I am thinking about the nature of being a road warrior because I was supposed to be planted firmly at home this week and instead found myself doing a loop around the country: IAD > MCO > DEN > DFW > IAH > BNA > IAD. It’s a worthwhile trip, as they all are, and I consider productive business travel one of my personal superpowers so it’s all good.
Still, I started thinking about how much things have changed in the 15+ years that I’ve been spending a significant amount of time on the road. My perspective, naturally, is colored by my gender, but I think there are some universal truths in here. These are the top 10 ways business travel has gotten easier in the last 10 years:
- Known Traveler Programs: My global entry/known traveler ID is seriously the best thing that has ever happened in the world of business travel. Business travelers are security line snobs–there’s always an undercurrent of competition among road warriors to see who can most gracefully get through to the other side. (You get bonus points if you can get everything up on the belt and whip off that metal belt without breaking stride.) Pre-check, Global Entry/NEXXUS, and now CLEAR… you have my heart. For me, fast, painless security transactions equal the start of a successful business trip.
- Better Carry-On Luggage: Also an area of business traveler snobbery–the carry-on bag. I have been on a 10-year mission to find the carry-on with the most space that still meets global carry-on requirements. Sort of like cars, you find a brand and you tend to stick with it. Me, I’m a Victorinox girl. Most business travelers avoid checking bags like the plague, so it’s important to find a brand that makes you feel like a packing world champion.
- Healthier Food: Airports, thank you. I appreciate that you’re trying. As a person who is unable to consume gluten, I recall the early days of business travel when I traveled with gluten-free oatmeal so I could go into the United Club and pour hot water into a coffee cup and have the first bit of mushy food I’d had for hours. Most restaurants and hotels are “fluent” in gluten free now, which certainly makes me a less grumpy traveler! Banquets at hotels are getting easier for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free folks like me, and just about anyone who has a dietary requirement.
- Airline Apps: I’m having a love affair with my United app. I like to see where I’m sitting, I like to see if anyone is sitting next to me, I want to change my flights, I want to watch movies during the flight, I want to buy my next flight from an airplane…. and I don’t want to talk to a human to do any of this.
- Hotel Gyms: Better. They used to all be in dark, dingy basements. Now, workout rooms feature custom windows looking out over parking lots. This is an improvement.
- Airline Clubs: I’m a United girl and I can’t speak for other clubs, but the MileagePlus Clubs around the country were painfully tired a few years back. The company has been pouring some money into updating them, and United now offers REAL food (soup, salads, fruit) rather than just crackers, cheese, and free wine.
- Travel-Sized Toiletries: OK, so back in the day, the only travel-sized hairspray you could get was something like Aqua-Net. I have found that more brands (in particular, more upper end brands) have expanded to offer travel sized versions of the products I know and love (and NEED to stay pulled together!). Criticize if you must my high-maintenance routine, but I believe looking good is feeling powerful… and that’s a good combination for business meetings and presentations.
- Free Hotel Breakfasts: Most still have powdered eggs, but more are offering fresh, healthy options. Finally, “free” breakfasts have value to business travelers who don’t care to consume greasy bacon and powdered eggs.
- Prevalent Wi-Fi: Staying connected on the road is critical to developing successful road warrior habits. Back in the day, stepping into the airport often meant you were going into a black hole of connectivity. You sometimes didn’t get plugged back into your email or docs until you checked into your hotel room on the other side. First, business travelers were blessed with Blackberry phones. At least we could keep up email. Then, when smart phones and lightweight laptops and tablets came into play–omg, look out world. We were cooking with fire on the ground, and only went into a black hole when we were on the flight itself. Now, with Wi-Fi on planes, we are full steam ahead. Office in the sky, baby.
- Order Anything From Anywhere: This phenomenon, in a nutshell, is the fact that I can order anything I need for my household from any airport or hotel in the world and it’ll be waiting at my doorstep when I get home. With three teens and three dogs at home, I’m able to keep assisting my husband from the road more than ever before. If the dogs are out of food or one of the kids needs new dance shoes before the recital next weekend, I’m all over it. Amazon has changed my life.
BONUS: Video Conferencing/Calling: First, Skype. Now, Skype and FaceTime, and Zoom, and Google Hangouts, and whatever else you might care to use. Yesterday, I watched my 2-year-old niece open a gift I sent her (from Amazon!) while I was eating dinner in the Orlando airport. I can’t tell you how much I would have loved this level of casual accessibility when I traveled when our girls were toddlers. I started traveling during the era of “unlimited nights and weekend calls” so it wasn’t exactly easy to stay connected with the babies when they were young.
So there! That’s my list. Let’s hear from you, business travelers. What did I miss? What do you find are the travel improvements you value the most compared to traveling years ago? I’d love to hear what would have made your Top 10.
With that, I wish you a productive, delay-free, short-security-line day.