Want to make your next trip a breeze?Here, 18 essential tips for road warriors. Plus, readers' picks for the World's Best business hotels
1. look sharp on the road
· Pack a steamer. Make a few quick sweeps with Travel Smart's Micro Pro Garment Steamer (www.franzus.com; $25), and your suit will be wrinkle-free.
· Most airports have showers that you can use for a small fee. A few worth checking out: the Hairport at San Francisco International Airport (650/876-1741; www.flysfo.com; $11); the Plaza Shower and Relaxation Lounge at Hong Kong International Airport (852/2261-2068; www.plaza-ppl.com; shower $9, nap-and-shower package $28); and the Plaza Premium Lounge at Singapore Changi Airport (65/6545-0388; www.plaza-ppl.com; $5).
· Just spilled coffee on your white shirt?Madame Paulette Professional Stain Removal Kit (www.madamepaulette.com; $10) will get rid of any spot—red wine, lipstick, even coffee. The kit contains three special formulas—one each for earth-based, protein-rich, and oily stains.
2. stay energized
Gayle Reichler, director of wellness coaching and nutrition services at Exhale Spa (with locations in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York), has three helpful tips for business travelers.
· Eat every three hours. Eating frequently keeps blood sugar at a steady level. Make sure to eat three balanced and healthful meals a day and snack on nuts, fruit, or yogurt between meals. Never skip a meal. If you think you won't have time for lunch, order something in advance from room service and take it with you.
· Drink six to eight glasses of water a day—not only to stay hydrated, but to avoid eating too much. "Oftentimes when people feel hungry, they're actually thirsty," says Reichler, who recommends drinking even more—preferably 16 ounces every hour—when you are flying, in order to fight jet lag.
· Avoid extra caffeine and sweets. Though a Frappuccino will initially give you a boost of energy, it will ultimately send your blood sugar crashing, leaving you even more exhausted than you were before you drank it.
3. condense clutter
Leave that jumble of gadget-chargers and plugs at home, and pack these two all-in-one solutions.
· Tumi's Deluxe Modem and Adaptor Kit (www.tumi.com; $95) packs every modem and electrical adaptor you'll need—from wall plugs to a broadband link—for up to 150 countries into a pair of two-by-two-inch adapters.
· Rev up all of your gadgets simultaneously with iGo's EverywherePower 7500 Series charger (www.igo.com; from $140). The sleek six-inch power block is infinitely customizable, with dozens of connector tips to fit your laptop, PDA, and MP3 player. Plus, it weighs only 13 ounces.
4. park on-line
Reserve a parking space through www.parknflynetwork.com, www.airport parkingreservations.com, or www.airportdiscountparking.com, all of which maintain lots at a host of domestic airports. The daily rate with Park 'N Fly for a space within walking distance of LAX's Terminal 1?Around $14. (Versus the airport's $30.)
5. take the train from the airport (it's quicker)
According to the International Air Rail Organization, 116 airports now have rail links, with another 250 planned or under construction. These trains cost a fraction of cab fare and they're not subject to the whims of traffic. Here, five of the newest lines around the world. For links to Web sites of other airport-to-city trains, log on to www.airportrailwaysoftheworld.com.
AIRPORT AND LINK Athens International Airport Metro Line 3 or Suburban Rail
DISTANCE AND TIME 20.5 miles to downtown; 41 and 37 minutes, respectively
DOWNTOWN SHOPS Metro Line 3 to various stops, including Syntagma Station. Suburbanline to Athens Central Railway Station.
ONE-WAY FARE $7.25
THE SKINNY New airport station for both lines opened just in time for 2004's Olympic Games.
AIRPORT AND LINK Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Metro Rail Service Hiawatha Line
DISTANCE AND TIME 8 miles to downtown; about 25 minutes
DOWNTOWN SHOPS Several stops, including the Nicollet Mall Station.
ONE-WAY FARE $1.50 ($2 weekday rush hours)
THE SKINNY Metro Rail's new Hiawatha Line continues beyond the airport to the Mall of America in Bloomington.
