David J. Danto
Business travel thoughts in my own, personal opinion
Rules For The Business Traveler In 2020
As I and others have written many times recently, the world of business travel has changed tremendously in the last few years. Loyalty programs are gutted and loyalty itself is now a cruel joke. Prices have been “unbundled” so that things that used to be expected and included are now no longer provided. Things have gotten so bad that the “perk” of being allowed to travel for work – for the most part – is now seen more as a chore than a benefit. (This is great for my industry, as huge numbers of people now rely on the collaboration tools I make my living with, but the irony of that is I personally still have to travel to spread the word about technology based collaboration.)
So, as someone who still travels on business much more than I’d like, there are some obvious – and not so obvious – rules that we all should be following to maximize our experiences and minimize the pain. Here are a few I follow (in no particular order.)
Ground Connections – I fought it for as long as I could, but I no longer use taxis or black-car services to get to and from airports. I loved using the car service that was around the corner and down the block from my house, but when the phone was suddenly answered by a service in the next town (as the owner sold-out) I switched to ride sharing. Now, mind you, Uber is evil and I’ll never use them again, but Lyft has done a pretty good job getting me to and from where I needed to be with minimum hassles for far less than I paid before. The things to watch out for here are early morning pickups and drivers that don’t speak English. When you need a 5am or 6am ride to the airport, the Lyft app makes you give them a 15 minute scheduling window. Make sure you’re ready by the front of that window but also make sure if they don’t get you until the back of that window you’ll still arrive on-time. Both happen all the time. When you’re waiting at the airport and have requested a car, text the driver and tell them exactly where you’re standing and where you need them. If they don’t reply or don’t understand what “Passenger Pick-Up 5” is (after 4 and before 6) then cancel the ride and order another car. Not understanding the basics of English or numbers is a clear sign you won’t have a great ride. When the driver says you and your bag should go somewhere else at the airport to get picked up because it’s “easier for them to get to,” cancel, report the refused ride, and order another car.
Air Connections – I take non-stop flights as often as I can, but about 10% of the time one just has to connect. Whatever you do don’t accept short connections – as the number of times flights are late has skyrocketed in recent years. The big US airlines will offer you connections as short as 45 minutes. Don’t book any of them shorter than 90 minutes, and if at all possible try to get two hours or more. Sometimes that means you’ll get to an airport early and have time to go to a restroom, buy a snack or – in a worst-case scenario – sit around with nothing to do. That is still a far better situation than landing as your next flight is already boarding. Sometimes these connecting gates are as far apart as one can get in the airport, and making your flight on a tight connection – while there is still room for your carry-on – isn’t always a given. In addition, one of our readers points out that it no longer makes sense (if it ever did) taking a same-day flight to a meeting or obligation. If at all possible, it’s much smarter to get to the needed destination the day or evening before so you can get to your meeting without the stress of just having been hassled by the airline experience. (Thanks Mike B.)
Carry-on’s – Repeat after me – business travelers don’t check bags…. business travelers don’t check bags…. business travelers don’t check bags…(at least not on the way out to a destination.) The best case here is that it takes about an hour off your day waiting for bags to be returned. The worst case is you don’t have what you need for the duration of the trip – if they ever get found and returned again. Get yourself a good, soft side, 4-wheeled carry on and learn to pack your clothes, toiletries and medications in that restricted space. Good business travelers can get five to six day’s worth of clothes in a carry-on. If you need to stay longer than that consider washing/cleaning your clothes at the hotel or buying a shirt or two. Really, don’t even think of checking bags for any trips shorter than a week. I remember a past trip to a conference in New Orleans that I flew to with a friend. We were on an identical itinerary that connected in Houston. Thunderstorms in Houston diverted our flight to – New Orleans. I and my friend (and a handful of other passengers) asked to get-off the plane as that was where we were going anyway. I – with everything in my carry-on – was fine for the three day conference. My friend’s checked bag didn’t get to him until the morning we were flying back home. It was also suggested to me by our reader above that if you are going to a destination for more than a week, you could look-into the alternative of shipping your bags to the hotel and having them there and ready when you arrive. Not for everyone, but it is nice if you can walk off the flight totally unencumbered, jump in a cab, get to your hotel, and walk into a room with all your clothes hung-up for you.
Screw Loyalty – The airlines hate you, the greedy airline management thinks you’re a fool, and unless you spend gazillions of bucks on travel every year, there is no return to being loyal to airlines anymore. Get yourself off the frequent-flyer collection merry-go-round. They are a big tease. Stop using the airline affinity credit cards. Get the Capital-One Venture or Savor cards. Venture offers you 2 “miles” for every purchase. These miles can be used to “erase” any travel charge you have on the card. If you bought a $600 airline ticket, erase the charge with 60,000 “miles. It may not be the best redemption you’ve ever had, but it’s stable and comes with ZERO restrictions on airlines, dates, class of service, etc. Savor gives you 4% back on dining and entertainment – a nice cash-back pot to use for travel (or anything else.) I did this last year and regret none of it. I’m no longer a sucker for bait and switch airline and hotel redemptions.
USE VIDEO! – If you haven’t tried videoconferencing in a while it’s time to give it another look. Collaboration tools are much more reliable and far less expensive than they used to be only a few years ago. It’s easy to set up a reliable video ecosystem for your SMB or your Fortune 50 organization – as long as you follow some simple rules and do it right. I’m always happy to chat with people and businesses that need advice in this area, so feel free to drop me an email if you have any questions. The business world has fundamentally changed and is never going back again to the days of ‘everyone working in the same building.’ My current supervisor works from the Seattle area, my colleagues are in Santa Cruz, San Jose, Atlanta, London, Tokyo – and honestly everywhere else. I’m on three to five video calls a day – some scheduled, some impromptu. They all work. If you’re not leveraging video for routine business now, rest assured your competition is using that as an advantage against you.
This article was written by David Danto and contains solely his own, personal opinions.
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