The New Business Traveler

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While it’s nice to think that Skype, WebEx or Facetime removes the need for business travel, nothing could be further from the truth.

Granted, if all you’re having is a status meeting, those can easily be replaced by technology, but whether it’s a conference, presentation or pitch, no business professional will argue that there is tremendous value in pressing the flesh. The thing is, that technology can now enhance the business travel experience. As brutal as travel is (and, as a Super Elite member, I can tell you that the road is hard, cold and miserable), it has changed dramatically over the years. Yes, the post 9/11 travel experience is tougher – longer lines, rules and limitations, etc, but for most businesses, it is a necessity.

One of the easiest ways to enhance your business travel experience is to heed the words of The Boy Scouts: be prepared.

If you do many trips within North America, do yourself a favor and get a Nexus card. The pre-screening process is a simple meeting and once you are accepted, you will never have to wait in line at customs again. The advent of the retinal scan machines makes clearing customs a complete pleasure (can you imagine that?). Currently, Nexus cardholders also have a priority line for security on domestic Canadian flights as well. For those who travel frequently, getting to the front of the line at both security and customs removes almost fifty-percent of the travel stress. If you have a smartphone, make sure to download the app for the airlines you fly with. Most of these airline apps allow you to not only be notified of flight delays and airline schedules, but they also allow you to check-in and receive your digital boarding pass. This can usually be done up to twenty-four hours before your flight. The magic here is that you can also choose the most ideal seat on the plane (to help with that process, make sure to check out SeatGuru). Being checked-in also means that you do not have to deal with lines at the airline counter (another massive frustration for travelers).

Never check baggage.

I know what you’re thinking: "it’s impossible not to check luggage if you’re travelling for more than one or two nights." It’s not true. My old carry-on bag was a Tumi that I loved dearly. The problem with the Tumi was that it was twelve pounds empty (which is standard for most carry-on luggage). Through new technology and lighter/more durable plastics, companies like Eagle Creek have introduced a line of ultra-lightweight carry-ons. I swear by my Eagle Creek Traverse Pro 22. This carry-on roller is only six pounds empty and when combined with Eagle Creek’s amazing Pack-It travel folders, it’s actually easy to carry up to five days of clothes in this carry-on. The Traverse Pro also has a detachable backpack, which acts as my briefcase for meetings. This feature is enhanced by the fact that I can detach the backpack and still place the luggage in the overhead bin of smaller planes (and yes, this includes the planes where passengers are asked to gate-check their carry-ons). If I have to travel for more than five nights for business? I still use the carry-on and pay for laundry services at the hotel. From experience, lost luggage while travelling on business is a nightmare.

Meet-up. Connect.

If you’re interested in meeting up with fellow business travelers along the way, be sure to check out TripIt. This online social network for travelers is a great way to connect with colleagues who may be in and around the same cities as you. While I don’t publicly share my travel schedule, many business professionals find value in this functionality. Think about it this way: it’s much nicer to catch up with colleagues in a different city than ordering room service or eating alone at the hotel bar. TripIt also allows you to email your travel information to the system (flights, car rentals, hotels, etc…), and it automatically organizes your trip information in a highly valuable and visually appealing way. As a bonus, it also keeps your historical travel information stored in one area that allows you can see how many miles you have travelled as it ties into Google Maps to show pinpoints for all of your excursions.

Great travel apps.

Another great app is FlightTrack Pro (for iPhone, iPad and Android). FlightTrack Pro grabs the information from TripIt (or you can input your flight info directly) and spits out tons of useful information (like, where the flight you are about to board is coming from and if it is on time). The combination of both TripIt and FlightTrack Pro on your smartphone gives you access to a lot of flight information. This comes in handy when flights get delayed or cancelled (and they often do).

Embrace technology.

Technology will make your business travel that much more pleasant. Amazon‘s Kindle (and the Kindle app) makes it easy to carry hundreds of books and newspapers without adding any weight or bulk to your travels. The alarm feature on your smartphone will always be much more reliable than the hotel’s wake-up service (if you travel enough, you know how often that fails), and iTunes is the biggest game-changer for the business traveler. From being able to rent or buy movies, TV shows (now’s your chance to finally watch all five seasons of The Wire!) to music, books and more, it’s great to be in control of your own entertainment. Prior to leaving, download a handful of great documentaries or the latest Hollywood blockbusters, just don’t forget a good set of noise-cancelling headphones. From there, business travel becomes nothing but blue skies with thanks to modern technology.

What is your best business travel advice?

The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Montreal Gazette and Vancouver Sun newspapers called, New Business – Six Pixels of Separation. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original versions online here:


  1. Stay hydrated! Drink lots of water and very little of drinks that dehydrate you. Back up everything you need on both a thumb drive (that you keep far away from your laptop in case one gets lost) and also on DropBox.

  2. I hear you. Oh, how I hear you. Headed to Calgary tomorrow, and writing this from Boston Logan. Don’t go to CA enough yet to get the Nexus, but will. Instead of Flight Tracker Pro, I use TripIt Pro, which has the same features but then you only have one app instead of two. Another tip is to make liberal use of the in-airport lounges. Best possible place to get out of the craziness, grab a water, and charge your laptop.

  3. I recommend at least checking out the website That’s my best advice. Because HIS advice is great and based on a much-needed meticulous assessment of travel items, bags etc.

