When you're constantly on the road, you have to learn every trick in the book for saving time, money and your sanity.
And USA TODAY's Road Warriors, a panel of frequent business travelers who rack up millions of miles a year on the road, have a trove of tips on how to pack smart, stay organized and keep healthy on the road.
One of them, Bob Bender, a data warehouse consultant who lives in Lenexa, Kan., contemplates every step of his trip before he heads out his front door.
"Traveling can be stressful enough," Bender says. "If you do a little planning ahead of time it really can relieve that stress level and make traveling in today's environment much easier."
By thinking through the trip ahead, he says, he knows exactly what to pack, whether to rent a car or take a cab once his flight lands, and even which restaurant he wants to check out.
Bender also makes sure he has the phone numbers of colleagues he is traveling with or meeting, carries two wallets to make sure he has cash if he loses his credit cards, and keeps all his receipts in the same spot.
"(It) does save time when I have to do expenses, but is also has do with stress factors,'' Bender says. "Some of my friends that travel a lot will take pictures of their receipts and e-mail them to themselves. I carry a little scanner and scan them in at night. That way you have a paper copy and an electronic copy."
Pack it right
Packing, of course is key, whether you want to avoid checked luggage fees or to simply make sure you've got the right outfit for a presentation in your bags.
Many Road Warriors recommend tossing a change of clothes in your carry-on in case your checked luggage doesn't arrive at the same time you do.
And Murray Cook, who lives in Roanoke, Va., and is president of a company that oversees international events for Major League Baseball, says to "pack clothes based on need, not fashion."
Cook also prefers bags with four wheels instead of two.
It "saves your back and arms and allows you to get (to) the gate much quicker," he says.
And if you have medications, he says, leave the bottles at home. "Use plastic baggies. (That) saves a lot of room in your bags."
Karen Carpenter, a health care executive who lives in
Pilot Mountain, N.C., leaves her big suitcase behind if she's regularly visiting the same destination, so she doesn't have to check her luggage.
And like many Road Warriors, Carpenter says it's important to be prepared.
"Always have a backup plan," says Carpenter, who will make hotel reservations in advance if she knows there's a storm or that flights are running late.
"That way I am not searching for a hotel at the last minute," she says.
That's particularly important to do when flying out of an airline hub, she says.
High- and low-tech ideas
Kathryn Alice, an author and educator based in Los Angeles, takes steps to make sure she can always tap into critical files while on the road, even if her laptop crashes or is lost.
She puts what she needs on a cloud drive, such as Dropbox. That way, she says, "you can access them from any computer."
Alice doesn't rely solely on new technology. She says she prints her itinerary so she has a hard copy at her fingertips. And she puts the papers she needs for meetings in the order that she'll need to refer to them.
"That way you don't have to dig for what you need when you have to hit the ground running," she says.
She also recommends when planning a trip to skip the red-eye flight.
"While it sounds efficient to have your travel time be during sleeping hours," she says, "you will be so drained from the lack of quality sleep, it can ruin the rest of your trip."
Melissa Donia, who works in the automotive business and lives in Jupiter, Fla., says to make sure what denomination of bills you have in your purse or wallet.
"Always travel with singles, and plenty of them," she says. "No one wants to get into a shared cab ride with someone who 'only has a 20,' and therefore does not contribute to the fare."
Healthy, happy tips
To stay healthy, Jebb Stewart, who works for the U.S. Army in Landstuhl, Germany, says he's always got a pack of anti-bacterial wipes on hand.
"I use them when I get in the rental car and hotel room," he says.
Mark Taft Sr., vice president of a company that supplies the power industry, says to make an effort to stay fit on the road — even doing little things like bypassing moving sidewalks at the airport and walking on your own.
Once you hit the hotel, Taft says, start the day in the fitness center. Taft, who lives in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, also advises grabbing free fruit that hotels often offer before heading to a restaurant. That fat-thinning tip, he says, "will cut down on how hungry you are when you see the menu."
Road Warrior Roger Phelps may have the simplest advice of all.
"Be nice," says Phelps, a promotional communications manager who lives in Norfolk, Va., "It is amazing the kinds of additional services, perks, special help ... that you can get being nice to all the service personnel you encounter (on) your trip. They normally are getting chewed out and screamed at, so a person who is polite, thanks them and smiles is such a refreshing change, they go out of their way to help."'
"Besides," he says, "it will lower your blood pressure."