Here's a strategy that can work for everyone.
If there's anyone who has mastered the art and science of business travel, it's Lee Arnold, executive chairman of Colliers International Florida. Arnold travels across Florida and the United States, even to some international locations such as the Bahamas, in his own aircraft, a Beechcraft Baron.
Not only does he travel in the plane, he pilots it himself. Arnold, 67, has been flying since he was 15. He got his pilot's license at 16 and his commercial license at 18, and he worked as a flight instructor and charter pilot before getting involved in commercial real estate.
Arnold continues to fly his own plane to meetings a couple of times a week. But when he's not in the cockpit and has to fly commercial airlines, he flies business class, without fail — and makes no apologies for it.
“Sure, the flight might cost $800 more, but what's an executive worth to you if they're burned out? It sounds flippant to say that is just a little bit of extra money, but I think you can easily make an argument for the cost of first class,” he says. “When you're already paying executives a huge amount of money to be visible and effective in front of people, you've got to keep them healthy, and you've got to keep them happy. Otherwise, they're just wasting time.”
Arnold's key travel tips include:
Pack and prep: “I like making my own travel arrangements instead of having my assistant do it. It'll save time,” Arnold says. “Also, if you are packing, pack alone — your wife will add extra shirts that you don't need. And if you don't pack the right handkerchief, underwear, razor or whatever, so what? You can buy anything you need once you reach your destination.”
Arnold doesn't bother packing a business suit when he travels. “I don't pack my suit because they will hang it up for you in business class,” he says. “Also, I'm anti-tie, especially when traveling.” His travel attire usually consists of a black pair of pants made from a comfortable, denim-like material; a gray, custom, wrinkle-resistant sport coat made by Tom James that he can store in the overhead compartment; and a pair of New Balance light running shoes.
Time sensitive: Arnold usually takes a cab or Uber to the airport. If he has to drive himself, he always opts for valet parking because it saves him at least 20 to 30 minutes — valuable time that could be spent working. He also sets an alarm on his phone for 15 minutes before the flight is scheduled to take off, in case he gets involved in a conversation with a fellow traveler and loses track of the time.
Light and hydrate: Arnold always brings a small flashlight and extra water with him onboard. He recalls once being on a flight that had been grounded on the tarmac for seven hours. Water was rationed. “Bottled water is an absolute must,” he says. “Dehydration really has a negative impact on the body.”
The flashlight, Arnold says, will come in handy in cases of extreme emergency, like an airport shutdown. And yes, that's something he's experienced. “When I got off the airplane, nothing worked,” he says. “I go into the terminal and it's dark, so I turn on my flashlight and see all of these people huddled around, covering up their stuff because there's no police.”
Seat system: If given the chance to choose your seating assignment, always take it, Arnold recommends, regardless of the extra cost. You want to be as close to the front of the plane as possible, to speed your debarkation, and you don't want to be near the bulkhead because you won't be able to store items on the floor in front of you.
Hear this: Noise-canceling headphones or ear buds are also essential in-flight tools for the business traveler, in Arnold's book. “If you get a bad seat mate, put your headset on and go for glory,” Arnold says. “Just say, 'I'm sorry but I have to listen to this, it's really important.'”
Flight time: Arnold never takes red-eye flights unless absolutely necessary, due to their disruptive effects on the body and its natural circadian rhythms. “And don't take sleeping pills,” he says. “It's hard to put on an emergency oxygen mask if you're comatose.”
Research reports: Even if your trip is scheduled to last just a day or less, Arnold says it's essential to gather information about the city you'll be visiting. “If I'm landing in a convention city, I always rent a car ahead of time,” he says. “Otherwise, you'll risk winding up in a cab line.”
And don't overlook the effectiveness of public transit. During the aforementioned airport shutdown, Arnold says all vehicle traffic to the airport was blocked. But the trains were still running, so he jumped aboard the local metro line and before long was enjoying the comforts of his downtown hotel.
Stay calm, travel on: Arnold, who says business travel is “a science, and for me it's even a hobby,” is also adamant about practicing what he calls “relaxed travel.” If your luggage is delayed or lost, “go into Zen mode,” he says. “Don't allow negative things to take your eye off the ball.”
The golden age of truly luxurious air travel is gone — and likely never coming back — so the difference between a pleasant and unpleasant business trip experience is often attitudinal, Arnold adds.
“Business travel today is a constantly evolving challenge,” he says. “More people are traveling than ever before, and the planes are all full, so it's all about going into it with the right attitude, getting to the airport early and knowing what the weather is doing.”
Air up there
Lee Arnold's Business Travel Essentials (the short list):
• iPad Pro
• Bottled water
• Apple Wallet app (for storing boarding passes electronically)
• FlightAware app (allows travelers to track the whereabouts of the inbound jet that they'll be boarding for their outbound flight. Arnold says it's usually more accurate than flight status updates issued by airports and carriers.)
• Notability app (for storing PDFs, slides, meeting agendas, etc., electronically)
• Backup power packs for mobile phone and iPad Pro
• Five-way, quick-charge USB charger for mobile devices
• Executive travel backpack (instead of a briefcase)
• Small pocketknife for personal protection when traveling abroad (but be sure to pack it in your checked luggage rather than trying to carry it on)
• Moisturizing skin cream with SPF rating
• TED Talk podcasts
• Bose headphones
• iBooks app
• Wall Street Journal (digital edition downloaded to iPad)
• Earplugs or noise-canceling headphones
• Neck brace (for sleeping on long-haul flights)