Traveling at any time of the year can be challenging, but summer adds levels of complexity that can undermine the most thoroughly planned, well thought out trip.
Little “events” can turn a simple business trip into a travel nightmare. Airlines and hotels operate at peak capacity; cab lines are lengthy; and trains, normally manageable, become overrun with tourists, especially teenage travelers on summer school trips.
Here are three cardinal rules to help avoid the major pitfalls of summer travel (all of which I have learned the hard way):
When in doubt, throw money at the problem
Most tourists travel on budgets. So do business travelers. In most cases, you can outspend the tourist. For example, while you may not typically arrange for ground transportation to and from airports, train stations, etc., during the summer, the incremental cost to avoid long wait times will save you and your company money and headaches. The extra $20 to $50 you may spend on a ride from the airport may save you an hour or longer in wait time. Calculate your “hourly rate” — the calculation will compel you to spend the cash.
Embrace the TSA
Apply for both pre-check and for global entry (if you travel internationally) with the Transportation Security Administration. Pre-check lets you sail through security by simply emptying metal objects from your pockets. Liquids, laptops — they all stay in your bag and shoes remain on your feet. With the exception of Reagan National Airport, pre-check lines are typically miniscule. At the cost of $100 (funding a background check), global entry enables you to breeze through the immigration process by using electronic kiosks, thus avoiding endless lines.
At busier airports like JFK and LAX, global entry will have you off to your final destination hours ahead of less savvy travelers. If you qualify for global entry, pre-check comes as a side benefit.
Upgrade at all costs
Since 2008, most companies have limited travel expenditures to economy-class fares and hotel stays unworthy of airtime on “Pimp My Crib.” With economy-class passengers squished into sardine-like conditions (try opening your laptop), navigating into business or first class can mean the difference between uninterrupted work, relaxation or completing the Sudoku puzzles in the airline magazine.
Your time is valuable, whether you work on a plane or take a much-needed break. Use miles or pay the incremental difference to upgrade. If this is not an option, you owe it to yourself to buy a “plus” seat (see Rule No. 1) — the extra room will dramatically augment your economy-class experience.
On trains, the difference between first and second class may mean the difference between you sitting comfortably or standing. Note that in Europe, you can and should reserve seating — on a crowded train (all trains are crowded during the summer) the reserved seat could save you from the onslaught of teenagers with indulgent luggage who are switching train cars at will to be with their friends.
One final piece of advice — the key to any great travel experience is patience, patience and more patience. Happy and safe travels!