Lobster up the Sea

Personal Musings of Fritz Oberhummer

99 Business Traveler Tricks

“It’s a dangerous business, Mr Frodo,Β  getting on the road and all of that…”

We all need to travel. Whether its just for pure fun, or (for many of us professionals) for business. Whilst the going role model for the sophisticated world explorer might look like George Clooney in “Up in the air“, the realities of skipping between cities, meeting-rooms, hotels and airports can be of all sort of things: stressful, exiting (new places!) but sometimes just also simply… boring (I wrote a large part of it at Frankfurt Airport whilst I was waiting to board the next flight, which was delayed; so yes, that kind of “boring” too).

Nonetheless, for every trip one must prepare – or be prepared. Once you leave the save sanctuary of your garden fence, all kind of stuff can happen to you on the road (hopefully does not mean any of the Ring-wraiths chasing you down to Brandywine Bridge πŸ˜‰ so lets just say: its good to be on top of things – or at least have a plan for the situations that could arise.

Having been on the road for a bit (and there is probably a lot of folks with a mileage accrual that I still will not touch in a lifetime), I thought it be a good moment to take stock of the things I do to make the overall experience more pleasant, organized and good habits to have out there. And thus I would love to share to also get your input/thoughts so I know on what works best πŸ˜‰

So here we go … My 99 tips & tricks for business travel (little note: I have tried to put it in sequential order, so you can skip sections if needed be)

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  1. Have clear objectives before you hit the road (yes, that also means meetings/times/dinners setup upfront)
  2. With that being said: try to have one lunch/dinner slot free (for last-minute changes, catching up with old friends etc)
  3. Understand travel options +/-1 day of your trip, just in case something comes up last-minute (I usually use “flights.idealo.com” for a quick check)
  4. Understand time-zone differences for flights, especially connecting ones
  5. Check your credit card balance (actually check if your card is physically there πŸ˜‰
  6. Make sure you have a credit card which at least has some basic travel insurance tied to it (Lufthansa Business Card Gold is what I use and works really well for all travel options, even street-rental cars!)
  7. Make sure you pay at least one thing on the trip with that card, so the insurance cannot back out πŸ˜‰
  8. Have a 2nd backup credit card, (what if your first card gets blocked, overdrawn, is not accepted etc) – Note: my backup card is Amex Platinum: usually widely accepted but good on credit limits; if you do not have one you can get one here with extra 30,000 miles as sign-up offer
  9. Health insurance international: Should come with the credit card. If not: GET ONE!!
  10. Health insurance within the EU: do not forget your “International Insurance Card” (hint: you might have to order that from your national insurer)
  11. Bring your drivers license + ID-card (for EU: only ID card, leave the passport at home…its more expensive to replace!)
  12. Make digital copies of your important documents and store them in your email or a secure cloud
  13. Check visa requirements before you book ANYTHING (yes, good luck trying to get that for the US last minute….or even more “exotic” places πŸ˜‰
  14. If you need a visa: try to do it buy/book online before the trip, not at destination
  15. If you cannot pre-buy the visa: use an agency, don’t go to embassies/consulates yourself (that will be a lot of time you can use for other things)
  16. For short trips: book a hotel that includes breakfast and is closely located to meeting venues/clients offices
  17. Checkout trip distances/options from arrival airport to hotel – and vice versa for departure (have a “Plan B”). Understand cost difference.
  18. And whilst you are at it (and I use Google Maps): Download the maps for offline use (if you are going to a wider metropolitan area) – Roaming has its glitches and its always good to be prepared
  19. If you have a loyalty card: insert it when booking. And no, that is not the question of points, but rather companies are less likely to bounce a traveler who is a loyalty member in overbooking situations than someone without any kind of credentials (that btw works for any airline, hotel, car-rentals etc)
  20. Use airline/transportation/trip apps for getting notifications, directions etc. pre-install before you leave and log-in
  21. Make sure the emergency information on your phone is up-to-date (the one that is accessible even if your phone is locked): your blood type, any medical conditions…and also keep the name-format of loved ones as “First name Last name” in your phone, and not only as “Darling” or “Wife” – Emergency services might need to contact someone, and its better for them if the have the names upfront
  22. Create a folder both in Outlook and in your Cloud storage for your business travel expense trip upfront, in following number/name/date format:Β  “1. Mallorca Conference XXX May 19th-21st 2023“, save all relevant information in there (Note: Numbering it makes it easier in Outlook to see the sequence of trips)
  23. And make sure you have all of your data in the cloud, in case the laptop breaks/gets lost/gets stolen
  24. Try to learn a few basic phrases in the local language (Use “Reverso Context“, is probably the best source for good phrasing!!)
  25. Research cultural etiquette of your destination (example: it would be very rude to firmly press someone’s hand in the Middle East- whilst in Germany a “firm grip”, sometimes to the point of pain, means seriousness about business. Not sure where to start…? –> Read “The Culture Map” from Erin Meyer…or better, take the book with you to read on the plane πŸ˜‰
  26. Use a “travel purse” to keep all of your cards and receipts in (Lukasz Dabrowski can coach you on what to pick when it comes down to “man purses” πŸ˜‰ – keep receipts separate from your regular wallet
  27. Get 8 hours of sleep before you go, does not matter if you leave early or late (Kudos to Ariane Gorin for that one πŸ˜‰

