50 ways to make travel happier

Business-man-planning

1) Book flights intelligently

Weigh up price over convenience – arriving in the middle of the night or at rush hour has its drawbacks, as do overlays and doglegs. Consider what time you will have to get up to catch that 6am flight. Don’t make life hard for yourself.

2) Don’t obsess over miles

Focusing on how many points you earn can become addictive. Try flying a different airline, pay extra to stay in a hotel you really love – perhaps an unbranded boutique property – and remember that status isn’t everything.

3) Be organised

Poor planning can result in missed meetings and general confusion. Carry a detailed itinerary, keep documents in one place, and sync your smartphone with your desktop calendar.

4) Decide your own black-out dates

There are certain days of the year – birthdays and anniversaries in particular – when you might not want to travel. Mark these off in your diary and don’t book a trip that clashes with them. Make sure you are getting your priorities right.

5) Dress for the air

Get a made-to-measure crease-free suit (or wrap dress) so you still look sharp when you land. Visit nortonandsons.co.uk, ingenuelondon.com. Try brooksbrothers.com for non-iron, Supima cotton shirts.

6) Wear slip-on shoes

Don’t fumble with laces at airport security – invest in some quality slip-on loafers, deck shoes or pumps. Bottega Veneta, Ludwig Reiter, Church’s and Quoddy are all good brands.

7) Invest in good underwear

Be comfortable at all times. Pack Happy Socks (from £8, happysocks.com/uk) to brighten up your flight – they come in a range of colours and patterns and are nicer than the ones you get in business. Try Sunspel for quality cotton T-shirts (from £45) and boxers (from £26, sunspel.com).

8) Be punctual

There is little worse than rushing to an airport only to realise you have missed your flight. Build in enough time to get to meetings and departures on schedule. Set your alarm a bit earlier and don’t be over-optimistic about how many appointments you can squeeze into one day.

9) Use a mobile wallet

For those with Apple’s iOS 6 iPhone software, the Passbook app stores all your 2D-barcode enabled mobile boarding passes, cinema tickets, coupons, loyalty and reward cards in one place, and will even alert you when your flight is leaving. Lemon (Android, iOS and Windows Phone) and Google Wallet are other options.

10) Wake up gently

A blaring alarm clock or hotel wake-up call instantly puts you in a bad mood. Try downloading a piece of music, the sound of the sea or noises of the jungle to your phone and ease yourself into consciousness.

11) Buy the best briefcase

For the 007 in you, check out Globe Trotter’s James Bond collection of slim attachés, handcrafted from vulcanised fibreboard (the 16-inch costs £725; globetrotter1897.com).

12) Refresh your wash bag

The happy traveller doesn’t start or end the day by rifling through an old toothpaste-stained pouch. Invest in something durable you can use for both short- and long-haul trips and that will look classy if you get searched at the airport. Try Paul Smith (paulsmith.co.uk) for funky designs.

13) Protect against theft

Fit your suitcase with a TSA-approved lock or choose luggage with one built in. This month, Tumi (tumi.com) is introducing its Ticon ID Lock anti-fraud range of bags and wallets to protect your credit and debit cards, using material that blocks the signal from rogue RFID readers that can scan your details.

14) Feed your mind

Download the free Philosophy Bites app (iPhone and iPad) and listen to some of the world’s greatest thinkers discussing topics ranging from free will to the free market. TED Talks, Stuff You Should Know, Freakonomics Radio, In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg, 60-Second Science and The Infinite Monkey Cage will all expand your mind in minutes.

15) Choose the perfect case

Whether you are a fan of Samsonite, Rimowa or Tumi, investing in smart, reliable luggage will make packing that bit more pleasurable and travelling that bit more bearable. Plus, you will look more stylish when you wheel up to the reception desk. For short-haul trips, choose the size wisely to avoid being stung by unexpected charges. (See page 42 for hand luggage reviews.)

16) Download an audio book

If you feel too tired to read, visit audible.co.uk and have someone tell you a story. Audio books are compatible with iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire, Windows Phone and most MP3 players.

17) Listen to music

Try downloading a new album before each trip and listening to it when getting from A to B. Visit pitchfork.com, guardian.co.uk/music or bbc.co.uk/music for reviews and samples. Free radio platform Mixcloud allows you to stream radio and DJ mix sets to your Android or Apple device.

18) Pay for lounge access

Flying economy doesn’t mean you have to miss out on chilling in an airport lounge. No 1 Traveller has facilities in Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Birmingham (£17.50-£30 entry), while Servisair has lounges at most UK airports, and entry is less than £20. You could also sign up to Priority Pass or Airport Angel, which offer access for annual fees.

