Several years ago I took a position as a traveling consultant for a large, healthcare conglomerate. I was in heaven, with my newfound role and loved the opportunity to span the U.S. while doing important work with medical providers. My typical route was from Los Angeles, CA to NYC, with regular stops in Salt Lake City, Denver, Chicago and Phoenix. I must admit I’ve alway loved being in airport environments. It’s something about being in them that gave me a sense of adventure, and I loved being around those I considered to be the jet-set.
The first thought for me as a frequent traveler was how to benefit from this. Even though the employer paid for my airline tickets, hotel suites and rental cars, there were rewards programs for customer loyalty connected to each of these services that I found out, as the traveler, I was entitled to. And if they were not used they would just go to waste because everything is made out to the traveler, not the company that is footing the bill.
I registered with the various companies that provide those services and began to see perks develop quickly. The car rental agencies offered car class upgrades, and free rentals based on a point system. Hotels had free stays with points accrued, given at certain levels of service. And everyone knows about the airline carriers, and their frequent-flyer programs!
In addition, there are partnership programs where each brand or product allows the traveler to earn points across the different platforms. So points earned from hotel stays could be redeemed toward car rental upgrades. Or frequent-flyer miles earned could be transferred to the hotel account.
A big part of making traveling stressful was the luggage, and packing. I was always a light packer. I hated taking anything bulky or oversized. Because of this, last minute packing was a nightmare for me, and something I avoided at all cost. If I didn’t I was destined for disaster. So I got into the habit of packing when I got in fresh from a trip. Instead of unpacking and putting everything away, I’d anticipate the next departure and prepare for it. If I needed something and couldn’t find it I knew to look in my packed bag that was by the door.
Post 911, it’s important to pay attention to the airport rules. Always check the website of the airports you’re traveling through. Although there are industry standards for luggage height and dimensions, and the regulations for toiletries, etc., airports have different services available and the policies regarding security measures, ground transportation, curb-side pickups, etc. will vary.
As far as the type of bags to carry, I found a simple solution: the flight crew carry-on bag. Who would know the best about packing and quality luggage than the pilots and crew that serviced us in the air? My favorite manufacturer, TravelPro, has a complete line of bags that are designed for the crew, and the experienced traveler!
Although I didn’t travel the globe with the work I did, domestic travel was just as enjoyable, and I found it required the same degree of planning and organizational skills necessary to make any trip comfortable and uneventful. Because I was on the West Coast and had to report to work in NY state, many of my flights resulted in long lay-overs. That was when I discovered the importance of using my time productively, and being able to keep myself entertained.
When you’re on the road (my schedule was 3 weeks on the road, 1 week at home), in addition to excitement and adventure, it can also get lonely and uncomfortable, with the unfamiliarity of it all. In-flight, you can become bored and restless. In-between flights should be adventure time.
My remedy was to put away the electronic gadgets, the magazines and the paperback novels, (all the things I’d probably be using on the plane) and enjoy the airports. I spent many hours touring airports, so-to-speak. I occupied my time by viewing the work of local artists placed in many airport terminals, shopping the kiosks and local vendors. In San Francisco International airport, one terminal has a yoga studio and meditation space that I gravitate to at every visit.
And one of my favorite things to do is people watch. What better place to do that than a busy airport? Not to mention with all that is going on in our modern world, it’s a good thing to be alert and monitor your surroundings.
But before I relaxed at the gate, I always checked for everything I needed readily available in a smaller carry-on item; a backpack, brief case or even wearing cargo shorts where pockets were plentiful. That way when I settled in my seat my headphones, mp3 player, novel or whatever was with me, and didn’t get accidentally stowed in the overhead bin or checked.
If I was traveling with a laptop, I always had the bag open and ready when I was in the line for security screening. I wore slip-ons like loafers or Crocs instead of sneakers for easy kick on-and-off. My toiletries were in clear bottles and clearly marked as lotion, moisturizer, etc. And most important my ticketing information and identification were always handy.
One of my tricks to getting additional checked bags for free was to NOT check a bag and walk along with it to the terminal. In the case of the plane being full and the overhead bins being crowded, the flight attendant would announce the necessity the check the rest of the bags. Which would then be put aside and checked without a charge. (I’d make sure it was a bag that didn’t contain items I needed on the plane, and was one that could withstand the beating it would get during transit.)
And, there you have it for my simple travel solutions. These little tips helped make my travels a lot more manageable. Since travel is not a requirement for my present position (not yet at least), anywhere I go is considered a pleasure trip. Using these established travel habits and tips assures that the pleasure is emphasized.