How Leading Professionals Execute More Efficient Business Travel

For millions of professionals, business owners, salespeople, and entrepreneurs, travel is a way of life. Some traverse the globe multiple times per month, while others take the occasional yet vital trip to meet with a client or close a deal.

Even in the age of social media, remote working, and advanced communication tools, travel still plays a significant role in business, sales, and networking. Unfortunately, it’s also marked by distinctive and frustrating points of friction. These cumbersome aspects of travel have the potential to negatively impact productivity and undermine the underlying purpose of the trip.

If you study some of today’s most successful business professionals, you’ll discover that they’re skilled at traveling. They may not necessarily enjoy taking business trips away from their families, but they aren’t nearly as stressful or disruptive as they could be. That’s because they’ve mastered the art of efficient travel – and you can, too.

10 Tips for More Efficient Business Travel

Business travel looks different to every person, but if there are some truths we can all agree on, it’s this: Greater efficiency, more productivity, and less stress are ideal. Here are some efficient ways you can improve in each of these areas:

1. Understand the Business Traveler’s Hierarchy of Needs

It’s helpful to look at business travel from an objective standpoint where you analyze traveler friction through a hierarchy of needs. Data and analytics expert Scott Gillepsie has popularized one of the more useful regimes, and its concept is pretty simple. Business travelers can’t reach the upper levels of the pyramid if their primary needs aren’t being met at the lower levels.

The Gillepsie Hierarchy looks a lot like Maslow’s Hierarchy. Safety and health are at the bottom, and as you move up, you reach subsequent levels of productivity, engagement, and impact. 

Health and safety come first, and this means your mode of travel, accommodations, and food is most important. If health and safety are covered, you have a chance to be productive. If you’re productive, this leads to better engagement with prospects, business partners, etc. Finally, if you’re productive and engaged, you can have an impact, meaning closing sales, resolving issues, or building influential relationships.

Ultimately, Gillepsie has found that business travelers with higher travel friction stay lower on the pyramid and have less impact. Even if they travel a lot, they tend to close deals less frequently and produce less value. On the flip side, those who have the foundational levels of the pyramid covered are more likely to have a positive return on their time and energy.

2. Opt for Greater Efficiency

There are so many different modes of travel. Don’t feel like you have to box yourself into one of them. You should be open to whatever is most efficient for your time and resources. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Always opt for a direct flight when you can. Sure, you might be able to save a few bucks by catching a connecting flight, but it’s not worth the stress that comes from delays, missed connections, rushing through the airport, and lost luggage. What’s another $100 for a direct flight when it means showing up on time and refreshed?
  • Flying isn’t always your best option. For example, does it make sense to fly when you could drive the 1.5 hours to the destination? By the time you Uber to the airport, go through security, board the plane, land, get off the plane, and call another Uber to take you to the hotel, you could have already been there enjoying a cocktail at the hotel bar.
  • Don’t drive when you have the option of taking a train. When you take a train, you’re able to do some work (or take a nap). It’s a much more efficient use of your time. 

Never assume that what you’ve always done is the best way of doing something. Sometimes all it takes is observing a problem from a fresh angle, and you’ll discover a much easier and more efficient solution sitting right under your nose.

3. Pack Smarter

Packing for a business trip might seem like a minor part of the process, but it has a significant impact on your stress level, productivity, and efficiency. 

For starters, make sure you only take carryon luggage. Checking a bag is one of the biggest mistakes you can make and should be avoided at all costs. Any time you check a bag, you’re essentially saying, “I hope my bags meet up with me at the destination!” Not only is there a risk that your bag could get lost, but you also have to spend another 15 or 20 minutes waiting at the baggage claim. It’s an unnecessary risk and a colossal waste of time.

You get one small suitcase and a backpack or briefcase at no extra charge. That should be more than enough space to pack what you need for a business trip. Here are some keys:

· Don’t pack a bunch of colors or “loud” clothing options. Stick with blacks, grays, whites, and other neutrals, which gives you flexibility in combinations and ensures you can wear things at least twice.

· If you have to splurge on an expense while traveling, make it laundry. Most hotels offer laundry service, and it’s well worth the cost.

· Use small sample size toiletries and keep them in a small zipper bag inside your luggage; it maximizes space and helps you stay organized.

· Challenge and scrutinize every item you pack. If it’s something that you aren’t sure you’ll use, consider whether you can buy it at your destination. If the answer is yes, leave it home.

Packing is an art form. The more purposeful you are about the items you bring and how you pack them, the easier this process becomes.

4. Plan Ahead

Travel gets stressful when you don’t look ahead and foresee problems that could occur. The more you proactively think about what’s coming down the pipeline, the higher your chances are of neutralizing threats and smoothing over points of friction.

