8 Business Travel Hacks You Need To Know

These eight business travel hacks—including when to book your flights, how to pack efficiently, what apps to download, and more—will help you become an expert on the road.

Booking hotel on laptop

Travel Tips Published March 10, 2020   |   4 minute read

Regardless of whether you’re a rookie or a road warrior, traveling can be a challenge. Even seasoned business travelers are always on the look-out for ways to make life on the road easier.

Enter these eight travel hacks. You may know most of them. You may know none. But it never hurts to learn new practices, or think differently about how you approach a business trip. 

We’ve put together a list of the best tips, from when to book your flights, how to pack, and what apps to download, to which giveaways you should seek out at a convention. 

 

1. Book your flight 30 to 45 days before your trip, and always try to get the first flight of the day.

The optimal time to book domestic flights—according to data from travel sites Skyscanner, Kayak, and the transaction services provider Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC)—is anywhere from six to three weeks out, although the earlier you can book, the better. High prices for last-minute tickets are very real.

As far as flight times, your schedule will determine your return. For your departure, though, fly as early as you can. Data shows flying earlier in the day increases your chances of reaching your destination on time, with the window between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. the best.

 

2. Pack strategically.

Packing strategically is about more than remembering to bring essentials. It’s also about maximizing your space, comfort, and time.

Some best packing practices include the following:

  • Define the attire decorum, so you don’t bring clothes you won’t wear. (Do you need a blazer or sport coat? Jeans or slacks?) 
  • Roll your clothing, and use packing cubes to organize everything so it’s easy to unpack upon arrival.
  • Buy travel-sized containers at a drugstore, and fill them using your full-sized toiletries. This will save you money—travel-sized toiletries cost more per-ounce than typical sizes—and reduce single-use plastic waste.
  • Keep your travel toiletries ready to go in a Dopp kit, even when you’re not traveling. It will save you that step when it’s time to depart.
  • Bring a travel pillow that you can use on the flight and at the hotel, in case the hotel pillows are subpar.
  • Pack high-quality insoles, in addition to wearing versatile shoes. They’ll make all the difference when you’re walking from place to place or making the rounds at a trade show.

 

3. Use TSA Precheck, and check in as soon as possible.

Would you pay $17 a year for shorter security lines and waits in airports? Of course you would. TSA PreCheck costs $85 for a five-year membership.

With TSA PreCheck, you get to leave on your shoes and belt, and keep your laptop in your bag. As of January 2020, 94 percent of travelers who used TSA PreCheck had wait times of five minutes or less.

Also, always enter your Known Traveler Number (KTN) when you’re purchasing your ticket. By doing this beforehand, you can head straight to the PreCheck line as soon as you arrive at the airport, rather than spend time checking in.

Finally, always check in online as soon as your airline sends a link, and select a seat. Doing so will reduce the likelihood of you being bumped from an overbooked flight.

 

4. Don’t ever check a bag.

Unless your trip extends beyond a week, don’t check a bag. First, you’ll get in the mindset of packing more efficiently (see above). Second, you’ll save time exiting the plane. This could potentially save you money on transportation, as surge-pricing for ride-sharing apps comes into play once passengers leave the airport in mass.

 

5. Use apps to navigate trade shows and save money on your trip.

If you’re heading to a trade show or convention, download the app before you arrive.

Most, if not all, trade shows and conferences offer an app with a map that helps you navigate the labyrinthine layout, usually MapYourShow or something similar. You can plan your movements to optimize your time at your destination.

You should also use apps so you can save money: Instead of shelling out for expensive room service, use Caviar, DoorDash, GrubHub, or another similar food delivery app. GoPuff is useful beyond snacks, too. The app will deliver everything from toiletries and over-the-counter meds to headphones and, if you so choose, beer. Keep it handy.

 

6. Always stay at the same hotel chain.

Whenever possible, stay at the same hotel chain, and make sure you’re a member of its loyalty program. Even the act of joining will net you all sorts of benefits (like late checkout), and when you start accruing serious points, you can score room upgrades, discounts, and more.

Similarly, ask what member discounts they offer (such as military or AAA), and always take advantage of them.

 

 

7. Practice proper trade show etiquette.

The last day of trade shows is usually a wind-down day—and, frankly, a recovery day, as many people consider the penultimate evening party time. Unless you’re already scheduled to meet up with people, write it off for networking and more informal conversations.

Similarly, try to avoid talking shop first thing in the morning unless you’re bringing someone coffee as a kind gesture. The first hour or so of most shows is spent setting things up, and people running the booths won’t be able to give you their undivided attention.

As always: Pack extra business cards. Bring more than you think you might need, and then bring even more than that.

 

8. At trade shows, seek out—and offer—high-quality giveaways.

Giveaways are a sure-fire way to get people to come to your booth, but make sure they’re high value. Nobody who attends conventions and trade shows regularly needs another drawstring bag.

Consider items that help business travelers stay comfortable as they move about, such as Salonpas back patches or shoe insoles.

Another favorite option? Go eco-friendly by handing out reusable, branded straws. You’ll be surprised at how popular these items are.

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