After more than twenty years of sales travel experience here are a few tips I've learned along the way.
1) Always have a "go" bag ready. Ever see those movies featuring an assassin or spy who gets "made" and has to leave the country on a moment's notice? They always have one of those bags at their hotel room or locker at an airport that has their passport, a change of clothes, a wad of cash and all the necessities for travel? Put one together for yourself now! Hopefully you'll never get called into corporate HQ or an emergency meeting at a major client site half a continent away at the last minute. But you never know. As for your "go" bag, make sure it's ready to go! Are its wheels and handles in good shape? If not, replace it immediately! Having to carry your luggage around because of a broken wheel or handle will drain your energy when you need it most. Back strain, pulling a shoulder muscle or getting a stiff neck can all put a "stop" in an otherwise enjoyable trip; just because you cheaped out when it came to your go bag!
2) Pack as light as possible. In an emergency you can always buy a needed essential on the road. Chances are that wherever you are going, there will be stores there too! That few extra pounds of luggage can be a big difference! (see cartoon below) If at all possible, DO NOT CHECK YOUR BAGS!!! This one mistake causes the most trouble for business travelers!!! Your luggage could get lost, damaged, or stolen. Major delays in getting your bags off the plane and on to a pick up carousel can cause you to miss meetings, or at least put you in a bad mood, which isn't good for business. Guess again if for one minute you think all those union workers between you and your ultimate destination care about your schedule or the condition of your luggage!
3) Once you've cleared check-in or customs, buy yourself a bottle of water to take with you on the plane. If you're stuck on the tarmac for hours, that drink could be a life saver. As an aside there have been a few studies suggesting that the water available on the plane may not be as bacteria free as your body is used to. Ditto for the ice cubes. If the meeting is important enough, why take chances?
4) Ever eaten plane food? Probably the same companies that cater hospital food but without the nutritional requirements, cater airplane food. Simply try to schedule your flight times so you do not have to eat in the air. If it's a long flight, buy a sub or sandwich from a recognizable restaurant chain at the airport and take it with you. The food will be more nutritious, better tasting and cheaper for you too! The selection at most airports will trump anything your airline will be able to offer you.
5) Pick aisle seats. You get off the plane quicker, and you can get up at any time you like to stretch your legs. I've haven't read any stats to prove it, but intuition dictates that in those plane crashes where only a few people survive, I'd be willing to bet the vast majority had aisle seats.
6) Know your terminal! If you have a connecting flight, it's important to plan your route from your arrival gate to departure gate, especially if the time gap between the two is a small one. That airline magazine that's in the seat pocket in front of you? It should contain a map of your destination terminal. A minute invested here, can save you several minutes and potentially a missed flight later.
7) When scheduling your flights, try to never select the last flight of the day. Any cumulative delays during the day will affect the last flights of the day the most. Flight crews, ground crews and even pilots tend to make most of their mistakes and are in less of a good mood at the end of their day. It's only human nature.
That's it folks! Happy travels!!! Remember, when it comes to your career or your airline travel, the sky's the limit!