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10 Essential Business Travel Tips for your Next Conference

After attending many marketing and digital conferences during the last few years of my geeky career, I’ve finally mastered a travel routine that works. Trust me, as a woman who can get away with only an overhead suitcase, this is pretty amazing.

While I’ve collected a few do’s, don’ts and many lessons learned, the list below can work for both domestic and international business trips. Whether it’s packing tips to advice on feeling good while you’re away, these tips will make you feel better about travel and help you focus on the purpose of why you’re away.

Pretty young female passenger at the airport

Essential Tips For Business Travelers

Create a Checklist

Before you even open your suitcase, make a checklist. Starting with your travel calendar, make a list of events that you’re attending along with weather forecasts for each event. This will make your packing arrangements easier and faster. You don’t want to pack an umbrella if you know it’s going to be 90’ degrees all week long or a bulky jacket if you don’t need it.

Keep Essentials Packed

If you know you’re job requires you to travel a lot, I would recommend you keep all your travel-size toiletries pre-packed, always. It reduces time and stress from worrying if you forgot to pack that extra toothbrush or face wash. Sure you can always buy extra items at the hotel gift store, but you’ll save money if you’re always prepared. I use a small travel case to store all my key essentials and keep it in my carry on, ready to go!

Pack Only What You Need

Woman closing an overstuffed suitcase

This part can be tricky and stressful. For the most part, men have it pretty easy and tend to have their system down. However, us ladies, well…we can sometimes overpack. I usually pack a neutral color wardrobe. Yes, I know, not very stylish. But with the right accessories, it can be very chic. Neutral colors can help you mix and match everything so you’ll feel flexible on the road. Once again, no stress. You can also pack lightweight, colorful scarfs and a colorful jacket to brighten up your outfit. As for shoes, since you have neutral outfits packed, you only really need to pack two pairs of shoes. One pair of comfortable flats for the conference and one pair of pumps (dress shoes for men) for evening events.

Stay Healthy and Keep Germs Away

Obviously eating right and getting enough sleep before a flight can make travel much more tolerable. But you also want to stay healthy throughout the conference and return home without germs. As we know, airplanes are filled with bacteria and viruses, and conferences are no different. Keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer around at all times. I also like to pack my personal health essentials every time I travel and store it in a little bag without the packaging box. Some items to pack in your health essential kit are:

  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Emergen-C Vitamin Drink mix
  • Imodium and Tums
  • Aspirin and Zicam
  • Protein bars
  • Band-aids (for feet)

Bring Your Best Travel Gadgets

Being that you’re traveling for business, know that it’s not as easy or cheap to replace business essentials and gear if you forget it at home. This is why I always create a checklist specifically for my gadgets. Obviously you have your laptop and smartphone ready, but what about the rest of your geeky necessities to keep you connected during your business trip or at the conference? Here are some travel essentials for all your gadgets that are good to pack:

  • Portable battery pack
  • Portable USB hard drive
  • Extra memory card for your digital camera
  • Smartphone battery charger
  • Mini power-strip
  • Noise canceling headphones
  • Portable mini music speaker
  • Personal WiFi Hotspot
  • Extra ethernet cable

Stay Connected

Now that you remembered to bring all your favorite gadgets with you for your business trip, make sure you don’t forget to charge everything the night before you travel. It never fails, as soon as you arrive the airport and have a few hours to kill, you will get an urge to send out a few last minute emails and your laptop is at 7% battery. Ugh!  Another thing to remember if you’re traveling overseas, make sure you reach out to your mobile carrier and let them know you’ll be traveling. Some carriers offer free data and text in some countries and may offer low fees for calls. The service came in handy when I was trying to use Google Maps to find an address during a Mexico City business trip. Connection is very slow, but it’s free. You can always upgrade to different packages depending on your carrier. The important thing is to have everything figured out with your phone and connectivity before you go on your trip.

Pick the Right Security Line

There’s no guarantee in this, but I have a few theories of what may be the fastest line.  First, when you show your ID and boarding pass to the agent, ask them which line they think may be going the quickest. Second, get in the line with most solo male travelers. Most men have fewer accessories to remove, which means they tend to move faster. Third, avoid any line with couples traveling alone on vacation, families with small children, and elders. You may not make it to your gate on time. George Clooney in Up in the Air also gave this great advice in the movie. Smart Man. True story.

Prevent Jet Lag

I’ve learned this trick over time, but you have to trick your body into thinking you’re in the right time zone as soon as possible. For long destination trips, I try to book red eye flights so I can sleep overnight on the plane. I recommend you drink plenty of water the day before so you can keep hydrated—travel can cause dehydration and make it difficult to sleep. Once you land, change your watch to the destination time zone. Even if you’re super tired when you land, stay awake until it gets dark. Skip the afternoon nap! This will help trick your body with the new time zone. Trust me, you will sleep well and be well-rested for your full day at the conference.

Get Deals for the Best Travel Rates

Now that you have the bare necessities for your next business travel experience, you want to make sure you’re getting the best airfare and hotel rates, especially if it’s coming from your budget. Yes, you have the standard travel sites like Expedia and Travelocity, but I have a few other travel apps that I always turn to for great rates and help during my travels:

HotelTonight – Great for last minute hotel bookings for unexpected extended business trips.

Skyscanner – Last minute low-cost flights. Perfect for when you either miss a flight or need to reschedule a meeting.

Hipmunk – Compares the top travel sites to find the best hotel and flight deals.

Uber – Don’t wait for a Taxi when you can get a better experience with Uber. Also, Uber is expanding their service internationally and is already available in a few countries outside the US.

My Currency Converter – Perfect for international business travelers, this app is simple and supports over 150 different currencies from around the world. It even supports Bitcoin.

Sign up for Frequent Traveler and Frequent Flyer Programs

scene of airport building in shanghai china

Whether you travel a lot or very little, sign up for every frequent flier program out there. Some airline point programs, like Jetblue, never expire. It pays to be a member—trust me your points are worth cash. In just one year, I earned enough points to take a free flight with Jetblue, and I wasn’t even keeping track. In fact, there’s an app that will help you track your miles called Award Wallet. The app not only tracks frequent miles, but also tracks hotel points and credit card points. It even notifies you when your balance changes or when your points are about to expire.

For international travelers that travel outside the US frequently, I recommend you register for services like Global Entry or other pre-check programs. Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows pre-approved travelers to bypass traditional security checks. You’ll save a lot of time!

Hope these business travel tips were helpful. In fact, if you have other tips you would like to share, please comment below. It is always helpful to hear other recommendations and share travel tips