Life Lessons

5 Business Travel Tips for the Untraveled

Advice from one infrequent flier to another

If you’re a seasoned business traveler with thousands of points accrued on your airline rewards program, and if you can pack an overnight bag in less time than it takes you to make toast, then, dear sir or madame, I raise a glass to you.

I also recommend that you read something else. This post will do absolutely nothing for you. Browsing through an issue of your favorite in-flight magazine will be a much better investment of your time.

If, however, the thought of airport security gives you an allergic reaction and you have no idea what the 3-1-1 rule is, then you’re in the right place. I’ve been there, brother, and let me tell you, business travel is tough if you’re not prepared for it.

I recently returned from a business trip to Los Angeles and Las Vegas, neither city I’d ever visited before. Prior to this trip, my travel experience was limited to occasional weekend trips to the mountains and the rare trip to Denver. The prospect of flying to two new cities, all in one week, was daunting.

Here’s what I learned along the way. Hopefully, these tips will alleviate some of the stress and frustration on your next business trip.

If travel makes you anxious and crowds make you cringe, do yourself a favor: Cut down on the caffeine and drink juice instead. Coffee, energy drinks and the like will only intensify the overwhelm that most airports tend to elicit, especially in the uninitiated.

Juice, by contrast, will hydrate, energize and nourish you. This is important because travel has a way of dehydrating you and sapping your energy. To make matters worse, most airport fare is heavy on calories and light on good nutrition. You’ve got to take care of yourself, and juice is a great place to start.

On my flight out to LA, I grabbed a glass of carrot/orange juice from one of the concourse vendors. It was the best decision I made all day, honestly. I felt more like myself and less like the crabby ogre that I had become.

I come from a long, proud line of cheapskates. My grandpa saved dried beans and macaroni in 50-gallon drums in his garage. My dad used to buy mayonnaise in bulk from the local food bank. (1) In the home where I was raised, you never thumbed your nose at food that cost pennies per pound.

So, needless to say, ordering room service was something I’d never been conditioned to do. Even when I know the company is paying for it, ordering in-room dining feels exorbitant and wasteful.

If you’re using room service to order desserts or booze, then yes, that’s silly. But, when you’re dead on your feet and the only thing you’ve had to eat in the last 24 hours was pretzels and a glass of wine from an after-business mixer, room service can be a godsend. A fortifying meal, like a continental breakfast or a bowl of soup, can make all the difference between feeling your best and feeling like you just crawled from the primordial ooze.

I realize that traveling with only a carry-on bag is all the rage these days. Some people swear by this ultra-lightweight mode of travel. If that’s you, then carry on, my wayward son. (No pun intended.)

But, for me, travel is already hair-raising enough. Jockeying for property in the overhead compartment is an added headache I just don’t need. On my last trip, I checked my suitcase and brought my laptop backpack with me on board. Because my backpack fit beneath the seat, it counted as a personal item and didn’t have to be stowed overhead. This setup saved me a lot of added frustration.

Even though I checked my main bag, I took my laptop backpack aboard. My trusty backpack was the best investment I made in my travel luggage. It made travel everywhere — in the airport, in the hotel, and on the job site — so much easier.

Here are some helpful features I’d recommend looking for in this essential personal item:

  • A zip-open laptop compartment that make it easy to pull out devices when going through security
  • Built-in USB cables that connect to auxiliary batteries so you can charge your devices on the go
  • Extra roomy compartments for storing binders, papers, or your neck pillow
  • Water bottle pockets

Good luggage can go a long way to alleviating travel-related stress. But, some parts of the travel experience are inherently nerve-fraying, no matter what gear you have. Which leads to my final suggestion, so read on.

Airport security lines make me nuttier than a fruitcake. Nothing unravels my self-composure more than flinging my stuff into bins, trying to follow directions from three TSA agents simultaneously, then coming out the other end wondering if I’d forgotten to put my laptop back in my bag. Pure insanity.

After going through security three separate times and coming out a nervous wreck every time, I’m done. It’s Pre-Check for me. Obtaining it is fairly straightforward — an application plus a ten-minute interview — and once you have it, you don’t have to remove your shoes or dig your laptop out of your bag. An investment of $85 for five years seems a small price to pay for your sanity.

Bottom line

Travel can be challenging, particularly for those of us who aren’t used to it. When you’re unpracticed in things that so many seasoned travelers take for granted — getting to the correct gate, navigating an unfamiliar airport, giving the correct address to your Uber driver (2) — it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and even defeated.

Travel can be tough. Just remember: It does get easier. Be patient with yourself, be patient with others, smile, breathe. And for Pete’s sake, drink some juice.

(1) This is not a joke.

(2) On my flight home, I booked an Uber for the first time. Instead of entering the address for the terminal at McCarran International Airport , I’d somehow entered a totally different address that my driver politely pointed out was incorrect. Had he followed my instructions to the letter, we probably would have ended up on the tarmac. Don’t ask me how in the hell I managed to do that.