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  28. (If you want to feel comfortable): Print out boarding card and hotel confirmation – just in case your phone breaks, runs out of batteries, you lose it etc
  29. Pack your suitcase the night before (or at least major items such as pants, shirts, underwear, belts, shoes etc)
  30. For short-trips try to use a nice duffel bag instead of the carry-on suitcase. You actually will be faster and its less bulky
  31. Put underwear/socks/pajama into vacuum travel bags (those bags which you can roll and let the air out) . It will reduce space needed – and most importantly: if security personnel checks your bag, they will not touch your underwear – and you really do not want to know whether they have washed their hands or what else they have touched before (btw I read this was in GQ magazine as a travel tip by singer Madonna)
  32. Put in a pack each of common medicine: Aspirin, Paracetamol, Ibuprofen
  33. A pack of mints (Fisherman’s Friend do it for me) – helpful after long flights when checking-in (in case you ever noticed agents at front desk looking uncomfortable at you, that big of 10-hour-breath will be a reason)
  34. Pack a couple of protein/nut bars for when you don’t have time for a meal (if you are on a tight meeting schedule
  35. Some band-aids (in case you cut yourself shaving, for blisters in shoes etc)
  36. Dental floss (yup. its important!)
  37. Some disinfect wipes/baby wipes (great to clean just about anything) – your can also take hand sanitizer, however, I prefer simply washing hands with soap in-between
  38. Nail scissors (Dual purpose to … well… for just cutting anything)
  39. Skip shampoo/conditioner unless you have an allergy or really want to use a certain brand. Its just messy!
  40. For long distance: have a backup toiletry set in your hand luggage (I usually use the same that goes into my carry-on suitcase) and also one set of underwear/socks/shirt (just in case your luggage gets lost)
  41. Use a luggage scale to avoid overweight baggage fee (i have a hand-hold model, works really well)
  42. Back-up charge cable for phone
  43. Power/plug adapter (most hotel rooms now have different plugs….nonetheless, for the road it will be handy)
  44. Lanyard with company-logo (especially for events…don’t wear someone else’s colors unless you absolutely must!
  45. That lanyard is also great if you visit a partner and receive a visitors badge for his office: attach it to your lanyard and people will just recognize you more easily; helps to strike up nice ice-breaker conversations πŸ˜‰
  46. Pack a phone charger with at least 3x battery charge capacity
  47. Ear-plugs for flying: do not use hard-plugs, there are silicone-based ear plugs (my brand is Macks) that will just mold into your ear (best discovery ever! That ear pain after long-distance flights is otherwise unbearable)
  48. Don’t forget a luggage tag for your bag – I usually just put a loyalty card of an airline in (they have your contact info and will try their best to find you)
  49. Have a cabin-suitcase where you can pack an umbrella on the side – and also a lightweight rain-jacket/coat on the outside for quick access
  50. For long distance: bring a re-usable water bottle; leave it empty and refill at the airport (either in one of the airport lounges or on water stations)
  51. Optional: bring something to read (for me its either my Kindle or latest copy of Harvard Business Review)

