By: Bennett Napier, CAE
Travel – If you have to do it, make it work for you.
Depending on your role with a nonprofit association, and its scope, you may be called upon to travel some or a lot. I fall in the “a lot” category and I am one of those people who actually like it.
For me, the love and desire to travel likely came from my maternal grandmother. From the time I was very young through my senior year in high school when she passed away, she traveled domestically and internationally quite frequently. She hit every corner of the globe, sometimes more than once; going to several places that most people her age would have avoided just on sheer fear of the unknown.
My grandmother understood not all aspects of travel, such as the preparation and the logistics of getting to and coming back were always going to be fun. However, she realized the journey not just the destination created memories that could not be replaced.
I have carried on her tradition of travel, professionally and personally.
I do it for several reasons:
- Work requires it.
- My “down time” in a plane allows me to think and come up with new ideas.
- Seeing new places helps you appreciate the broader world we live in. By traveling to other places, you gain respect for other perspectives and cultures you get exposed to trends before they hit your hometown.
As a road warrior, here are some tips to consider:
1. Purchase a credit card with airline miles. It really does not matter which one you get, as the core benefits are similar amongst all of them and most are worth the price of admission. a) Generating extra frequent flier miles b) free baggage checks in c) potential for better award options. d) Potential for getting free “economy comfort” seats usually at no cost, more legroom and better recline.
We have all read the news about the basic seats in coach, and the news lately is not good. For me I chose American Express, with the main differentiating benefit is the ability to earn extra “qualifying miles”. This allows you to hit airline tiers quicker or help you if one year you fly just a few legs less than you need to maintain a decent level.
2. Run out and sign up for the TSA pre–check program: For me, I opted to do the Global Entry Check program when it first came out. This was before the now universally available pre-check program was available widely. The biggest complaint you hear in the media about flying is the woes of long security lines and the trials and tribulations of taking off the shoes, getting all of your toiletries in a small plastic bag etc. The pre-check program is worth the little bit of money it costs. Even if you only fly several times a year, add up the amount of time going through regular security costs you. It’s not just the line itself but you have to add in the extra time getting to the airport to be safe. With pre-check, you at least know you will cut your time in at least ½ and can keep your shoes on. In most major airports, I have found this program saves at least 30-45 minutes and certainly a lot less stress. It’s good for 5 years and you can add in your “known traveler number” with multiple airlines not just the one you fly the most.
3. Sign up for a rental car priority program – Again, it’s a basic tip but follows the same principles as a preferred airline program. There are more options for upgrades at the same cost as a compact car; you have the ability to skip the waiting lines and go straight to the car pick up and you can earn free rental days.
4. Sign up for Hotel Rewards – This one is likely the easiest sell for those in the association world as most association staff especially in the meetings arena are members of several programs. Association staff plan and execute meetings in hotels all the time. The core benefit is points that can be used over time to save the organization money. The benefits don’t stop there. If you are at a hotel, you are in town for work. Nonetheless, make the best of it. Hotel programs give you increased probability for a better room at the same cost; you usually get upgraded to a concierge level which saves money since it comes with a complimentary breakfast and snacks; and you have a better likelihood for early check in and late checkout.
5. Take a little time wherever you are to have “you” time: Regardless of what business reason you are out of town, days are generally long and hardly glamorous. It is called work for a
reason. However, you are likely in a great city and probably staying in a decent hotel. Determine your schedule for down time, and remember you can do a lot in a short amount of time. Consider having one good meal in the flagship hotel or a local restaurant; explore concerts or special events that are happening in the city while you are in town. For me, if there is a “rock concert” in town, I am there”. Others may opt for a trip to a local museum, art gallery, a quick tourist bus tour or a one hour spa treatment. The bottom line is, find something you can do outside of the work portion of your day. You will be more productive and likely a little friendlier for the rest of your trip. From a business perspective, you will have better knowledge of the locale to share with your meeting attendees/colleagues when your association comes back to town the next time.
BONUS TIP 6) – Carry on your bags. You are forced to pack only what you need. You won’t lose your stuff, and you can avoid the baggage merry go round.
The recurring theme of these tips is do things that save time and money. You can use that savings for more enjoyable travel.