A successful travel day does not happen by accident. If you're going to get to where you need to be safe, sound and ready to go, there are some very specific things to do along the way to improve the chances of that happening. Priority No. 1: Reduce anxiety in whatever ways you can; make it easier to do your best work.
1. Always leave early. Always leave earlier than necessary for flights ferries or trains, and allow more time than you think is necessary to get there.
Missing a flight because you wanted an extra 30 minutes of sleep doesn't make any sense. If you show up early, you can use that bonus time to work on something else. And if you run into a problem en route to your destination, you won't have to stress about being on time.
2. Make sure all travel itinerary info is entered into your smart phone. Don't underestimate the value of having easy access to confirmation numbers for your hotel, rental car, flight, etc., as well as phone numbers for each of those agencies. Sooner or later, your plans will change when you're on the go, and having all of the pertinent information at your fingertips can change the game. Plus, it's nice to be able to check your flight status without having to dig through your briefcase to find your flight-confirmation printout.
3. Take a (great) seat. If you've ever watched The Amazing Race, you know that contestants on the show are always jockeying for seats at the front of the plane so they can be the first ones off when it lands. While you might not need to be as strategic with your seating as those racers, keep in mind that the aisle seat does have its advantages. It allows you, if necessary, to easily get the items you need out of the overhead bin. (Side Note: Be sure to plan what you'll need during the flight before the plane takes off so you won't have to keep opening and closing the overhead bin.) Also having a seat in the exit row and on the aisle makes it easy to get up if you have to use the lavatory. Face it: Drinking lots of water is one of the best ways to stay healthy while traveling.
Related: Road Warrior 101: Preparing for the Trip
4. Invest in a club membership with the airline of your choice. If it's possible, do it. The first year I flew 30 segments marked the beginning of my membership devotion. (In 2011, I flew 142 segments.) You'll gain access to club space, so when you're waiting for your next flight you'll have a calmer, quieter, cleaner, more comfortable place to be your best productive self. And perhaps most importantly, the space will be quiet enough for you to make calls to clients or colleagues without airport announcements blaring in the background.
5. Always carry cash. You never know when a problem with your bank or credit card company will cause a card to be denied. Always travel with cash so that you won't be left stranded without a way to pay a cab driver or without money for lunch.
6. Plan meal times. From the airport to your destination city to the journey home, you gotta eat. Do a little thinking about where and what you're going to eat before you even leave your house.
On short trips I always make sure to have a Balance Bar or a bag of nuts from Trader Joe's. For flights longer than five hours, I make sure to include time in my schedule to grab a sandwich, a salad, and a bottle of water at the airport. I also recommend figuring out where you're going to eat at your destination before you begin your journey, if possible. The day before you travel, call the concierge at the hotel where you'll be staying. Ask for lunch and dinner options within walking distance or a short car ride from your hotel. This will not only save you time searching for food once you arrive, but it will also help you ensure you go to quality restaurants while on your trip.
7. Picture It. Your cell phone's camera, of all things, provides several time-saving options that may also save you headaches during a travel day:
- Use it to take notes. Instead of digging around looking for a pen and paper, simply snap a shot of books and items you want to buy or price-check online, restaurants you want to visit, billboards of shows you want to see, etc.
- Use it to remember your parking spot. Take a picture of your parking lot space number and parking structure floor. Travel days are stressed and rushed, for most people, remembering where you left your car a week later can be a challenge.
- Use it to remember your rental car. Take a picture of your rental car and license plate. (It seems like they're all silver or beige.) Save time you'd otherwise spend wandering around a parking lot looking for a car you can't remember.
- Use it to remember your room number. Take a picture of your hotel room number, especially if you're traveling to several cities or traveling very frequently. After awhile, especially if you're in a different hotel every night, they all start to look the same.