When it comes to building powerful and long-lasting business relationships, texts, email messages, phone calls, and video conferencing just don't make it. In-person, face-to-face meetings are still king.

This means that, despite all the new ways to communicate available to us, business travel is still on the rise--with no end in sight. According to research conducted by the Global Business Travel Association, global business travel spending topped a record-breaking $1.2 trillion in 2015, and is projected to reach $1.6 trillion by 2020.

Business travelers however, are neither the most comfortable--due to the intense and short durations of many trips--nor the most able to truly immerse themselves in the local culture. What can business travelers do to make the most of a potentially very bad situation?

1. Pick airlines with broad frequent flyer programs

And better yet, airlines with a large number of international partners. That way, you can rack up points as you jet across countries and seas--all while saving up funds for when you get to take your own trip somewhere.

2. Get a really good carry-on

The kind of luggage you bring with you determines the kind of flight you'll have. Bring a light, functional, streamlined carry-on that's still large enough to carry everything you need. That way, you'll never have to worry about lost luggage.

3. Drink bottled water

When moving around constantly, it can be tempting to save money by simply indulging in tap water. Unfortunately, your stomach may be the loser after changing multiple environments in a limited number of days. Don't take the risk.

4. Get food somewhere cheap

By cheap, I don't mean McDonald's, or some other worldwide fast-food chain. A hole-in-the-wall local dive or joint is usually quite accessible, placed just next to large industrial centers or pocketed in small corners of tourist places. Drop in to get that local flavor--but do take caution when it comes to the potential for food poisoning.

5. Enroll in a trusted-traveler program

If you're a U.S.-based business traveler, then you really owe it to yourself to enroll in the trusted-traveler programs offered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, such as NEXUS, SENTRI, or Global Entry. Not only will you be whisked through Customs when you arrive back home from a foreign destination, but you will have access to the TSA Pre lanes at the airport, saving you tons of time--and headaches.

6. Try to stick with the same hotel chains

Hotel chains, just like airlines, offer their loyal customers points as well. Try to save those up when you can--you can trade them in for room upgrades, free stays, and more. On a recent trip to New York City, I did just that--using 130,000 Marriott reward points to book a couple of nights in a beautiful hotel with an amazing view right on Central Park. For free.

7. Do one thing just for you

Even if you're there on business, make sure to leave time to fully take in your surroundings and the fact that you're in a place that's not your home. Do something touristy, or do something local. Or do both. The way you feel yourself growing at ease with change may surprise you.

Published on: Jul 14, 2016