I’ve traveled over 400,000 miles for work and much of it is to the same client for weeks at a time, out Monday morning, back Thursday evening – usually at the same hotel. It would be like my second home!
If this resembles your business travel patterns, here are three things I’ve learned that have made the weekly commute bearable and easy to balance and maintain.
1. Get the Email of the Hotel Sales Manager
I worked for a very large consulting firm, and had an email address from their domain. My travel patterns were very predictable (and our corporate booking tool was terrible). So rather than trying to use that, or even the hotel portal – I would simply ask the front desk agent the first time I checked in: “I think I’ll be staying here very frequently, do you have the business card or contact of your sales manager?”
Then, I would email that manager from my corporate account, introduce myself, reference my loyalty number and status and ask if I could make reservations for a list of dates at the corporate rate. By doing this, you signal a few things to the hotel.
- You are going to be a reliable, low maintenance customer
- You have the backing of a corporate travel budget
- A simple direct channel to someone with influence who can solve problems, particularly when a hotel is otherwise booked out or when you need to make a last minute cancelation.
- Peace of mind that you didn’t forget to book a hotel stay and it crept up on you – which has happened to me more than once.
Hotels love reliable, profitable business, and it’s an easy way to get noticed by hotel management without being arrogant or needy. I would often get more welcome amenities and calls from these sales managers when our corporate rate was up for renegotiation. Typically, I would have a sense for how many people were staying there from my company, how many nights each could guarantee and the average rate we were paying – so I knew how much business was on the line and would negotiate free breakfast, parking or wi-fi into our property-specific rate.
So it’s an easy question to ask and a few emails to send, but it can dramatically improve your customer experience!
What else can you do to optimize your stay?
2. Check a bag at the hotel while you go home
If you are traveling to the same place for work every week, why are you carting around toothpaste, shaving supplies, running shoes, yoga mats or anything else replenishable across the country? I like to save my back and cut down on packing time as much as possible and would just run to the convenience store at my client site on a down night mid-week, every few months.
Hotels have valets and can check bags, why not make use of this service? Check the bag when you’re checking out and pick it up when you check in, tip in hand. If you do it enough, the hotel will even often put it in your room before you check in, streamlining the process even more.
Lastly, if you’re worried that you may leave a bag and never return to pick it up (maybe your project is wrapping up), call that sales manager above and ask them to ship the bag to you via USPS or Fedex. They’re usually more than happy to do so and it’s not terribly expensive if you can wait a few days.
Finally, the best road warrior hotel tip:
3. Use dry-cleaning and wash and fold services at your destination, not at home
This took me years to figure out, but I was finding myself running to dry cleaning on the precious few weekend hours they were open — and I usually had to juggle two different drop-off and pick-up cycles to ensure I had clean clothes each week. This was not fun.
So my coworker was shocked when I showed up to the airport with just a backpack, no roller-onboard bag that is the signature of most business travelers. “What gives!? Where are your clothes?”
I learned to get most of my dry cleaning done at my destination, not at home, dropping off my clothes on Thursday mornings and picking them up on Monday evening. This way, I’d rotate three outfits (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) while retiring whatever I wore on Monday (and introducing a new outfit next week). This way I could get creative and match different tops and slacks each week, no one the wiser that it was a slow rotation. Moreover, you can have undergarments laundered too, since most dry cleaners have a wash and fold option (the best ones charge by the pound instead of per piece).
In this way, by running a simple errand Monday evening and Thursday morning at my travel destination, I traveled super light, with barely more than a laptop bag, no laundry at home and fresh clothes waiting for me when I arrived.
I hope these casual learnings have been helpful for those of you on the road, week in and week out. I’ll be posting more tips and tricks like these, so stay tuned for more business travel hacks.
If you have your own, comment below and share your best tips with everyone else!