AIRPORT AND LINK Shanghai Pudong International Airport Shanghai Transrapid Maglev Line
DISTANCE AND TIME 18.8 miles to downtown; 8 minutes
DOWNTOWN SHOPS Direct to Long Yang Road Station.
ONE-WAY FARE $4.83 (with same-day plane ticket)
THE SKINNY The world's first commercial magnetic-levitation train can reach speeds of up to 287 mph.
AIRPORT AND LINK Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport Ben Gurion Airport Line
DISTANCE AND TIME 5.4 miles to downtown; about 10 minutes
DOWNTOWN SHOPS Several, including Tel Aviv HaHagana Station.
ONE-WAY FARE $2.64
THE SKINNY Runs from the new Terminal 3; service continues beyond Tel Aviv to Haifa, Acre, and Nahariya.
AIRPORT AND LINK Vienna International Airport City Airport Train
DISTANCE AND TIME 15 miles to downtown; 16 minutes
DOWNTOWN SHOPS Direct to City Air Terminal in the city center.
ONE-WAY FARE $10.87
THE SKINNY Nonstop trains have double-decker cars and special luggage racks.
6. get the right seat
A long flight can be a productive block of time—if your laptop battery doesn't run out of juice. While most airlines offer power access at every seat in first and business classes, only a few domestic airlines extend the service to coach. United Airlines offers power access at every seat on all flights between JFK and SFO, and JFK and LAX. (No adaptor required.) US Airways offers outlets via in-arm connectors at every seat on their Airbus A319, A320, A321, and A330 aircraft. Delta Air Lines offers power access at every seat on their 777, 737-800, and 767-400 aircraft. To find out where the power outlets are on your next flight, check www.seatguru.com, which shows the seat plans of more than 25 airlines. (With a wireless device you can access the site at mobile.seatguru.com.)
7. bring your own food
The demise of airline food on domestic flights has spurred a few smart companies to start selling box lunches to harried (and hungry) travelers. Passengers flying out of all Los Angelesarea airports can arrange gourmet meals, such as seared ahi tuna with avocado and spinach-walnut pesto on ciabatta ($27.95, including delivery), from SkyMeals (866/759-6325; www.skymeals.com). As long as you order by 5 p.m. the day before your flight, your sandwich will be delivered to your hotel or office, or curbside at the airport. SkyMeals is also aiming to serve other cities, including New York and Chicago. At press time, Starwich Express (866/942-4864; www.starwich.com) was planning to launch at Newark and Dulles; travelers at these airports can order their pomegranate-juniper-glazed chicken sandwich ($9) on-line or at a Starwich kiosk up to 45 minutes before takeoff. Meanwhile, two hotel chains have begun packing lunches for travelers: guests staying at any domestic W hotel can order from a Food on the Fly menu (800/625-5144; www.whotels.com), and Ritz-Carlton (800/241-3333; www.ritzcarlton.com) customers can take similar advantage of Flight Bites.
8. take advantage of airline lounges
One of the most useful perks of flying business-class is having entrée to your carrier's lounge. The best ones are more than places to get some work done in peace, such as Cathay Pacific's at Hong Kong International Airport—with its four restaurants, spa, and private cabanas with showers, beds, and oversized tubs. Cathay's facility, which also has high-speed wireless Internet access and 46 desks with computers, was ranked number one for business class on the London-based consultancy firm Skytrax's annual survey of travelers. Virgin Atlantic's Clubhouse at Heathrow in London and Gulf Air Lounge at Bahrain International Airport were the runners-up. For additional results, see www.airlinequality.com. Though not all lounges are created equal, even the most basic ones offer Internet access and a quiet place to work. If you're flying coach, $50 will buy you entrance to many domestic airlines' lounges—including those run by American, Continental, and Northwest.
