I travel for business. A lot. And I’ve got all the “status” benefits of a frequent flier. But this wasn’t always the case. While my current status means I’m often able to upgrade to first class for free (a nice perk), I have found that less-frequent flyers can still travel in style. Consider these sure-fire ways to make your next flight boss-worthy.
1. Book directly with the airline or hotel.
Whether it’s your flight or hotel, booking direct can often equate to cost savings. But more importantly, in an emergency or travel delay, it can mean the difference between being stuck, bumped or getting to your destination on time. That’s because individual properties and airlines are much more willing to bend over backwards for customers who’ve bought from them and not an online travel agency (OTA) or discount site.
2. Pick your loyalties.
Airlines and hotels offer great benefits to loyal customers. I’ve taken several personal vacations using the points I’ve earned traveling for business — including seven days in Hawaii where we flew and stayed for free! Choose one company, and stick to them. You'll reap the benefits.
3. Ask for the upgrade.
Before I had any status, I always asked the gate agents if any premium or first-class seats were available. I can’t tell you how many times they said yes and put me in those seats for free or for a mere $25 or $50! I do the same at hotels. Just a few weeks ago, I asked if the place we were staying had any suites available for my birthday weekend, and I scored an suite with a balcony looking at the beach for a mere $15 per night more. Happy Birthday, indeed!
4. Dress for success.
It’s not necessary to wear a suit, but the sharp-dressed traveler is likely going to receive better treatment than the one with the messy bun, slippers and PJ pants. Plus, when you feel tidy and put-together, you naturally project more confidence and charisma, two attributes that may land you the free upgrade when it’s up for grabs.
5. Be respectful.
I get it, travel is stressful. We’re worried about being on time, being late, missing our flight, being bumped, sitting too close to people, and myriad of other concerns. Plus, we’ve all seen people who throw a virtual tantrum when something goes awry. TSA agents, gate agents, flight attendants and hotel staff deal with rude customers every day. Be kind to those whom you are asking to assist you; it can make the difference between getting the last standby seat or waiting to catch the next flight.
6. Never pay for water at the airport.
Not only because of the exorbitant prices the kiosks charge for H2O, but because most airports have hydration stations where you can fill a larger bottle up once you’re through TSA. Bonus: one less plastic bottle headed to the landfill.
7. Don’t check a bag.
Most of the meetings I attend are business formal. If you pack wisely, you can carry a weeklong wardrobe in an airline-approved carry-on. Invest in a few quality pieces, such as a statement jacket or suit, then throw in a handful of tops that can mix up your look. You’ll have a vogue-worthy wardrobe that can take you from breakfast to the boardroom to bar (come on: who doesn’t want a glass of wine at the end of a big day?). Plus, you'll avoid the hassle (and time investment) of waiting for your bag at baggage claim.
8. Three words: noise-canceling headphones.
Being in crowds and stuffed on an airplane makes me anxious and uncomfortable. Before my trip, I make sure to download my favorite playlists and podcasts to listen to in some noise-canceling headphones. Plus, if I want to nap, they can block out ambient noise.
9. Ditch the night-before stress.
Cross-continental flights and early morning travel can wreak havoc on our ability to get sleep the night before leaving. My solution? Establish a calming ritual the night before. Drink a cup of tea, take a bath and truly relax before bed.
10. Envision a smooth flight.
Whether it’s the night before, at the gate, or in the air, think positively about your travels and your business. Attitude is everything.
Tiffany Couch is the CEO and founder of Acuity Forensics, a forensic accounting and fraud investigation firm that helps unravel complex financial crimes.