As I mention above, every minute you pass without a seat assignment is another minute that your aisle or window seat is given to someone else. Your best bet is to check in online, which can typically be done up to 24 hours before your flight. But note that not all flights, airlines or classes of travel permit advance check-in (or seating assignments).
From a safety perspective, it’s good to have several people back home who know where you’ll be. I forward any flight or accommodation confirmations to my family and Skype with them several times a week to let them know what I’m up to. That way, if ever I disappear for a few days, my family will know immediately and will be able to know where I was staying at that time. It takes just a few minutes but really improves your safety.
I run a boutique creative agency that regularly takes me between NYC, Tokyo, Australia, and London. I don’t always have the resources to fly business class, and sometimes it just doesn’t make financial sense to even if we have the money. First, I suggest to always look at Kayak and Google Flights when booking air travel. If you have a specific airline or alliance you prefer, both are great at sorting them. Their algorithms are a bit different, so I suggest always checking both, but when you do, be sure to check multi-city flights. If you want to get coming or going as quick as possible, select a city that you would have a layover in on your round-trip flight. Otherwise, you can pick a city at random and do a same day turnaround, or you can opt to spend a day in a new city.
It also helps to know which items are, according to the TSA, considered liquids or gels and thereby subject to the 3-1-1 rule. This isn't as simple as it sounds. Foods such as peanut butter, pudding, mashed potatoes, and icing are classified as gels. Mascara, lip gloss, and aerosol items are also classified as liquids or gels. But keep in mind that liquid prescription medication is exempt. (Read more on that on The TSA Blog.) See a more complete list of liquids and gels that are not permitted in carry-on luggage in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces here.
When we are on the road, speaking to groups about marketing, we have to bring our laptops and all the other cameras, wires and action guides and stuff that go with it. I have found that having a specific bag just for air travel trips (compared to driving) allows me to keep the weight and just as importantly, the excess stuff, from tagging along with me. It gets me through security much faster. As soon as we return from our marketing seminars, the first thing to do in the office is remove all the things we gathered along the way — most importantly, the sales forms and the business cards of entrepreneurs who need information about our business coaching programs. This is the best way to make sure that you don’t overlook an important sales lead.
Another fun way to explore California is to travel by train—a great way to enjoy the scenery instead of focusing on the road ahead. Amtrak’s legendary Coast Starlight and Pacific Surfliner trains follow ultra-scenic routes up and down the coast. The Capitol Corridor provides an easy east-west route across Northern California, while the San Joaquin slices through the broad and sunny Central Valley with connections to Yosemite National Park and other destinations. Along the way, there are options to link to Amtrak Thruway buses, which serve more than 90 destinations statewide. (Plus, you can disembark and rent a car at major stops to do additional exploring.) Depending on the route, you may be able to book a space in a special sleeping car, with access to an exclusive parlor car.
Business travel can often be avoided altogether by using available technologies- Skype, Go2Meeting, instant messaging, and conference calling (available for free from a variety of services), saving money and the environment. When travel is required, make the most of it by adding a marketing & education component to each trip - attend a conference, participate in a trade show, or connect with a potential client.
The first time I read this tip, I thought it was absolute insanity. Then, one time I actually tried it, and you know what? I didn’t regret it at all! While this may initially feel like a slow painful form of packrat torture, doing this will cut you down to the exact essentials you’ll actually need. I honestly think that overpacking is hardwired in us, which is why doing this exercise is so helpful.
If you're going to be traveling routinely, it's worth buying duplicates of key items and leaving them in your travel bag, versus remembering to repack them after using them at home. For me, this is things like laptop and phone chargers, toothbrushes, and basic toiletries. I rarely forget these necessities since I have a travel set that's always in my suitcase or laptop bag.
If you're staying in a hotel, call in advance to see if laundry services are available and how much they cost. Travelers staying in properties without laundry facilities or taking cruises—cruise lines are notorious for charging an arm and a pant leg for laundry services—can wash clothes in sinks and hang them to dry. I always make sure to pack a travel-size packet of laundry detergent and a sink stopper to clean my clothes on the road—it's my secret for fitting everything in a carry-on bag. Portable laundry-drying lines that attach to showers via suction cups are also a good choice; you can find them at many travel-supply stores.
Make your business travel more enjoyable by combining it with a tax deductible weekend getaway! End your business meeting at noon Friday and enjoy the weekend at your location. Have another business related meeting on Monday, such as with a business associate, a prospect or even a seminar that ties into your business. Bring a spouse with you and deduct 100% of the hotel costs and your meals. Keep records of the reason of your business both before and after the weekend, and keep all receipts.
Along freeways with heavy traffic, carpool lanes (also called “diamond lanes” for the diamond-shape pattern painted on the lane’s surfaces) are identified by black-and-white signs that include details on times and days of enforcement (usually during peak rush hour periods on weekdays). To drive in most carpool lanes, you must at least two people (including the driver) in the car (some lanes in the San Francisco Bay Area have a three-person minimum. Tempted to use the lane when you don’t have the required number of riders? Don’t—fines are staggeringly high, close to $400 in some areas. In the Los Angeles area, carpool lanes may have specific entry and exit zones; adhere to them or you could get a hefty fine.
Also, some airports have their terminals connected, other’s do not. Some have less obvious security checkpoints or “hidden ones” that are just around the corner. Figure those out if you can. I’ve went through a United Terminal checkpoint because it was less busy than the Southwest Terminal checkpoint before because I knew the Terminals were connected. Make sure they are though, or you will be making a trip out and then back through security! Ugh!
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.
Food is now my absolute favourite way to get to know a place better. I love trying new things, and I’ve found a thousand amazing dishes that I never would have discovered if I’d continue to eat from supermarkets. Trying new food isn’t scary, and you’ll build your confidence up as you fall in love with more and more things. Try everything, even if you have no idea what it is. I promise you won’t regret it.
Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent over a decade providing strategy consulting services to Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Patrick can be reached at email@example.com, and you can follow his blog at www.itbswatch.com. All opinions are his and may not represent those of his employer.