'Up in the Air' Quick & Dirty Guide to Biz Travel
MightyAtom, Aug 31 2010
I will write a series of three, starting now finishing today (please, I hope I will) based on a comment brought about by TL user 'zatic' in that his life and my own to some degree are reflected in the movie 'Up in the Air' in that we travel so damn much that we pretty much are uber gosu at just business travel.
This shares my personal know-how on business travel and how I deal with or get by.
Now, in the movie, 'Up in the Air', George Clooney, plays this management consultant who's job it is to 'can' employees of different companies when these companies have opted to 'downsize'. So he travels the entire US, which is huge and he travels like 340 days of the year (which is really excessive). I think it is a pretty accurate movie, in terms of his 'travel tips' but its not universally applicable. He makes day trips, in that his duties are only 1 or 2 days in a location; while other consultants make trips that are three weeks or even six weeks in a single location. He is only based in the US, so he only takes regional flights (what a pussy, just kidding), so the procedures can be different. His schedule is quite set up in advance, I've had a 2 day trip extend to three weeks, seriously. So the tips of this guide are from my experience with being with PwC and what I've picked up from over the years. It is in no particular order so here goes:
1. Jet Lag is for noobs: Whenever I hear some corporate international wannabe complain about jet lag and then other other noobs also join in and ask how do you deal with it, I don't participate in those discussions, I automatically realize that they are entry level noobs. Why? because if you really do travel internationally from continent to continent and you really are that busy: 1. You don't sleep very much anyways, maybe 4-5 hours a night or whenever you can get it (usually on the plane or taxi ride to and from the airport). 2. So, you're never jet lagged because you're always fielding emails from Asia or EU or Americas, 3 and if you are jet lagged off the plane that means that you didn't sleep on the plane and you ate the food and wine and watched all the movies, because you love the feeling of being in business class and like to flirt with the stewardesses because you think that they think you're a young hot shot flying in business, but they know that you are just an entry level noob because the really powerful guys are either lights out the entire trip or much older and are flying out for meetings not to work.
2. The sexiest stewardess in Asia are on Korean Air, Asiana and Eva Air and I guess Singapore Airlines is not bad as well. Unfortunately, I fly mostly Cathay Pacific because I use Hong Kong as my main hub for most flights and to the UK, it is very hit & miss. While you do sleep, having these stewardess around, just make sleep all that more comfortable.
3. Focus on one airline loyalty card system, and try to get as many 'platinum' credit cards as possible. If you spread out your loyal air miles to a number of different airlines, you'll never get good service and by good service I mean they actually hold up the plane for you by 10 mins when you are mad driving to the airport, that kind of good service. Also with Visa or MasterCard, you can get a lot of discounts, such a car rentals, air port lounges, free pick up, drop from the hotel. Once you achieve a level of air miles status, the 3 hour rule does not apply to you, its more like 1 and a half rule because you have no line up. So after you achieve your gold status or whatever, even if you are not flying business class, you still can just pass the line up with your card and even if you are in economy for a short haul flight, they will usually ask if you want to get your food first so you can eat then sleep right away. Also, the higher up you are, whenever the flight is fully booked in economy, you always get bumped up to business first to make room for the economy passengers on stand-by.
4. Hotel service can be pretty standard and well known, but REPEAT service where they know you are a repeat customer varies a lot. I don't care if its the W hotel, 6 star, if they don't remember that I've been there 3 times in the last 5 months and just treat me like I'm a first timer, even if is such unbelievable service. The service I'm looking for is ultra ultra quick check in and check out with zero hassles. They know me, they have my passport on file, my phone number, by business card, my room preference. I don't give a crap about the rose and fruit they leave on my bed or how many times during the day they clean my room (at the better hotels, every time you leave the room, they remake it). I just want to be able to check in and out as quickly as possible, so there rarely is any information on being a returning customer that is recognized as such. If you've gone to hotel more than 3 times in half a year and they still don't know who you are or don't' try to make things quicker, then don't' bother going back.
