This month, I took two overnight business trips, to Atlanta and Fort Lauderdale. Didn’t see much other than the companies I was visiting and my hotel rooms, both of which were your standard chain rooms (Omni in Atlanta and Westin in Florida), although I was able to have dinner with friends in both places – Mexican at No Mas! Cantina in Atlanta and sushi at Asia Bay on Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. Both terrific and I highly recommend them.
Here are some tips for surviving short turnaround trips like these.
Always get two hotel keys. If one doesn’t work (and it happens often) you have a back-up and can avoid the long journey back to reception. Because, guaranteed, you’re tired and when the key doesn’t work, your room is ALWAYS at the furthest possible point from the elevator.
Don’t check your bag. Bring just what you need and carry-on. If you check and your bag gets lost, you’ll probably be home before it catches up with you. And you won’t have clean clothes for the second day. Problematic if that’s when the big meeting is. A variant on this tip for your family vacation is to carry-on one bag with a change of clothes for everyone plus your basic toiletries. It’s like carrying an umbrella on an overcast day. You may not need it but if you don’t have one, it will rain.
Extra fees are a fact of airline travel these days. I fly JetBlue or Southwest when I have a checked bag, because I will not pay the big airlines for the privilege of checking a bag unless I absolutely have no choice. Some fees are worth it though. Early-bird check-in on Southwest is well worth the $10 each way. When you are on a tight schedule, you can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to call in at the 24-hour mark. Early-bird pretty much guarantees you won’t get stuck in a middle seat, but you don’t have to pay the higher ticket price for business class (or whatever they call it.) On JetBlue, the extra legroom seats are worth it for longer flights, especially if you have to work on the plane, but don’t bother for short hauls. Don’t forget to bring your own headset for JetBlue.
If you like to read, get an e-book reader. Especially if you read fast. I got a Kindle (affiliate link) for Christmas and now can bring 2-3 books on a trip with the same slim footprint. Freed up lots of space in my briefcase and makes carry-on realistic, even for 2-3 day trips. In summer, when the clothes are lighter. In winter, I can do carry-on for an overnight, but not longer trips.
Invest in a netbook instead of lugging your laptop. I’ve also heard that some folks are substituting an iPad for their laptop. Bottom line, lighten the load. If you are using a netbook, definitely get the Kensington Wireless Mouse (affiliate link) that has a USB option for inflight use.
Don’t assume that a round-trip ticket is the least expensive option. Especially if it involves multiple airlines. Look at the cost of each leg booked as a one-way before buying your ticket. This is super important if your plans may get “fluid.” I recently lost a great return flight, even though I was only changing my outbound travel, due to the extremely rigid rules of the airlines. Had the tickets been two separate tickets, I still would have been screwed on the last minute change to the outbound, but could have kept my return. This applies to Amtrak as well when using the AAA discount. The outbound leg of my upcoming trip to NYC (on the Northeast Regional in off-peak hours) would have been more expensive booked as a round-trip with my return on the Acela. Instead I booked it as two separate trips, getting the great off-peak fare for the trip to NY and the AAA discount on my Acela fare for the return to Boston.
Only carry the things you will need during the flight in your “under seat” bag. Everything else goes in your overnight bag. I even put my netbook in the outside pouch of my roll-aboard bag unless I am going to use it on the plane. This reduces the weight on your back or shoulders. Seems like a small thing but you’ll appreciate it as you navigate a terminal for a connecting flight and your shoulder bag doesn’t feel like it has bricks in it.
Hotels — even those that aren’t part of chains — have soap and shampoo in the room. Don’t waste the space in your 1 quart plastic bag with those items for a short trip. Your skin and hair can take one night without whatever special products you use at home. Save the space for things like moisturizer and your favorite make-up remover. I always bring eyedrops.
What are your top tips for short trips?