Being in a strange place can be invigorating and eye-opening. Some of my favorite travel memories include an early-morning run along the Danube River in Budapest, touring the temples of Angkor Wat, and having late-night drinks and steak in Uruguay.
There have also been plenty of business trips where the only sites I saw were those visible from my hotel room window, because I was too busy running from one meeting to another.
Regardless of what type of trip you’re on, there are several steps you can take to ease an overseas journey. Here are 12 of my favorite international travel tips:
Hotel business cards. The first thing I do when arriving at a hotel overseas is take a business card from the front desk. That way, if I ever get lost, I have the name and address of the hotel in the local language. Large populations around the world speak English, but having something in a local language that I can show locals and taxi drivers is an extra bit of insurance.
Traveling by air can leave even the most seasoned traveler feeling helpless and trapped by the system. Between security lines and flight delays, there are many things out of our control when flying. But it doesn’t have to be a miserable experience. Smart travelers can take several steps before they fly to help solve any problems that creep up.
These five tips will make flying easier, even on the worst days:
Getting the Best Seat
A friend of mine who frequently flies between New York and Johannesburg on a South African Airways Airbus A340-600 always tries to get seat 73D. Why? It doesn't cost any more than other coach seats, but because of an emergency crew hatch on the floor there is no seat 72D. That means extra feet—not inches—of legroom.
This past summer, my fiancée and I stayed at a bed and breakfast. It was charming and had a great ocean view. But when she hopped out of the shower the first time, she discovered our room lacked a hair dryer.
As a frequent traveler, I was shocked. I’ve come to expect basic things from hotels: soap, shampoo, conditioner, and a hair dryer. Maybe I shouldn’t. Either way, this week I’m taking a look at some of my favorite hotel perks and some amenities that I think all lodgings should have.
Frequent travelers, it’s time to conquer our worst enemy: jet lag.
While there’s no easy way to completely beat jet lag, there are several steps you can take to ease the pain of crossing multiple time zones quickly.
Travel wasn’t always this difficult on our internal clocks. But each technological advancement in transportation also brought changes to our time management. When long-distance railroads took off, matching timetables with local times became a challenge. So in 1883, we created standardized time zones.
The advent of the jet age in 1958 brought a new problem. We suddenly could traverse several time zones faster than our bodies could adjust. Eight years later, the term “jet lag” appeared in the Los Angeles Times (the earliest recorded mention, according to Air & Space magazine).
The term caught on, of course. And, as we know, jet lag is particularly bad when flying east.
I’m writing this week’s column while riding Amtrak’s flagship train, the Acela Express, between Washington, D.C., and New York. In many ways, I love this train. But it can also disappoint me.
Let’s face it: Amtrak has to provide good enough service to have travelers pick it over flying, driving, or taking the bus, but it doesn't have to do much more. Multiple airlines and bus companies travel between Boston, New York, and Washington. But only one train line connects all three: Amtrak.
Staying in touch with your loved ones while on a business trip can be tough.
You want to maximize your limited time away, so you get up early, schedule meetings all day, then have a business dinner followed by cocktails. By the time you’re done and get back to your hotel room, your family might be long asleep and you’ve missed a chance to connect.
And that doesn’t even factor in long flights, time zone changes, and cell phone dead zones.
Any successful business traveler knows the value of meeting in person and how deals often come together over drinks or during the final minutes of an amazing basketball game.
Face time is just half the formula. Clients need to be entertained at venues designed to impress.
The extremely trendy restaurants—the ones that would really wow a client—book up 30 days in advance. But business meetings often come together at the last second. So here are some tips about how to get access to that impossible restaurant, show or sporting event.
Frequent-flier miles and hotel points are perks of life on the road—currencies that are supposed to make it all worthwhile. A string of stays at cookie-cutter convention hotels and side-of-the-road motels adds up to a free tropical family vacation at a jaw-dropping resort.
That’s the promise, at least.
Most frequent travelers know the ins and outs of these programs well. Some people even become obsessed with their mileage balance. But even the best pro can learn something new. Here are my favorite tips for some of the more obscure ways to earn and redeem miles. Feel free to add your own in the comments section below.
As any frequent traveler will tell you, there comes a point when all the rental cars, airline seats, hotel rooms, and even cities start to blur together. Sure, business travel can take us to exciting new destinations, but it can also—and frequently does—take us to cookie-cutter suburban office parks and nondescript hotels.
For me, the solution to breaking up the monotony is to find good meals. Food can be very comforting, and restaurants often provide a chance to (pardon the pun) get a taste for local culture.
One of my most memorable business trip meals came a few years ago in western Minnesota, near the South Dakota border. I was spending one night in a tiny prairie town surrounded by corn and soybean fields. Population: 740. Dining options: far fewer.