If you’re flying, there’s no excuse to show up at the airport without already having checked in online. And assuming you’re not checking baggage, this allows you to walk straight to security. 

Once you get to security, you should be prepared to move through as quickly as possible. If you don’t have TSA PreCheck – which allows you to speed up or skip the line – make sure you’re ready. Know what needs to be taken out of your bag and have it at your fingertips. Empty your pockets and remove anything that has to be taken off so that you can pass through without issue. 

If you have some spare time while you’re waiting to board your flight, double-check your reservations and accommodations. Call ahead to make sure they’re expecting you. Every little thing you can do now will save time and frustration on the back end.

5. Exercise and Eat Well

Remember the Gillepsie Hierarchy? Safety and health are at the base level, and this means if you aren’t healthy, you won’t be productive, engaging, or impactful.

Most people use travel as a free pass to eat whatever they want and skip out on exercise; however, don’t be so shortsighted, what you put into your body and your overall level of physical activity matters.

If you have to eat out at restaurants, try your best to find fresh meals that aren’t high in fatty acids or refined sugar. Always go for lean meat and fish, fruits, and veggies over-processed meals. If you’ll be staying in a hotel for a long time, go to a nearby supermarket and buy some fresh produce and healthy snack options, which lessens the chances that you’ll be tempted to grab a fast-food burger.

In addition to eating healthy, carve out some time for exercise. At a minimum, you need 20 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity. You can take up running at a nearby park, using the treadmill in the hotel fitness center, swimming laps in the pool, or doing bodyweight exercises in your hotel room.

When you take care of your body, you gain confidence and mental clarity, it positively impacts your business endeavors and increases your ability to influence customers and business partners for good.

6. Ask the Hotel for What You Need

Hotels are in the business of making guests happy. Satisfied guests are the heartbeat of their entire operation. They leave good reviews, tell friends and family, and come back for additional stays. Thus a good hotel will do whatever they can to make you happy. Use this to your advantage. 

As long as the request is reasonable, a good hotel will try to accommodate you. Go ahead and try it yourself:

  • Ask for a quieter room
  • Ask for a room with a view
  • Inquire about anti-allergy bedding
  • Request a late checkout
  • Ask for a phone charger
  • Request slippers
  • Ask for headphones or earbuds
  • Request workout clothing

If it’s not an outrageous, insensitive, or extremely expensive ask, there’s a good chance that the hotel will help you out. And always remember – the worst thing that can happen is that they tell you no. 

7. Be Friendly to People

Traveling can be stressful and frustrating. When you experience discomfort and anxiety, it’s easy to let these emotions rule your interactions and decision-making. But do your best to consciously fight back against these internal nudges and squash them with kindness. 

As a general rule of thumb, be friendly to everyone you encounter during your travels – yes, everyone, including the woman working at the airport ticket counter, the guy mopping the restroom floor, the stewardess on the plane, the hotel clerk, the cleaning staff, the secretary at your client’s office, and the actual client.

Every human deserves respect, and friendly/good behavior shows people that you appreciate them for who they are. And while you should be friends simply because it’s the right thing to do, it often benefits you. It can lead to free upgrades, helpful suggestions, and exciting conversations. Don’t miss these perks by being a self-serving grouch! 

8. Carve Out Time to Decompress

Always going from one appointment to the next is stressful. Not only does it increase your anxiety levels, but it also prevents you from being fully present. Wherever you are, you’re always thinking about where you need to go next. As such, nothing meaningful ever happens.

While it’s not always possible, you can usually space out our schedule. If you have the freedom to do so, it’s highly recommended that you carve out time to decompress, which could look like taking a nap in the hotel room, grabbing a beer at a nearby bar, or merely reading a book in the park.

9. Have a Set of Goals

Never embark on a business trip without a particular set of goals. These objectives will prove critically important in how you execute, as well as how you analyze your effectiveness on the back end.

As a reminder, in case it’s been a while since you’ve established good business objectives, goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. 

Learn From Your Experiences

View every business trip as a new experience that you can learn something from. The more you travel, the more you’ll learn about people, places, and how the world works. These insights can then be used to improve your career, business, and personal life. If you have a terrible memory, try keeping a travel log where you jot down notes.

Bon Voyage! 

When you’re a young, bright-eyed professional with dreams of doing something big, business travel is thrilling and opportunistic. But as you’ve grown older and you’ve spent thousands of hours traveling, it loses a bit of its luster. The key isn’t to make travel exciting again – it’s to make it less stressful and cumbersome. Hopefully, this article has offered some valuable tips and helpful suggestions that smooth out the classic points of friction that have held you back for so many years. Safe travels!

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