5.When in packing, always pack less then you need on a trip, except for socks and underwear. If you are on a business trip, pack light, but don't' under pack. I'm not a big fan of just carrying a 'carry on' for my trips, I plan on trying to go to the gym and at this point I have friends in every city I visit so I will go out socially. So I'm all for check-in luggage, but you need to pack the essentials. 2 ties, 2 pairs of cuff links and 3 white shirts, and 1 suit with 2 pants, your cologne and hair products (any one looking like a scruff while travelling to show how wore down they are are should take a vacation or stay at home) and everything dry cleaned before the trip. Next, for every day you'll be out, that many socks and underwear plus 3. There is NOTHING more terrible than having to wash your socks/underwear on the road, because if you know if you've run out, you always run out at the worst time and its Asia, you will take off your shoes at one time, meetings will run longer than expected and if you have been wearing the same suit for week without cleaning, dirty socks and underwear will make it unbearable. But in terms of casual clothes, always bring one set of gym clothes and running shoes and 2 sets of going out clothes.
But key to this is: whenever you finish your meetings, or going out for whatever, whenever you get back to your hotel room, take off all your pants, suit and hang it up immediately and just be in your underwear or bathroom in the room. Never stay longer in your 'outside' clothes longer than you have too, and NEVER fall asleep in your clothes, no matter how wasted you are.
6. You need to be strategic about your dry cleaning of your clothes. Now hotel dry cleaning can be expensive but it is 100% expense when it is express service like 25 dollars a pair of pants and you can't expect miracles. Find out what is the dry cleaning policy, do they do it in the hotel, do they send it out, etc.
7. EMERGENCY HAND CLEANING AND DRYING INSTRUCTIONS: These instructions are copyrighted by me, so if you use it,( and one day, you will) its because you weren't strategic about your dry cleaning and you didn't pack properly or your flight got delayed and now you don't' have time cause you just got in a 3am and your meeting is at 8:30 am and this is your 3rd city in 5 days. You don't' have any clean underwear, socks, or shirt, everything you have smells and you expecting to do some express dry cleaning, but now you can't cause you got in at 3am instead of 1pm that day. Don't worry, I am your guru, but you must promise that when you use this you say, "Mighty Atom is my Diamond level guru of business' lol. Ok. Noob what to do.
FOR ONLY 1 DRESS SHIRT, 1 T-SHIRT, 2 Underwear and 2 pairs of socks. DO NOT EXCEED AMOUNTS!
(a) when you check in, tell them to bring an ironing board and iron to your room immediately.
(b) turn on the hot water in your sink or bath tub, make it hot for one and make it warm for another.
(c) before you turn it on the water, take out a bar of that hotel soap and put it at the bottom of each sink/tub you are using, then turn on the water.
(d) as the water is running throw in your clothes, whites in the hot water and colours in the warm water and then swish them around with your hand so they get wet as quickly as possible. then find the 'shower gel' and put it under the running water of each tub/sink so that it becomes all foamy immediately when it hits the water. Now..if you have stains, then put the shower gel directly on the stain first before putting it in the water and rub it in hard, then toss into the water.
(e) put enough water as to just cover over the clothes completely.
(f) now swish it all around with you hand for about 3 mins and then take the wet clothes and rub me against each other under the water for about a minute.
(g) now go wash your hands, and set up your lap top and internet and do some emails and work to prepare for the meeting tomorrow.
(h) after about 20 mins, go back to the clothes and drain. The water will be either grey in the whites, or dark blue or whatever in the colours (colours always bleed in the warm water, don't' worry about it and even if you mixed it in with the whites, unless it was brand new colours, it will be fine).
(i) now rinse your cloths by putting everything the tub and washing with cold water, separate all the clothes and just press the water out, and twist gently for the dress shirt and hard for the socks and underwear.
(j) now fill the tub up again with cold water, until its covers the clothes again and go back and start working again.
