The smarter business traveler always wins.
That's a said fact of life. Yet, it's often hard to know: Should you take the commuter train or get an Uber? Is it better to stay in an expensive hotel right next to the conference center or find an AirBnB and walk a few blocks?
When you make smart decisions, you experience less stress and can even propel your career forward. When you make bad decisions, you end up stranded at a parking lot in the middle of nowhere like Steve Martin, throwing your bags to the ground.
Even worse, those that make poor travel decisions end up paying more. Here's a good example. Let's say you save a few bucks by using AirBnB. When you arrive, you realize the Wi-Fi is sketchy and the hotspot on your phone doesn't work. So now you have to work at the hotel across the street and pay for the access. Another example: You take an Uber to get to the airport. Great idea, but if the driver gets lost (this has happened to me before) because she isn't paying attention and you miss your flight, you'll wish you had taken the airport shuttle instead. Decisions matter.
So how do you make good ones? Here are some tips.
1. Pick the option that creates less stress
If you're in a quandary about a decision, follow this helpful tip. Make sure you choose the option that causes the least amount of stress. Even if it costs a little more, it will cost a little less eventually. I learned this recently when I decided to take the BART in San Francisco. It should have been easy, but I've taken this commuter train exactly once before. (I usually test out a car when I'm in the area.) I fell asleep and missed my exit, then had to backtrack. If I had taken an Uber, it would have cost more but I would have arrived on time. And, depending on the driver, an Uber is less stressful.
2. Do your job
One thing that's helped me many times is to remind myself about why I'm even traveling. Usually, it's to attend a tech conference and cover gadgets or meet with business luminaries. If there's any decision that will force me to stray even a little from that goal, I usually change my plans. When you board a flight, climb in a taxi, pay for a hotel--remind yourself, it's your job to make this work smoothly.
3. Ask yourself some important questions about food
One of my important lessons when traveling is to make sure I fuel up. No, not getting gas for the rental car, although I've forgotten to do that before. I mean fuel up on food, to get the energy I need for meetings and going to conference sessions. Before making any decision, make sure you've eaten and had enough to drink because bad decisions on a trip are often the result of bad eating (or lack of sleep). If you're trying to pick a hotel after a conference has ended and decide to stay another night, grab some food first, then make your decision, even if it takes up more time.
4. Get advice
If you're like me, you like to make travel decisions on your own. You know which hotel chain you like, you know which car rental companies have the best rates. It's fine to think autonomously. Yet, when you can't quite decide what to do, it's OK to Facebook chat with a colleague or even use a travel bot like Lola or Mezi and get a second opinion. You might make the same decision, but at least you looked for some alternate ideas. Plus, solo travel gets a little dull. Bring in the calvary at times.
5. Have fun
It might seem simple, but the best way to travel is with an open mind and a willingness to see life as all about the discovery. When I fell asleep and missed my stop on a commuter train, I had to laugh. It was funny. That is the key to all decision-making when it comes to travel (or anything in life). You might make a bad decision about travel, but you'll get there eventually. The good news? It is much less likely that you will make a bad decision if you have more of a carefree attitude. The stress you feel from being so overly serious is what leads to an empty parking lot.