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Home > Tips and Advice > Business Travel
Business Travel
Traveling With a Laptop | Using Hotel Telecommunications Facilities | Staying Informed While Traveling | Making the Most of Your Time in the Airport


  Traveling With a Laptop

These days, being a business traveler means lugging around a lot of expensive equipment, including cell phones, electronic datebooks, laptop computers, and more. Here's a few suggestions on how to keep one of your most valuable business-related items safe and secure.

To help keep thieves at bay, it's always smart to keep your laptop in a case that doesn't immediately identify it as a computer. The same advice holds true for cameras, VCRs, and other expensive equipment you might take on your business travels.

When entering a metal detector at the airport, do not put your laptop on the conveyor belt to be x-rayed. Rather, ask the security guard to conduct a manual search of the computer and any other electronic equipment you may have with you.

Once on the airplane, keep your laptop nearby. Don't store computers in overhead bins because they can get thrown around during the flight. So when you're not furiously typing away on a business proposal--or playing solitaire--keep your computer underneath the seat in front of you.

Always travel with extra batteries and call the hotel ahead of time to make sure it has modems and data ports available in guest rooms or in the hotel business center. Also, if you plan on doing a lot of work in your room, pack an extension cord so you can use the laptop from your preferred spot, regardless of where the outlet is located. In a pinch, move the furniture to suit your needs.

  Using Hotel Telecommunications Facilities

While most hotels appreciate their professional guests, not all of them make it easy or inexpensive to telecommute from their rooms. The following tips can help save you money--and keep your blood pressure down--when using phone and data lines away from home.

If your hotel has a dedicated business floor, make every effort to stay there as these rooms are set up with the business traveler in mind. These rooms are more likely to offer dual telephone/modem lines, fax machines, and free local calling than other rooms. You are also less likely to have punk rockers or screaming children for neighbors.

Hotels often charge guests high service fees for making long-distance calls from their rooms. However, in the United States, hotels are required to provide a connection to any long-distance company's access number for the same charge as a local call. So use your calling card and save money by placing your calls through your own long-distance carrier. Or, just go downstairs and use a lobby pay phone.

Hotels usually charge hefty fees to use their fax machine. If you need to send or receive a fax and it's impossible to do so from your room, a cheaper option might be to use one at a nearby store or business center.

Remember that many parts of the world--including most of Europe--use a different voltage system. This means that you'll need adapters for anything you plan to plug into the wall, including your laptop. Also, some European countries (notably Germany and Austria) have noise on their telecommunications lines called "tax." This noise, used to monitor rates of usage, can be very disruptive to modem communications. Consider buying a filter.

  Staying Informed While Traveling

It can be hard to keep on top of industry developments when holed up in a hotel room working on a proposal. But as you probably know, many news resources are available on the Internet. We've compiled a list of some major business-news sources available online to help keep you in the loop while on the road.

The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition features news that is updated 24 hours a day, making it an invaluable resource for professionals on the go. You can browse some of the information for free. To reap the full benefits, you will need to pay $29 per year if you already subscribe to the print version of the WSJ or Barron's, or $59 if you are not a subscriber.

You can currently access an excellent online edition of BusinessWeek for free. As with the Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition, subscribing provides access to even more articles and information. Subscriptions to the online edition are free to print-version subscribers, and cost $39.95 per year if you do not currently receive the print version of BusinessWeek.

Forbes Magazine offers free access to its online edition. The site is packed with articles and links to financial information.

Need to keep up with stock prices? Nasdaq has a free site that gives quotes (with a one- to 20-minute delay) for Nasdaq, AMEX, and NYSE. You can track mutual-fund information using reports from Morningstar. There is a charge, however, for Morningstar's services.

Fortune Inc. has a Web site called Fortune.com. The site contains a wealth of business and finance articles that may be accessed without a subscription to the paper version of the magazine.

Kiplinger's Kiplinger.com site provides free access to many articles relating to business. From this site you can also easily jump to Kiplinger's popular Magazine and Letters, but there is a charge to subscribe to these.

  Making the Most of Your Time in the Airport

With flight delays rippling across the nation, many business travelers find themselves stranded in airports with work that needs to get done. For every minute a flight is delayed, the pile of work left waiting back at the office can seem to grow commensurately. Surprisingly, in the midst of all the airport hustle and bustle are several convenient possibilities for those who need to engage in business-related activities. Here are some tips on how to take advantage of airport services to get your work done in the most efficient manner:


If you're tired of trying to plug your laptop into a public payphone, look for one of the many Aerzone Business Centers that are popping up in airports all over the world. Formerly known as Laptop Lane, these centers contain virtually everything a business traveler needs to work in a quick, efficient, and productive manner. Here, you can check your e-mail, send a fax, make a phone call, and much more. Features include T-1 Internet connections, faxes, phones, copiers, printers, and support staff. Some even have meeting rooms available and facilities for Web conferencing. You pay a fee for the use of the office (usually $5 for the first minute and $0.65 for each additional minute), so it helps to be organized. All calls in the U.S. are free.

Similar to the Aerzone Centers, but with extra amenities like cozy couches and tempting treats, most airlines have special members-only clubs or lounges in the airport. Serving as comfortable oases in the midst of busy terminals, most come with fax, phone, power outlets, and other tools you need to get the job done. As an added reward, most have complimentary snacks, sodas, and juice. Some also have fully stocked bars, conference rooms, and meeting facilities. Perks like these often come with a price, or are awarded to travelers who log a certain number of miles per year with a particular airline. Check with your airline to see if you qualify for any of the programs they have in place.

Restaurants and bars can provide a more relaxed setting to work in--as long as the Super Bowl isn't showing on the big-screen television. If you're in a time crunch, you get the added bonus of taking care of your appetite and your work at the same time. If you want to check your investments, some airport restaurants and bars have televisions that display stock-ticker symbols across the bottom of the screen. You might also be able to use this time to make important business contacts with other stranded travelers. Although the bar may look tempting, you may want to avoid alcoholic beverages as they will make you both dehydrated and lethargic.

Specialty stores and boutiques are increasingly setting up shop in airports both large and small. Since you are already stranded in the airport, they can provide a good venue for you to buy a gift for a business associate or client. Your family back home might appreciate a gift or souvenir as a momento of your trip as well.

Since there is nothing you can do about flight delays, another option is to take advantage of this time to relax. Allowing yourself a few stress-free moments can actually help increase your productivity later on. Read the paper, do the crossword puzzle, take a nap, or just settle in with a good book.

 


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