(k) now after 10 mins, swish the clothes around to get as much as the dirty water out for 30 seconds, then drain the water out of the tub and twist the crap out of the socks and underwear by grabbing as much as you can first then twisting that, then half as much, then leave them on the side of the tub with one side longer than the other. After 10 mins, more water will pool to the longer side and you can twist it again.
(l) Now with the dress shirt, DO NOT TWIST IT hard, just FOLD it up nicely until its quite thick, then gently twist it unless there is no more coming out, then open it up and snap it as if it was a wet towel (but using both hands) out in front of you. You should manage to get water spots all over the mirrors and walls of the wash room and keep doing it until there is no more mirco water drops coming off of it.
(m) OK DAVE, this crap is pretty obvious. YEAH NOOB I know, but here is the patented corporate process....Ok, everyone knows, its drying that is the bitch and the beast, so now you have your socks, underwear and shirt. Now what most people will do is: twist the absolute crap out if, then using a hair drying to dry or or using a dry iron. BOTH OF WHICH WILL TAKE YOU AN HOUR OF YOUR TIME AT LEAST. What you need to do is: get all the bathrobes and clean towels together.
Lay flat, 1 long bath towel on the bed, then lay flat your wet dress shirt on the towel for the full length, then lay 2 wash towels over it that as as sandwich, then proceed to tightly roll up the towel shirt sandwich from the bottom until it becomes this single roll of a thick towel sheet, then you put it on the floor, then you STEP ALL OVER IT, putting your full weight on it, until the towel's surface becomes completely wet through, then it should look like a slightly flatten roll. Then take out, and do it again, but this it, it is likely, it won't soak all the way through, now find the driest place you can find the room,by the heater or whatever and leave it there. Repeat for the socks and underwear. The pressure from your body weight and the absorbency of the towels will make it as absolutely dry as possible, just simply damp, but let the towel continue to suck out the moisture. DO NOT USE TOILET PAPER or PAPER TOWEL, the toilet paper will dissolve and the paper towel's fibres will make you itchy like hell. yes, true insider info, lol.
Now go to sleep for 2 hours because without sleep you'll look unprofessional, like shit and you need sleep for your brain to function. Its now 4:30, get a morning call for 6:00 AM, set the room alarm for 6:05 and your phone alarm for 5:55, 6:00, 6:15, 6:30 & 7:00 am. Now sleep you poor pathetic bastard.
(n) As soon as you wake up from the phone alarm, you may not be completely awake, but now its enough to 100% take the morning call and hit snooze on the hotel room alarm clock and your phone. Don't' think, just go into the shower and turn it on and before you pass out, wash your hair first, then pass out. Now you'll hear your 6:15 alarm, get out, and use the bathrobe to dry yourself with, shave and brush your teeth immediately, and put on the semi-wet bath towel and set up the ironing board and iron.
(o) LOOK AT THE IRON, IS IT AN OLD ONE, DOES IT HAVE WHITE CALCIUM STAINS IN ITS STEAM HOLES, IS THE FACE OF THE IRON CLEAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DoN'T forget this to check. Take your hotel tooth brush and just check it (use the brushes over the steam holes), and make sure all the old water is out of it. Then turn it on and do a test run on one of the semi-wet towels from the night before, if its fine, then great, if not, then by running it on the semi-wet towel, will clean the face.
(p) Set the Iron to its highest setting and then take out the dress shirt. and wow, its almost dry, just a bit damp (MightyAtom=demi-god) and now you just iron it as you normally would, but do it slower in your movements, unless you see with every pass steam coming out, when by the 3rd pass, the steam is much less, then your done, now quickly air out the dress shirt, put it on a hanger and let it hang. You think its still wet, but it's not, just a bit damp, but the heat of the iron will still be evaporating the last of it, STOP WASTING TIME NOOB, the clock is ticking. The 6:30 alarm as gone off 10 mins ago, and its now 6:40. Take out the socks and underwear and just put the iron on top of it and PRESS HARD. then repeat, then flip over the socks/underwear and repeat on a dry part of the ironing board, and PRESS HARD until there is very very little steam coming off, air it out one by snapping it around in the air, and do it one last time, ONCE, then air it out and put it on. 'But its still damp MightyAtom' well you have no choice noob, it will dry out on your body and its clean and you are clean.
