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FAQ: Air Traveler's Handbook 3/4 [Monthly posting]
Section - [3-9] Tips for Business Travelers

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If you travel frequently on business, here are some hints on making
the process more tolerable.

Credit Cards, Phone Cards:

   +  Get the limit on your credit card increased (or use a card like
      the American Express Card, which has no set limit). Between air
      fares (especially for one-way flights), hotels, taxis, and the
      like, you can easily run up a hefty bill. Know how much credit
      you have left on your cards, so that you don't max out the cards
      while away from home. In addition, consider getting one of the
      cards that either gives you a cash rebate (Discover), rebates
      you on purchases of some products (GE card, GM/Ford cards,
      Citibank Apple card, Caldor card), or affinity cards that give 
      you frequent flyer miles for every dollar spent. Carry two
      different kinds of cards (e.g., not every place accepts American
      Express, and some places will accept Mastercard but not Visa, 
      or vice versa).

   +  Get yourself a calling card from one of the major phone
      companies (AT&T, MCI, Sprint). Make sure it has a toll free
      access number.

   +  If you travel frequently overseas, you probably should get
      yourself an American Express (AmEx) card in addition to a
      Mastercard and Visa. Foreign establishments are more easily
      impressed by AmEx than in North America, so you're likely
      to find it accepted in expensive restaurants and boutiques more
      than you would expect. Visa and Mastercard have, however, made
      significant inroads, so you can't depend on any one card. Best to
      bring one of each. Visa is currently accepted in far more places
      in Europe and Asia than AmEx, but there are still some locations
      that accept only one or the other.

      The real benefit of the AmEx card is for convenient currency
      exchanges. When you want to unload your foreign cash, go to an
      AmEx office in the foreign country and use the cash to pay your
      AmEx bill. They'll let you do this even if you don't have a
      balance. You can also cash up to $1,000 in personal checks every
      three weeks at an AmEx office ($3,000 with the gold card). 

   +  When traveling overseas, replacing a lost or stolen credit card
      can sometimes be difficult, so bring two or three, and keep them
      separate to prevent yourself from losing all your cards at the
      same time. 

Frequent Flyer, Hotel Promotions/Discounts:

   +  Sign up for ALL the various frequent flyer programs. You never
      know which airline you'll actually fly on, so it is best to
      accumulate mileage on all of them. You don't need to carry the
      cards -- just write down a list of your frequent flyer numbers
      on an index card, and carry that with you instead. You may want
      to consider signing up also for the AmEx membership miles
      program as well, even though it will cost you (Corporate AmEx
      cardholders $50; regular cardholders free for first year, then
      $25). Make a list of their partners for car rentals and 
      such -- you'll quickly add up miles on all your cards. Even if
      you get sick of air travel, you can always give the tickets to
      family members. Also join all the hotel clubs. (Some people
      advocate picking one program and sticking with it, to avoid the
      hassles of juggling many programs.)

   +  Your clients probably have a company discount with a nearby
      hotel. Such discounts can range from 10% to as much as 50% off.

Travel Agencies:

   +  Use a travel agency which provides a 24-hour number to handle


   +  If you fly regularly to the same destination but not over a
      Saturday night, use the nested/overlapping tickets strategy,
      where one roundtrip ticket is bought from the destination's
      perspective, and you use the outgoing ticket of that ticket as
      your first trip's return and vice versa. This will save your
      company a lot of money, since both tickets magicly become Saturday
      night stay tickets.  An alternative is to buy two round trip
      tickets in the same manner, but with the return flights 30 days
      or so after your first trip. You'll use the outgoing portions of
      each ticket as before, but the return portions can be used for
      standby travel or may be changeable with a $35 change fee. If
      worse comes to worst and you can't use either of the returns,
      the cost of your flight will still be no more than a single
      midweek roundtrip.

   +  If you're visiting multiple cities, get your tickets as a circle
      trip instead of a series of round trips or one-way tickets. A
      circle trip has the savings benefits of supersaver fares, even
      if one of the segments isn't over a Saturday night.

   +  If you book two legs of a trip separately, you can avoid long
      delays in the airport by reducing the connection time. Since
      you're probably paying for one way tickets anyway, this probably
      won't affect the cost. Make sure you allow enough time, though,
      in case your flight is delayed and the other leg is at the other
      end of a big distributed airport. Note that on some airlines, if
      you miss a leg, you will not be able to pick up a later flight,
      even on standby. When you buy the tickets separately, the
      airline is no longer responsible if a late flight causes you to
      miss your connection. But if your ticket is refundable, you can
      cash it in and use it toward a later flight. (If your original
      ticket was a discount ticket, you'll have to pay the difference in
      fares between the two flights, if any. If your ticket was full
      fare, you won't.)

   +  Buy your tickets through an outfit like Price Club, which gives
      you a 5% rebate (which you pocket, of course).

   +  Since you paid cash for your (non-discount, refundable, changeable)
      tickets, most carriers will be glad to honor them (even if they
      are on another airline). So if you miss a flight, find the next
      flight to your destination on any carrier and talk to the gate
      agent there. Some airlines, however, will require the original
      airline to endorse the ticket over to them before they will
      accept it.

   +  If your flights are concentrated with one airline, get a copy of
      their flight schedules books. It will come in handy, especially
      when you miss flights.

