Last winter, I tried five times, unsuccessfully, to take a business trip from New York to Phoenix. On all five attempts, my flight was delayed and then cancelled for weather-related reasons. In my view, this really meant five wasted trips to the airport and dozens of hours I will never get back. For us working mommies, every minute counts and I’m always on the hunt for ways to be more productive, including during my commute and work-related travel. I’ve identified some shortcuts that may be helpful for other working moms who share my pain.
Shortcuts to airport security. I’ve long held the view that if you’ve never missed a flight, it means you’re spending too much time at the airport. The airport security line can be a major drain on your time and productivity. Consider getting TSA Pre-Check. You can apply online and fill out some paperwork and verify your identity at a TSA Pre-Check center. The $85 fee is a small price to pay for five years of avoiding having to take off your shoes or have your laptop manually inspected at the airport. The Pre-Check lines tend to be shorter, too. CLEAR is another option and it allows you to skip the line altogether and go straight to the security checkpoint. The application process works similarly to TSA Pre-Check, but costs slightly more annually. CLEAR is only available right now at ten US airports, with more coming. If you travel internationally often, United States Customs and Border Protection offers a Trusted Traveler program with dedicated lines and kiosks for pre-approved, low risk travelers. If you don’t use any of these options, use the airport line with only one security screener. Lines with two or more screeners usually means that one of the officers is in training and that can slow down the line.
Another major timesaver: check in to your flight online at least 24 hours before your flight. This simple step can save you an hour at the airport. Also, avoid the hassle at check in by only taking carry on luggage or, if you must check a bag, be sure to stay within the permitted size requirements and fill out luggage tags in advance. For extended trips, you can even consider foregoing luggage altogether and sending some clothes and personal items to your destination before your trip.
Navigation apps help with driving to business meetings. There are a host of smartphone apps that will become your new best friend for business travel. A friend recently introduced me to Waze and I don’t know how I got along with it. Waze is a community-based navigation app that provides the best route to your destination. It’s superior to standard navigation devices because other travelers enter updates and the app automatically alerts you to or reroutes you to avoid traffic, police activity, debris on the road, and accidents along the way. This app didn’t miss a thing on two of my recent work road trips.
If you’re using public transportation to get to your business meeting, TransitApp, Moovit, Allschedules, and HopStop are a few options to navigate through public bus and subway systems in almost every metropolitan area in the US and abroad. New York City and others have their own city-specific transportation apps and those could be worth downloading, too. If you’re taking a cab to your meeting, don’t leave an on time pickup to chance. The Uber app lets you arrange a pickup, check on arrival status, and even pay for your ride.
Go paperless with your travel paperwork. Staying organized when planning or taking a business trip can be tough. TripIt creates a master itinerary of all your travel details – – including airport schedules, hotel directions, rental car information – – handy and organizes it into your calendar. You can forward any email confirmations and the app sorts them all out for you. WorldMate, a similar app, also offers the ability to check in to your flight and real-time flight status updates.
Although these tips are all intended to help your trip run smoothly and on time, if you do run late, there are apps for that, too. Apps like Twist and Glympse send text messages to pre-determined contacts about your travel delays, your estimated arrival times, and updates along the way. Technology and some advance planning can save you hours of time and spare you the frustration of travel delays.