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Steven Strauss: Travel tips

August 27, 2012

Question: Steve, I know that you travel a lot so I was wondering if you had any tips to make my business travel easier because it can really be a drag. The one thing I know is that I like to have an aisle seat, but that is not exactly an insider tip. Do you have any?

Answer: I think that business travel gets a bad rap these days. People love to lament about how difficult it is to travel, but I actually think the opposite is true. Between mobile technology, the comfort and speed of airlines, and other advances, I find to be far easier and more affordable to travel than even a decade ago.

Now, is it true that we have to wait in longer lines at airport security? Of course. But so what? That’s the price we have to pay fly in safer skies, and I think it is actually a small price to pay.

Here’s an example of how I think travel is vastly improved today:  In a couple of weeks, I’m going to Scotland with my family to a wedding. Not so long ago, to plan this trip would’ve required us to go to a travel agent and that agent would have been in charge of finding our flights and hotels. We would have then gone on the trip, hoping that the travel agent knew what she was doing.

But today? Today we would go online, choose our flights from a variety of options, check out the hotel on Trip Advisor, and then decide on the best package at the best price. And even better, while we fly, we will have a variety of options for how to use our time:

  • We will be able to choose the movies of our choice from the screen of our choice
  • Or play or listen to music on a smartphone
  • Or read on an iPad (or a real book!)
  • Or, in my case, work on my laptop

The big difference really is about choice. Being able to choose from many flights and carriers, being able to choose what to watch and do while on board, and being free to be productive (or not) is a revolutionary change for the better in my book.

Here are a few other things that can also improve your travel experience:

  • Bring extra batteries: On very long travel days, an extra laptop battery, while not inexpensive, can prove to be essential. But that is not my real tip, my real tip is this: Did you know that you can bring along an extra battery for your smartphone or iPhone? Yes, it’s true. Head out to your local RadioShack or other electronics store and buy an external backup battery for your phone, and never run out of juice on a cross country flight again.
  • Always get a good seat: I am not sure whether it was the time I was sitting in the middle seat between two very large people, or the time that a guy knocked his glass of red wine on my khakis and blamed me, but getting a good seat has become a high priority in my travel life.

But how do you do it if you book late?

Here’s a great tip: Check in exactly 24 hours ahead of time. Many airlines unlock exit row seats 24 hours before a flight, so if you check in exactly 24 hours ahead of time, you can get one of these just-released seats.
App up: Needless to say, there are no shortages of great apps that can make your travel life much easier:

  • There are apps like FlightTrack, and FlightStatus that allow you to easily check for flight delays
  • TripIt is a cool app that helps you organize trip details – flights, hotel reservations, car rentals, and so on – into one master online itinerary — even if arrangements are booked at different travel sites (Note: I do some work with the company that own TripIt, Concur)
  • HotelTonight helps you get same day, discount hotel rooms
  • TripAdvisor – the aforementioned site also has a great app that is invaluable for figuring out whether a place is worth your time and money
  • Bring along a portable fabric steamer: Ironing clothes when you arrive and are exhausted is no fun. But a portable fabric steamer gives you wrinkle-free, dry-cleaner quality quickly and easily.
  • Ambien: My sleeping pill friend Ambien makes long travel much more bearable. Not only can I sleep when I need to on a long flight, but when I arrive, I can get on the new time zone by being able to fall asleep when the natives do. Today’s tip: According to Caroline Costello of Independent, “Book your flight on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Most of the airlines roll out their online sales in the beginning of the work week, so this is the best time to take advantage of limited-time fare sales.”
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