After ten years sporadically on the road, I?m starting to get the hang of business travel. A few things are standard: never check your bags unless you have to. Maintain loyalty to a hotel, airline and car rental brand and reap the rewards points. Sign up for the TSA?s pre-check program.
As new technologies emerge, some things also change. The consumer world is moving towards a lighter weight, individualized economy, with business travelers bringing their own gear, sustaining their own power and creating their own isolated bubbles. Notebooks are getting lighter, briefcases narrower and carry-on bags more agile. To stay on top of this tech, here are five things that the current business traveler should never be without.
Hotels and airports are famous for gouging visitors on internet connectivity fees, and rates usually go up proportionally to the quality of lodging. Four days straight of $29.99 internet can crush an expense report, so instead try bringing your own internet. Most wireless carriers now sell WiFi hotspots that provide on-demand internet wherever there?s a cell signal. For the same cost of a day of connectivity in some hotels you can have a month of personal internet in your briefcase bag, and in a pinch you can also use it as your home internet. Furthermore, it?s a personal connection, so there?s less to worry about stray lurkers peering in on your browsing habits.
Try Clear?s wireless hotspots or your current mobile provider for a few options, or if you?re a light user, Freedompop has plans that are free for under 500MB/month.
Backup Battery Packs
With so many devices powered through a USB port it?s now possible to bring back up power to your phone, WiFi hotspot, tablet, portable speakers and a host of other devices with one single battery. This is especially good for high-use days when the GPS is constantly on or NPR has been streaming ? few phone batteries can handle a full day of heavy use.
The problem with backup batteries is that they can get very heavy very quickly, but there are a variety of low-profile batteries that can be used to provide a decent half or full charge for your phone. Kensington has a variety of batteries that will do the trick, while Mophie has a pretty nice product line as well.
A Business And Travel Ready Tablet
The newest generation of tablets is well equipped to handle most business needs among office applications, email, PDF viewing and images. Instead of drawing lines between brands, pick your favorite and optimize it for your business use. Make sure that you (or your IT person) have everything seamlessly connected between your notebook, desktop and tablet. Make sure that email shows up immediately and in the right place. And perhaps most importantly, make sure that you have the right apps for the task at hand. An itinerary planning app like Tripit and a flight searching app like Kayak or ITA Software can help you plan your next trip, while preloaded movies and TV shows can take the boredom away from flights. Remember as well that this is business focused tablet that clients will be seeing. Fruitninja has no place here.
Noise Cancelling Headphones
Bose paved the way for digital noise-canelling headphones in the consumer marketplace, and now that competing equipment is developing, costs are starting to go down. On the lower end, CNET recommends the noise-canceling Monoprice over-ear headphones (above) that are ?about 70 percent as good as the Bose QC15s for a little more than a third of the price.? For a more thrifty approach, consider the in-ear headphones that act as earplugs as well as speakers ? without the noise-cancelling circuit they can costs as little as ten dollars.
An Ultrabook Computer
Reasonable processors are finally starting to fit into the smaller form factor laptops that are ideal for business travel, giving users enough power to open up a 100-page PowerPoint file and stream Spotify at the same time. And with the growth of the tablet industry, ultrabooks, the low-weight-high-power class of notebook computers, are very competitively priced.
Make no mistake, there?s still use for notebook computers in a tablet friendly world, especially when a great deal of typing or peripheral use is involved. The savvy traveler can fit both low-profile computer and tablet into her carry-on with enough space for an extra pair of shoes and a change of clothes, but pick the right unit that?s best for you. Apple AAPL -0.06%?s Macbook Air (above) at just under $1000 has been widely popular in the community, while Lenovo?s X1 Carbon and Samsung?s ATIV Book 9 are both commendable devices.