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BUSINESS TRAVEL

The Frequent-Flyer Secrets from a Business Traveler With Wanderlust

From must-download apps to PreCheck security clearance, there is plenty to take advantage of when taking to the skies.
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As the head of a large travel management company, someone prone to bouts of wanderlust, I consider myself a knowledgeable and savvy traveler.

From Chicago or LA for work, to the Caribbean for a romantic getaway with my wife, I rack up my fair share of frequent flyer miles and keep up with industry trends. And with my frequent attendance at airline industry meetings and conferences, I've become somewhat of an expert on airline industry trends and ways to plan the best business trip possible.

It can be tough to navigate through the waters of airline mergers and the like. As someone in the know, I want to share some of my insights and tips:

Put all of your eggs in one basket.

The major airlines aren't the only entities that should be consolidating. You should be, too. With newly merged airlines offering flight paths to every corner of the globe, it's no longer necessary to travel on different airlines to reach all of your destinations. Prices for popular routes may vary slightly by carrier, but by concentrating your purchasing power on one or two airlines, you'll be able to maximize your ROI.

From frequent flyer miles that turn into free trips, to complimentary upgrades and access to swanky airport lounges, loyalty for air travelers is handsomely rewarded. A $50 difference in a flight can be more than forgotten when your preferred airline bumps you to first class for a trip from Reagan National to LAX.

So why not do a little research, see which airlines are preferred by your organization, select a carrier or two, enroll in their rewards program and see what happens? You'll save time by not having to research and compare fares for every business trip you take, and in the end you'll see money back in your own pocket.

"There's an app for that."

There are thousands of mobile travel apps that have been designed to make traveling easy. There are airline apps that allow you to check-in, print your boarding pass, and monitor flights. There are apps that offer the five-day weather forecast at your destination. If you can conceive of an app that would lighten your load when traveling, it most likely exists. When preparing for a trip, I recommend daring to dream about what would make a perfect trip for you. Chances are, as the old iPhone 3G commercials used to say,

"There's an app for that." You should be using it. (As an aside, some of my favorite apps include Delta and American's mobile apps as well as Sabre's TripCase)

Get a PreCheck.

There's no reason that any frequent business traveler shouldn't have both TSA PreCheck and Global Entry. TSA PreCheck provides expedited screening benefits to domestic frequent travelers while Global Entry offers the same benefits for those traveling internationally and domestically. When you get Global Entry you are automatically granted PreCheck status. These two programs require a little up front effort to register but could shave off many hours from your door-to-door travel time. I'd rather spend time with my friends and family than in a 45-minute long security line, wouldn't you?

Ask for help.

Travel agents (or "angels" as I'd like to call them) know the ins-and-outs of airline flight schedules, are well-versed in securing amenities like upgrades or preferred seats, and are able to find discounts that might not be visible to the average traveler. When in doubt, asking for help and having a backup plan will always pay off. Your backup plan might be as simple as programming American Airlines' customer service number into your phone or having the email address of a travel agent your company uses in your address book. All I know is that the ease of asking for help, and being assisted when you're in a jam, is often times immeasurable, particularly with the kind of winter we have been experiencing on the East Coast.

Last updated: Feb 28, 2014

PAUL METSELAAR | Columnist | CEO and chairman

Paul Metselaar founded what is now Ovation Travel Group in 1984, filling a void in the corporate travel market by providing specialized service to law firms. Today, Ovation is one of the largest corporate travel management companies in the U.S., serving more than 700 companies in a variety of industries, including law, financial services, and entertainment.

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



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