Travel tips from a frequent business traveler

I travel a lot. Not as much as some, but much more than most. Last year I had to fly on 15 different occasions. Over the past few years of traveling, I have become much better at it. I know most of the airports I go to pretty well. I know that you need to plan extra time to get to the gate and wait for your luggage in Las Vegas, because of that little subway type system they have. I know San Francisco will lose my luggage about 50% of the time, but has a great dim sum place in their food court. I know if you have to go to LA, you might want to fly into Orange County, it’s much nicer and a lot fast to get through.

Here are some other tips that I think could be helpful.
Print out your boarding pass at home
Most airlines will let you do this about 24 hour in advance. This will save you from having to wait in the line to check in and let you go straight to the security gate. When you’re at a hotel, check and see if they have a business center there to print your pass. I have learned to actually check in with my laptop, but then instead of printing it, send it to the hotel fax number.

Send your luggage ahead of time
I got pretty tired of SFO losing my luggage, which seemed to happen more often than not. So, I started sending my luggage through UPS ahead of me. This is actually not very expensive if you do it a week in advance. I make sure it is there 1 – 2 days ahead of me, so I can be sure I’ll have my clothes there. This saves so much time. Between sending my luggage UPS, and printing my pass at home, I save a ton of time. I just walk right up to the security gate. And with my Elite status, I even get to go through the fast line there. I can now get to my gate in about 10 minutes at most airports. But I wouldn’t recommend doing that.

Become important to your airline and hotel
I have Elite status with United Airlines, and Platinum status with Intercontinental Hotels. This gives me a little extra attention, and a lot more respect from the company. When you have Elite type status with an airline, you get bumped more to First Class, earn miles quicker, and can go through the faster line at the security gate. You also get to board first, so you don’t lose out putting your bag in the overhead. Platinum status with Intercontinental guarantees me a room at any hotel I want in the chain. That’s nice for when I go to conferences and procrastinate. They also give me free WiFi access, and usually bump me to a suite. The key here is to use the same airline and hotel chain as often as you can.

As I’m writing this, there are thousands of people stranded in the Denver airport. They have now starting the difficult task of getting people on planes to get them home. Who do you think are getting the first seats?

Have unique luggage
When I first started traveling, I got some TravelPro luggage, because that’s what the pilots and flight attendants used. I figured that made sense. But after a while I started to notice that I couldn’t spot my luggage on the luggage turntable. So, I bought this silver luggage from eBags. I can say that this luggage has been awesome. After a couple years of use, they finally recently broke of the suitcases, but I’m going to order the same set again. One of the things I love most about this set is how easy I can spot it. I added a big blue TSA approved security trap around the suitcase. So if I do have to check in my luggage, I can spot it a mile away.

Give yourself ample layover time
Websites will let you book a flight where the layover is as little as 30 – 40 minutes. This is a very bad idea. I always give myself 90 minutes. Experience has taught me that I would rather hang at the airport for an extra 45 minutes willingly, then have to fight to get on standby because I missed my connecting flight. This is a tough decision when booking a ticket, but trust me on this one.

Drink water on the flight
You now have to actually purchase the water inside the terminal, but it’s worth it. I read somewhere that you should try to at least bring a 16 oz. bottle of water to drink. It helps you keep from getting sick. I do notice I feel much better when I drink water during the flight. And never drink the water from the bathroom on a plane.

Use Airborne vitamins when you fly
My friend Brian turned me on to this stuff, and I think it’s great. These are tablets that dissolve in water. I drink one before and after each flight. I haven’t gotten sick from flying since I started taking them.

Use packing cubes
Even if you send your luggage, these are great for quick unpacking. I can now unpack in a matter of 5 minutes.

Give a little thought to the security gate before you get there
Think about which shoes you’re going to where and how easy you can get in and out them. I also keep a zip-loc bag in my bag. Before I get in line, I put my watch, cell phone and other items in the zip-loc, in my carry on bag. It makes me go through line very fast, and keep everything together. A little pre-planning helps shave a minute or so off your time there, which will be appreciated by everyone behind you too.

Get alerts sent to your phone
If you book your ticket through a major website, you should have the option of adding your cell phone number. This is a good idea. They will call you to let you know the status of your flight, as well as your gate number and even your luggage rack number. And if someone is picking you up at the airport, put their number in there so they can know if there is a delay.

The last tip is something for the future. Some airlines are getting high end security gates for people willing to pay $100 per year, and have a back ground check done. I have seen some people complain about the service, but it is going to give their members much faster access to the gates. It will also let you keep your shoes and jacket on, so less issue going through. The most common complains is that it does nothing to increase security, which I agree with. But then I heard the argument that now the government would know where you are flying to. That seems a little silly since I’m certain the government already knows who is on the airplanes and where they are going. Either way, this gets me through lines faster, so I’m signing up.


  1. Mike, I’m sending the bags UPS, which if I do a week in advance costs about $30 on average, depending on which city I’m traveling.

    I send the bag to the hotel. They will hold them, but I always call ahead and get a name to make attention to, and follow up when I see they were delivered. I try to get my bags there the day before I arrive, just in case it’s a day late.

    One tip: Box the bag up if you can easily at home. There is an extra handling charge for luggage through UPS if not boxed. You can then use the same box when you ship back.

    Let me know how this works for you.

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