Full-body scanners, invasive pat-downs, endless delays, cramped seats, screaming babies -- ah, the joys of travel. Why do we subject ourselves to this? It's possible to get almost anywhere these days, but getting there is no longer half the fun. In most cases, it's downright miserable. There has to be a better way, right?
Veteran road warriors pride themselves on beating the system -- knowing all the right tips, tricks and loopholes that make travel bearable and sometimes even enjoyable. (Remember George Clooney's security-line soliloquy in "Up in the Air"?)
Count the members of our Board of Directors among them. Together, they log hundreds of thousands of miles in the sky and on the road every year, for business and for pleasure. Some of them are circling the globe as we speak (including your humble chairman here, who is on his way to Florida). Sir Richard Branson was so frustrated with the state of air travel -- and so committed to improving the way we get from Point A to Point B -- that he started his own airlines to do just that.
So what have these globetrotters learned along the way? And more importantly, which travel secrets are they willing to share with you? We decided to ask them.
Sir Richard Branson
Founder and President, Virgin Group
"Obviously, I've tried to create the kind of airline I want to fly on, because I used to have a record company, flew on other people's airlines and didn't like the experience. So I literally created an airline for myself to fly on and I shared it with other people and they liked it -- and Virgin Atlantic became a big success story.
"When I go down route, I find out where the crew is staying. It's always much more fun to be in the crew hotel, be in the bar at night, with lots of fun lively people, rather than sitting in a boring business hotel. So check out -- particularly the Virgin crew -- check out their hotel and pop down to the bar!"
Bob ParsonsFounder And CEO, The Go Daddy Group
"Pack half the clothes you think you need. Never let airline and other delays get under your skin."
Rob DyrdekPresident, Dyrdek Enterprises
"Sweatpants! I would say, more than anything, it's just about comfort when flying. And make sure you pick a plane with wireless."
Eric RyanCo-Founder And Chief Brand Architect, Method
"I'm on the road a lot and I have found the biggest way to reduce the hassle is to pack as little as possible. I travel with clothes that are versatile to dress up or down such as a pair of converse shoes and jean-and-tie combos. If I'm on the road 48 hours or less, I limit myself to only a backpack, which makes security and the battle for overhead a breeze."
Founder And CEO, Greenleaf Book Group
"This is one of my areas of expertise. Some quick tips:
1) Pick an airline and a hotel and stay loyal to them -- status and rewards make the whole process much easier, and it's usually not worth it to try to save a few bucks to get the cheapest deal.
2) To quote Steve Martin in My Blue Heaven, 'It's not tipping I believe in, it's over-tipping.' Tip early and often, it'll come back to you many times over, especially when you're in a jam.
3) Pack light. If you're not good at it, learn. This isn't just a skill, it's a necessity. (If you want to see how a real professional does it, watch Up in the Air.)
4) Back up all of your electronic info regularly. Keep a hard copy of critical info with you and if you can store a thumb drive with key data separate from your computer, all the better.
5) Get an 'Oh Sh*t' plan. Think of what happens if you get mugged and don't have anything. Have a way to get back on the grid. Consider online backups (like Mozy or Carbonite) and other safety precautions."
"Ironically, I'm writing this on a flight from Paris to Miami. I think the most important thing in travel is to travel light -- super light. At this point, I'm down to a backpack for any length of trip, no rolling thing and nothing checked. People always pack too much and have to carry that stuff around like a ball and chain. People shouldn't forget that every town in the world has a laundromat and a clothing store (if you forgot something). It also helps to dress casual, as you'll have fewer things that require pressing, folding, ironing. And you'll be more comfortable."
Founder, CakeLove and Love Cafe
"I gave up being attached to what time things happen. Travel is full of inconveniences and early rising, so I just surrendered to it mentally and have a lot more ease with it. Early travel is much better for me -- I like getting where I'm going early when possible.
"I like taxis much more than a car service. More often than not, a car service driver gets lost, chats and drives slowly. Cabbies aren't always better, but chances are they'll at least let you ride in peace so you don't have to fake being distracted on the handheld."
