rollout in late 2008, Best Buy now sells electronic necessities (and indulgences) out of 95 vending kiosks in terminals throughout North America. Within a year, the company hopes to have multiple kiosks in every major U.S. airport, as well as upgraded software that lets consumers return purchases in stores. The best part? There's no convenience upcharge. All items track the company's standard retail price as closely as possible. (888) 237-8289
2. Tom Bihn
The Checkpoint Flyer Briefcase is a stylish (and FAA-approved) computer case that can get your laptop through airport security with the unsnap of a buckle. The rest of the time, it works as an especially functional carry-on, with pockets for electronic accessories. Sales are direct through the Tom Bihn website (which also sells Bihn-designed packing cubes, cork fabric bags and iPad cases). A recent doubling of the company's Seattle factory space will eventually mean additional colors and immediate availability. (800) 729-9607
This design-driven Dillon, Colo.-based company has been turning out high-performance outdoor gear for more than a decade. Several years ago, it started applying lessons learned in the service of duck hunting and fly fishing to travel accessories. Coming next is the Sporting Club Collection: everything from laptop sleeves to carry-on overnighters constructed from water-repellent 16-ounce waxed-cotton canvas and featuring ultra-reinforced handles. No need to find a Bass Pro Shop to buy one, either. The bags are sold on eBags.com and will soon be in major retailers nationwide. fishpondusa.com; (970) 468-7883
4. Holiday Inn
After a $1 billion makeover yielded new pillows, showers, signs and even a new Holiday Inn scent to help buttress a more upscale positioning, the iconic brand is now set to reinvent the lobby with its Social Hubs. The concept merges the front desk, bar, restaurant and game room into a multifunctional space where guests can gather from breakfast through late-night hours. Implementation will start this June at the Holiday Inn Gwinnett Center and gradually spread to the chain's 3,000 hotels worldwide. (888) 465-4329
Related: The Best Hotels for Business Travel
Another new hotel chain? The joint venture between luxury purveyors Sonesta and innovative designer Dodd Mitchell (the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel; Katana restaurant) will, most likely, become the go-to brand for many business travelers. This service-oriented chain is looking to split the difference between executive and leisure travel: facilitating weekday productivity, then enticing you to stay the weekend. They've targeted existing buildings in urban and resort areas to retrofit into midsize destination properties; as many as half a dozen projects are currently being considered. (617) 421-5400
As if there weren't enough lines in airports, Southern California's cult frozen yogurt vendor has arrived at terminals in LAX, Maui, Honolulu and Dubai. The 6-year-old company, known for fiercely loyal customers willing to endure half-hour waits for a bowl of mango or pomegranate yogurt, is offering bowls of hand-cut fresh fruit and premium berries as well as its usual compliment of six rotating flavors. Pinkberry will add outlets in SFO, John Wayne International and Charlotte by year's end and has several other airport locations in its medium-term plans. (323) 932-6800
Like a Slingbox for your laptop, Pogoplug, from San Francisco-based Cloud Engines, lets you securely access up to four external hard drives from anywhere you have an internet connection. You can transfer HD footage, photos and data without cumbersome uploads, even print long distance from your smartphone. Since its launch in 2009, the device has added Wi-Fi capability and additional ports. And once major retailers such as Amazon.com started carrying it last year, Pogoplug nudged into the mainstream. Last month, the next-generation Pogoplug Video debuted, enabling users to stream HD movies, sales pitches or family vacation footage with no buffer time.
Not just a Garmin look-alike, TomTom's goal is to use GPS to reduce auto traffic around the world. After three years in Europe, the Amsterdam-based company's proprietary HD Traffic service--which can be accessed through existing TomTom devices or as an iPhone app--is about to hit the U.S. market. It will offer users 30 traffic updates an hour (as opposed to only four for existing RDS-TMC technology) and map access to 3 million miles of road, meaning it's far less likely to reroute you toward another jam-up. (866) 486-6866
Send a text or use Uber's iPhone or Android app,and within 10 minutes, one of more than 100 on-call town cars will arrive to take you where you need to go. Billing is direct to your credit card, by mileage and time or a flat rate, with a tip already included. Uber has been helping people get around San Francisco since last June, and the company is planning to launch in perhaps 10 more major markets in the next year and a half, starting soon in New York.
10. United Airlines
United, the airline that business travelers love to hate, on a list of brands to watch? Well, sort of. A merger with Continental will be fully integrated by year's end, and the resulting behemoth may just be that rare case of complimentary strengths creating a business worth more than the sum of its parts. Add United's Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago hubs and 777s to Continental's customer-friendly culture--its CEO, Jeff Smisek, will control the combined company--and you get a service-oriented airline with heightened Latin America presence, enhanced award-travel opportunities and the heft to get you most anywhere in the world in a hurry. (800) 864-8331