A Half-Million Miler's Guide to Boosting Travel Productivity Without Going Insane
Are you spending more time in the sky than ever before? So is the rest of the business world. Already representing about a quarter of global travel and tourism spending, the business travel sector is set to grow 3.7 percent annually over the next decade, according to a 2017 report by Travelport and the World Travel & Tourism Council.
In the past two years alone, I've logged half a million miles in domestic and global business travel. Not only have I helped countless young engineers and designers improve in their craft, but I've also explored amazing places such as Shanghai along the way. I've felt language and cultural barriers melt away in moments of unexpected connection.
But business travel isn't all about fun and friends. Anyone who's done more than a few nights in a row on the road knows that it can be downright draining. Mile by mile, I've learned the following lessons for keeping my stress levels low and productivity high:
1. Whether it’s cold outside or not, wear a pocketed jacket.
Weaving. Running. Rummaging. Repacking. Running again. When you're late for a flight, there's nothing worse than having to unpack your entire bag for that phone charger that TSA wants a closer look at. Do yourself a favor and don a jacket with lots of zippered, Velcro or otherwise secured pockets. Stuff them with anything you might need or be expected to produce on short notice.
2. String bags together with quick-release straps.
You got an Amazon Prime membership for Christmas? Order yourself some quick-release straps. Use them to connect your sandwich sack, laptop bag and anything else you're bringing along to your suitcase. If you do it right, it'll look like you're toting just a single bag. Besides, who wants cumbersome little bags that bang at your knees while you're trying to traverse a packed airport? Stop the flop and you'll zip through lines.
3. Go for Global Entry.
Few things are worse for your sanity than security lines that make you late for your flight. Spend the $100 to apply for Global Entry, which also grants you TSA PreCheck. If you travel regularly, the extra work time you'll buy yourself will more than pay for your pass. And many credit cards, such as the American Express Platinum or the Chase Reserve, will reimburse you for the sign-up fee.
4. Plan for the worst with in-flight Wi-Fi.
I usually spring for the in-flight Wi-Fi, but that doesn't mean I depend on it. Why not? First of all, the plane might not have it; second, it might be mind-numbingly slow. Instead, assemble an offline to-do list in advance or while you're at the airport. Use Google Suite? Activate the offline functionality so you can spend your metal-tube time finishing proposals, slide decks, blog posts and more without worrying about internet access.
5. Try out the latest travel tech.
As someone who's 6-foot-8, untangling a laptop cord with non-existent elbow room is challenging. Be a courteous traveler, and invest in a Cord Taco. Pair it with a FINsix DART portable laptop charger to save space and keep your battery juiced. Then, get a multipurpose USB to keep your other devices going strong. Throw everything into a multicompartment bag, and you're good to go.
6. Stay somewhere close with speedy Wi-Fi.
Hotel Wi-Fi seems to have two speeds: blazing fast or crawling. So before you book, look up local hotels on Hotel WiFi Test or WiFi Rank. Especially if you're traveling internationally, spend a few dollars more for the hotel that sports the better connection. Just don't stay too far from the meeting or conference site. I learned that lesson the hard way when I stayed more than an hourlong Uber ride away from my destination in Mexico City.
7. Don't forget to take your vitamins.
What could be more fun than coming down with the flu on a business trip? Just about anything, actually. Airports and hotels are petri dishes for germs and viruses. Stop productivity-killing colds in their tracks by supplementing with zinc, vitamin C and (my personal favorite) Berocca. Emergen-C, Nozin and Airborne deserve a place in your portable medicine cabinet as well.
8. Schedule some time to unwind.
Between long days in conference rooms, crying babies on planes and cocktails with colleagues, business travel will wear you down. Why not walk to that after-dinner coffee shop instead of Ubering to it? If you're staying in a swankier hotel, such as Starwood's Westin, you can rent gym clothes and shoes so you don't have to stuff your carry-on. What if you're at an Airbnb without a workout space? Google Maps can direct you to the nearest health club, where you can snag a day pass to slay your jet lag.
Business travel doesn't have to be a head-pounding slog through airports and hotels. As long as you don't go overboard, pleasure isn't the enemy of productivity. So plan ahead, take care of yourself, and splurge for things such as fewer lines and faster Wi-Fi. You'll be glad you did -- and you'll be more productive, too.