Business travelers who strive for efficiency in all things have a love/hate relationship with the process, especially when airlines are involved. They hate schedules that go sideways, and love having travel down to a science.
So from scoring upgrades to the best way to pack a suitcase, anything that can make the hassle of jet-setting a little easier can be a lifesaver.
Business Insider reached out to frequent business travelers to ask about their favorite travel strategies:
Have one go-to piece of luggage that always works, no matter what kind of trip you're taking.
Investor and former Luxury Link CEO Scott Morrow says that he always takes his Tumi roller bag with him whether he's going on a long trip or short one.
"It doesn't depend on the length of the trip — I've even been to Europe and Africa for 35 days straight and I only take a roller bag," Morrow said. "I never check luggage, ever. It forces me to be efficient with what I pack."
Pack less than you think you need.
Fathom Way To Go founder Pavia Rosati suggests thinking about what you want to bring and then paring that list down — by a lot.
"I think about the stuff I want to bring, and then I only bring half," Rosati said. "And you’re still not going to wear a good two-thirds of it."
Bring clothes that are dark colors.
Pauline Frommer, editorial director of the Frommer Guide Books and Frommers.com, doesn't put all that much thought into the clothes she brings with her on her travels — besides bringing dark colors that hide stains.
"I am probably the least stylish traveler on the face of the planet," Frommer said.
"To me it's not about how I look, it’s about how the world looks. And if I'm worrying too much about how I look, then I'm missing out on my trip. I wear dark colors that hide stains."
Minimize wrinkles by packing dress shirts in dry cleaner bags.
Morrow has a very specific strategy for keeping his business clothes looking presentable.
"In terms of my dress shirts, I keep them in the dry cleaner plastic because it helps to minimize wrinkles," Morrow said.
"And then anytime I arrive, I immediately take them out of the bag, put them into the shower, turn the hot shower on, and it's like a steam press to get the wrinkles out."
Consider packing a digital luggage scale for your travels.
Overpacking can end up costing you some hefty fees. In order to avoid this, BBC deputy travel editor Anne Banas suggests investing in a digital luggage scale, something that she never travels without.
"It's about the size of a corkscrew and with baggage fees and everything — especially when you're traveling abroad, sometimes the international carriers have different rules for their domestic carriers within a different country, so I always travel with it," Banas said.
"And the one I have you can switch from pounds to kilos, and I always weigh it when I leave home, making sure it's under, and then once I'm traveling, in case I pick up souvenirs, so I know I'm not going over that baggage limit because that can cost you a lot of money."
Pack only versatile pieces of clothing.
It might be tempting to want to pack your favorite standout pieces from your closet, but if you're looking to pack lighter, Banas recommends bringing pieces of clothing that go with everything and that you can layer.
"I always bring as many versatile items as I can," Banas said. "So a lot of layers, a lot of little cardigan sweaters, and T-shirts and things that you can layer over top of one another, and scarfs."
"Scarfs are great because they can double as a blanket on the airplane if it's a big enough scarf; it can be a sarong, a beach blanket, it can also just add a pop of color to your wardrobe."
Charge everything the night before you travel.
"Charge everything you're going to need, and put it next to your car keys and purse or wallet so you make sure to pack it in your carry-on before driving to the airport," advises entrepreneur Jason W. Womack.
"Recently I talked to someone in the gate area, waiting to board the plane, who said, 'I'm going to stay here as long as I can to charge my computer, the battery is almost gone!' Personally, I like to board the plane with everything at a maximum charge; it gives me more options."
Sign up for Global Entry Status
Many travelers rave about Global Entry, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that pre-qualifies certain travelers for expedited customs. After completing the application process, you'll be able to skip some long airport lines.
Be loyal to businesses and they'll treat you well.
"The key thing for business travel is frequent flyer programs," Banas said. "You want to be brand loyal so you can get that elite status and have access to more perks and upgrades."
If you don't want to marry yourself to one airline or hotel chain for infinity, Banas recommends at least getting a rewards credit card that lets you rack up points and miles no matter which company you choose to do business with.
Get upgrades on flights by booking an economy ticket with a Y or B booking code.
According to Asana's Amy Lee, this special booking code is gold for flyers looking for an upgrade.
"This means that the ticket will be full fare, but you will receive a complimentary upgrade if there are open spots in the next class of service," Lee said.
Just request the upgrade when you book your ticket and then check your status 24 hours before your flight. Frequent flyers should hear about upgrades within 100 hours of their departure (based on status level).
Dress nicely to give yourself an edge.
"When flights are oversold [in economy class], sometimes gate agents will pick people to upgrade based on whether they're dressed well, or if they were nice to someone when they checked in," says George Hobica, founder of discount airfare site Airfarewatchdog.com.
Get ahead of the game by kindly telling the gate agent in advance that you hope they'll consider you if any upgrades are available. "They'd much rather sell you an upgrade for $100 or $200 rather than give it away to a frequent flyer," he said.
Build up points outside of the airport.
One of the best places to compound your travel points is actually nowhere near airports at all — it's at the grocery store.
"These days with miles the best way to earn them is by shopping with credit cards," says Brian Kelly of ThePointsGuy.com. "I would say just take out travel rewards cards for everyday spending and when you travel."
Just be sure you nab a card that waives foreign transaction fees, which can be a real killer.