9. carry it in style
The Bungo messenger bag from Knomo (www.knomobags.com; from $260), in black leather, includes both outer and inner pockets for gizmos, as well as a tuck-away cable compartment. Plus, it has a permanent "if lost" tag, which displays a unique ID code and a 24-hour international phone number for good Samaritans to call if they find your missing gear. A more svelte option, designed for 12- to 17-inch laptops, is Acme Made's Designer Slim (www.acmemade.com; from $150). Water-resistant and available in colorful stripes, plaids, and Eames-inspired patterns, it works on its own while remaining streamlined enough to fit into another bag. The splash-proof zippers, foam padding, and high-impact plastic inserts provide extra protection.
10. get the lowest business-class fares
Though they don't advertise it, airlines regularly discount business- and first-class seats. These Web sites consistently produce the best deals:
· Access Fares says it will save you up to 60 percent on published fares to international destinations. Sample round-trip business-class prices: $2,550 for a nonstop flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo; $2,850 for a one-stop flight from Chicago to London. You can also sign up for an e-mail newsletter with other special offers. www.accessfares.com; no fee.
· BestFares gives its members incredible prices for first-class seats on domestic flights—$398 round-trip from Dallas to Los Angeles, $308 from Boston to Las Vegas—plus a complimentary copy of Insider Travel Secrets by founder Tom Parsons. www.bestfares.com; $60 a year.
· Cheapflights now has a search function for business-class fares. The site tells you who's got which fares in the market (discounted rates are listed first, regular fares follow), then sends you directly to the supplier's site for booking. A seven-day advance-purchase business fare from Chicago to Frankfurt was $2,278 round-trip at press time. www.cheapflights.com; no fee.
· First-Air has three membership levels, from general (free access to basic discounts) to Chairman's Inner Circle ($10,000 a year for 35 percent off $120,000 worth of travel). We found a New YorkLondon business-class ticket for $4,821 round-trip, compared with a published fare of $7,914. www.1st-air.net; fees vary.
11. pack the best new gadgets
End the hunt for hot spots: Sony's VAIO T-Series (877/865-7669; www.sonystyle.com; $2,199) puts you on-line anywhere you get Cingular cellular service. The first fully wireless laptop, the inch-thin VAIO has Wi-Fi/Bluetooth, a 10.6-inch screen, a nine-hour battery, and a quad-band radio for speedy surfing.
2 The billfold-slim Nokia 9300 (888/256-2098; www.nokiausa.com; $500) is a tri-band smart phone with a full horizontal QWERTY keyboard and the ability to open e-mail attachments, MS Office spreadsheets, and graphics-heavy Web pages.
3 Palm's LifeDrive (800/881-7256; www.palm.com; $500), a new PDA, is much more than an organizer. With a 4GB hard drive and Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connectivity, the powerful data bank lets you check your e-mail while entertaining yourself with the MP3 player, voice recorder, and crisp, photo-friendly screen.
12. make the most of your layover
Relieve jet lag (and terminal boredom) at these airport pods, gyms and spas.
· power nap Escape the hubbub of the busy airport in a futuristic MetroNaps pod (778/858-7133; www.metronaps.com; $8 for 30 minutes, $12 for two hours), currently available in Vancouver International Airport's U.S. Departure Terminal, near gate 82. The pods, designed to block out light and—using Bose noise-canceling headphones—sound, may soon be at an airport near you. (The company is scoping out new locations around the globe.)
· Rev up At the Hilton O'Hare Athletic Club (773/601-1723; www.hilton.com; drop-in fee $11) in Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, between Terminals 2 and 3, you'll get all the facilities of a big-city gym—cardio equipment, weights, lap pool, and a steam room. There are even two massage treatment rooms and a tanning bed. Recover from the excesses of the Strip at 24-Hour Fitness (702/261-3971; www.24hourfitness.com; drop-in fee $10) in Las Vegas McCarran International Airport's Terminal 1, which has all the workout essentials, including cardio and resistance machines. For more airport gyms, see www.airportgyms.com.
· Luxuriate Spas are turning up at airports across the world—and they're not just in first-class lounges. The 1,000-square-foot Oasis Day Spa (718/995-9101; www.oasisdayspanyc.com) in JFK's JetBlue Terminal 6 offers a 15-minute "jet set" facial, an "aero" pedi, and a "floating on air" eye treatment. At Orlando International Airport's Main Terminal, the sleek, airy d_parture spa (407/825-7354) will put you at ease with treatments such as seaweed-extract facials and deep-tissue massages. (There's also a d_parture spa in Newark International Airport's Terminal C.) For more, visit www.spaindex.com and click on Lifestyles.
