Five Promo Industry Pros Share Their Best Business Travel Tips
Traveling for business can be an awesome perk of the job. Checking out new cities and states while still being able to call it “work” is something lots of folks look forward to, even if it can sometimes be a grind. But even minor things like figuring out what to pack or forgetting to bring travel-sized items can be a pain if you’re not used to traveling more than once or twice a year.
To help make sure your future travels go as smooth as possible, we chatted with five seasoned promo pros to get their best business travel tips and tricks, advice on what (and how) to pack, and other things to know that might just save you some time and money when you’re traveling for business.
Before we get to their tips, there was one piece of advice that all five of our industry travelers brought up: If you’re in a hurry—or you just dread long lines and waiting to get through security—it’s absolutely worth looking into TSA PreCheck or Clear. Anyone who travels even infrequently can recall a time where the line for security was unbearably long and the last thing you wanted to do was take your shoes off at 4 a.m. TSA PreCheck allows you to skip the lines and access through the PreCheck area, plus you’re able to leave on items like your belt, shoes and lighter jackets. A couple of other benefits include being able to keep everything in your personal bag, like your laptop and liquids. While the cost is $85 for TSA PreCheck, it’s good for five years, and totally worth it if you’re a frequent traveler.
Now, make sure your lap belts are securely fastened and your seat backs and tray tables are in the upright position, because it’s time for takeoff. Here, in their own words, are our travelers’ best tips. Let’s go!
Justin Warren - Vice President of Business Development, Touchstone Merchandise Group, Mason, Ohio
Favorite airline(s): Delta is my favorite and Southwest is my second favorite. Being a Delta Gold Member, I am upgraded and get free checked bags. Gold allows same day change without a fee, which is a great benefit when your meetings are done early and you’re able to get on an earlier flight at no additional charge. I use Delta the most because the flight options they have are usually the most efficient for me coming and going out of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. Southwest is second only due to not having the abundance of flight options for where I travel to and from.
Go-to gear: Bose noise-canceling headphones are great to tune out the noise on a flight or in the airport. For longer trips I also bring a steamer for a quick wrinkle remover. If I am flying to Vegas and staying for more than a couple of days, I will bring a humidifier with me.
Flight tips: I do a lot of same-day flights to and from when I can. I try to leave a couple hours as my buffer for delays. I have had a time in the summer that I was cutting it close, within an hour of my meeting time from arrival, and missed the meeting due to mechanical issues with the plane. So, don’t think it is just the winter weather you have to worry about.
Best travel advice: I follow people like The Points Guy for good tips and tricks. I found the brand when I was looking for the best credit card to use for travel. Chase Sapphire Preferred was my go-to for general spending while traveling. I like the point ratio, travel insurance that was included and customer service. I since have added the American Express Platinum card (not the Delta branded one, just Amex) so I have access to the Sky Lounge, which has been my favorite perk. The lounges have a good selection of food and drinks and sometimes will make a meal out of what they offer. Now that I have experienced this, I would pay the annual fee myself if I didn’t have the access through my American Express card.
Choose your hotel chain of choice and stick with them. Most credit cards have elite benefits depending on the card and chain. When I first started to travel, I called Marriott and told them my upcoming travel schedule, and asked to be an elite member based on my upcoming travel. They agreed, and I am committed to stay with Marriott because of this experience. With the elite status, they will upgrade my room at no cost, I get free high-speed internet, late checkout, and [access to the] M Club if I stay at a Marriott-specific hotel.
Kellyann Messick - National Account Manager, Hit Promotional Products, Largo, Fla.
Favorite airline(s): Southwest is definitely the best atmosphere, but you have to deal with the cattle call in terms of seating. Being from Philly, I’m almost always an American Airlines girl just because it’s a hub here, but Southwest is definitely more customer-focused.
Packing pro tip: Pack the night before! Pick out your clothes based on the itinerary and current temperatures at the destination. Pack pieces [that] can go together, not full outfits. For instance: one pair of pants and multiple shirts, or dresses to save room as one piece instead of two. Wear your heaviest clothing on the plane (including shoes) so you don’t have to check a bag (if that’s an option).
Fave airport spot: Honestly, I have a routine at PHL. I go to Sky Asian Bistro [and] get a little breakfast sandwich and iced tea. Inexpensive, enough to get me through any flight and the staff is always great.
