6 Tips to Survive Business Travel Over the Holidays

November 25, 2021

In New England, homeowners on Cape Cod typically leave the island the week of Fourth of July. The influx of vacationing families noticeably clogs everything from roads and sidewalks to grocery stores, resulting in normal processes for residents slowing to a near stop.

The same frustrations and hurdles can impact business travelers when work trips coincide with holiday and seasonal travel. After a pandemic-induced pause on leisure trips for Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2020, such travel for pleasure is roaring back to life this year. 

With the news that vaccine eligibility is expanding to children ages five to 11 in early November, parents feel newly confident in planning previously postponed vacations or family visits out of state during this year’s holiday breaks. And, starting on November 8, people from 33 countries that had been barred from entering the United States will be able to enter with proof of vaccination and a negative coronavirus test result.

This led The Washington Post to note that airlines are bracing for an “onslaught of travel all at once.” In the article, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian states that “the sudden rush of incoming passengers is going to be a bit sloppy at first…there will be lines, unfortunately.”

Corporate road warriors will once again be in the mix with less-seasoned travelers including families and individuals of all generations. Confusion, long lines, overbooking, and crowds are back. Below are six proven tips to make traveling life just a little easier in this context.

1. Arrive in style

Professional car services and airport limousine services can eliminate points of stress right off the bat. Door-to-door service with a driver who will navigate dark, early-morning hours, bad weather, and traffic while you catch up on email or relax with a coffee puts you a step ahead of the holiday traveler pack. 

While families jostle for parking spots and wait in long lines for seats on a shuttle to the terminal, you can hop out of the car curbside and progress straight to security if you have already checked in online.

Popular rideshare apps also offer ride reservation convenience as well as electronic invoice creation that simplifies reimbursement at the end of the trip.

2. Skip the line

There’s an art in quickly getting through the TSA line, and business travelers have it down pat. We all know the benefits of the Global Entry Program, TSA PreCheck, and Clear. These programs provide expedited security clearance for members that have been pre-approved and found to be low-risk. Each of these can help business travelers speed through security in a streamlined process with fast-tracked lines.

Even with special clearance, all travelers will eventually face a queue. According to Eagle Creek luggage retailer, in a security line, “one baby carriage equals four typical passengers.” Strategize before committing to a line and look to get behind fellow business travelers even if they are queued in greater numbers. It’s also a good tip to aim left or right in line selection, as casual travelers typically walk and form lines by going straight ahead.

Advanced planning is key here as well. Be sure to double check the airline’s luggage restrictions and consider going the carry-on route instead of checking a bag. As noted in 5 Benefits of Carrying on Your Luggage, “Airports streamline check in for passengers just carrying on, moving them straight from online check in to security.” Passengers checking bags must arrive earlier and often wait in line to complete the baggage process. Additionally, holiday travelers may have an excess of luggage including strollers, car seats, and oversized bags containing gifts. Having an expertly-packed, overhead bin-size bag will help you outmaneuver even families with TSA PreCheck status.

3. Use your travel manager

Part of an airline’s strategy to prevent losses and keep ticket prices lower is to overbook, that is, sell more tickets than there are available seats. Here, business travelers may have an advantage, as first class and business class passengers are typically not bumped. Your corporate travel manager can help ensure that you have permission to book a higher-class ticket, particularly in a high-volume season, when agile adjustments to account for overbooking likely won’t be available.

Your travel manager can also help optimize the booking process to make sure you have an assigned seat on the flight and that you can check in early, both things that can minimize your chances of being bumped. Employee productivity, safety, and cost efficiency are the priorities for corporate travel managers. These professionals can be excellent resources before and during trips to help set you up as best as possible for hassle-free travel.

4. Enjoy company perks

It’s highly possible that corporate travel offices also have negotiated perks with certain airlines or credit cards. These benefits can include access to exclusive airport lounges that provide an escape for seasoned travelers from the chaos of families on holiday vacation. The lounges offer business amenities and a quieter space, as well as complimentary snacks and beverages, better access to charging ports and workstations, clean restrooms with no lines, and sometimes even showers.

The American Express Centurion Lounge at Dallas Fort-Worth, for example, offers a private conference room, complimentary handmade cocktails, an exclusive chef-prepared menu, and even a spa.

5. Cancel the noise

If you aren’t lucky enough to have access to a lounge, there are other ways to escape, at least mentally, from the hubbub of holiday travel. As a solo traveler, it should be easy enough to find a remote chair at an empty gate to work, read, or binge watch the next series on your list. To block out external noise and concentrate on any of these activities, be sure to pack noise-cancelling headphones. Many top brands have days’ worth of battery life and can filter up to 90% of ambient noises while offering Bluetooth connectivity and advanced microphones for those instances when work calls just can’t wait.

6. Treat yourself or someone else

While holiday travelers grapple with family members who may need extra assistance or are weighed down by excess luggage, children’s accessories, and more, business travelers have a unique opportunity to attend to their own wellbeing by checking out notable art exhibits. These offer unburdened business travelers a way to destress, recharge, and get a creative boost. 

Bonus points if you browse with a healthy green smoothie, a green or black tea, or another low-sugar, nutrient or antioxidant-filled treat. Peppermint has been shown to ease nausea and headaches, reduce cold and allergy symptoms, improve energy, and sharpen your focus. Check out seasonal options that include peppermint for a fun lift.

Being on the road around the holidays also affords business travelers an extra chance to find a one-of-a-kind gift. Many airports boast distinctive shopping. Particularly with supply chain issues posing challenges to holiday gift ordering, choosing an item in person has new appeal this year. From locally-sourced gifts to gourmet foods and specialty and boutique shops, checking gifts off of Santa’s list is a good use of free airport time.   

It’s going to be a busy season for travelers worldwide. “U.S. travel has rebounded almost to pre-pandemic levels,” noted The Washington Post. Data from the Transportation Security Administration even showed that nearly two million people passed through U.S. security checkpoints on October 25, 2021 — more than double the number of travelers recorded in 2020 and only 300,000 less than the same day in 2019. 

This return to normalcy, while welcome, brings back old challenges for corporate travelers trying to maintain efficacy and efficiency, not to mention sanity, while trying to get a job done. Following the steps above can mitigate the stress of lines, crowds, and overbooking, making business travel around the holidays not just survivable, but maybe even enjoyable this year.


Did you know the award-winning Etta corporate travel booking software is available for mobile devices? See more on our site.

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Deem Editorial

The Deem editorial team brings important, informative commentary and data to travel managers and everyone interested in technology and the corporate travel industry.

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