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  52. Always say “Thank you!“, “Please!” and try to have a smile on your face, no matter how bad the day goes – simply said: you smile at the world, the world will shine upon you πŸ™‚
  53. If you take your own car to the airport: take a picture of it once you get out, store it in iCloud etc (to make sure you remember the number, demonstrate that there is not damage…and just in case someone else would need to pick-up the flight)
  54. Bonus: Some use flight tracking apps to stay informed about delays or cancellations (I usually think the airline apps is enough, but hey, if you really wanted to be secure…)
  55. Furthermore, for any travel receipts: think of tip number 17 (create cloud folder) – make sure your phone is connected to the cloud space and take pictures of your receipts, store them in the trip-folder (do this straight away)
  56. For short haul flights: aisle seat (so you can work with your laptop)
  57. For long haul flights: window seat (well…nappy time…and also its calming to look out the window after long-hours)
  58. Connecting flights: aisle seat, first available row (your flight might be delayed and you might have to get out quickly)
  59. Emergency-exit seats are great for space…but mind you on long-haul flights it will be uncomfortable to not rest the legs against a foot-bar (which you usually get under the next seat)
  60. You can possibly use shoes which are easy to take off at security checks; however, today a lot of systems are the full body scans, so I do not even take off shoes, my belt or watch (which you can forget after all). If they have to check you, so be it – that is less inconvenient IMHO
  61. At the gates: have a credit card which allows Lounge access (I use Amex Platinum and the free account you can apply with Priority Pass); its easier to work in lounges, its a bit quieter there and you can have a quick breakfast/lunch/dinner
  62. Bring a scarf (wool in winter, cotton in summer) to the plane, also a hoodie sweater. Why? Air-conditioning can turn some planes into big freezer cans. Having at least a scarf can help you from catching a bad cold.
  63. At the gate: just casually stroll upfront (yes, if you can have priority boarding either with your loyalty status – or pay for it please), try to get into the plane first. This way you can comfortably store your luggage, get adjusted and have a little chat with the flight-crew (they tend to be nice to people who are nice to them πŸ˜‰

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  64. In case you get dizzy on board: ask for a glass of juice – it can happen if you sit for a long time and all blood goes into your legs. Some juice will kick start your metabolism, combined with some movement (stretch yourself next to the exits in the back!).
  65. “Noise cancelling headphones”. I have tried them, they do not work for me, sry!
  66. Tea and coffee: Be aware that a lot of coffee and tea cans/brewing systems might not get cleaned that often. Bottled water/juices is the way to go here (if you must: a Coke for caffeine)
  67. Foam neck pillows: well, you all watched “Up in the Air“, right? They are a waste of time…I have an inflatable pillow for long-distance travel, but actually even that I hardly take with me.
  68. Use a Privacy Screen Filter for your laptop AT ALL TIMES (those transparent things you stick on and only allow you to see whats written – I have used the ones from 3M, they are sturdy and come at reasonable price).Β  You think that is not important…? Well, once I sat behind the CEO of one Germany’s largest E-commerce retailers in an flight from London to Munich and had the possibility to read all his Emails, presentations etc on an oversized MacBook… interesting learning experience, but certainly that information was not meant for me!)

    you-have-landed-for-a-busin

  69. Make sure you know the tipping etiquette of the country you’re visiting
  70. Use rail over car over coach (traffic jams are the enemy of a business traveler)
  71. Exception: arrivals past 23:00 – here go by Uber or order transfer upfront (for security reasons)
  72. Consider buying a local SIM card for data usage (for non-roaming partner countries … once one of my direct reports just had his iPhone on auto in Dubai – 2 days later that was over USD 400 and the carrier signaled us, bad surprise!)
  73. Cash: no need …its the year 2023, pls
  74. Have a “throw away passport” (old, invalid passport) with you which you can toss in case of a mugging
  75. Ask the taxi driver on how much approximately will charge UPFRONT (at least ask, otherwise its open range for the driver πŸ˜‰
  76. Have your meetings set mid-morning/mid-day to avoid rush-hours – and also to give your partners time to prepare themselves

