[CEO Friday] 5 Fast Tips for Business Travelers

David Barrett —  October 17, 2014 — 6 Comments
David Barrett Travel Expensify

With the faithful sidekick, Lemony, of course! Photo by Robert Chen

Every year, I spend 1-2 months overseas, with probably a trip every month in between. In the last four weeks alone, I spoke at conferences in Norway and Tunisia, before heading to Portugal with the team for our 2014 Offshore. Currently, I’m writing this on a 30-hour journey from Portugal to SFO — which due to the miracle of timezones, happens in a mere 16 hours.

With all this movement, you can say that I’ve had my fair share of both delightful and horrifying experiences in business travel. Along the way, I’ve developed some core nuggets of knowledge that I live by, and I’m passing them along to the next travel-savvy entrepreneur (aka YOU). 

1) Pack Light

Obvious advice, but I mean, really light.  Buy the smallest suitcase you can — if it has wheels, it’s too big.  I travel with a bag slightly larger than a tennis racquet case.  Aim to travel light enough that you can carry everything with you at all times — to the conference, to dinner, to the meetings, everywhere.  It’s a business trip after all, and to make the most of it you need to be out shaking hands, not ferrying back and forth to your hotel room.

2) Get a Spare Battery

I carry a ChugPlug for my MacBook Air and USB charger for my phone, both of which I use them all the time.  Even if there are outlets where you’re going (and why take that chance?), it’s never cool to fumble with cords at the start and end of a meeting, or be stuck huddled around a conference’s lone “charging station”.  The technology to go cordless exists and is readily available, so enjoy it!

3) Use Modern Tools

We are living in a golden era of great services for business travelers, such as Clear for skipping security lines, Uber for getting where you need to go, Expensify for scanning receipts and managing your itinerary, Airbnb for feeling like home while on the road, Gogo wireless for staying connected in the air, etc.  Make a point to really give them a shot, even if it means developing new habits to go with them.

4) Learn Four Key Phrases

You don't need to go all out, just learn a few key phrases

You don’t need to go all out, just learn a few key phrases

Wherever you go, learn how to say “please”, “thank you”, “excuse me”, and “one”.  If you’ve got those down, you can say “Excuse me, one cappuccino please? Thank you!”  It’s not at all productive because odds are they speak your language far better than you speak theirs, but there’s something very satisfying about having a full interaction in another language — even if it’s as insignificant as ordering coffee.

5) Treat Yourself

Even on the best of days, business travel pretty much sucks.  It’s a strange combination of incredible stress: discovering your flight is delayed and you must sit in an uncomfortable chair for hours, awaiting the privilege of sitting in a different uncomfortable chair for hours more, followed by a sterile hotel in a town you don’t have time to explore, a single long-shot meeting that will probably amount to nothing, and then the whole thing over in reverse.  It’s not a fundamentally glamorous endeavor, so take your luxuries where you can.  Even if it’s just you, go to a steak house and order a nice bottle of wine.  Splurge for an overpriced movie.  Go down to the lobby bar for a nightcap and order top shelf.  You deserve it.

Have you tried any of these tips yourself? Want to share some advice or fun stories from your travels? Write to us in the comments below!

David Barrett


Founder of Expensify, destroyer of expense reports, and savior to frustrated employees worldwide.

6 responses to [CEO Friday] 5 Fast Tips for Business Travelers

    jeremywilliams70 October 17, 2014 at 8:20 am

    1. bring a stainless steel water bottle to refill in the airport, hotel and on the plane, less environmental impact than all those cups and plastic bottles. Stays cold longer and tastes better..

    2. Keep your tooth brush and paste in a separate easy to get to spot in your carry-on, nothing more refreshing than brushing your teeth after sucking on stale plane air for 10 hrs.

    3. I bring my 500 fill down vest that packs small in my under-seat carry-on, when i need a little extra cushioning or warmth it is an awesome bit of luxury..


    Under #3 Modern Tools, you forgot a big one. TSA Precheck (http://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheck). TSA Precheck, for domestic trips is a huge time saver during checkin.


    Great tip – thanks for sharing! Pre-check for domestic and Global Entry for international are great time savers.


    Great additions – we definitely had a few employees do #1 and #2 on our recent offshore 🙂

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. One Girl, Two Offshores: Team Building and Warm Fuzzies From Two Different Perspectives « Expensify Blog - October 31, 2014

    […] In my opinion, packing for offshore reflects a good way to go about organizing stuff, space, work and even life. My rule of thumb now is to pack light and focus on the essentials. […]

  2. All the Codfish: Offshoring in Portugal « Expensify Blog - November 18, 2014

    […] to experience the challenges of navigating a brand new country along the way (hint: learning some key phrases goes a long […]

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