Don't pass up cheap fares just for the points.
Some flyers will do whatever it takes to book flights to earn more points, even if it means passing up cheaper fares on another carrier.
That's not always the smartest move, especially when you consider each mile is worth about two cents. "Cash is king and yes, it's good to have a good mileage strategy, but I wouldn't pay a ton extra just to earn miles," Kelly said.
Know the difference between non-stop and direct flights.
"Especially if you're on business and going to and from meetings, it's such a waste of time to take a day to get there and a day to get back [because of layovers]," Banas said.
But don't mistake "direct" flights for "non-stop" flights when booking.
"A direct flight might still stop, but you would just stay on the plane instead of having to switch planes," Banas explains. "There's a lot of confusion about this. I would say always choose a 'non-stop' flight instead of direct."
Use a tennis ball to keep in-flight soreness at bay.
"Bring a tennis ball with you when you're traveling," suggests Brian Povinelli, global brand leader for Westin and Le Meridien.
"It's great to roll under your feet and even under your thighs to keep you from getting stiff/sore. It's small, inexpensive, and easy to replace."
Order a special meal to get fed first.
If missing out on airplane meat wouldn't disappoint you too much, you can try Banas' trick for getting served before everyone else on flights.
"I always order vegetarian meals because if you order a special meal, you tend to be served first," she said. "I can't think of a time when I wasn't served first. Then you can just go to sleep and won't have to wait [for the full dinner service]."
Use apps to track your miles.
"What doesn't make sense is why so few people are keeping track of their points and miles when there are such good resources out there to do so easily," Kelly said.
"They are worth money. Sometimes they are worth a lot of money – depending on how you redeem them."
Make your life easier and sign up for a miles tracking site like AwardWallet. It's a one-stop shop for tracking miles from all of your accounts, including your passwords for each.
Consolidate your travel into one or two airlines only.
"Try to keep them in the same airline family like OneWorld (American), SkyTeam (Delta) or Star Alliance (United)," suggests Suzanne Garber, an entrepreneur and former chief networking officer at International SOS.
"Make sure you check international airlines to ensure your primary airline will gain the miles from flights on international carriers. Many of the perks afforded on your primary carrier will transfer over to these international carriers. In many cases, international carriers will actually treat you better than domestic US airlines in terms of free baggage, upgrade or access to their executive lounges. Almost all international carriers offer free meals and alcoholic beverages on their flights."
If rental agencies won't upgrade for free, try negotiating.
"Premium cars can cost an arm and a leg, but counter reps will negotiate much lower prices if they are available when you pick up your car," Kelly said.
"Ask at check-in if you can upgrade to a higher category, and if they quote you a price, be sure to negotiate since they won't start at their best price ... Being super nice also helps."
Be pleasant when asking for hotel upgrades.
This may seem like an obvious one, but the nicer you are to the hotel staff, the more likely you are to get an upgraded room.
"If you're polite and if you behave like the dream guest the hotel would want, and just very sweetly inquire, 'Is an upgrade possible?' or, 'Do you have anything else?'" Rosati said. "Be direct, but be very polite, and act and behave as though you are worthy of it."
Tell the hotel staff if you're celebrating a special occasion or if you're part of the hotel's loyalty program.
According to Banas, you want the hotel to know if it's your birthday, anniversary, or honeymoon. And if you're part of their loyalty program, make sure to mention that too.
"If you're celebrating a special occasion — say you're on a honeymoon or you're celebrating an anniversary or it's your birthday — sometimes if you say that at the front desk, they might [upgrade you]," Banas said.
"Also, if you're part of the hotel's loyalty program, if you are staying at a big chain, like Hilton or Marriott, or something like that, sometimes because you're a member of their program — and they're free to join — they will give you upgrades and perks like late check out and early check in."
Ask for hotel upgrades when the front desk isn't busy.
Front desk clerks are known to be willing to upgrade customers when business is slow, but your best bet is to ask them when there aren't a load of other people around.
"I just did this," Hobica said. "I had been booked in a room near the elevator. I told them I was a light sleeper and asked for a room at the end of the hallway. The nice person behind the desk upgraded me to a better room at no charge."
Hobica typically follows this script: "I know the hotel is not full today. Do you think you could upgrade me to a suite?"
If you can, wait till the last minute to book your hotel.
Frommer says that if you're not traveling somewhere for a specific event — like New Orleans for Mardi Gras — waiting to book your hotel until the day you arrive can get you the best rates.
"Sometimes the best way to save money on hotels is not booking until the day you get there, because at that point the hotelier is desperate for your business," Frommer said. "And some apps such as HotelTonight or Priceline or Hotwire's app can save you huge amounts if you're willing to book at the last minute."
Figure out your perfect jet lag cure.
Everyone reacts to changing time zones differently, so it's important to figure out what your body needs and doesn't need to avoid jet lag.
For Morrow, that means putting mind over matter and mentally preparing himself for the time change.
"I'm militant about [conquering jet lag]," Morrow said. "Literally when I get to the airport I do the estimation in my head about what time it is in that local zone."
"So let's say I was going to go to New York and I was going to leave here at 9 a.m.. That means it's noon on the East Coast. I change my watch to noon on all of my devices and I do not allow myself to even think what time is it back home."