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HARDWARE

5 Smartphone Tricks for Your Next Business Trip

Don't wait until your plans go awry. Use these handy tips for a smooth trip every time.
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It doesn't take many business trips to learn how easily things can go wrong. Forget the it-will-never-happen-to-me approach; you want to become a moving Vince Lombardi, where your best defense is a great offense. In this case, one of your best tools for keeping your plans--and your business--on track while your travel is your smartphone. Here are five mobile tips for safe travels:

Multiple copies of your travel info

It's more than possible to lose some of your belongings or even critical information, like the number of your connection out of Walla Walla or your hotel for tomorrow night. So don't take chances; keep more than one copy of what you need on you. A print-out of your boarding pass goes into the briefcase, of course. But also set up your arrangements so that the info is sent, if possible, to either your email or texted to your phone. Also, add one more copy: the cloud. Drop the acknowledgments and itineraries into something like Dropbox or Evernote. That way, even if your phone goes AWOL, you can get what you need from an Internet café.

Track your receipts

What's worse than having to do an expense report for a client or to keep things straight for tax time? It's losing receipts and being unable to claim reimbursement or deductions. Every time I get a receipt on the road, I take a photo and upload it to a third-party cloud. I still scan the receipts in for a clearer image when I'm back, but this way I know I won't have to foot a bill that shouldn't be mine. And if you use NeatReceipts or NeatDesk to scan in receipts, there's also a cloud-based service called NeatMobile. Take photos of receipts with an iPhone or Android smartphone and run it through character recognition on the Web for downloading to your desktop system when you're back in the office.

Don't forget the taxi

Losing something in a cab is annoying, to say the least. But it can be far worse if you've left a laptop or tablet with a critical presentation or sensitive information. In such cases, knowing the cab number, the cab company, and the driver's name is critical. So, every time you get into a cab, copy the info onto your smartphone or even add something to Evernote. When you're at your destination and you know for certain that everything is at hand, you can delete it (or, as I do, keep a running list of cab info while traveling, just in case).

Keep things straight at the airport

In all the time you've spent at airports, have you noticed how little help signage can be when you want a meal, batteries, a magazine, or anything else? You can get pointed in the general direction of what you need, maybe, but usually it takes some investigation, generally when you don't have a lot of time between flights. If that's the case, check out the app FlySmart by Sapient Corp. Not only can you track your flight info (another place to keep a copy) and real-time updates, but there are also shop and restaurant listings as well as maps of more than 60 airports. Don't settle for a chain burger to tide you over for the next six hours when something more substantial and relaxing is at your fingertips.

On the road

If you're driving, there's plenty of help, from MapQuest and Google Maps to help show you the way and GPS functionality for turn-by-turn directions if you need them. But also consider adding something like Waze, a social driving app that provides voice-guided navigation, re-routing with updated traffic status, various road alerts, and even notification of the cheapest gas prices.

Not only can a smartphone make your trip safer and smoother, but even shorter. What more can you ask?

Last updated: Jul 30, 2012

ERIK SHERMAN | Columnist

Erik Sherman's work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, and Fortune. He also blogs for CBS MoneyWatch.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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