Traveling can make you feel like royalty-or it can be a royal pain. It's exhilarating because you get to call the shots, but it's also time-consuming to get yourself prepared for a trip. Oh, and don't forget the bill you'll ultimately have to foot, because now you're the boss. Travel writer Christopher Elliott can sympathize with your plight. Elliott, who has been covering travel topics for more than a decade and has trekked the world over for many more, is the founding editor of business travel e-zine Biztravel.com. He's also a columnist for numerous online and print publications, including Entrepreneur, for which he writes the monthly "Travel" column. You can find many of his columns as well as other travel information on his site, elliott.org, billed as "The Last Honest Travel Site."
As Francis Bacon once said, 'Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience." Here, Elliott offers some tips that'll help you become the consummate traveler, enabling you to experience it all with peace of mind and, in the end, a thicker wallet.
Entrepreneur.com: With the advent of the Internet, people are using it to buy just about everything. Do you think it's better for entrepreneurs to book travel online or go through an agent?
Christopher Elliott: There's no easy way to answer that question. It really depends on what your line of business is, how many employees you have and where you're traveling. You should consider [using] a travel agent, but you should never book your travel without first checking online; there are advantages to both. You might find that if your business is small enough, booking everything online is really the easiest way, but I wouldn't rely on just one [method]. You might be able to save money by doing the research yourself, but that takes time, and trite as it may sound, in business, time is money. You don't have time to become your own corporate travel manager/travel agent/traveler. It's better to outsource those things.
|"You might be able to save money by doing the research yourself, but that takes time, and trite as it may sound, in business, time is money."|
Entrepreneur.com: How can entrepreneurs stay productive and connected while on the road?
Elliott: Take a laptop with you, two backup batteries, a backup laptop if you have to. If you have mission-critical issues that you have to deal with while on the road, such as checking e-mail, getting into your corporate intranet or putting together a presentation, you absolutely can't be down. [Unfortunately,] the cell phones, the convergent devices-such as Handspring Visors, combination Palm Pilot/cell phones (I'm testing one right now)-just aren't where they need to be yet. You can't really put together a presentation like you would be able to with a PC. And if you go to a business center, they're going to charge you up the wazoo for using one of their PCs-anywhere from 60 cents to $2 a minute. Plus, they may not even have the software you want.
You have to have the right kind of connectivity. I just had a horrible experience where I plugged my laptop into a digital phone line and it fried my modem. I lost a week's worth of work because I couldn't take the laptop with me on an assignment.
Entrepreneur.com: What tips do you have for staying healthy on the road?
Elliott: When you're on the road, [it's so easy] to gain 10 extra pounds. When you're out entertaining clients for dinner, you can easily have a meal that you shouldn't have. There are better ways of handling those situations. You can certainly try to entertain your clients at a different time, a less traditional time. Invite them for tea-particularly in Europe, you can do that and get by a lot cheaper. If it's just you eating alone, don't be tempted by fast food; go to the grocery store. It's healthy, it's a whole lot cheaper, and your body will thank you for it. If you eat out, make lunch your main meal; dinner is typically 20 to 30 percent more expensive.
Entrepreneur.com: Do you have any tips for saving money?
Elliott: With hotels, you can always ask when you make the reservation, when you're online or even when you show up, "Do you have any discounts?" No price is ever final. Empty your wallet or your pocketbook, and look through all your club memberships and cards. I've talked to travelers who've gotten their bill chopped in half because they were persistent. Not annoying, just persistent.