Business travel in the 21st century

How to make business travel less painful, more productive

Business travel doesn't mean travelling business class any more. Indeed, it's a long time since a business trip meant the luxury of first-class seats, chauffeured cars and generous expense accounts.

For most frequent travellers, it's less Concorde, more Up In The Air. But planning ahead, packing carefully and taking the right technology with you can make your business journey more comfortable, more productive and easier to explain in your expense claims.

Before you go

Forget the corporate travel department. Even if their employer still has one, business travellers are increasingly making their own bookings. The cheapest flight is often the longest and least convenient option, and your best bet for getting upgrades is to pick an airline and earn status with them.

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Only the most frequent fliers get free upgrades these days, but airlines like American, Delta and Virgin Atlantic let you part-pay for upgrades with miles or offer low-price advance upgrades to travellers with status. Plus a gold frequent flier card gets you perks like free luggage allowance, early boarding and access to the lounge, which gives you more working time.

When you can't get a direct flight, look for a long flight plus a short flight instead of two medium length flights. Travel agents will usually pick hubs like Chicago when you have to change planes, but if you're flying from London to San Diego, say, you'll get much more sleep or more time to work - if you change in Los Angeles.

Travel sites like Kayak let you filter flights by departure and landing time as well as by the number of stops. If there's a direct flight to a relatively nearby airport, consider driving or taking the train to your final destination; it can be quicker than a connecting flight, especially if you're arriving in the US and have to clear immigration and recheck bags.

More airlines are starting to charge for picking your seat in advance but that lets you decide whether you want an aisle seat for a quick getaway when you land or a window seat so you don't have to pack away your laptop every time someone wants to use the bathroom.

If you're on a night flight and you have a good neck pillow and in-ear noise blocking headphones, the window seat gives you the option to lean against the window - as well as not being disturbed.

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