This column originally appeared on Inc.
As we approach the end of the year, many business owners are beginning to reflect on 2016 to assess what worked and what didn’t, and derive lessons to improve in and prepare for 2017.
For me, that meant reflecting on a year filled with an incredible amount of travel. In crunching the numbers from my itineraries and my travel apps, I found that I had covered far more ground than I even estimated.
In the last 12 months, I traveled more than 110,000 miles, spending more than 250 hours in 56 plane seats, and visiting 7 countries in the process. I spent more than 79 days away from home, and rested my head in 38 hotels. (I created an infographic with these and some other shocking stats from this year, too.)
And all this adventure has taught me more than expected. Here are some of the lessons, both philosophical and tactical, learned in transit.
Travel Problems Happen. Don’t Stress; Prepare.
You will probably miss a flight. You will definitely be delayed. You may need to reschedule a trip. You might have an unexpected detour landing in another airport. Worrying about these things only deprives you of joy in the interim, so try not to stress about scheduling problems or other changes to your itinerary. Instead, do what you can to mitigate their impact ahead of time. To that end…
Avoid Travel On “The Big Day”
See above. Your plans will change and nature will intervene. If you’re cutting it too close, this could be a major issue. On a recent flight to Berlin, my plane was rerouted because of weather and I arrived nearly 12 hours later than planned. Thankfully, I didn’t miss my event because I purposely planned to arrive a full day before my speaking engagement. Had I planned to arrive the same day, or the night before, I might have missed it altogether. Whenever possible, plan to arrive the day before your big meeting or event, so that your trip won’t get derailed by a change of plans. Better yet, you’ll have time to adjust to a time change or recover from travel and go into your big event refreshed and well-rested.
Pay More For Direct Flights
It’s tempting to choose a cheaper flight that includes a layover over a more expensive direct flight, but the savings aren’t always worth the added stress and downtime. Layovers not only add a new opportunity for missed flights and bag transfers, but they can also add new rounds of time-consuming security checks and additional expensive airport meals. If you have to opt for a layover because of your schedule or budget, then at least choose a longer layover. Yep, you read that right. It’s counter-intuitive, but this makes it less likely that you’ll miss your connection, and gives you time to settle in and get some work done between flights.
Have A “Go Bag”
I’ve shared some of my secrets for effective packing in a past Inc. column, but by far the best choice I made before embarking on a year with this much travel was investing in a “go bag.” By having a travel bag packed with duplicates of my most important items (from chargers and business cards, to toiletries and gym shoes), I’ve eliminated the need for expensive airport and hotel purchases of forgotten items, and dramatically reduced the packing and prep time for each trip. This also means I’m ready for any last minute invites or emergency travel that I didn’t anticipate.
TSA Precheck and Global Entry Are Worth Every Penny
If you’re planning to take more than three trips in the coming year, and your home airport participates in TSA Precheck, it’s absolutely worth the time and money to get yourself on the list. I can’t even tell you how many hours I’ve saved by skipping security lines and getting to keep my bags packed and shoes on. If you’re doing any international travel, Global Entry will let you skip the customs inspection and waiting line on your way back into the US, and doing that even once will prove its value.
Invest In A Re-usable Water Bottle
Flights are dehydrating, and airport water is expensive. Like, $5-a-bottle expensive. Invest in a decent re-usable water bottle or travel mug that you can empty before heading through security and refill at a water fountain in the terminal. You can also have the flight attendants fill it for you, saving you from having to get your teensy on-board cup refilled multiple times.
Travel Time Isn’t Down Time. Make Things Happen.
I know it’s hard to justify paying $7 or $20 for wifi on a flight when you can zone out with an in-flight movie or take a nap, but if you’re a busy entrepreneur, reclaim that precious working time. Think about how much your time is worth — whether you bill hourly or not — and then consider how much value you can bring to your company, you business, or your clients in that time. Uninterrupted travel time is a gift. Take it and run with it.