I have travelled for work a lot over the last 4 years, both in Europe and in the USA. I will regularly do a small tour of a region, travelling to multiple different cities inside a short period of time, which often makes packing much more difficult. Over the last 4 years, I have pretty much refined my business travel routine, so I thought that I would share some interesting techniques that I have picked up.
There are several choices for compression bags here, but I generally go with Eagle Creek Compression Sacs because they have a meshed technology that makes them a lot more robust than the cheaper bags you get in any British supermarket. The last thing you want is for your compression sac to split while you’re away and be left with an impossible situation of trying to get your clothes to fit into your carry on.
For EMEA travels, where I am only taking carry on luggage, I will take 1 medium and 2 small bags and the space savings you gain are absolutely brilliant. There is some wrinkling and creasing of your shirts, non-suit trousers but with most hotels having irons/ironing boards (or an Ironing Room in a lot of Scandinavian hotels) and combined with Tip 2, it rarely poses a problem.
For longer term, US travels, I tend to take 2 larger bags in my main suitcase along with 2 smaller bags, and then a medium bag in my carry on luggage. I find this a useful arrangement, as I can separate my casual weekend clothes into one sac and my work attire into the other.
Steam is a good thing. Despite hotel rooms often having their thermostats set to volcano, there are few ways to effectively get creases out of your clothes, especially when you have spent the day travelling in them. A suit, or sports jacket for example. Simply shut all of the doors (and windows if your lucky enough to have them) in the bathroom, turn the hot tap and shower onto full heat (make sure the plugs are removed!) and hang your shirts/jackets/trousers from the highest point you can. be careful not to hang it from the smoke detector though… They’re far more sensitive than they look!
Spare Shirt/Underwear/Socks In Laptop Bag
I used to travel to St Petersburg in Russia a few times a year, and the airline I travelled with was notoriously bad for losing luggage. Since it happened to me twice consecutively, I decided to implement this as a contingency plan.
I chose my laptop bag with this in mind. I tend to prefer the rucksack style laptop bags because I have a silly amount of hardware that I lug around with me on my travels (more on those later) and the extra pockets are useful, especially for this purpose. I keep the spare clothes hidden away in a centre compartment so that there is no danger of my superhero boxer shorts falling out when I’m grubbing around in my laptop bag for a particular dongle, cable or whiteboard marker.
This isn’t so much use when I’m doing a rapid, multi-city trip, as I’m never really in a hotel for long enough to set it up or use it. The AppleTV is much more useful for longer trips where I am in the same place for the best part of a week or more.
Most hotel rooms now have TV’s with HDMI output ports, or in some of the better hotels, they have full AV panels in the wall. The AppleTV takes very little time to set up, and as a device is a mere 10cmx10cmx2cm so takes up very little space in the laptop bag. I understand that a lot of people wouldn’t be impressed by the wireless speeds in hotels (I’m regularly incensed by how bad they are), I tend to use the AppleTV for its Airplay Mirroring capabilities. This means that I can display my iPad Mini, iPhone, Macbook Air onto the TV in the hotel and either work, or more likely watch a movie or TV show on a sensible screen size and in much more comfort. I also have another trick in this area as well.
I also have a NHL Gamecenter subscription, but that’s because I’m a hockey nut. I chose Netflix over Lovefilm, or any of the other media providers as they cover an awful lot of countries and I prefer watching entire TV series, rather than movies. I find this particularly useful in Non-English speaking countries where the English TV channels are limited at best, and also in those that only have Freeview.
Hotels vs Suites
This is a huge one for me as I’ve recently hit my 30’s and 4 years of travelling are starting to take their toll on my waistline! This particular tip applies more to America than it does to Europe.
When I am in the US, I generally prefer to use the Suite style hotels to a standard hotel room. The prices are often comparable and the extra space makes it feel a lot more like home, even for a couple of nights. The biggest bonus for me is the kitchenette that often comes with them. With portion sizes being somewhat larger than those I’m used to in England, it is often a great way to help your waistline to have a decent lunch and take the leftovers home with you (or vice versa) and have them for dinner. I find that this fills me more than adequately, and if you don’t fancy eating out, the Suite hotels generally tend to be close to a supermarket or 7-11 at the very worst that you can pick up simple, healthy food for any meals.
There is a lot of debate over whether you should join one or two loyalty schemes and remain loyal to them, or whether you should join them all and take whatever option is cheapest. My personal opinion is that you should have 2 tiers of loyalty scheme in your possession.
Tier 1 – Should be the programmes that you most regularly use, and I would advise getting one for hotels and one for airlines. On the airlines, there are really only 2 alliances, OneWorld (BA, American etc) and Star Alliance (Lufthansa, Delta etc) and one tip I’d give here is to look at all of the airlines that fly their own flights from your local airport and compare the levels required to achieve status on those airlines.
For example; because BA has decided to align themselves with the Avios points scheme, it is much harder to achieve OneWorld status with BA than it is with American Airlines. Unless you have an Avios credit card, it seems pointless to sign up for BA and struggle towards status.
For hotels, it is a little harder and depends on whether you get to keep the points that you earn. It also is worth weighing up the benefits you get once you achieve that status.
Personally I use Hilton as their status members get Free Breakfasts, Free Wireless Access, Zero Blackout Dates (Very useful for last minute meetings or overnight flight delays when the airline is being recalcitrant on where they want to put you!) and Free Room Upgrades. All of these combined can save you £20-£50 a night when you book, depending where you are in the world.
Tier 2 – This should be the secondary alliance from your local airport, and often used for price comparisons on routes. If you can gain a couple of status levels that’s an added bonus as I find that lounge access in whatever airport you’re in is invaluable (unless it’s such a regional airport that it doesn’t have a lounge!)
As far as hotels goes, it’s often a good trick to find a regionalised hotel chain in a country that you spend a lot of time in. I was spending a lot of time in Scandinavia, so Radisson was a natural choice for me and I gained a very large number of points very quickly.
If you do get to keep the points, and earn enough points to be useful, I’d recommend looking at the large international chains with holiday resorts. I’ve had several holidays where I’ve not had to pay for anything besides incidentals through my business travelling.
Tripit – Travel Application
If you are travelling to multiple cites in a short space of time, then the itineraries can be ridiculously complicated. Tripit is a fantastic application for managing your travel plans. You simply forward your booking confirmation to their email address and they update your application remotely with all of your travel plans, linked together and in chronological order.
Whether you upgrade to Tripit Pro or not is up to you. I found it useful for the loyalty points tracker, but with them dropping a lot of schemes, it has become less valuable.
I hope that you found some of these tips and tricks useful, and if you have any more, please feel free to leave them in the comments below!