(q) now you're still in your bathrobe, sit down and check your email and crap like that and now your alarm goes off, its 7 am, the bottom of your bathrobe is now a bit from the dampness of your underwear, but now it not damp enough to make any mark in your dress pants.
(r) Now put on your shirt, its a bit cool, but after your body heats it up, it is virtually dry, and now your pants and jacket, now go down starts and with your iron shirt and clean socks and underwear and eat a light breakfast of juice, coffee and a chocolate croissant with your stinky loser of a senior manager and know one day very soon you will over throw his rule or get transfer to a better division and pass his loser ass behind.
DAMN I thought I was gonna run out of alphabets!
8. When possible, give cash for hotel deposits or the minimum. Signing for stuff in theory is good if you are going to be there a while, but if you have multiple trips, what the is going to happen is your credit card will be maxed out, even if you don't' actually spend the credit limit. Why? Because when the hotel holds an amount for deposit, if you haven't exceeded the deposit, then that hold from the hotel on that amount will stay on for a period of 3 to 7 days. So even if haven't spent all the credit, you're credit is being held by the previous hotels anyways and you might get into some embarrassing situations. So, ask them, what is the minimum, can I use cash, can you phone the credit card company now to take off the hold, etc.
9.Your credit cards are your life line. now it goes without saying, but, YOU SHOULD NEVER EVER FUCK YOUR CREDIT CARDS UP. NEVER. NEVER!!!!! If you have, try to get one approved, by anywhere and cherish that card and NEVER, let it get into default. Meaning, if you dumb-ass are just paying the minimum on your credit cards a month, then you are not suitable for professional business whatsoever. You should be paying off all your credit cards to zero every month or a plan to do so when your expenses come in. So getting back to this: for personal finances, just one or two credit cards are good. But for corporate travel, if your firm hasn't issued you a corporate credit card then you need at least 3 cards, 2 Visas and 1 MasterCard or 1 Visa, 1 Amex, 1 MasterCard. Just having an MasterCard or Amex will fuck you, you may be able to get away with 1 Visa. Try to use just 1 card up first at a time; that way you can keep mental track of everything but having 3 cards will be enough because sometimes, you might have all the credit in the world, but the restaurants or hotel's machine can read one of your cards! Ridiculous I know, and it looks embarrassing as well, but since I keep track of my credit (well my wife does and she gives me a daily update, when I'm on the road) if it rejected, then I tell them straight out, 'fix your machine, here is another card'; I don't' tell the to try it again, because if it didn't' work the first time it wont' work the second time. But sometimes you need to physically put in a pin number nowadays, or your own card company will have blocked the payment because it is in another country and at a weird time. Make sure, if you know you will be travelling a lot, then call them ahead of time, a bitch to do so, but it will be worth saving you the embarrassment afterwards when you are trying to close a multi-million dollar deal over a steak and wine and your card seems to get rejected. Wtf bad beat.
10. Never mix up your own personal expenses and the company expenses; even if was not intentional, once you look like you are using your expenses for personal fun, you will have a bitch of a time getting them approved fast and quickly in the future and you will never ever get promoted first because you simply can't be trusted. Keep all receipts, and I never do this, but you should, every night, input your receipts in either the company record or in your excel file. Travel expenses are a bitch to go through.
11. Different currencies; ok, I'm the worst at this, but #1. try to change your cash at a branch that knows you and then ask them for a good rate. Of course there is a posted rate, but they can always do better. #2 Try to use as much as the change as possible because you can't exchange change back. #3 know what is the appropriate rate for tipping, if they don't' tip, you don't' tip, if they do tip, you tip a bit more (actually I always over tip everywhere I go) #4 when you using your credit card, if you get the option, make the payment in your home currency. Unless the cash is for show, try not to exchange too much, but NEVER leave yourself without at least 100 USD dollar buying power in your pocket when travelling in a foreign country. Your ATM cash card may not work in domestic machines, or even if it does, it may not be available or even if it is, it may have a ridiculous limit like 50 USD. 100USD plus your credit cards will be fine.
