Ah, the business traveler. Hollywood would have us believe that these people are world-weary road warriors who live out of beaten suitcases and subsist on questionable airport food. They're sleep-deprived, jet lagged, and constantly rushing to make meetings, applying makeup or running an electric shaver over their five o'clock shadows in the backseats of taxis.
And while business travel can definitely be frustrating, it doesn't have to be.
The savviest business travelers know how to make every meeting with ease. They never look rumbled, wrinkled, or bleary-eyed. They even know how to have a good time while visiting a new city—and you can, too. To find out how, we talked to a few of the business travel experts from Booking.com. Here's what they had to say.
Booking the Right Hotel Is Both Art and Science
If you're traveling to a city for the first time, it's wise to research things like walkability and rush hour traffic situations. But since traffic is very much out of your control, do your best to remove it from your planning equation altogether. Seqouya Springfield, a Booking.com customer service executive based in Orlando, stressed the importance of booking your accommodation as close to your client's office or convention center as possible.
"Even if you find a cheaper hotel or one with better amenities farther from your destination, you're making a trade-off in terms of travel cost and travel time," she said. "You don't know what traffic will be like in a new city, so the smartest choice is the hotel closest to your destination."
She added that there are a few rookie mistakes that can create major headaches for business travelers.
"If someone at your company's booking your room, make sure they're booking in the right place," she said. "Share your preferences and priorities with the administrative assistant or whomever else is booking your room. Make sure they know where your meetings are, too."
"And," she added, "if they're booking with a card that's not in your name, check with the hotel ahead of time to find out if you need an authorization form—and make sure everyone's names are on the room if you're traveling with a group!"
Pack Like a Pro
Dov Dorati is a Miami-based partnership specialist with Booking.com and a veteran business traveler. She's also firmly in the "never check a bag unless you have to" camp. So how does she stay pressed and sharp when living out of a single carry-on bag?
"Buy as many wrinkle-free clothes as you can," she said. "If you're planning to wear a suit or a blazer to your client meeting, wear the jacket on the plane. That'll save space in your bag and keep your jacket from getting rumpled in transit. Wear your largest and bulkiest shoes on the plane, too."
Give Yourself Plenty of Time
You've got a lot on your plate, so you want to minimize travel time by booking a flight that arrives with just enough time to get to your destination, right?
"If you've got an early morning meeting, fly the night before," said Miles McMullin, a key account manager from the Booking.com for Business team. "You've got no control over flight delays, so give yourself plenty of time by traveling the night before. You can always get work done after you arrive, and you might even have time to explore the city a bit, too."
Another way to maximize your time and minimize stress is avoiding connections whenever possible. Get direct flights to your destination, if they're available.
And once you've arrived, don't make the mistake of underestimating traffic. If you're in a new city and you don't know the traffic situation, give yourself more time to travel to your client's office than you think you might need. There's nothing worse than showing up late!
Booking Last Minute Can Be a Blessing—and a Curse
Last-minute business travel is impossible to avoid, especially if you're in a client facing role. But, as Miles pointed out, booking a hotel last minute can actually help you land a swankier stay.
"Hotels often discount their unsold inventory (that means vacant rooms) at the last minute to try to minimize losses," Miles said. "So you can often get a nicer room in a fancier hotel for much less than you'd normally pay for a comparable room."
But there's also a downside to traveling last minute: your flight will be much more expensive than if you booked in advance. The lesson here? Book flights as early as possible, and consider booking rooms closer to your travel dates if your company will let you.
Entertain in Style
One of the best parts of business travel is taking clients out on the town for dinner (and maybe a few drinks). This can be a key moment in cementing a working relationship or landing a new deal. It can also be a potential minefield if you haven't done your homework.
"The first step is knowing your options," Dov said. "Sites like OpenTable are great resources when it comes to researching restaurants in a new city. Read the reviews, and always look at the menu to make sure you can actually afford it. And—this is critical—always make a reservation. There's nothing more embarrassing than taking a client out and not being able to get a table."
Miles also added a few words of wisdom on the subject:
"Ask the locals about their favorite spots," he said. "Talk to your bartenders and servers about where they like to go. Ask the hotel staff, too. You can really impress a client by taking them to a local favorite instead of just choosing the fanciest place in town."
Now that you've heard from the experts, your next business trip should be less stressful, more productive, and maybe even a lot more fun. We'll leave you with one last piece of advice: Don't lose your receipts! Bring a folder and put every receipt in it, and take a photo of each one with your phone. That'll make your next expense report a lot less painful to fill out.