Even if you have an office assistant to plan your meetings and book your trips - and an assistant, digital or human, to track all your reservations and confirmations - the fact remains that you are the one who must deal with airport logistics, ground transportation, and hotel check-ins. Here are tips on how to make these three key parts of any business trip smoother and easier, starting with that dreaded time sink, airport security.
Getting to the Gate
The most significant way to cut your time in the security line may be to use the Transportation Security Administration's Precheck system. It offers U.S. citizens, nationals, or legal permanent residents who have not been convicted of certain crimes a dedicated security line, with little or no wait and a lighter-touch inspection. Precheck
is available with nine major airlines at more than 100 airports in the United States, Guam, and Puerto Rico. The application costs $85 and must be completed in person at any of 230 locations nationwide. Approval usually takes less than a month and is good for five years.
"Some of the airlines allow you to pay for the premium security line, but I just do TSA Precheck and I'm done with it," says Michael Steiner, executive vice president for the travel management firm Lawyers Travel. "You don't have to take off the belt, the shoes, the outerwear, or remove your laptop from your bag."
Precheck is one of four ways to get a "known traveler number" from the Department of Homeland Security. Civilians have been able to apply since December (all military personnel automatically qualify, and TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein says more federal employees may be added).
For Americans who travel internationally, DHS's Global Entry includes Precheck plus expedited clearance through customs when you return to the United States. The application costs $100 and requires an interview. (A third DHS program, called Sentri, serves land travelers between Mexico and the U.S. The fourth, Nexus, is managed jointly with Canadian border authorities and serves land, sea, and air travelers between this country and Canada.)
If you don't have the time or inclination to apply for a DHS program, it's worth looking into special offers from your airport or airline - aside from the obvious perks that come with first- and business-class tickets. At Oakland International Airport, for instance, people who park in the "Premier" lot ($4 extra per day) get the same treatment as first- and business-class passengers when they reach security inside the terminal.
Getting on the Plane
Steiner says a third to half of travelers on some airlines have switched to checking in online and printing their own boarding passes (or storing them on a mobile device). This saves airlines money and can save travelers time. (But beware of automatically checking in for your return trip, so you don't have to go to the airport to change your itinerary.)
Steiner also recommends a third tactic to speed air travel: "maximizing your status" for boarding - with every airline. Paying for expedited boarding is like an insurance policy against bad traffic and overlong meetings; and faster boarding is particularly useful for lawyers, he says, because they can fill the time saved with billable work.
Before takeoff, remember to use your mobile device to search for and load apps from your car rental company or for taxi companies or other local ride providers at your destination; there are dozens nationwide. Such apps can be especially helpful on your way back to the airport in an unfamiliar place.
Getting to Your Room
If you're not starved for human interaction by the time you get to your hotel, several chains and boutique hotels offer self-service check-in, which may spare you yet another line. Look for lobby kiosks at more affordable hotels. At higher-end hotels, give your name to a valet, and a host may appear with keys to your room and a dossier about your stay.
And even more automation is coming. By next month, Starwood Hotels and Resorts expects to try out technology at the Cupertino and upper Manhattan hotels in its Aloft chain that will let guests use their smartphones to check in and then even open the door to their rooms, bypassing every part of a traditional hotel arrival. Starwood isn't worried about substituting machines where guests would prefer to see people. Instead, it said in a statement: "A truly keyless check-in allows the first guest interaction with hotel associates to be personal rather than transactional."
Laura Impellizzeri is the news and trends editor at