While I'm certainly not the MOST traveled person you might meet, I have taken 30 flights and stayed 37 nights in hotels during the first four months of my job. In that time I've honed my travel routine and have observed a few things traveling with colleagues and sharing war stories. So here's a few thoughts and tips that I'll share in the hope that it helps others who are considering a travel-heavy job, or just want to be more efficient for their next trip.
I'll preface this by mentioning most blogs about consulting act like consultants' time is more precious than anyone else's so they focus their tips a lot on saving time. While mine lean in that direction too (nobody likes to wait in line) I want to be clear that I don't think I'm special haha.
Air Travel Tips:
1) Never check a bag. I can't stress this one enough and I can hear the immediate counter-arguments so I'll spend some time building my case. If your travel frequency increases, your odds of having a flight cancellation increases and eventually becomes inevitable. Nobody likes to have their flights cancelled, but the fastest way to get rebooked is to have all your luggage on you, and be flexible as the first thing the booking agent will ask is "do you have any checked bags?" You saying "no" allows them to continue working their book g magic.Second, using only a carry-on allows you to arrive to the airport later and head straight to security. You can also move more freely throughout the airport.
1b) Now here's where I get a ton of mockery from my co-workers: If your body can handle it, I recommend using a shoulder strap bag. Yes, a duffle.
While this may seem ridiculous, it again helps with efficiency in two VERY important ways: you can board at the last minute because your duffle can go under the seat if the overhead bins are full - and, of course they are. If you use a rolling carryon and arrive a bit late or don't have status to board early, you could be looking at a forced check which could throw everything off. Second, a shoulder strap bag allows you to book it through airports. Stairs? No problem. Need both hands? Zero need to stop walking. I've saved tons of time and hassle with my duffle, and it ensures I'm intentional and minimal with packing.
But Mike - I could never fit all my stuff into just a carryon. Wrong. You hardly wear the majority of your clothes anyway. Pack the essentials. If you're going to be away for more than 5 days, you're probably somewhere with laundry facilities anyway.
2) Wear a suit on the plane. This way you have it for the trip if you need it, and the bulkiest item that you'll pack (and hardest to iron) isn't taking up room or being stuffed in your carry-on. Fold the jacket and lay it on top of the luggage in the overhead compartment if you don't want to sit on the plane in a blazer.
3) Charge your phone and have the airline's app: these two things will save you so much time, especially if there are delays and cancellations. You want to be able to reschedule your flight as easy as possible and the app is the way to go.
4) Sit in the aisle: this is of course a personal choice but there are a few reasons I'll vouch for the aisle over the window every time. First, you'll be off the plane two spots earlier. That not enough for you? Second, it provides you with extra leg room even without an upgrade. For guys like me with long legs, this is a huge and free win. Third, you won't sleep. Not that I don't support the odd nap, but falling asleep around a ton of strangers is a weird concept when you take a step back. Sitting in C or D will make you more alert in case you need to let your row mates out or be on the lookout for the drink cart smashing into you.
5) Board the plane last. Unless you're upgraded and want to make sure everyone knows about your high and mighty status, settle down in the airport. You're going to be on the steel tube in the sky for several hours, why get on there sooner just to wait for others? Plus remember, you don't need a spot for your luggage, and you're sitting in the aisle now. If you got on early, you'll have to stand up to let your row crew in and you'll just hold up the line.Most importantly, everyone is stressed in the boarding line. Whispering to each other nervously, or rolling their eyes at the fact it's delayed again. Stay away from that negative energy. Read a book and wait til the boarding area clears out. Odds are you'll be waiting on the jet bridge anyway. The plane isn't leaving without you.
6) Stick to one airline and collect points. This one seems obvious but every flight you take that doesn't go towards your status is a waste of money. Embrace loyalty as it can pay big dividends. Points for free travel, status for upgrades, and sometimes more importantly, the ability to cancel flights within just a few days for free.
7) Embrace disruption. I've been a part of some horrific schedule changes and delays, but guess what, so has everyone else. It comes with the territory and the more you travel the more it will feel like the airlines are out to get you. The reality is if you find yourself on a plane with any regularity, you're extremely privileged in comparison to the rest of the world, so enjoy the journey. Three hour delay? Knock out some emails in the seating area. Stuck on the tarmac? Call a friend you haven't spoken to in a while. And of course, there's always the airport bar.
What NOT to do.This post is already long so I'll provide these with no further detail or explanation as it's rarely warranted anyway.
1) Never take your shoes off on a plane
2) Never recline your seat on a plane
3) Never check a bag (just so it really hits home)
4) Never talk or listen on your phone's speakerphone in an airport. Nobody likes that person, buy some headphones
5) Never take your liquids out of your bag - unnecessary
6) Don't sit in the wrong seat on the plane - triple check your ticket
7) Take your headphones out when the flight attendants come by or when you're talking to the gate agent
8) Never rely on the airline's itinerary to get you somewhere important on time, give yourself some buffer or blame yourself when you miss a big event, not United.
Let me know your travel tips below!
Thanks for reading,