Does your house look like a murder scene the morning you leave for a business trip? Clothes strewn, drawers ransacked, a razor inexplicably not included in your getaway bag? Nine times out of ten, this was our story — until we got wise to these tips on planning, packing and flying. You can do most of them just once and be set for years of relaxed travel.
Mastering the business trip is just one of the 40 Things to Do in Your 40s — if not before!
Update your passport – now
Go check it. Seriously, now. Even if you don’t travel internationally. In the coming years, some states won’t let you board domestic flights without it. Many states will allow you to renew your passport years before it expires — if you have a year or two to go, spend two hours at the passport office and buy yourself a decade’s worth of peace-of-mind.
Never check a bag if you don’t have to
This is the cardinal rule of countless frequent fliers. You’ll save time in line and anxiety over the potential of lost luggage. Avoiding the check-in counter is the policy of Tim Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Work Week, who travels more than 100 days a year. “Trip enjoyment is inversely proportionate to the amount of crap (re: distractions) you bring with you,” he says. Ferriss practices ultralight packing via a checklist he creates beforehand (see #6). And check out these other 25 Life-Changing Lessons from Super-Successful Men!
Get TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry
A Global Entry card contains a chip that will give you expedited entry into the U.S. via special kiosks. Once you’re a Global Entry member, you’ll be able to apply for TSA Pre-Check credentials. You’ll be able to skip to the front of domestic security lines and may be eligible for expedited entry in other countries. Apply at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection site here.
Have the right suitcase
Are you still lugging around the same suitcase you’ve had since you were the new guy at the firm? It might be time for an upgrade. Luggage technology, like everything else, has marched on; take advantage of it. A hard-shell suitcase will protect against any turbulence-relate damage (ideal if you carry electronics), while a soft-sided bag will give you more spatial flexibility. Choose one made of ballistic nylon for maximum durability. If security is a concern, there are bags with TSA-approved locks. While you’re at it, make sure your briefcase is updated, with these 15 Briefcases That Mean Business!
Check the overhead-bag size before you go
No surprise here: On several airlines, it’s getting smaller. The latest guideline tends to be 45 inches in overall dimensions, with no side greater than 22 inches. So if yours measures 14 inches by 22 inches by 9 inches deep, you’re in the clear. Some carriers like Jet Blue and Southwest have a higher limit for now, but don’t take chances.
Make a checklist
Create a quick rundown of the clothes you usually pack for a typical business trip and tape it to the inside of your closet or put it on your phone. It’ll expedite packing, help you edit and prevent you from being caught short once you reach your destination. (Ideally, one of them will be in The 10 Best Vacation Destinations for 2016 before too long.)
Keep essentials packed at all times
Save time by keeping a set of travel-sized toiletries packed in the suitcase or bag you most use for traveling. You won’t have to frantically rummage through the medicine cabinet on your day of departure or lose anything oversized in the security line. Upgrading your electric razor at home? Toss the old one in your bag instead of into the trash.
Get mobile rates squared away before you leave
Not sure what your phone plan will cover? Don’t risk surprises by trying to upgrade online. Give the customer service line a ring instead. If you’re traveling internationally, tell the representative how many calls you plan to make, how much data you plan to use, and what your phone settings should be to avoid unnecessary roaming charges.
On the subject of avoiding professional headaches, check out these 10 Workplace Stress-Busters!
Prepare for jet lag
A few days before you go, set your watch for your destination time zone and inch your sleep schedule closer to it.
Once you get there, exercise
A study of 3,500 frequent business travelers found that travelers who exercised during their trips improved their alertness and focus by more than 60%. That makes exercise as effective as napping or caffeine! Why not try this Workout You Can Do in Your Bathroom?
Keep booze to a minimum
It’s dehydrating and will degrade the quality of any sleep you actually manage on the plane. Instead, snack on one of these 20 Amazing Healing Foods to maintain energy and keep you feeling your best.
Program your routes to the hotel
Mapping out the route from the airport to your hotel on your smartphone via Google Maps or MapQuest will help you direct the cabdriver if he asks questions — and help you know if you’re being taken for a ride if he seems to be taking the scenic route.
Sign up for flight and car loyalty programs
You’re throwing money away without them. It’s just one of the 6 Money Moves You Should Make Now!
Get trip insurance
If you experience a medical emergency at your destination, will your health plan cover it? Although most health insurance plans are obligated to cover you in case of emergencies, in this era of changing benefits, don’t take chances. Get a trip insurance plan to cover any unforeseen expenses — including lost luggage or tickets if your trip is canceled. The site insuremytrip.com will let you compare more than 100 plans from reputable companies like American Express. Do it even if you’re just traveling domestically.
Make expenses a snap
You’ve got your T&E expense-reimbursement routine down at home, but in unfamiliar surroundings, systems break down. Not to mention that receipts, like socks, have a talent for disappearing from travel gear. Download an app that’ll let you scan and organize receipts on your smartphone (some will even tabulate them and let you file expense reports right then). Receipt Scanner, Forereceipt Receipt Manager and Concur are top rated in the Apple App Store. Just make sure that your AP department will accept them that way. While you’re at it, download these 6 Great Personal Finance Apps for 2016!
Carry too many chargers
Being caught without enough juice for your devices could be the No.1 source of trip-related anxiety. Don’t count on having access to an electrical outlet (or time) to charge up at the airport; have an external charger in your carry-on and suitcase. Anker makes excellent compact chargers that are also affordable: the PowerCore+ ($11) will fully charge your phone once; the PowerCore 20100 ($40) will juice up an iPhone seven times and an iPad Mini twice.
You may thrive on adrenaline, but habitually racing to the airport and making your flight by a razor’s edge is kind of sad. Always allow yourself plenty of time to relax and focus before you depart — an extra half-hour to decompress at the gate is good. With Pre-Check, no checked bag and all these time-saving tips, you have no excuse not to.