13. join the club
Here, five concierge floors that are worth the extra cost.
Percentage of Properties with Club Floors 48.
Extras Free in-room Internet access; private check-in/checkout; private lounge with free continental breakfast and afternoon and evening hors d'oeuvres; use of meeting rooms; coffee and tea service; newspaper delivered to your room; light secretarial and mail services. Added Cost over Standard Rates 3035 percent.
Percentage of Properties with Club Floors 70.
Extras Private club lounge; dedicated check-in/checkout; daily continental breakfast; evening cocktails and snacks; all-day coffee/tea service. Added Cost over Standard Rates 1030 percent.
Percentage of Properties with Club Floors 30.
Extras Private registration; early check-in/late checkout; lounge with free daily buffet breakfast and evening cocktails and snacks; free Internet access at business center; space for private meetings. Added Cost over Standard Rates 30 percent.
Percentage of Properties with Club Floors 95.
Extras Dedicated concierge; five food-and-beverage spreads each day; business-center services; exclusive-key access to floor. Added Cost over Standard Rates 3040 percent.
Percentage of Properties with Club Floors 95.
Extras Private lounge with free breakfast and evening hors d'oeuvres. Added Cost over Standard Rates 1235 percent.
14. take the fast lane
Be the first to volunteer your biometric information in exchange for sailing through security. Though enrollment for the Transportation Security Administration's Registered Traveler pilot project has closed, Orlando International Airport's program, Clear Registered Traveler (www.flyclear.com), is taking applicants. To qualify for Clear, which is run by Steven Brill's Verified Identity Pass, Inc., Lockheed Martin, and the TSA, travelers pay $80, apply on-line, then submit their fingerprints and iris images at the airport. Approved members will receive a smart card within two weeks. Clear will likely be expanding to airports nationwide.
15. join guest-loyalty programs
Many travelers don't know it, but as soon as you sign up for a hotel's frequent-stay club, you'll get instant perks. The following five companies have programs that give you great benefits the moment you become a member.
HOTEL Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
PROGRAM Fairmont President's Club; 800/ 663-7575; www.fairmont.com
INSTANT BENEFITS Express check-in/out; airline miles; daily newspaper; free local phone calls; free gym access; shoe shine (at some hotels); discount on in-room Internet access; special offers.
UPPER-LEVEL MEMBERSHIP Premier members (5 stays/10 nights a year) get concierge service, spa access, room upgrades, bonus air miles, and $100 dining certificates. Platinum members (10 stays/30 nights) get three free nights, early arrival/late checkout, one ski lift ticket or massage or round of golf, and extra free nights based on total stays.
HOTEL Hyatt Hotels & Resorts
PROGRAM Hyatt Gold Passport; 800/228-3360; www.goldpassport.com
PROPERTIES 453 (Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, AmeriSuites, Hawthorn Suites)
INSTANT BENEFITS Points toward free stays (with no blackout dates) or airline miles; daily newspaper and coffee or tea; free gym access; check-cashing privileges; late checkout; special offers.
UPPER-LEVEL MEMBERSHIP Platinum members (5 stays/15 nights a year) get a 15 percent point bonus and a certificate for extra benefits after every third stay. Diamond members (25 stays/50 nights) get a 30 percent point bonus, welcome gift, upgrade to club room, and guaranteed room availability with 72-hour notice.
HOTEL Inter Continental Hotels Group
PROGRAM Priority Club Rewards; 888/211-9874; www.priorityclub.com
PROPERTIES 3,500 (Inter Continental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, and more)
INSTANT BENEFITS Points toward free stays(with no blackout dates) or airline miles; late checkout; weekday newspaper; special offers.