Luggage and What to Carry:

   +  Wear comfortable clothes for the flight, if you can. If you wear
      a suit during the flight, it will get wrinkled, and you won't
      enjoy yourself. It would be better to travel wearing jeans and
      t-shirt, and then change at your hotel. (If you do decide to not
      wear a suit, be sure to include a suit in your carry-on luggage,
      just in case your bags get lost.) Also, wear comfortable shoes
      or sneakers -- you almost certainly will be doing a lot of walking
      in the airport. Hush Puppies or Rockports are good.

   +  Carry lots of business cards and keep them handy. You will meet
      a lot of people on airplanes.

   +  Carry lots of good reading material. It gives you something to
      do when you do get stuck in an airport (or in a plane that's
      37th in line for takeoff).

   +  Buy inexpensive but high quality luggage. Good looks won't last,
      since even expensive brand-name luggage will get scuffed after a
      few trips, and the more expensive luggage won't last any longer
      than the cheap luggage. Why pay a premium when you'll have to
      replace it anyway? 

      Be sure to get sturdy hard-sided luggage, with reinforced sides.
      Soft-sided luggage will get crushed or torn. Check the wheels, 
      since flimsy wheels will jam or get broken off. Handles should
      be securely attached to the bags, or removable, since handles
      that are left on the bags will be used by the baggage handlers
      to pull the bags, sometimes with several bags on top.

   +  Buy a luggage carrier or get luggage with built-in wheels. Make
      sure the wheels are sturdy enough to survive plane travel.

   +  Make sure your luggage is waterproof. If it's raining when you
      arrive, you luggage will probably sit outside in the rain for a
      few minutes. Wrap important items in plastic inside the luggage.

   +  Carry a portable electric shaver (if male), soap, and shampoo
      with you. Not every hotel provides these amenities.

   +  Bring your own travel alarm. Not every hotel provides rooms with
      an alarm clock, although most will give you a wake-up call upon request.

   +  Carry the most important items with you as carry-ons. If you can
      travel light (no checked luggage), do so. Don't check anything
      you can't afford to lose. Carry at least one suit with you onto
      the plane, even if you have others in your checked luggage. 
      Being forced to wear a t-shirt and jeans to a meeting can ruin
      even the best of presentations. The "two carry-on" rule is
      widely ignored -- you can often get away with three carry-on
      bags, especially if one is a garment bag. Carry a duffel bag in
      your luggage for expansion space on the return, if you happen to
      buy any souvenirs. 

   +  Pack half the clothes you think you need, and use the hotel's
      dry cleaners. 

   +  If you use a laptop with modem, include a long modular phone
      cable with you (25 feet) and a modular jack splitter. Both are
      available at your local Radio Shack or drug store. Also buy a 15
      foot extension cord for your power supply.

At the Airport:

   +  Check you bags with the valet, and go straight to the gate with
      your tickets. Standing in line all the time at the check-in
      counter will rub you the wrong way after the nth time. Try to
      spend as little time as possible in lines at airports. Do not
      pick your flights at the airport ticket line; call the 800
      number instead. This effectively puts you ahead of everybody in line.
      If you like to tip skycaps, a buck a bag is the going rate.

At the Hotel:

   +  Be nice to hotel and airline staff, and they'll be nice back.
      Use the hotel's concierge when you need something. They can help
      you find almost anything, from tickets to a concert, to rental
      car discounts, to aspirin, to restaurant recommendations, to
      good directions to your meeting site. Be sure to tip well.
      Advice and help from the concierge is free, but if they do a special
      service for you, a tip is expected. On airplanes, wait until the
      plane is in the air before you ask the flight attendants for
      anything, since boarding is the busiest time for them. 

   +  Ask for a room facing away from the highway and away from the
      elevator and ice machine, if you want to avoid noise.


   +  Take a modest amount of cash with you. Not everybody takes
      plastic, and you never know when you'll have trouble finding an ATM.

   +  Keep receipts, and log them on your expense report every day. If
      you don't record expenses right away, you'll forget them. Put
      the receipts in a separate envelope for each day and label it.
      Write notes on the receipts about the expenses, if it isn't clear from
      the receipt itself. When the taxi driver offers you a few
      extras, take them. You'll probably lose some of your receipts,
      and having a stash of blank ones can help you make up the loss.
      Complete your expense report before you return to work, and turn
      it in right away. That'll get you your reimbursement much sooner.


   +  Get maps and use them to figure out where the meetings are and
      where the closest hotel is.

   +  The food you eat on the road may not be as healthy as the food
      you normally eat. For example, many airline meals involve meat
      with high fat, calorie, and cholesterol content. You'll need to
      be careful to balance your diet, or your health will suffer.
      Bring your own food with you for the flight; it's healthier and
      more pleasant. 

   +  Arrange for your company to provide a service for remote dialin,
      so that you can call up and read your email. Either get your
      mail via one of the national commercial services (Prodigy,
      Compuserve, Delphi, etc.) or have them subscribe to an outfit
      like Sprintnet or Telenet which lets you dialup using local
      numbers in many locations around the world.

   +  In the US, tips are usually 15% of the bill (in states with 5%
      sales tax, just triple the tax). But check the bill to make sure
      that a service charge isn't already included, especially in
      high-end restaurants. In foreign countries the maitre d' should
      also be tipped if he/she provided some special services. In
      China, Iceland, and Tahiti, and a few other countries, do not
      tip -- it's an insult. Ask your travel agent about tipping
      customs in the country of your destination.

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Top Document: FAQ: Air Traveler's Handbook 3/4 [Monthly posting]
Previous Document: [3-8] Tips for Families Flying with Children
Next Document: [3-9b] Best Seats

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