Director, Texas Venture Labs at the University of Texas
"My best trips happen when I eat well and exercise regularly on the road. Multi-day domestic trips are easier than multi-week international versions. My secrets are to pack protein bars and turkey jerky for all those missed meals, and running gear (lightweight and small). Because most hotels have terrible weight rooms but decent treadmills and ellipticals and you can always go out and run."
Startup Advisory And Venture Lawyer, Gunderson Dettmer LLP
"My travel secret? My husband. He is an obsessive-compulsive-travel-planner. He finds the optimal and most creative deals. Otherwise:
1) Michelle's Miracle CherriMax supplements (an Astia company!). They are concentrated cherry pills that produce a natural melatonin. When I am going to be short on sleep because of a red eye or work, I take two of them and wake up feeling refreshed! An eye mask and earplugs are also always with me.
2) Keep a toiletries/beauty bag pre-packed and ready to go. It saves tons of time searching for things, especially during last-minute trips.
3) Ask another airline to match your frequent flyer status. If you have status on one airline and know you will be flying another airline frequently (especially during a short period of time), you can often automatically obtain matching status. For example, American Airlines offers the Elite Status Challenge. A few closely scheduled international trips got me upgraded status for the next 18 months."
Lawrence GelburdLecturer, The Wharton School
"I bring reading material to airports and walk while I'm reading. More aerobics!"
Gary WhitehillFounder, The Relentless Foundation And New York Entrepreneur Week
"Invest in quality sound (Bang & Olufsen is a personal favorite), download at least four hours of classical music and buy a cushy neck pillow. Doing so will leave you refreshed and ready to conquer the world."
Investor And Author Of Rule #1 And Payback Time
"When it comes to flying, never check luggage. I once broke my own rule because I was going to Italy, so I checked one bag. One. One time. It was the size of a house. It didn't matter. They lost it. I carry on a loose, single-fold single-suit bag. It keeps a suit and several shirts wrinkle free. No ironing or shower steam required. I also carry on a small roller bag for shoes, toiletries and computer. My iPhone doubles as a book reader, but I bring a paperback for those long sits on the tarmac when I can't use electronics. I'm 6-foot-2. I pay for first class so I can work comfortably and I avoid small regional jets for the same reason."
Columnist And Author Of The Small Business Bible
"I swear by my carry-on bag called the Atlantic Infinity. Tilt the bag, push a button, and two extra wheels pop out, making it sort of a stand-alone cart. The quad wheels are perfect for long lines, when you need to free both hands, etc. It's fantastic. I can't recommend it highly enough."
Co-Founder And Chief Innovation Officer, UpSpring Baby
"I use FlightStats.com to check quickly for flight delays when I am on the road. I also carry a deck of exercise cards called 'Fit Deck,' which has 55 different exercises you can do without weights and while you are on the road or staying in hotels. I also grab a cool 'trip treat' for my kids and hubby so they can have a taste of what state or country I was in for business. They are usually waiting with bated breath to see what I am going to bring them."
Founder And CEO, Nfinity
"On the road, I have a couple of secrets I fall back on. The first is that on a weekend, I am either in a black motif or a brown motif. For the whole weekend. That way it cuts your footwear choices in half and you only have to bring one belt. So I will be in mostly black one weekend and brown the next.
"You also need to know the loads and best times to fly into certain airports, so you can maximize your chance of getting upgraded. While I am on the road, my Bose headphones are a MUST and the 'Ambiance' app on iPhone does a great job of blocking out even the most annoying crying baby. And if you use it in your hotel room, it makes for a very relaxing night's sleep."
Elizabeth Busch, Anne Frey-Mott And Beckie Jankiewicz
Co-Founders, The Event Studio
Beckie: "Not sure if this is a travel 'secret,' but I always keep a carry-on bag with the basics packed in case a last-minute trip comes up."
Anne: "Pack light, drink lots of water and use facial moisturizer on the plane, use time on the plane to purge e-mails and prep for meetings and travel ahead. And do not forget an amazing book!"
The original version of this article appeared on AOL Small Business on 11/24/10.