Travel Tips for the Newbie

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The airports are full of the new road warriors. They are the fresh faces right out of college carrying new black computer bags with logos on the side. The logos are from Accenture and McKinsey and Deloitte and all the others. I see them searching for electric outlets and overhear them talking about Marriott Reward Points. It is refreshing to see peopleexcited about business travel before they become grizzled and cranky gladiators of the road.

Any frequent traveler knows the one with the most frequent flyer miles is not the winner. Those of us who are always on airplanes are conditioned to have low expectations and to deal with what ever is dealt our way. We develop a certain set of instincts that protect us from disappointment and prepare us for the war that is business travel. We can look at a Gate Agent and know without asking that the flight is delayed or that the hope for an upgrade is useless.

Kurt Vonnegut said, “Peculiar travel arrangements are dancing lessons from God.” Every frequent travel develops a unique dance to of deal with the vagaries and challenges the road presents. To help with the dance, here are a few starter suggestions for the uninitiated:

  • At security, always get behind the guy in line with the loafers. Or, put another way, get in the line with other road warriors. Avoid the spot behind the family with the strollers.
  • Never check a bag, ever. If you have too much stuff for a carry on, dump it out and start all over. It’s not about the fees or the schlep factor, it’s about the flexibility in changing flights. If you want to change flights, which you will, the first question the gate agent will ask is, “Did you check a bag?”
  • The “seat pocket in front of you” is not your friend. Anything you place in the handy pocket, like eye glasses, passports, tickets or presentations, will eventually be lost and never retrieved. Airlines are not known for effective Lost and Found Departments.
  • Set expectations on upgrades. Being on a list is not the same as having a seat. Flying on Monday mornings or Thursday evenings means having a seat at all is lucky.
  • Bring reading material. No matter how much work there is to do, breaks are essential and you never know how long the flight will really take. Bring a book to read, a real one or on a device. People magazine doesn’t count.
  • Wear earphones. Nothing says, “I don’t want to talk to you” like a big set of earphones. Plus, the airline earphones are not very good.
  • Be alert for bad news. Certain travel words should set the hairs on end in anticipation that things are about to go downward. So finally, for those less traveled, I submit the most dreaded words for the business traveler. These utterances usually come from the cockpit but given technology, can now come in a text or from another weary traveler:

And the most dreaded of all:

  • That bag needs to be checked.

After hearing the words, we sigh resignedly and do what we are told. Sometimes going into the Zen mode is the all there is to do.

Travel shouldn’t be the hard part of the job but sometimes it is. All we want is to get to where we need to be, or most importantly, get home. In between, the work gets done.

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