Travel routine: My flight times depend on my travel schedule. When I’m heading out to a show, conference or week of meetings, I always take the earliest flight. I would rather be there with wiggle room if [there are] any delays, etc. However, when I’m leaving a show, it more depends on my schedule plus the location. I usually take the red eye from west to east coast and sleep on the plane (though I always regret doing this, it’s worth it when I can get home by the a.m.).
Kirby Hasseman - CEO, Hasseman Marketing, Coshocton, Ohio
Favorite airline(s): I like Southwest. There is no specific story, but I must say that I love the idea that I don’t have to budget for my bags and I can change my flights. For me, there is just value in that flexibility. Sure, you can change with other carriers, but it always seems to cost me an arm and a leg.
Travel necessity: I am all about books. I always like to have a book on hand and a book or two cued up on audio. For me, travel time is study time. This is when I usually have some time to really focus on learning. If I am on a plane, I spend more time on the physical book. If I am on the road, I spend time listening.
Best travel advice: First, get to the airport early. Second, have something to read so you don’t just fill your whole day with social media. Third, if you can get a direct flight, do that. Early flights are tough, but they are the best. In my experience, early flights are usually the ones that actually go on time. During the day, there are a million things that go wrong that can throw a schedule off. If you get out early, you miss a lot of that!
Extended stays: Actually, a few years ago, my wife and I started staying the day after. At a Power Meeting type event, there is so much information. We find that if we just hustle out and back to our office, we lose most of it. So, we stay one extra day and lounge at the pool. We take our notebook and go over all of the notes we took during the week. This makes sure it really sinks in and we can create real plans of action after!
Alyssa Inkrott - National Sales Executive, Raining Rose, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Favorite airline(s): Delta is my favorite, but I’m also a fan of Southwest.
Travel story: On a flight I was on last month, one of the Delta flight attendants went through and collected donations for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and then shared his mom’s story about her battle with breast cancer. Anything related to breast cancer runs a little near and dear to my heart, as my mom is a two-time breast cancer survivor. They ended up raising a couple hundred dollars over the amount they were hoping for on the flight, which was pretty amazing! Delta also does numerous other givebacks during October for Breast Cancer Awareness month. Kudos, Delta!
Best travel advice: Having all my flight, rental car, hotel info and meeting info uploaded into the TripIt app on my phone helps me stay organized. Always make sure your power bank is charged. Stay hydrated and bring a water bottle—this is a big one for me!
On client meetings: Rather than just having the meeting, I try to also schedule happy hours and dinners. [This] just adds in an extra connection with the client. I also try to use my time at the airport to get follow-ups in.
Things to avoid: Avoid any and all layovers at LaGuardia or Los Angeles International. [This] might just be me, but I feel like everything bad and ugly that has ever happened to me while traveling was at one of those two airports.
Extended stays: [This] depends on where I’m going. If it’s a city I’ve never been to or if I can get in with any other clients while I’m in the area, I will extend it or come in a little early. Also, if it’s below zero in Minnesota at the time and I’m going somewhere warm, I will usually extend it!
Kristin Rezler - Senior Account Executive, Identity Marketing Powered By HALO Branded Solutions, Chandler, Ariz.
Favorite airline(s): I use both Southwest and American Airlines depending on my destination.
Efficient packing: I always try to only travel with a carry-on suitcase no matter how long my trip is. I also try to pre-plan all needed clothing so that it can be mixed and matched for multiple outings. [This includes] good basic dress pants that can be dressed up or worn more casually. I also roll garments like T-shirts, polos, etc. This allows more items in the bag. I place socks, etc., inside of shoes so you don’t have open space.
Go-to gear: I always travel with the following: backpack, iPad, earbuds and noise-canceling headphones. The other things I always carry in my backpack are a toothbrush and toothpaste, hand sanitizer, lotion and Airborne. One of the most important things I keep in my backpack is a variety of little promo items like pens, nail files, eyeglass cleaners, lip balm, etc. I use these as little gifts for gate agents, flight attendants, hotel clerks, etc., thanking them for taking care of me on that day.
Travel routine: I prefer early morning flights whenever possible, so if there are any delays there are hopefully additional flight options later in the day. I also get to the airport on time or early. I would rather be there, relax and get some work done than be stressed about making a flight last minute.