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Career Tips

Optimize your business travel

by Brought to you by ACS Careers
September 1, 2018 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 96, Issue 35


Illustration of a suitcase with various office supplies floating inside.
Credit: Shutterstock
Get organized for your next work trip.

Whether you love it or hate it, business travel happens—for an interview or to conduct business in person. When it’s your turn to hit the road, a little planning can go a long way.

Transportation. When deciding whether to fly, take a train, or drive to your destination, consider distance, flexibility, how much stuff you need to take, travel companions, whether you’ll need a car at your destination, and so on. Driving allows the most flexibility, but in some cities, parking fees at hotels will significantly offset any financial savings. For most people, if it’s more than a six- or eight-hour drive, they are better off flying.

Use a travel-booking website, such as Expedia, Kayak, or Hipmunk, to explore options, but also check the airline sites themselves for better options and prices. Southwest Airlines does not appear on most aggregate sites, so you’ll need to search it separately. Sometimes, shifting your travel plans by one day can save hundreds of dollars, so be flexible if you can. Some people stick to a single airline to maximize frequent-flier miles and other perks, while others use whichever airline has the best schedule.

If you’re going to fly, monitor prices and book six to eight weeks ahead of time, if possible. Follow company policies to get reimbursed. Can you book your tickets yourself, or does the company have to do it for you? For ground transportation, your hotel will be able to tell you how to get around, including the best way to get there from the airport.

When you run into issues, take them in stride. Ask politely what your options are. Airline and other personnel are more likely to help if you are polite and friendly. For example, if your flight is delayed, most airlines can (but don’t have to) waive change fees.

Lodging. Staying at the conference hotel will minimize travel time and maximize your interactions with fellow attendees. Most hotels have food on-site, or at least within walking distance. Services like Grubhub and Uber Eats may deliver to your hotel, but local availability varies widely.

If it’s a company meeting, ask your host for recommendations and whether you’ll need a vehicle. Sharing rides can be a great way to meet fellow professionals.

Packing. Pack efficiently, and don’t check luggage if at all possible. If you have to check a bag, take a photo of it just in case it gets misplaced. Pack your suitcase (and your pockets) the way the Transportation Security Administration wants, not the way you want. Check for all the current rules; you can take antlers in your carry-on bag, but not an insecticide.

If you travel often, keep a second set of cables, medications, toiletries, and a copy of your health insurance card in your suitcase or briefcase so you can grab them and go.

Don’t forget to bring backup credit cards and cash; you never know when a card will get misplaced. Take paper copies of important information, such as your hotel confirmation, essential contact information, and your boarding pass.


If you prepare properly, you’ll be able to concentrate on your work, not the hassles of traveling.

Get involved in the discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first week of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network (


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