How To Be The Ultimate Road Warrior

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If you have seen the movie, Up In The Air, you’ll note that there is an art form in business travel.

So much so, that the art of business travel has taken on a life of its own. It’s not just a blockbuster movie with George Clooney. It’s becoming a cultural way of being. It turns out that the more connected we are, the more inclined we are to make those connections in our protein forms as well. Another indication of this interest comes from Chris Brogan (best-selling business book author of Social Media 101 and co-author with Julien Smith of Trust Agents). A few weeks back, Brogan launched his latest project: a new travel Blog for business professionals titled, Man On The Go. Two days ago, he had a video Blog post entitled, Travel Tips For Air Travel (which you can view below). As someone who has already clocked clocked close to 90,000 air miles in 2010 alone, I thought I would add some additional tips.

How to be the ultimate road warrior:

  • Get a Nexus card. If you travel across the border, one of these cards can save you a ton of time (and they are worth every penny). Instead of waiting in line at customs, you zip through by being pre-screened (prior to getting the card), and all you do is answer a few questions and do a retinal scan on a terminal (no more custom officials). On top of that, they are now offering a VIP security line domestically for those who have a Nexus card (bonus!).
  • Never check luggage. Unless you really, really have to. The way to avoid checking luggage is to get a great carry-on (like The Eagle Creek Tarmac 22 – more on that here: What A Social Media Case Study Can Look Like). Some carry-on tips include: making sure that the bag (when it’s empty) is super-light (the better ones are between 5.5 – 7.5 lbs) and learn how to really pack (make sure to buy some Eagle Creek Pack-It Folders). If you’re not sure how to pack a ton of clothes into one of these carry-ons, watch the video in the, What A Social Media Case Study Can Look Like, link above. Not only does this save you time at both check-in and when you arrive at your destination, but if you ever want to switch a flight, it’s much easier when you have all of your belongings with you (and nothing checked). I can do 9-10 days of business travel with a 22-inch carry-on.
  • Always sign-up to a loyalty program. And, stick to one (if you can). The more points you acquire (which are great to use for family vacations), the more status you get as well. The more status you get, the more likely you will be able to get upgraded on your seats, switch flights and get on an earlier flight if yours gets cancelled. Overall, collecting points is less about the free travel and much more about the status and access. Loyalty also gives you access to VIP lounges and some airports even have security and check-in lines dedicated to members with loyalty.
  • Get on the flight first. Many road warriors wait until the last minute to board the plane. It’s a mistake. Loyalty usually entitles you to board first. Not only do you have more time to get settled before the masses cram the aisles, but if you’re never checking baggage (see above), this also ensures that you’ll have a place in the overhead bins and not get stuck having to gate check your carry-on (which is a sure way for the airline to get it lost).
  • Always check-in online. Not only will this save you time at the airport, but you can also choose your seat in advance. If you’re not sure which seats on the flight are best, check out Seat Guru. It’s also better for the environment (especially if you’re checking in with a mobile device)
  • Become the Digital Road Warrior. With iPhone apps like TripIt and FlightTrack Pro, I’m usually more "in the loop" than the gate attendant about whether or not the flight will be delayed or how full/how many seats are available. The amount of data and information that these apps provide (including how often the flight you’re on is late, and where the plane you are about to take is coming from and its status) is super-empowering. In fact, I’ll do a follow-up Blog post on the ultimate iPhone apps for the road warrior.
  • Bring too much work with you. Flights get delayed. Flights get cancelled. Wi-fi can super-expensive. Bring your laptop, iPad, mobile internet access and tons to read. Take a deep breath and focus on what’s coming ahead. When a flight gets delayed or cancelled, I usually ask myself this question: "what would I be doing if I were not on this plane?" The answer is usually, working on my laptop, sleeping or consuming some form of content for entertainment (books, magazines, movies, etc…). There’s no reason why I can’t do any of that on a plane, in the lounge, in a hotel room or at the gate.

What business travel tips do you have/can you add?


  1. Great article and great additional points. As a fellow business traveler there are so many tips and tricks to share. I just bookmarked @ChrisBrogan’s new site and will check back in here too.
    One point I’d add is an extension of your last point … Take a Deep Breath. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen people blow up at the person (the operative word here is PERSON) behind the counter. Yelling at them might make the person doing the yelling feel better, but it’s not a pretty site nor a positive reflection upon the individual. Also, the person (PERSON) on the other side of the counter (or phone line) is trying to help. They may not have all the information and they may not be empowered to do everything the yeller is demanding, but they are trying to do something.
    I guess another way to extend the Take a Deep Breath idea is to Be Nice. It’s contagious.

  2. Keep travel and home items separate. Invest in a great set of travel containers to go with your carry on luggage and always make sure it’s filled and restocked. Don’t bring your toothpaste, toothbrush etc from home, buy a set of it all for your bag. When I first started traveling a lot, I would take all my home items with me, and it just made it to difficult to keep track (and not every hotel has toothbrushes on hand!).
    As a woman traveling, I have a bit more toiletries than a guy would, and have invested in dedicated multi-use makeup items that won’t break or spill getting knocked around in a carry on. Eyeliners that don’t need a sharpener or can spill are great, and single color eyeshadow compacts rather than the entire color palate are a must. All-in-one moisturizer rather than my arsenal of skin care products.
    I cycle through the same general set of ‘travel’ clothes so that I know what matches and keep it pared down so I bring one pair of shoes (outside the flats I travel in) and one set of accessories. Men I think can get away with the same set of slacks two days in a row with a change of shirt/tie, but it’s not so easy for women! My choices change out with the season, and it so happens I don’t usually travel to the same place/client more than a time or two every few months – so they don’t see me in the same outfits all the time!