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  77. At the hotel: do not take the first room! Instead go up, take a look, come back down…and ask if they had something else/”better”Β  – and then say the magic words “I don’t mind about twin bedsΒ  either…anything you have there on a higher floor?“. Why? Lots of hotels have twin-bed rooms on every floor which never really get sold, people usually are into King/Queen-size beds. And presto: you will have your nice upgrade. And as you travel solo, the bed size does not really matter, does it?
  78. Always ask for a room away from the elevators. The elevator might not be loud, but the partying Brits coming of out it are πŸ˜‰
  79. Switch off the air condition unit and open the window (if you can) if temperatures/air-quality allows it – your spine/back will love you for it
  80. Unpack your COMPLETE suitcase, hang your shirts, use the drawers…make yourself comfortable (Note: also packing goes quicker then later on)
  81. Laptop, passport, ID cards, watch – any of that not being in use go into the safety deposit box in the room. Yes, that chance that something gets taken is slim…but just do the right thing pls!
  82. Use the laundry bag of the hotel, don’t bring one
  83. Fold your dirty laundry, so it takes up less space when packing
  84. ForgotΒ  your phone-charger? Check out the TV and see if it has an USB-slot you can plug your cable into (bragging rights belong to Caroline Mo for this one)
  85. Use straws when drinking from glasses, especially at breakfast (yes, that might not look like Mrs or Mr Bond, but often glasses are not properly washed and your next Herpes is just around the corner waiting for you)
  86. Wash hands – often! (…do I really have to say it?)
  87. When you arrive, unpack your COMPLETE suitcase, put things in drawers etc – it just will give you a bit more “being at home” feeling (and cleaning staff will appreciate you not making a mess)
  88. Plan at least one walk/run during a 3-day stay (yes, your health will love it)
  89. Make sure you bring some water (find a supermarket nearby) to the room (especially for the night)
  90. Good habit: wake-up call from the front-desk, not your phone (because you will simply turn it off, as usual – whilst the wake-up call will REALLY wake you up)
  91. Pin great restaurant/event/sightseeing locations in Google Maps whilst you are there (have your own personal lists), especially tips from local partners – if you return to the location one day, you will have a great selection without starting from scratch
  92. Bring a Moleskin notebook and pen to your trip for notes taking (you might not always have access to your laptop phone – plus it looks awkward to take notes on them outside of meeting rooms…)
  93. In any public WiFi: ALWAYS use VPN (ask your company to provide it…and if they need to scale their security, Intellias offers here a Cyber Security Consulting service );Β  you have no idea on who else is on the network, might use “password sniffers” etc

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  94. Leave a tip for the cleaning staff – their job is gruesome and putting a little smile on their face does not hurt, no?
  95. Getting a good night of sleep (yes, ’em 8 hours) is more important then packing and last minute-emails late night. Just get up a bit earlier and do them in the morning
  96. ALWAYS check the inside of your room safety deposit box. Even if its empty, you might have put something in by habit and just forgotten about it (almost happened to me last week πŸ˜‰
  97. Have two ways to get to the airport, plan both on Google Maps with duration (one rail, one taxi…and in case you think that is “overdoing it”: kindly try Istanbul on a Friday-afternoon with no backup plan. Yes, daring you there πŸ˜‰
  98. Bring a little gift for loved ones – maybe some local chocolate, wine, cheese or a toy. They have missed you terribly, give them the same affection!
  99. Before you open the door back home, take a deep breath…
    Remember what you have experienced, seen, felt…you are one of the lucky 5% of the global population who can live out their “wanderlust” through traveling for business – be grateful for it, no matter how tired you are or how gruesome the trip was. “Travel is a force for good“, is something that Expedia’s CEO Peter Kern once said – enjoy it!

Let me know in the comments below if i have missed out on any tips or tricks pls!!

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Who is "Lobster Up the Sea"?

“Lobster Up the Sea” are the personal musings of Fritz Oberhummer, a travel and technology professional. If you want to connect directly you can do this right here: LinkedIn (PS: The nick-name comes from my German name being translated into English, just in case if you were wondering ;)

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