151930252The holiday season means a lot of travel for just about everyone, but for some, the holiday travel schedule is actually a bit of a break. I talked to some jet-setting influencers whose frantic travel schedules have them on the road for months out of the year attending conferences, visiting clients, and going to meetings. These are their top tips for navigating travel — whether for business or pleasure — like a pro.

(For all of their tips, check out this SlideShare or read on for some of the highlights.)

The Basics

First things first: Optimize your travel to earn those sweet, sweet frequent flier miles and points. Rack up points by joining the loyalty program for every brand you book travel with and try to stick to just one or two airlines and hotels so you’re not dispersing your points across too many programs. You can even consider using an airline or hotel brand’s credit card to really rack up points.

Nigel Fenwick of Forrester recommends a card that gives you airport lounge access, and says they’re worth the annual fees. Matt Mullen of 451 Research recommends sites like FlyerTalk and HeadForPoints for more tips around loyalty programs.

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Many of the seasoned travelers I talked to recommended setting your watch to your destination’s time zone as soon as you get to the airport in order to fight jet lag. This is unquestionably a better approach than my “don’t change my watch because I’ll just have to change it back in a week” method.

Joining the TSA’s PreCheck program was another common recommendation. The PreCheck program allows prescreened travelers a quicker and smoother airport security experience that doesn’t require removing your belt, shoes, or jacket. One influencer (who asked not to be named out of fear of TSA retaliation) said PreCheck “almost makes you feel like you’re not a criminal.” Sign me up! PreCheck costs $85 for five years, although some of those same credit cards that include lounge access (like the Amex Platinum card) also offer a reimbursement for PreCheck fees.

Luggage Gets Contentious

Turns out, what you do with your luggage is kind of a divisive issue. There are two schools of thought: checkers and carriers. Carriers prefer to fit all their stuff into a carry-on bag so they don’t have to wait at baggage claim or worry about bags getting lost between connecting flights. Not surprisingly, checkers would rather just check their luggage so they don’t have to schlep it through the airport. Both approaches have their merits, so make your own decision and feel content knowing that, either way, you have some experts on your side.

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Arianna Valentini of InfoTrends has her own spin on carry-on luggage, affectionately dubbed “the bag lady approach” by her friends. She carries a large tote with with many zip pouches: one for receipts (easy to find when doing expense reports later), one for liquids, and one filled with travel items like extra socks, lip balm, and tea bags.

Passing the Time

Often, the hardest part of traveling is just passing all that time up in the air.

Jake Sorofman of Gartner recommends an offline-accessible folder of reading material that can keep you busy even when you’re without cellular data or in-flight wifi.

Once the person in front of you leans their seat back, you can pretty much say goodbye to your chances of getting any work done on a laptop. Instead, Laura Nurzynski of IDC uses flight time to unwind by reading a business-related or personal-interest book or knitting. That way, she’s recharged and ready to tackle work head-on when she lands.

Jake mixes business and pleasure by setting work goals to accomplish in-flight and then rewarding himself with “a good book or a bad movie” when they’re all done.

Sometimes though, the best way to pass the time is just to get some shut-eye. If you have to take a red-eye flight, Nigel recommends eating dinner and taking a sleep aid before you board so you can spend the whole flight snoozing away.

Bon Voyage!

There you go: some tips to make your business travel this holiday season and beyond a little bit more painless. Have any tips of your own? Share them in the comments!

Oh, and don’t forget to set your out-of-office reply before heading out. Might as well make it a funny one, since anyone sending work emails while everyone else is enjoying the holidays will likely need the laugh.

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