12. Keep your passport with you, close to your body whenever possible, or in the hotel safe. Never just leave it open in your hotel room or in your bag if it is not close to you. In most foreign countries you go to, if you are a foreigner you need to keep your passport on your body always anyway, but always be wary about it, and yes, i've had my passport stolen out of my hotel room once.
13. Keep track of your hotel food, it’s all tasty, but try to just eat a single main course without any appetizers or wine every second day at least. If it a business dinner, no choice, but if you are just eating with colleagues, keep it light because it is naturally heavy (I obviously don’t follow my own advice lol)
14. Ok, custom lines: ALWAYS take the Line NEXT TO THE DOMESTIC Line, because the domestic line will always go 5 times faster and then the customs officer will wave you over.
15. If a new line is about to open in customs, then just make a quick break for it, don't' run, but do not be polite about this in that you think you need to wait your turn in line, if you have a chance to go through faster, then take it don't' worry about it, you're a foreigner anyway.
16. Be polite with the customs officer, present him with your face full on, take off your hat until he confirms your identity. Always, always, unless you are coming for an international conference just say you are coming in for leisure or just a business meeting for possible joint business. DO NOT GET INTO further detail than that because you will get yourself into some hot water if it looks like you are going to be actually working in that country. Some countries have some mega strict rules about it. And don't be witty, just say the answer, don't explain it, and if they ask more, say what you need and no more. And if it a young attractive female customs officer, don't stare at her chest, if she frowns you could get fucked (not that it’s ever happened that I know of, but don't' ever be stupid at an entry point); just if you want to, smile at the end and be done with it.
17. When going into mainland China, do not stand behind the white people, they give the White people and especially the Americans a very hard time on purpose. When going to Korea, stand behind the Japanese, HK, Malaysian or White people (you can see their passport), always judge the real line size, see how closely they are standing together or side by side, it does make a difference.
18. Before going through the metal detectors, sometimes I set them off, and sometimes not and I am virtually wearing the same time every trip, so I do believe at times it is random. But just be ready to pull out your lap top and put your cell phone and wallet in your bag while you are waiting. Never follow old auntie like women who are not carrying expensive hand bags, they always #1 never follow the instructions properly, #2 always have water or liquid in their carry on.
19. Always travel with a proper set of luggage. If you are leaving through customs and its final check, things to get you checked 100% (meaning after you pick up your luggage and you're like 3 steps away from freedom is: Not looking straight ahead, looking and down and using your cell phone at the same time, having a weird set of luggage and staring directly at the custom's officer with any kind of expression. Now I'm not trying to give you tips in how to smuggle things through, this is for me always a case where it’s just one less hassle to avoid as I am never carrying anything I shouldn't be.
20. Well obviously, don't' carry anything for anyone unless it 100% your other team mate and you packed it yourself. Now in the case of drugs, IF YOU ARE A FUCKING DUMB ASS RETARD DUMB FUCK and do try to takes drugs with you, in Asia the penalty in most cases is DEATH or instant imprisonment without trial or appeal then deportation whenever they feel like, Don't be a fucking retard.
21. Use the hotel pick up, but usually nowadays most Asia countries have a really great public airport transit system, so usually a bus or express train can take you into the city or even to your own hotel, but here is basic run down off the top of my head:
Flying into Tokyo: unless you have someone to pick you up, fly into Narita airport and take the express train to Ueno and get someone to pick you from there or taxi to hotel (Japan FREAKING Expense taxies); if you have someone to pick you up, book for Haneda Airport. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER take the hotel buses from Narita, it will take you at least 2.5 hours to get to Tokyo through the traffic, while the express train is like 30 mins or so.