19) Seek shade

All globetrotters need some good sunglasses. Peruse duty-free for the frames that best suit your features. For a hip look, try Rock Optika’s retro-inspired eyewear (rockoptika.co.uk).

20) Document your memories

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection,” said Anais Nin. Start a diary to record things you want to remember. If you find it too daunting to produce reams of prose, buy Chronicle Books’ One Line a Day: A Five Year Memory Book (£10) or Smythson’s Travels and Experiences or Places to Remember Panama notebooks (£45). Moleskine produces Restaurant, Wine and Travel journals for £16.

21) Point and click

Apps such as Instagram and Camera Bag mean it’s easier than ever to take good photos when you’re on the road. Try to snap one well composed shot each trip to document your experiences – it will also help you become sensitive to the beautiful and interesting things around you. If you’re more serious about photography, treat yourself to a top-of-the-range camera – Hasselblad, Leica, Canon and Nikon all make high-quality products.

22) Commit to being fit

Make the effort to exercise and not only will your physique thank you, but your mind as well. If you need motivation, wear a Nike+ Fuel Band (nike.com/fuelband) or Fit Bit activity tracker (fitbit.com/uk). If you don’t like gyms, go running, or buy a workout DVD – Shaun T’s Insanity (beachbody.com) is great if you want a challenge and can be done in your room.

23) Learn the lingo

Knowing just a few words or phrases in the local language can be a great help – plus, people will have more respect for you. Gen up with Rosetta Stone software (rosettastone.co.uk), download Mirai iStart language learning apps or visit bbc.co.uk/languages.

24) Have a love affair

If you’re single, take the opportunity of being in a foreign place to meet someone new, and have a whirlwind romance. Get the number of that person you like the look of on the plane or in the bar, and make it happen.

25) Be a flaneur

Usually getting lost is a major inconvenience but if you have some free time, a lot can be said for ditching the map and heading out for an explore – you will make unexpected discoveries and see a side to the city you wouldn’t otherwise.

26) Get back to nature

Take a stroll through a park, get down to the beach or find some woodland. Just a short time in natural surroundings will help melt stress away.

27) Establish a haunt

Find a coffee shop or restaurant you love in a city that you frequent and visit it each time you’re in town – it will make you feel at home.

28) Get fresh air

Air conditioning dries out your skin and can leave you feeling stuffy in the morning, so if you can, open the window in your hotel room. Breathing recycled air on planes isn’t great either, so when you disembark, get outdoors as soon as possible.

29) Call your friends

If you know people in the city you are going to on business, clear your diary to spend time with them one evening.

30) Do a good deed

Invest in your karmic bank balance by being generous of heart and wallet. Give loose change to homeless people, slip a tenner into the charity envelope handed out on the plane or buy some sweets for the street kids you come across.

31) Be appreciative

Try to keep things in perspective. It’s easy to get cynical, irritable and demanding when you travel frequently, but remembering the position of privilege you are in and looking on the bright side can do wonders for your temper.

32) Create time for you

It’s the days when you feel you are too busy to stop that you really should take a moment’s pause – even a few minutes to yourself can work wonders. Visit donothingfor2minutes.com, dedicate an hour to running or an afternoon to taking in some culture. Sleep or watch a movie instead of working on the plane. Learning when to say “no” is important too.

33) Tag on some holiday

Consider adding on a couple of days’ leisure time to explore the city you are in, or escape to a nearby beach for some downtime. You could fly your partner out to join you or simply enjoy being alone.

34) Take a long break

Remember, travel doesn’t always have to be associated with business. When was the last time you took two weeks – or even a month – off work? Charter a yacht, fly to a desert island, go mountain climbing. Book the holiday you have always dreamed of.

35) Eat sensibly

Skip dessert, order healthily, don’t snack and go easy at the breakfast buffet. If you are putting on weight, consider the 5/2 fasting diet, where you eat no more than 600 calories (500 for women) for two non-consecutive days a week, and the rest of the time eat normally. (See “Carrying some extra baggage?” for more diets and advice.)

36) Try aromatherapy

Essential oils can improve your mood and cognitive functioning – pack a couple of small bottles and inhale the next time you need relaxing or rejuvenating. Aromatherapyassociates.com sells De-stress Frankincense (£24.50) and Support Breathe (£16.50) essence, as well as Essential Travel Oils (£30 for a set of four).

