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As CEO of LegalZoom, traveling has become my way of life, and judging by the numbers, a good deal of Americans share my experience. According to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Americans make more than 405 million long-distance business trips per year, accounting for 16% of all long-distance travel. This year alone, domestic business trips are predicted to reach 480.5 million (Statista). Tack that onto a busy summer travel season amid reportsthat the TSA is “woefully understaffed” and you’re potentially looking at long lines, lost luggage and frustration. But there are steps you can take to mitigate some of the headaches of business travel and make your trips as smooth as possible.
Fly by the lines
When I’m traveling, I want to be moving, not wasting time. Especially after a long week of business meetings and deadlines, the last thing you need is to wait two hours in a security line. I enrolled in TSA Pre✓® in 2011 and never looked back. TSA expects to screen 740 million passengers this year — a 15% increase since 2013. And this summer, TSA is predicting especially long wait times during peak travel months, so if you’re planning on any business travel, TSA Pre✓® is well-worth the small investment. If you aren’t on the pre-plan, TSA does provide online security wait times by airport, so you can at least plan accordingly.
For those travelling internationally, Global Entry is a huge time-saver at the end of your trip. Who wants to spend 20 minutes going through Customs and Border protection after a ten-hour international flight? Say goodbye to fiddling with short pencils and blue customs slips. Skip the lines and locate the friendly pod of self-service machines. As an added bonus, if you qualify for Global Entry ($100 application), you automatically qualify for TSA Pre✓®.
When balancing familial and entrepreneurial roles, it’s easy for some things to get lost in the shuffle. Business trips can pop up at the last minute, so I have one small bag that never leaves my suitcase. It’s a thin, double layered organizer from BUBM that has a spare charger/Mophie/electronic adaptors on one side, and toiletries/aspirin/vitamins on the other. You can also throw in a Tile, an inexpensive lightweight device that let’s you track your luggage via a mobile app in the unlikely event it gets lost.
Don’t be the bag guy
One of the first lessons I learned on the road was to never check a bag — it can easily add at least 20–30 minutes to your trip on a good travel day. It also leaves less margin for error in getting to the airport because a few airline systems have a draconian cut-off restriction at 45 minutes. Of all the travel skills you can acquire, learning to travel light has the biggest impact on having an enjoyable and stress-free experience. Choose a wardrobe of a few versatile pieces that can be mixed and matched rather than packing outfits for each day. A reversible belt (who needs more than black and brown when you’re on the road?) is one less thing to pack. If you workout frequently, lightweight “crushable” sneakers are space-savers. For longer trips, use the hotel laundry service instead of packing more and consider using compression bags if you really need to squeeze in extra space. In a pinch, maximize space in your personal item bag to offset your carry-on limits.
Good carry-on luggage is expensive, but it’s an investment that pays dividends down the road. My go-to brands are Tumi and Briggs & Riley, but I’m optimistically waiting for the first shipment of G-Ro, a well-conceived new entrant to the market that offers larger wheels (effectively lightening the load by raising the center of gravity) and a built-in charging stand. I look for compression straps to keep shirts from wrinkling, a cushioned pocket for laptops, and a speed pocket for storing items through security. Consider moving away from lugging both a carry-on and laptop bag… it’s easier on the back and surprisingly liberating.
Back up the basics
In this digital world, we rely heavily on our smart devices. Whether it’s GPS to direct us to a restaurant, an on-demand car service at our fingertips, or apps for suggested travel itineraries, we rarely have an old school “plan B.” Make hard copies of important presentations and documents, save a copy in the cloud, and keep a spare on a USB drive — this way you’re prepared for every scenario. It only takes one dead phone while running to a connecting flight to learn that it’s best to always have a paper backup of your boarding pass. I generally use mobile boarding passes, but since connectivity can be spotty at airport security I’ve developed the habit of taking a screen capture pic (press sleep/wake and home button simultaneously on an iPhone) of my boarding pass en route to the airport.
Take time for you
Traveling for business has its perks. You get to visit new locations and have experiences that your personal life would have never led you to. But it does have its drawbacks as well. Jet lag, high exposure to germs and sickness, and lots of stress given that time spent traveling isn’t offset with a reduced workload. Allow yourself to take care of yourself. It sounds simple but it’s often the hardest thing to do. I love traveling with my co-workers, but a flight sometimes needs to be time you take for yourself. Whether that’s taking a nap or getting lost in a movie, we all use flight-time differently and that’s okay. There will be plenty of time to discuss work on the ground.
Consider treating yourself with noise cancelling in-ear (not the bulky over the ear type) Bose headphones as they take little space, are fantastic for movies, and make airport phone calls or face-time calls to the kids surprisingly more enjoyable.
For international flights, my standard uniform consists of comfortable slacks, a long-sleeved t-shirt, and loafers. A surprising amount of people try to sleep in uncomfortable button-down shirts or struggle to put shoes on since feet swell in the air. Comfort is key.
Preparation goes a long way when it comes to business travel. Whether you’re a seasoned jetsetter or just starting to collect your first frequent flier miles, always be on the lookout for ways to lighten your traveling load and beat the lines whenever possible. Learning how to enjoy business travel can be the difference in a career you like versus a career you love.