Business Travel: On the Road

Business travelers who’ve planned ahead likely can look forward to a smooth trip. Even so, transportation glitches, lack of Internet availability or the loss or theft of personal items can ruin an otherwise smooth journey. While you can’t anticipate every problem, some practical guidelines will help you travel well.

At the Airport

Savvy business travelers may be well aware of carry-on restrictions, but screening protocols aren’t always limited to personal property. With the recent increase of international incidents, TSA officers have stepped up their use of risk-based security measures to identify, mitigate and resolve potential threats – both in the security line and throughout the airport.

For instance, one or more TSA personnel may question you about your itinerary, purpose of travel, property or identity. Screenings often are random and unpredictable, as well. Unnerving though this can be, answer all inquiries honestly and promptly to facilitate your departure. No individual is exempt from the possibility of advanced screening.

Places to Work: On the Road, at the Ready

Business travelers usually carry work with them, even on short trips. Fortunately, companies offering administrative support services abound, allowing operations to continue pretty much uninterrupted.

The following high-tech hubs cover a range of key functions, from printing and copying to packaging and Internet access:

  • Online business centers. Companies such as FedEx provide round-the-clock services via the Internet. A busy traveler, for instance, can order, design and ship print materials online, or pick them up at one of the firm’s many locations. Geared in part toward business owners on the move, some centers feature extended hours and offer both Windows and Macintosh workstations. Typically, their in-house computers boast the latest operating systems, software, typefaces and web browsers, including graphic-intense software and high-resolution scanners.
  • Airport business centers: An increasing number of the nation’s airports have opened sections designed specifically for the professional. These centers offer WiFi access, copiers, phones, fax machines and conference rooms. Usually, the wireless services come free of charge, while some airports provide private booths for a minimal fee.
  • Cyber-cafés and restaurants: Coffee shops with connectivity have spread from larger metropolitan areas into the smallest cities and towns. Aside from serving up your favorite brew, light fare and wireless access, many cafes also offer computers with Internet connections, printers, Internet cameras and more. If you’re in a hurry, most traditional restaurants now allow you to get online – so you can work and have a full meal at the same time.
  • WiFi Parks: Some cities, as well as university campuses, provide park areas with free high-speed, wireless Internet access. Now, professionals can log on while lounging on a wooden bench rather than in a cubicle.
  • Hotel Business Centers: Most hotel business centers contain at least a couple of computers, printers and a fax machine. Some bigger chains outsource their business centers to IT or electronics firms, which provide workstations and tech support. Higher-end hotels even break up their business-related amenities into two sections - one that houses equipment for public use and another with better equipment on the club or concierge level.

The Wi-Fi-Free Spot™ Directory (http://www.wififreespot.com/) provides a comprehensive list of cafes, airports, RV parks, public facilities, campgrounds and hotels that offer free Wi-Fi. Coverage includes the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia, Central and South America, Mexico, Caribbean, Middle East, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

Safety: Traveler Beware

So often, business travelers use all their energy preparing for a trip but forget about the most important priority: Returning safely. While no one likes to think in terms of “what if,” traveling to any unfamiliar city poses some danger. Below are some safety tips:

  • Research: Learn a bit about your destination city before actually stepping out of the hotel room. A simple Internet search goes a long way in revealing dangerous areas, as well as recommended places to stay and eat. Always carry a map. In some cases, you might even want to highlight parts of the region that pose a threat. If possible, stick with a group of people who know the area well.
  • Don’t act like a tourist: The more you fit into the city scene, the less likely you will become easy prey. Avoid carrying bulky camera bags, purses and other valuables. Rather, opt for a small wallet/passport bag – the perfect carrying case for important items. By placing the entire bag beneath one’s shirt, a business traveler is less likely to tempt pickpockets.

    Always walk with confidence, showing passersby you know exactly where you are heading. If you do get lost and find yourself alone, pull out a cell phone and act as if you’re talking to someone nearby.

  • Prep/carry cell phone: Avoid being completely helpless by carrying a cell phone at all times. Also, bring a battery pack or charger to ensure you always have power.
  • Don’t stuff your wallet with cash: While you want to carry some money, do not overdo it. It’s best to hold no more than $30. Most importantly, never count money in public.
  • Protect identification: Don’t carry credit cards and ID in a single wallet or purse. Keep a list of credit card numbers and customer service contacts, as well as insurance information, in a separate place should your cards get lost or stolen.
  • Avoid revealing too much information: Don’t put a home address on luggage tags; use a business card instead.
  • Be careful accessing online information: No matter the place, Internet security breaches frequently pose a threat - particularly when you are using a PC other than your own. Always be careful about viewing or accessing confidential information.

Staying Healthy: Trimming the Fat

While packing bags goes hand in hand with business travel, unfortunately, so does packing on the pounds. For this reason, it’s important to stick to a reasonable diet and exercise regimen. When business owners get sick, their companies suffer, too.

Here are some tips for staying strong and healthy on the road:

  • Work out in the hotel: Most hotels house gyms. Even facilities at the lower end of the lodging spectrum usually provide some sort of exercise equipment. Make an effort to set aside at least 20 minutes a day to ride the stationary bike while reviewing notes, or to walk the treadmill while catching up on the day's news. Such workouts not only get the adrenaline pumping and help you wake up, but clear the mind.
  • Walk, don’t drive: When possible, choose to walk to destinations. Of course, you do not want to show up at a meeting drenched with sweat; however, a casual stroll to dinner helps to speed up the metabolism.
  • Don’t feast: Start with a nutritious, protein-rich breakfast. Then, opt for a larger lunch and light dinner. This makes waking up much easier the next day.
  • Take breaks: Mental health is as important as physical health. For this reason, schedule a 10-minute break every three hours or so. If driving a long distance, be sure to pull off at a rest area and walk around a bit to avoid getting fatigued.
  • Stay on a regular schedule: When traveling outside your time zone, try to stick with your daily routine. This makes it easier for your body to acclimate to a different clock.

Online Travel Resources

Conducting business out-of-town often proves to be a wearing task, but online resources can reduce the stress. Below are a few helpful services, with many offering smartphone apps:

  • Online mapping services: Websites such as MapQuest (http://www.mapquest.com/) let business travelers chart the best route before heading out of the hotel for a big meeting. These online services provide interactive maps, driving directions, road trip planners, phone number search engines and more. Another providing door-to-door directions is Google Maps (http://maps.google.com/). A few sites also offer business-related solutions, including mapping software and platforms that allow users to systematize location-based services via websites and mobile technology.
  • Weather: Online resources such as the National Weather Service (http://www.weather.gov/) highlight current atmospheric conditions around the world. This information lets business travelers determine what clothing to pack, how to prepare for potential flight delays and more.
  • Flight status: The Federal Aviation Administration (http://www.fly.faa.gov/flyfaa/usmap.jsp) provides up-to-the moment information on general airport status. Using a map of the U.S. and color-coded bullets, the site lets visitors know what airports are experiencing general arrival/departure delays taxi delays, closed airports and more. Your departure/destination airports usually offer these services as well.
  • Food ordering and delivery: Delivery.com (https://www.delivery.com) features access to a network of more than 10,000 restaurants, caterers, grocers and other merchants that provide food delivery services to weary travelers in nearly 40 major U.S. cities. Even better, this web-based business now offers laundry and dry cleaning pick-up and delivery services from top-rated local providers.