37) Drink less

There is nothing worse than having to face an important day or long journey with a hangover. Learn some self-control and keep an eye on your units.

38) Turn off

your gadgets It’s all too easy to become addicted to checking your emails, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Don’t check your phone before going to sleep and if you feel you really need help getting it under control, consider a “digital detox” retreat or downloading software such as Freedom or Anti-Social (for Macs and PCs), or Android’s Digital Detox app, which disables the online/social elements of your devices for a set time.

39) Manage your stress

Travelling regularly can affect your mental state as it is unpredictable, tiring and fraught with potential problems. Don’t let it get you down. Visit stress.org.uk to try its online test and get advice.

40) Meditate

It’s easy to do on a plane, train or in a hotel room, and potential benefits range from reduced stress to lower blood pressure. Download the Headspace app (getsomeheadspace.com) for iPhone/Android for ten-minute meditations. (See “Beautiful mind” for more on the benefits of meditation.)

41) Tip generously

Tipping culture around the world is complicated but if in doubt, there is no harm in offering a little something. Dip into your pocket to reward the people who are making your trip easier and more pleasurable.

42) Smile

This simple human expression can be more powerful than you think. Do it, and others will respond more positively to you.

43) Talk to your family

Schedule regular slots to speak to your loved ones on the phone or via Skype. They will worry less and it may ease any loneliness.

44) Send a postcard

These days, it is easy to forget what it’s like to pick up a pen and paper, let alone go to the effort of sending a card. But for the older relative in your life, receiving one could make their day.

45) Go on a gustatory adventure

Try something different – get to the lounge early and try a wine you have never tasted, order a dish you have never heard of, accept the chef’s recommendation, buy some street food, drink the local tipple and eat anything you are offered (unless it’s shark fin soup).

46) Talk to strangers

Have a chat with your taxi driver or waiter about where to go and what to see. Most people are happy to talk, especially when they get a sense their opinion is of value.

47) Don’t drive

Driving on the other side of the road in an unfamiliar vehicle in a place you don’t know can ratchet up your stress levels like little else. If you can, leave the driving to someone else, or take public transport.

48) Use an on-demand chauffeur service

Download free app Uber (for iPhone and Android, uber.com) and at the touch of a button a luxury car will use GPS to locate you, pulling up at the curb in minutes. The app links to your credit card, so no cash changes hands, and you’ll get text updates on where your driver is. It works in more than 20 US and European cities.

49) Stay at home

If you’re dreading an upcoming trip, ask yourself if you really have to go. Know and respect your (and your family’s) limits, and don’t be a martyr.

50) Share your knowledge

Travelling frequently means you build up a wealth of information about the cities you visit, hotels you stay in and airlines you fly with. Online forums such as businesstraveller.com/discussion and review sites such as seatplans.com are a great way to share your experience with others.


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  • Nothing better than being a flaneur; but like “shadenfraude” in German, I don’t think we have a natural equivalent of the term in English.

    I’m not certain “tipping generously” helps – inevitably, one only has a $50 note on arrival, and I’ve rarely met someone who can carry my bags with the aplomb required to justify such largesse.

    Those restricted to travelling Y might be interested in this forum thread which seeks ways to make such an experience approximate a Premium Cabin, for a fraction of the cost:

    http://www.businesstraveller.com/discussion/topic/How-to-Make-Longhaul-Economy-Approximate-a-Premium-Cabin

  • Excellent pointers to enjoy travel more.

    There is something for everyone here. I think the most important ones other than the practical good advice tips are 1. Document your memories – so that you can relive them time and time again. 2. Share your knowledge – inspire others with your amazing travels.

    I also do like to “Send a postcard” to my grandmom when I travel to a new place.

  • Great article.

    Any advice on how to better manage your physical mail while out of the country? I hate coming home and having to deal with sorting through a huge pile of mail.

  • 51. Drink a lot of water. I always have a bottle.

    52. Also rate hotels on TripAdvisor. It is way of being useful to others

    53. Join Programs – FrequentFlyer and Hotel Programs. I dont obsess but they can come in handy.

    54. Meetup with friends. Not only does it make you “feel at home”, but friends will let you know where to go in town.

    55. Help hotels improve their service. I have had to translate “Sign in” forms to French language for some hotels. I also talk to willing staff about how to up their game in the hospitality industry.

    56. Bring a gift from your home country.. there will always be someone who will deserve it..

    57. Buy gifts.. and you can be sure some at home will be glad to receive it.

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