  4. Judy and I just got Nexus cards and proudly crossed the Peace Bridge last Sunday wth cards out of their holsters.
    The Nexus lane was closed, there was a zero car line up :).

  5. Two great travel apps for once you arrive that I used during a recent trip to Malaga, Spain:
    Jibbigo voice recognition translator: Available for iPod, iPhone, iPad & Android.
    There are two bidirectional fields, so you can actually hold a conversation, even if both parties don’t speak the other’s language: You simply select the language you will be speaking in and the language for translation. When either party speak into your device, the input window displays in text what was said, while the translation text appears in the output window – and vice versa.
    Certainly, it doesn’t replace actually speaking the language … But this app works surprisingly well. For example, a bartender rattled off a few sentences in Spanish and when we responded back using the app (and doing our best on pronunciation), he immediately nodded and replied back. We were actually able to sustain a conversation and interact.
    Admittedly, there was the occasional wonky translation. My husband Luc speaks English with a bit of a Quebec accent, so what he said did not always render correctly. But this led to some pretty funny moments all around.
    OffMaps2: Available for iPod, iPhone & iPad.
    Saved us roaming charges when searching for information on local sites, getting directions, restaurant recommendations. After having walked 5 miles once in Barcelona looking for the Funicular using an iPhone and Google Maps, and ending up in front of a closed restaurant of same name … I can tell you this is a travel must. My husband is still living that one down. 😉

  6. Excellent post today Mitch, and thank you for sharing.
    As someone who is starting to travel more and more for business, I’ve found listening to others (like yourself) to be one of the best travel tips I can give. There are always others who have come before you, listen to what they have to say.
    However, I would like to add to your list in three items:
    Enjoy the trip – As I started to increase travel, I decreased the fun. I would show-up where I was needed, stay over and then be gone when I could. Although this does have to happen from time to time, don’t forget that you’ve just been handed an opportunity to experience something
    Keep active – Not being a huge fan of sitting around, I’ve kept myself in a better frame of mind by simply keeping active. This could be a nice walk/run, hitting a gym (I know there are a lot of GoodLife’s across Canada), or even renting a bike/boat
    Live normally – Often when we travel, everything we would do at home goes out the window, and everything we wouldn’t is now 100% acceptable. Although fun at first, by day 3 you’re body/mind will not be agreeing. Likely there will be a shop near by to purchase fresh food, and make sure you don’t over/under eat just because. And if you only watch .5 hours of TV at home, try and keep that the same.
    Again, excellent post and thanks

  7. I have been able to survive out of a carry-on for up to 5 weeks, so yes, business travel on a single carry on can easily be accomplished. Stick to a single tone of clothes so you can combine things. Wear your heavy items (jacket) while you travel. Also:
    – don’t trust you’ll find WiFi wherever you go. Download important attachments to your smartphone or iPad. DropBox saves all your favorites locally.
    – Take a picture of your passport with your smartphone. Oh yes, don’t forget to run a lock screen on your smartphone. Even better if the screen says how to reach you.
    – Get a local SIM if traveling overseas. Your phone is already unlocked, right?
    – Depending on where you go, there may be cheaper alternatives than hotels. Do your research. Airbnb has worked great for me on a couple of occasions.
    – Whenever you fly, make sure you carry your noise-cancelling device with earbuds. Most airlines don’t like the big BOSE-like system.

  8. Hello Mitch,
    Sound like the Eagle Creek Traverse Pro 22 is *the* perfect bag.
    Can you still bring a second bag onboard ? (E.G. the removable backpack might be considered the second one by the airline).

  9. Joel you hit the challenges of travel square. There are great additional comments too.
    We have been immediate adopters of anything to get us across the border quickly and as easy as possible. Nexus is great at border crossings. I have been crossing the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie almost daily for over 18 years. Homeland Security lists the Nexus card as the third highest level of proof of identity. Unfortunately many prescreeners at airports some major in the US refuse the card. I do not travel with a passport in North America because I have a Trusted Travel US issued form of identity.
    T-mobile is the only US carrier I know that will give you the code to unlock your phone to use SIM cards in other countries, a big savings for international calls. Apple in Canada sold iPhones not tied to carriers at full price VS the carrier that ties you to a plan.

  10. Bill the Nexus lanes at the Peace Bridge are usually open until 7:00 most nights and 11:00 or later Bills and Sabres nights. Sometimes the challenge is to get to the lane when the bridge is very tied up. If the wait is too long head north to the Whirlpool Bridge in The Falls. It is open to 11:00 every night and is Nexus only. We had to wait for 3 cars once!

  11. My biggest failing when it comes to travelling is leaving chargers in hotel rooms! Subsequently, I have mulitple cables for devices, I am considering the Aviq Portable Charging Station. . Also the quick charge battery packs for cell phones come in handy when you are unable to find a socket.

  12. The way that technology is controlling all elements of our lives is truly amazing. To be able follow a delayed flight, have maps from all over the world and have 100’s of books all on the one device that fits in your pocket is defiantly the most convenient way to travel for business or leisure.

  13. Mitch – thanks for the advice. Last trip to T.O. I waiting for 45 minutes at midnight for my luggage. I’m done with checking bags!
    I know you aren’t a suit wearer, but for those people that need to bring along more formal wear (suits, sports jackets, etc.) do you have any recommendations? It’s pretty difficult wearing the same suit for 3 or 4 days and I still haven’t mastered folding a suit or jacket so it comes out wrinkle free-ish.
    Happy travels!

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