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Business travel is a mixed bag. Sometimes, it’s a welcome respite from life at home, and an opportunity to do what I do with new scenery. I love visiting a new city and that a work opportunity leads me there makes it even more fulfilling.
Sometimes, however, it’s not the cat’s pyjamas. Work travel can be an unglamorous string of mess-ups, hold-ups and delays. I’m talking missing luggage, wearing your seat-mates drink, and catching a cold while you try to hail a cab in the rain.
There are so many comforts of home that I can’t fit into my carry-on suitcase when I travel for work, but the one thing I wouldn’t dream of leaving behind is my smartphone. I mean, of course it’s the way I stay connected to my office, my kids, and the contacts at my destination, but it has become so much more. A true travel companion, my smartphone helps me get from A to B with ease.
I’ve written about my must-pack apps for air travel before, but I thought I’d share the apps I use specifically for business travel— to keep me organized, to get me there (and home) on time, and to help me have a bit of fun in a free moment or two.
When I’m home, I feel secure surfing online. When I’m traveling for business, I’m using public Wifi: At the airport, on the plane, at the hotel, and even at a client’s office. Whenever you’re using public Wifi you’re vulnerable to hackers and prying eyes— yes, even at your friendly local Starbucks— so you’ve got to take measures to make sure you’re surfing safely at all times. ESPECIALLY if you’re looking at your bank statement or paying a credit card bill on the road, but logging into your email with an insecure connection is pretty dangerous too, and that happens all the time. This is why I use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) like Freedome from F-Secure. For a reasonable annual flat fee, Freedome keeps what you’re doing online complete private from hackers, advertisers, or anyone else lurking on your public connection to the Internet. It’s like you have an invisible cloak around your web activity, which is exactly what you want when you’re away from home.
Things move fast when business travel comes together— before long, I have a stack of confirmations, record locators, and reservations in my Inbox. I used to have to pull it all together on my own, but Google Trips assembles it all for me in one app, making things easy to access while I’m on the go. Google Trips isn’t all business (and neither am I, even on a business trip!) — it will help you find restaurants, parks, or even something fun to do nearby if you find yourself with a bit of free time.
Pana is another app that pulls all your travel plans into once place and sends you notifications to keep you up to date on changes in your schedule. It will even automatically check you in for your flight, all of which can save you precious minutes (and stress). Both apps scan your Inbox and auto-magically find the emails that pertain to any given trip. I don’t know how they make sense of it all, but that kind of organization is invaluable when you’re away from the office and on the move.
Staying On Schedule
I don’t like being away from home for any longer than I have to, so my schedule is usually pretty packed from the moment I leave til the moment I get in the car home. So I’ve got to get from place to place with speed and efficiency.
For air travel, I use Flight+ to stay informed about gate changes, flight delays, and other potential hiccups. Details about how long the flight delay might be, if the plane is on its way, and if you’ll make your connecting flight— it’s all critical if you’re stranded at an airport and want to know what’s going on. Weather can play a role in wrecking your schedule too, so forecasts and any relevant weather updates are all served up so you can react quickly.
When I’m on the road it often makes sense to skip the taxis and rent a car. I have been doing it “the old way” for years— making reservations online or over the phone, standing in long lines at the airport, going through a long sign-in process where I often find out that the car I wanted (and reserved?) isn’t available. It’s always a bit frustrating that you don’t really know what you’re going to drive off in until the last minute.
Since trying the Avis Now app I’m never going back— the experience is the speediest and most transparent I’ve found. The best part is so many of the details of renting a car happen through your phone, instead of standing at a counter. Preferences, insurance specifics and even payment… it all happens before your trip so once you arrive you can speed past all those counter-dwellers and get right into your car without talking to a soul. Plus, you pick the exact car you want to rent on the Avis Now app, and that’s the car you get. Keys are inside, have a nice day. All this speed and efficiency are such a relief when all you want to do is get to your hotel room to prep for your work commitments.
I am no good to anyone if I’m not healthy on a work trip. I start taking supplements and eating right days before I leave in an effort to ensure that the germs, the recycled air, the jet lag… that none of it gets me down.
I just discovered a fantastic app called Entrain which specifically tackles jet lag— it helps you tune in to your circadian rhythms and helps you adjust to new time zones as quickly as possible. By making recommendations for when you should go to sleep and wake up while you’re traveling.
Sometimes you just need a friend who can make you a recommendation for a healthy restaurant, find you a local juice bar, or get some supplements delivered to your hotel room. Basically, during business travel, you need a personal concierge— sounds luxurious, but the help is so important when you’re moving fast and don’t have time (or ability) to run an errand or make changes to your itinerary. Lola is an app that lets members have access to a legion of personal concierges, who they can text requests to. They can book last-minute travel changes, make hotel or restaurant reservations near your business meeting, find the closest pharmacy or manicure (important!) and more. When you’re away from home, having a “friend” who can help out is so reassuring.
At the end of the day, I love traveling for business. And it’s nice to know that my travel companion (my smartphone) is there to help things go smoothly until I’m back in my bed, in a pile of kid and dog snuggles, another successful business trip behind me.
I was compensated by Avis for this review. All opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting our sponsors— they help keep things going here at CKHQ.