Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
September 27, 2011 8:29 AM

The New Business Traveler

While it's nice to think that Skype, WebEx or Facetime removes the need for business travel, nothing could be further from the truth.

Granted, if all you're having is a status meeting, those can easily be replaced by technology, but whether it's a conference, presentation or pitch, no business professional will argue that there is tremendous value in pressing the flesh. The thing is, that technology can now enhance the business travel experience. As brutal as travel is (and, as a Super Elite member, I can tell you that the road is hard, cold and miserable), it has changed dramatically over the years. Yes, the post 9/11 travel experience is tougher - longer lines, rules and limitations, etc, but for most businesses, it is a necessity.

One of the easiest ways to enhance your business travel experience is to heed the words of The Boy Scouts: be prepared.

If you do many trips within North America, do yourself a favor and get a Nexus card. The pre-screening process is a simple meeting and once you are accepted, you will never have to wait in line at customs again. The advent of the retinal scan machines makes clearing customs a complete pleasure (can you imagine that?). Currently, Nexus cardholders also have a priority line for security on domestic Canadian flights as well. For those who travel frequently, getting to the front of the line at both security and customs removes almost fifty-percent of the travel stress. If you have a smartphone, make sure to download the app for the airlines you fly with. Most of these airline apps allow you to not only be notified of flight delays and airline schedules, but they also allow you to check-in and receive your digital boarding pass. This can usually be done up to twenty-four hours before your flight. The magic here is that you can also choose the most ideal seat on the plane (to help with that process, make sure to check out SeatGuru). Being checked-in also means that you do not have to deal with lines at the airline counter (another massive frustration for travelers).

Never check baggage.

I know what you're thinking: "it's impossible not to check luggage if you're travelling for more than one or two nights." It's not true. My old carry-on bag was a Tumi that I loved dearly. The problem with the Tumi was that it was twelve pounds empty (which is standard for most carry-on luggage). Through new technology and lighter/more durable plastics, companies like Eagle Creek have introduced a line of ultra-lightweight carry-ons. I swear by my Eagle Creek Traverse Pro 22. This carry-on roller is only six pounds empty and when combined with Eagle Creek's amazing Pack-It travel folders, it's actually easy to carry up to five days of clothes in this carry-on. The Traverse Pro also has a detachable backpack, which acts as my briefcase for meetings. This feature is enhanced by the fact that I can detach the backpack and still place the luggage in the overhead bin of smaller planes (and yes, this includes the planes where passengers are asked to gate-check their carry-ons). If I have to travel for more than five nights for business? I still use the carry-on and pay for laundry services at the hotel. From experience, lost luggage while travelling on business is a nightmare.

Meet-up. Connect.

If you're interested in meeting up with fellow business travelers along the way, be sure to check out TripIt. This online social network for travelers is a great way to connect with colleagues who may be in and around the same cities as you. While I don't publicly share my travel schedule, many business professionals find value in this functionality. Think about it this way: it's much nicer to catch up with colleagues in a different city than ordering room service or eating alone at the hotel bar. TripIt also allows you to email your travel information to the system (flights, car rentals, hotels, etc...), and it automatically organizes your trip information in a highly valuable and visually appealing way. As a bonus, it also keeps your historical travel information stored in one area that allows you can see how many miles you have travelled as it ties into Google Maps to show pinpoints for all of your excursions.

Great travel apps.

Another great app is FlightTrack Pro (for iPhone, iPad and Android). FlightTrack Pro grabs the information from TripIt (or you can input your flight info directly) and spits out tons of useful information (like, where the flight you are about to board is coming from and if it is on time). The combination of both TripIt and FlightTrack Pro on your smartphone gives you access to a lot of flight information. This comes in handy when flights get delayed or cancelled (and they often do).

Embrace technology.

Technology will make your business travel that much more pleasant. Amazon's Kindle (and the Kindle app) makes it easy to carry hundreds of books and newspapers without adding any weight or bulk to your travels. The alarm feature on your smartphone will always be much more reliable than the hotel's wake-up service (if you travel enough, you know how often that fails), and iTunes is the biggest game-changer for the business traveler. From being able to rent or buy movies, TV shows (now's your chance to finally watch all five seasons of The Wire!) to music, books and more, it's great to be in control of your own entertainment. Prior to leaving, download a handful of great documentaries or the latest Hollywood blockbusters, just don't forget a good set of noise-cancelling headphones. From there, business travel becomes nothing but blue skies with thanks to modern technology.

What is your best business travel advice?

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business - Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:

By Mitch Joel