Flying into Seoul: it’s actually Inchon west of Seoul; just take an express bus to any destination in Seoul,(like 8-14 bucks depending on) or even a regular taxi which is reasonable at 70-80 usd if you are with someone. No traffic, just 45 minutes, traffic, sorry you screwed at least 1.5 hours.
Hong Kong: Omg the best, take the MTR (subway), just by a ticket from the dispense machine 100HKD for one way and it will take you right into the center of the three main districts of Tsingli, Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. And you can even check in at the Airport Express at the IFC building (international finance center).
Singpore: Not that far, from the city (Singapore small), but actually I've only been picked up, but for sure there should be some airport buses at a very reasonable rate, and as I recall, the hotel pick up should be available also taxi fare should be very reasonable.
Taipei: Just take the taxi, very reasonable.
Macau: You can basically take a casino bus if you are getting off at the ferry or most likely their shitty taxis, but make sure you also know the chinese name of the casino hotel you are going. Taxi service in Macau is usually so bad, but the taxis are sooooooooooo cheap.
London Heathrow: Just take the express train, so super quick to Paddington station, but it’s a walk to get there from where you exit the airport, and take a hotel car, than taxi back to the airport, much cheaper.
There are a few more I could go on with, but most of the time you should get picked up; Ah, Manila, Philippines 100% use the hotel car or force your clients to get a car for you. THIS IS NOT A SAFE PLACE and people have been robbed by taxi drivers. I love Filipino people and working with them, but it is not a stable environment, nothing bad has ever happened to me, but it has to a lot of people I know.
Oh and just remember some airports have an airport tax when you are leaving the country (a form of gov't extortion on travelers, lol) just make sure to ask, so you have some local currency left.
And last but not least:
22. Even if you are in a foreign country and some very attractive women says she wants to be your girlfriend and date, she has done this about 20 times before and the fact that she speaks English in a country that normally doesn't and she is not part of the company you are meeting and you meet her at an ex-pat bar, don't be a noob and believe it for a second.
Conversely, if you go to a native bar, don't go hitting on all the chicks, you will possibly get hurt or stabbed, stick with your company people and get to know the customs, etc. And no matter what, no matter where, never assume that a girl is a working girl. You could get into some world of hurt. And if you already have that mindset that all natives you meet are usually working girls, then you're already part of the low end of the ex-pat crowd and you should definitely get some new friends to hang out with on your trips.
So good luck and remember that no matter how long or crappy the trips are, you are still one lucky mofo.
ps. sorry for any spelling errors of locations, this is just off the top of my head, no offense to the natives!
ah, edit, on last thing, when you need to buy some article of clothes, don’t buy at the hotel, go to local department store, force them to take you!
1. always make sure your passport has at least 6 months left before it expires, most countries won’t let you fly in if its less than 3 months unless you are a permanent resident there.
2. true flat bed (full 180 degrees) bed in business will make any flight pleasant, but anything not totally 180 flat will make you annoyed even though you have lots of space, cause it still isn't comfortable.
If you fly economy, always ask if the flight is full, if not, ask them to book you in the middle where there is no one sitting and if you are a frequent flyer with some clout, then they may block off the remaining seats. Sleeping across 3 or 4 seats is almost the same as business class (seriously it is) simply because you can actually sleep. Of course its not the most comfortable, and you may wake up with sore neck or one arm completely numb, but for the price difference its quite good, and in terms of being able to work right away after getting off the plane.
If you can't get that, then get the most front seats where it is either an emergency exit or in front of the cabin dividers and take our your hand carry luggage (when the flight is on route) and use it as a foot stool. Makes a hell of a difference for any trip over 8 hours.
3. Nowadays I always fly economy unless I get upgraded cause I work from my own companies, so I usually try to fly as little as possible mainly because I hate flying, hate being away from the family and already have a lot of strong networks so that I don't need to meet new people. But I tell ya, as soon as things are more stable, damn, I'm gonna love getting back into business class.
Cheers, I may repost a couple of other posts that have nothing to do with what I'm doing nowadays, no promises though.