The travel season has started for me.
I've already attended one conference in Miami and I'm heading to LA next week. I'll be attending CES in January and my favorite conference of the year (SxSX in March). It gets hectic, and I'm not exactly a fan of airports, but I know a few tips that have helped me fight off the chaos of air travel and stay a bit more level-headed. Here are a few common mistakes even the smart travelers sometimes forget.
1. Using a brand new laptop
You might think a brand new laptop is perfect for a trip because it will run fast and lean with no problems. It's not loaded with a bunch of junk apps that make it run slow. That's good thinking, but be careful. Usually, a brand new laptop needs frequent updates for the operating system. And, there are always little gotchas-such as not realizing you forgot to install a driver you need for your smartphone or some odd mechanical malfunction.
2. Not bringing anything analog
I see frustrated travelers on planes quite often. They thought for sure they had charged up a tablet for the flight or had enough space in their seat to type on a laptop. I always bring a journal and pen on every flight because there are times when your gadgets don't work or you don't have enough space to type (think elbow room, not the tray table). I've even written entire articles by hand, which is better than nothing.
3. Not going to the gate when you first get to the airport
One common mistake is to save time by trusting there are no issues at the gate for your departure. You use a flight app or even call the airline to check on delays, then decide to just camp out somewhere else or get lunch. I always go directly to the gate first. There have been quite a few times when there's some glitch that you only know about from the gate attendant-something that has not been reported yet, such as a late arrival.
4. Trusting the airline Wi-Fi
You might think you can work on a plane, and it's an OK gamble. I've been able to connect to Wi-Fi on most of my flights recently. Maintaining a consistent connection? That's another story. I never trust that I will be able to download a big file or hold a video conference. In fact, I always assume the Wi-Fi will be a backup method to check email or grab a Word document. The best plan is to download what you need before you fly.
5. Not installing the Gmail and Google Docs offline app
There's an app for Google Chrome that puts you into offline mode for Gmail, Google Cal and Google Docs. It means you can compose email and read emails in your inbox and respond to them. You can't access any new messages, but at least you can process your email. You can also access your schedule Google Docs, although the full editing suite doesn't work for spell-check and other features.
6. Forgetting to schedule downtime after your flight
This one might seem obvious, but it's amazing how many people just hit the ground running and never stop. It creates a vicious cycle if you travel often because you end up crashing when you get back from a trip and lose productivity. I usually schedule at least an hour of downtime. My favorite example of this is at CES in Las Vegas. After I arrive, I usually schedule a "tea time" (and I'm not even British) where I just go to a nearby hotel and order tea. That's it. No meetings, no rush. Just tea.