  3. If you are tall and are not usually in business class then try to get the window seat near the emergency exit. Usually the seat in front of you is removed for access to the exit. Tons of room for long legs and if you are business then most likely you will be working on your laptop and won’t miss the fact that the in seat TV is missing in front of you.

  4. I echo the sentiments of not checking luggage. I use ziploc bags to pack EVERYTHING in. I can fit an entire outfit in the gallon size. By pressing out the air I can fit twice as much in my carry on. In addition, if security rifles through your bag it’s faster an neater for them and you!

  5. Join a homestay organization. I’m a member of both and Not only is zero a very nice price for a night’s lodging, but I personally enjoy hanging with a local and staying in a private home to sterile motels/hotels.

  6. The nexus card is a great idea, and I can’t wait for Clear to come back (that saved me a TON of time when they were operational). Great tips here, Mitch.
    I saw the Eagle Creek bag here and on Chris Brogan’s blog, but for those of us that fly out of smaller markets, wheeled carry-ons become wheeled gate-checkers, which means instead of waiting in baggage claim you get to wait in a freezing/roasting jetway with 49 other savvy travelers. I put my bag recommendations and a few other “smaller market” tips here:

  7. Thanks for the great article & comments. Travel a lot. Lighten load: BlackBerry instead of laptop for email & quick Internet. Most hotels will print out boarding pass at concierge’s. Going to bring old Palm TX w/folding keyboard for creating any Word docs (Docs2Go) or get net book. Bad hand Injury makes for weary travel with purse, wheeled carry-on & laptop especially at busy conference where no time for much of anything but email.

  8. Great tips! As a woman who travels all the time, I’d like to add this one tip which is SO handy: Hastens (a bedding manufacturer) makes a travel pillow that is not only super comfy to rest your head on for long flights, but it unzips.
    The cool thing about this is that security, at least in the USA, doesn’t count small carry on *pillows* like this as a 3rd item so you can take 2 *carry ons* plus this little pillow *pocket* onto the plane. This little pillow has been a lifesaver for me. A LOT fits inside of it ( for me, my regular laptop and makeup bag so I can quickly get through security).
    When I get through security, I take my laptop and makeup bag and put them in my 2nd real carry on and put what I want for the flight into the pillow *pocket.* Then, when I get on the plane, as you mention above, I am all set to put my smaller carry on under my seat and the larger one overhead without having to waste any time at all or inconvenience the other passengers and my seat mate.
    This system works like a charm and because this is a *pillow* and not a purse, it will work as easily for all you guys, too.
    The pillow *pocket* is not cheap from Hastens, but I am sure you can find a similar idea somewhere else or have someone make one for you.
    This is a real de-stresser for me and the *switch* time after security check in is so worth it for the ease I experience when I’m boarding.

  9. Great post … and now we know how you keep all those black shirts & pants wrinkle free … Cheers!

  10. Pack a safety pin …and M&Ms.
    The safety pin can be used when a button pops off (usually at the worst possible time), to hold the arm of your eye wear onto your lens when the screw goes Waldo, in place of a toothpick or hold the zipper closed on your purse or luggage that’s suffered an emotional separation.
    As for the M&Ms? Oh, they are much more than a quick energy boost or hunger passifier – that won’t melt in your carry-on (forget your mouth, that’s not a problem area). With a bag of M&Ms you can change snarly flight attendants into your second best friend and end get free champagne in the process. Here’s how. Go forward(1st or Bus class) to the attendants after take off and the food service – I mean, sales cart carrying day holds. Pick out the attendant which you sense will be the liveliest
    and say, “I just read the craziest thing. Did you know that if you put M&Ms into a glass of champagne they bob up and down, up and down, and then change the champagne to the colour of the M&M.” Now pull out your bag of M&Ms and with a chesire cat grin say, “you want to try it?”
    It’s never failed me yet (+1 million miles). Not only do I end up with free Champagne and great inflight service but also moved to 1st/bus class, given a take-away bag of food & ‘security sized’ beverages and invitations some of the best parties in have ever been to (way better than spending a night in your hotel room). Years later, I have flight staff (pilots included) stop me in the terminal and say, “hey, you’re the Champagne & M&M guy right? …What flight are you on today?”
    The safety pin – Well, your mom probably told you about it but trust
    me on the M&Ms.

  11. Hotel comfort:
    Request, in advance, a non-adjoining, non-wheelchair accessible, non-smoking quiet room away from the elevator door and preferably on a high floor. Your stay will be greatly improved.
    While many front desk personnel consider it a favor to give you the slightly larger wheelchair accessible room, I don’t care for them.
    Naturally being a gold or platinum member increases your chances of getting the room of your choice.

  12. Take a hard look at your laptop, cell phone, and other electronics to cut weight and complexity.
    Consider downsizing your laptop power supply. For example, a 60 watt supply can either charge your laptop or run it and it’s lighter than the 90 watt version that cah do both simultaneously.
    Charge your cell phone with a USB adapter, and replace the long cable with a 6 inch version.
    If you carry an extension cord, (I do) build a custom cord out of 22 gauge lamp cord with a light 3 outlet adapter on the end.
    If you carry a projector, (I do) dump the supplied power and video cables for lighter alternatives.

  13. Great tips and the link to chris’ review and his comments on one were great. After years of searching I’ve found the travel bag I rely on for every flight-the redoxx airboss, I don’t mind carrying the bag instead of hauling a wheeled bag around. I found I can breeze through busy areas because I don’t need a wider path with a Pullman. But if I was buying one, I’d go with the eagle creek.

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