UPPER-LEVEL MEMBERSHIP Gold level (15 nights a year, or an upgradefor $50) gets a 10 percent point bonus and priority check-in. Platinum level (50 nights) gets a 50 percent point bonus, room upgrade at check-in, and guaranteed room availability with 72-hour notice.
HOTEL Marriott International
PROGRAM Marriott Rewards; 800/450-4442; www.marriottrewards.com
PROPERTIES 2,500 (Marriott, JW Marriott, Renaissance, Courtyard, and more)
INSTANT BENEFITS Points toward free stays or airline miles; priority check-in; special offers.
UPPER-LEVEL MEMBERSHIP Silver members (10 nights a year) get weekend discounts, late checkout, and 20 percent point bonuses. Gold members (50 nights) get lounge access, daily breakfast, and room upgrades. Platinum members (75 nights) get arrival gifts and guaranteed room availability with 48-hour notice.
HOTEL Starwood Hotels & Resorts
PROGRAM Starwood Preferred Guest; 888/625-4990; www.spg.com
PROPERTIES 733 (St. Regis, Westin, Sheraton, W, Four Points by Sheraton, and more)
INSTANT BENEFITS Points toward free stays (with no blackout dates) or airline miles; room upgrades for 1,000 points; special offers.
UPPER-LEVEL MEMBERSHIP Gold members (10 stays or 25 nights a year) get a 50 percent point bonus, automatic room upgrades, daily newspaper, late checkout, and check-cashing privileges. Platinum members (25 stays/50 nights) get best available room at check-in, concierge service, and use of hotel gyms and club floor amenities.
16. work it out
Since staying in shape is one of the biggest challenges for road warriors, we asked Michael Olajide Jr., the fitness expert behind New York's new Aerospace High Performance Center (www.aerospacenyc.com)—the first machine-free gym in Manhattan—for his ideal 20-minute hotel-room workout. The best thing about it?The only equipment you'll need is a jump rope. Note: If your room is too small for jumping rope, sub in jumping jacks or running in place.
7 a.m. Warm up by stepping from left to right, then shuffling from side to side on your toes, boxer-style. With your hands by your side, do a series of jumping jacks using just your arms. Then add your legs.
7:02 Pick up your jump rope. Tune the radio to a station you like and jump for the length of one song (three to four minutes).
7:06 Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed forward, arms out in front of you. Keeping your back straight, your butt out, and your abs tight and tucked, do 50 squats.
7:07 Begin jumping rope to a new song. After eight basic jumps, try eight hops on one foot, return to the basic jump for a count of eight, then do eight on the opposite foot. Repeat for the length of the song.
7:11 Starting with both feet together, lunge forward with the left leg. Your knee should be just above or slightly behind your heel. Hold the position and pulse down for 30 counts. Repeat with the right leg.
7:12 Pick up your rope and begin with a basic jump, then switch to a running step, raising the knees high, for the length of a song (one turn of the rope per step).
7:16 Step side to side to catch your breath and lower your heart rate. Drop to the floor and do as many basic push-ups as you can. When you feel as if you're done, do five more.
7:18 Lie on your back, legs straight, toes pointed forward. Keeping your elbows wide, place your fingers behind your ears. Start with a basic crunch: Raise your shoulders slightly off the floor while breathing out and squeezing your abs. Do as many as you can, and for the last eight, lift your upper body as high as possible.
17. keep your data safe
You need never worry about losing vital information on your computer with RedCannon's new Fireball Keypoint Crypto Mobile Storage USB drive (510/498-4100; www.redcannon.com; $99). The 256 MB memory stick employs government- endorsed advanced encryption standard protection; it also has a self-destruct feature that erases the contents if a thief repeatedly tries to break in. Toshiba's new Portégé R200 (800/316-0920; www.toshibadirect.com; $2,099), a zippy, 12-inch laptop, has a biometric fingerprint reader that safeguards your passwords, and a shockproof hard drive that stops spinning if you drop the computer.
18. plug your ears
Shure's E4c in-ear buds (www.shurestore.com; $300) form a seal in your ear canal, isolating sound and blocking noise twice as well as over-the-ear, noise-canceling headphones. Plus, they are ultra-portable.
