Business traveling made easier

MANILA, Philippines – I was going to start off by calling this column “Business traveling made easy.” But as any of us frequent business travelers know, it is never easy!

But it can be made easier. And while passing through airports from NAIA to New York and everywhere in between, if one thing is obvious, many frequent travelers are making it too hard on themselves!

Hence it is time for some simple, practical, easy tips to make the journey at least a bit easier.

Fill in the forms at home. Next time you are in NAIA, take a stack of the immigration forms home with you. Fill them out before you depart for the airport. Avoid the last-minute panic of trying to find a pen and losing your place in line!

Dress for the beach. Make the security line, and subsequent flight, comfortable for you. Slip-on shoes. Light clothing. No belts. Nothing is more frustrating than having people in front of you struggle to get their shoes off, belt off, and endure a detailed pat-down. Go lean and mean. And not only will you pass faster, but be more comfortable in the air.

Forget the laptop. No matter how light, laptops are heavy. And they are a pain to remove at security and constantly unpack and repack. Do what many CEOs now do, including myself. Use only a BlackBerry or iPhone, and carry key files along with a USB drive. Use the BB or iPhone to clear emails and use the USB with a borrowed computer or business center computer in the hotel to type and do more complex documents. I have been laptop-free for the past five years and it works wonderfully. Lighter load and speedier security checks!
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Head to the lines on the far ends of customs and immigration. Data consistently shows many individuals take the path of least resistance and head to the center lanes, simply so they don’t have to walk another 20 meters to the side. The fastest queues are on the sides where there are fewer people. Always head to the sides and seek the shortest queue.

Concentrate on one to two airlines as much as possible. Don’t jump around and dilute your ability to earn miles with a given airline. Reaching “gold” or “platinum” status is a huge deal. It gets you into the lounges even when flying economy. It allows for priority boarding instead of waiting in long lines. And often you can avail of free upgrades as often, the airline will take care of frequent travelers when flights are overbooked.

Never, ever check a bag. Never. Remember the adage, “Half the clothes, twice the money.” Checking bags slows you down. Puts you at risk for any tight connection. Creates huge stress. Get a good garment bag, learn how to pack wisely and use hotel laundry services if need be. There is really no excuse for checking a bag for any trip of seven days or less.

Visualize your body. It’s amazing how many people forget simple clothing items and need to do last-minute running around to buy a replacement. Avoiding this is easy. Visualize your body from the feet up, and at each body part, imagine what clothes are needed. Pack as you work your way up. So, starting with feet, ask yourself, “Okay, on my feet, what do I need?” Answer is “socks” and “shoes.” Pack them. Then work your way up the legs. And so on. You will never miss an item if you follow a systematic approach like this. Then finish with your toiletry kit.

Use exercise smartly. Jet lag is a killer, and other than taking sleep aids, which have their own issues, the best approach I have found is to go for a run. This will help you get your clock set in the new time zone. Exercise is a great way to get a boost of energy, yet set you up for a fulfilling sleep later on. It’s hard, admittedly, to drag yourself out after a long flight, but give it a shot, even if for only 10 or 15 minutes. It’s a huge help!

Finally, forget the wheeled bags! I know this is sacrilegious for some, but come on! What happened to the good old days when people could carry their bag? And we wonder why we have a global obesity crisis? These bags are more of a pain than they are worth. Every time you hit a bump the bag needs to be recalibrated. They catch constantly going up an airline aisle. Every stairwell requires a stop and dropping of the handle. I carry my bags and see how I am more adept and more efficient than anyone with a pull-bag. And I get some muscle work. And pulling a bag is hardly the most masculine-looking activity one can do!

That’s it! Nothing is easy. But we can make travel easier. Good luck.