Frequent business travelers know the routine: Take advantage of travel reward points, don't check bags, confirm TSA Precheck on boarding passes and find the lounge. The people who travel the most understand how to play the game, yet even they get things wrong sometimes.
Savvy travelers stumble far less frequently than the masses, but that doesn't make them immune to the unexpected. Rate spikes, delays and the general wear of life on the road can turn a regular travel day into an exhausting disaster. The costs of poor travel planning can add up quickly.
After flying a million miles in a three-year span to close deals for my startup, I've experienced the typical annoyances of travel: complaining people, overly stuffed carry-ons, the misplaced receipts. But in all honesty, the biggest annoyances have been self-caused, not the result of others' behavior. Managing travel details, from booking hotels to managing expenses, presents endless opportunities for missteps.
To avoid the stress of business travel, you have to recognize the things that cause it. Watch out for these potential trip pitfalls.
1. Not using travel apps
Email confirmations are nice, but apps with lots of functionality are better for traveling. I've missed too many important travel alerts via email while racing to the airport or my next meeting.
While there are many great travel apps, apps for your airline and hotel are key. Airline apps not only let you check in and receive notification-based alerts for delays, but these apps also allow you to change reservations or take advantage of status perks on the fly. Hotel apps let you check in remotely, and in some cases, receive a digital key so you can bypass the front desk.
Don't stop there: Use OpenTable and The Infatuation to make restaurant choices and reservations easier. Most travelers already have Uber or Lyft installed, but not all cities allow rideshare companies to operate. Know where you're going, and download the associated taxi app to save time and reduce stress. Lastly, I also use apps that locate airport lounges for delays and layovers.
2. Spending too much on a hotel
Every night, hotel guests stay in identical rooms. However, almost everyone pays a different price. The hard part about finding cheap hotel rates is that they don't always hit the usual travel booking websites.
One way to obtain cheaper rates is to leverage travel partnerships and third-party tools to access unadvertised discounts. For example, procurement solutions provider UNA reports an average room discount of 26% compared to public prices. Partnering with other businesses to get group discounts can help without requiring extra phone calls, emails or travel agents. Another option is to call the hotel directly and ask for a cheaper rate, which works occasionally, but takes time.
3. Poorly tracking expenses
Hotel and airline bills might be the most expensive parts of travel, but they're far from the most frequent bills. Leverage technology to lessen the hassle of travel expenses. Expense-tracking platforms often offer free benchmarking tools or apps to help manage expenses while on the go.
But apps don't matter if they aren't used properly. Use them as soon as possible after each expense and don't wait until the end of your trip to tally your receipts. It's easy to lose a receipt, so I take a photo of the receipt immediately, then later upload the expense to the app.
If you work for a company, its payroll provider likely has an app for expenses. If you're a freelancer, there are a number of apps for independent tracking. Research to determine whether they work with your invoicing and accounting systems for optimal integration.
4. Unhealthy travel habits
Just because something is convenient doesn't make it ideal. Experienced business travelers know better than to eat every meal at fast-food restaurants. Spend much time on the road, and unhealthy habits will quickly catch up with you.
As much as possible, skip the snacks the airline offers and try to avoid fast food. Opt for water over booze, especially on a plane. Eat out if you must, but do some research your first night in town to discover which health-conscious choices are nearby.
Sleep is essential to good travel, and beating jet lag is a big part of that. Try to maintain your regular sleep schedule on quick trips to the opposite coast. For longer trips, or more dramatic time zone changes, research whether a red-eye flight will diminish the impact of the time change. Avoiding alcohol and using earplugs and eye masks can also improve sleep. Finally, exercise so your body registers fatigue by bedtime.
Business travel might not be a vacation, but it shouldn't be stressful. Don't put up with high prices, cumbersome processes or poor habits when you have the power to change them. Take precautions so your trips go (almost) exactly as planned and you don't make any costly mistakes.