A pro traveler shares her best tips to bypass lines, avoid common hassles and even get free stuff.
By Brittany Hodak (Co-founder, ZinePak)
This article originally appeared on Young Entrepreneur Council.
For many entrepreneurs, myself included, frequent business trips are the norm. And while travel may be necessary, it doesn’t have to be a necessary evil. Here are five simple solutions to make travel less painful, whether you fly a few times a week or a few times a year.
Bag It Up
Eliminate the unsettling I-think-I’m-forgetting-something feeling by buying duplicate, travel-sized versions of your toiletries. 3FlOz.com is a great site (started by two awesome female entrepreneurs) for finding your favorites.
I have a foldable travel bag (similar to this one) that’s always packed and ready to go. It carries travel-sized duplicates of my essentials, including contacts, allergy medication and vitamins. The see-through pockets keep everything separate and in clear view, and it folds up to fit in my carry-on. I’ll never again forget to pack a toothbrush or razor because the travel versions live in my bag. Best of all, there’s a hook for hanging it in hotel rooms.
Get on the List
If you travel five times a year or more, sign up for TSA Precheck or Global Entry. Both expedite security clearance through pre-approved screenings. This is a great example of what “Procrastinate on Purpose” author Rory Vaden calls multiplying your time: What’s a pain to set up initially saves lots of time in the future.
Signing up for either service is simple — just visit their websites. Tip: If you’re an American Express Business Platinum or Citi AAdvantage Executive cardholder, they’ll reimburse the $100 application fee.
There are countless articles about the benefits of travel loyalty programs, like free checked bags, priority boarding and seat upgrades, so I won’t go into those here. For the record, I’m very proud of my status with American Airlines — 1.3 million miles to date and counting!
Choose your favorite airline, car rental program and hotel chain, and learn their benefits. You can save yourself lots of time and money by enrolling in programs, many of which are free. I love Budget’s Fastbreak program, because my car is always waiting for me and I don’t have to go to the rental kiosk.
Although it’s smart to stick with your preferred partners when you can, it’s also a good idea to register for other airline and car rental frequent traveler programs and to keep a list of your ID numbers and each company’s phone number in your phone. You never know when you’ll find yourself on a flight delay with an unfamiliar airline.
Almost all airlines expedite calls from members of their loyalty programs (even if you don’t have elite status), and getting help from a phone operator is almost always quicker than waiting in a long airport line when something goes awry — like an entire cancelled flight full of passengers all trying to rebook at the same time.
Lounge in Style
Don’t stop at airlines, rental car companies and hotels: Play favorites with airport lounges, too. The Centurion Lounge is tough to beat, but it’s only in a handful of airports. Entrance is free with an American Express Platinum card. This same card grants you a gratis membership in the Priority Pass program, getting you into one or more airport lounges in just about every airport. It’s amazing the difference a tall drink and a free meal can make after a day of nonstop travel.
Get Into Four-Wheel Drive
Some people think spinner carry-on bags (or, as I like to call them, four-wheel drive suitcases) are for old people. I say they’re for people who’ve tried them, because once you have a spinner, you’ll never go back to a traditional two-wheeled suitcase again. I don’t care how old or young you are: spinner bags (like this one from Travelpro) make navigating narrow airplane aisles and busy concourses a breeze and are a must-have for every traveler.
Similarly, make your “personal item” count. Choose a tote or bag that’s large enough to encompass your regular, day-to-day bag, but still provide room for extra travel essentials, like a book or change of clothes. If you’re strategic with your two carry-ons, you can likely go sans checked bag for trips lasting up to a week.
Take Advantage of Apps
I love the TripIt app. It automatically grabs all my travel information and consolidates flight, hotel, car and weather reports into one simple, easy-to-access agenda. I haven’t printed a paper agenda in years, because this information is a tap away, ready to be seamlessly copied into Google Maps or wherever else I need it. The starter version of the app is free. Frequent travels can unlock bonus features, real-time flight alerts and alternate flight information for $49 per year in TripIt Pro.
The world is a great, big place and it would be a shame to see less of it simply because traveling has a reputation for being a nuisance. These simple tips will help make your future travel a breeze.