What a Trip!

What a Trip!

Best Site for Travel Deals:

The oldest adage in the new age of online travel booking is that there is no single website that always offers the lowest fares. There are simply too many variables. But starting in early 2005, we moved closer to that silver bullet of a site with the launch of new metasearch engine Kayak.com.

Here's how Kayak works: Similar to other travel booking sites, you enter your travel dates, origins and destinations. Kayak then scours more than 100 travel sites-airline sites, travel agent sites, discount sites, consolidators-and gives you real-time airfares (and itineraries), hotel rates or car rental rates for you to select from.

Keep in mind that metasearch engines such as Kayak are just that-search engines. They are not travel agencies-they only direct you to the sites where the deals are, and you buy there. By booking directly with the travel provider, small-business travelers can avoid paying service fees. In addition, by booking directly, you'll benefit from supplier-direct incentives such as upgrades and bonus miles.

Best Site for Travel Advice:

Looking for the truth about business travel? Look no further than JoeSentMe.com, the brutally honest, practical and insightful website from journalist Joe Brancatelli, who has been covering the business travel beat since the 1970s.

Sign up for his weekly newsletter, and you'll get all the news and insider information you need to know (and a healthy dose of opinion). Plus, you'll find helpful columns from a handful of other writers who specialize in travel technology and gadgets, health and fitness, and more. Alas, the unvarnished truth does not come free. Since JoeSentMe.com is noncommercial and accepts no ads or support from the travel industry, annual membership starts at $49.

Luggage Must-Haves
Weighing in: Avoid expensive overweight-luggage surcharges by weighing your bags before you leave for the airport. Magellan's $9.85 scale allows you to weigh bags up to 75 pounds, and has a built-in tape measure to ensure bags don't exceed size requirements.

Attention: ladies with laptops: Are you tired of hauling around that ugly black computer bag? The stylish $80 Marina Computer Handbag from Timbuk2 is big enough to fit laptops up to 15 inches across-and they'll be well protected by padding, a waterproof bottom and a ballistic nylon exterior. The bag also has no-slip padded handles and a zippered exterior cell-phone pocket. Available in assorted colors.

Nothing but the best: The National Luggage Dealers Association designed the Mosaic Collection of wheeled suitcases based on what customers have been asking for. You can customize your bag with your initials or three colorful tiles, and you get a stain- and water-resistant slipcover that can stand up to abuse by luggage handlers. The $395 22-inch bag fits in overhead bins. Bags have a three-year warranty.

Travel Gear Must-Haves
Rest easy: Now that airlines are cutting back on everything, including pillows, it's time to bring your own. Cocoon offers a full line of super-lightweight travel pillows for head, neck and back support. The 10-by 13-inch pillows compress to fit into fist-size bags that weigh just 3 ounces. Inside the nylon shell is synthetic or all-natural goose down, offering a nice, soft spot on a long, hard trip. Larger sizes are available. Prices run from $16 to $28.

The better belt: Tired of taking your belt off every time you pass through the airport security gauntlet? Bison Belts are made of woven nylon and fasten with plastic buckles that won't set off metal detectors. The $12 standard belt and the $15 money belt come in a wide variety of patterns, colors and widths.

Wandering eyes?: New 3M privacy filters that fit over your laptop screen work like vertical mini-blinds to block the view of nosy airline seatmates (the screen appears dark when viewed from the side). They also provide protection from scratches or punctures to delicate laptop screens. Filters are available at most major office supply stores or online. Prices range from $50 to $80.

Tech Tools
Technology is key to your business success on the road because it keeps you connected with your office and your clients. For pure computing power, a laptop is hard to beat. The Hewlett-packard Compaq nc6140 Notebook PC starts at about $1,399 and 6 pounds, and has a 15-inch screen, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and built-in compatibility with Verizon's cellular broadband service. It's not the slimmest laptop around, but you won't have to skimp on power or wireless features.

Wireless connectivity is important when you're traveling. The Palm TX PDA comes stocked with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in a compact, $300 package. The screen can be viewed in portrait or landscape mode. Documents to Go software lets you take your Excel, PowerPoint and Word files with you. At 5.25 ounces, it might make you consider leaving your laptop at the office.

Business travel doesn't have to be all work all the time. The $299 (with cellular plan) Samsung SCH-a970 cell phone has MP3 playback, a 2-megapixel camera, video capture, Bluetooth, VCAST support and voice-to-text dictation. A microSD memory card slot gives you extra storage. The design, stereo speakerphone and swivel screen add to the cool factor.

Tech Tools Must-Haves
When you're on the road, it's important to have your computing power to go. The IBM ThinkPad T43 starts at about $1,499 and comes stocked with a Centrino processor. Centrino, with its integrated Wi-Fi, is becoming the standard in laptops for business travelers. At 4.5 pounds, it won't hurt to cart it around the airport. A built-in fingerprint reader is available for extra security.

When it comes to being ultraportable, the 3.1-pound Sony VAIO T-series notebooks fit right in. They come with CD-RW/DVD drives and 10.6-inch widescreen displays. Integrated Wi-Fi also comes along for the ride. The T-series starts at about $2,000. These super-light models are pricier than heavier options, but you may find the cost trade-off and smaller screen worthwhile.

Budget buyers should keep an eye out for a model like the Toshiba Tecra A4. Starting at $1,229, you get an Intel Centrino mobile processor, a 15.4-inch widescreen display, a 40GB hard drive and Windows XP Professional. The whole package weighs about 6.2 pounds-not a feather, but good bang for your buck.

Online Exclusive: For more travel tips and resources, visit www.entrepreneur.com//travel/index.html.

Chris McGinnis is Entrepreneur's "Biz Travel" columnist.
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This article was originally published in the April 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: What a Trip!.

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