9:25 A.M., DELTA MAIN CROWN ROOM, BOSTON LOGAN INTERNATIONAL
Criminal-justice consultant, flying to his home in Jacksonville, Florida.
Where are you now? Delta's lounge—it's more relaxed and has nice bathrooms. Plus, in this one, you can look out at the terminal and see what's going on.
What are you doing? I'm in the middle of checking my e-mail and balancing my checkbook. That way, when I get home I can spend more time with my wife.
Are you for or against in-flight cell phones? I'm not okay with people having access to cell phones. It's already noisy enough, and I don't want to have to listen to other people's conversations. Plus, no one can reach me when I'm flying—it's my excuse to not be working.
What's in your briefcase? I never go anywhere without my HP laptop, iPod shuffle, Bose headphones, and a good book (currently, I'm reading The Call of the Wild by Jack London).
Any travel tips? I always get to the airport extra early, because you never know what to expect security-wise. For example, in Boston I discovered that they have a shorter line for Crown Room Club members, so next time I'll arrive a little bit later.
11:30 A.M., DELTA SATELLITE CROWN ROOM, BOSTON LOGAN
Marketing consultant, flying to Atlanta, where her company has an office.
What do you never leave home without? I'm addicted to my BlackBerry—or CrackBerry. It goes everywhere with me, even on vacation. Unfortunately, it doesn't work in flight, but I've tried!
Any great travel tips? I always try to park in the same spot in the airport lot, so I don't forget where my car is, and I carry a briefcase with pockets I can access while it's on my shoulder so I can easily hand over my driver's license.
10 A.M., DELTA SHUTTLE GATE, BOSTON LOGAN
Cofounder of a nonprofit journalism organization, on his way to New York City for a conference at Newsweek.
What do you think of the new terminal? It's cleaner and brighter than the old one, and there's more space to spread out and work. Though you still have to pay for Wi-Fi.
Did you go through the explosives trace portal, or puffer? No. But I have found that navigating airport security has gotten easier over the last four years. Everything is much more streamlined.
What's in your backpack? My laptop and a brand-new iPod.
What do you think about using cell phones on planes? Obviously, it would be very convenient, but also a nuisance for everyone around you. If there's a way to allow people to talk for a certain period of time—maybe the first 30 minutes and the last 30 minutes of the flight—and then keep the middle of the flight quiet, that would be very helpful.
Oasis Day Spa
Hilton O'Hare Athletic Club
Ideal for those who spend more time in the air than on the ground, the Hilton Chicago O’Hare Athletic Club is actually located inside O’Hare International Airport, within walking distance of all terminals. Become a member and enjoy 8,000 square feet of workout space filled with free weights, resistance machines, and cardio equipment such as treadmills and ellipticals, each of which features a built-in personal TV. After sweating out toxins, patrons can relax in the sauna and Jacuzzi or book a private massage.
Camping has its charms, but a wet tent and a hard mattress don't always add up to the pampered vacation you deserve. Don't you just wish you could take a cushy hotel room right along with you to the countryside?
The Green Market
Located inside Changi Airport in Terminal 2’s Departure/Transit Lounge, the Green Market is a casual eatery serving contemporary Japanese cuisine. The dining room is stylish and inviting, with a hardwood floor, dome-shaped light fixtures, and bright green wall art. The restaurant has both a la carte and prix fixe menus, which include breakfast items, afternoon tea, and desserts like the signature chocolate flan. There’s also an all-you-can-eat salad and appetizer buffet, and pack-and-go meals for travelers in a hurry. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the restaurant.
Plaza Shower and Relaxation Lounge
Long flights and extended layovers take their toll on the traveler, and for a fee, this airport location provides some much-needed relaxation and relief. Operated by Plaza Premium Management, which manages four lounges of varying sizes in the airport, this pay-in lounge is open 24 hours. Prices are affordable, allowing travelers to spend some time sprucing up in “Beauty Corner” stations, take a hot shower, and stretch out in one of the multiple nap areas until it’s time to take to the skies.