Why do we search the web for business travel tips and travel hacks? The answer is simple – because traveling is full of waste. The more you are aware of this, the more you are able to protect yourself and save some of your precious time.
After reading this article you will be able to see some more of it in your travels. Is it good?
Well, it depends… On the one hand it can frustrate you seeing all these waste but on the other hand, it’s always good to identify the problem to find the solution.
As seeking waste and trying to get rid of it from the production processes is what I’m doing every day in my professional life, today I will try to project waste identification methods from manufacturing industry into the language of business travels. I will try not only to identify and name the waste but also provide some business travel tips as remedies on that.
Business travel tips collected
I tried to keep the content of the article as much comprehensive as possible. I’ve written this as one of the cornerstones of this blog. It means that when I write about something, it is likely that I will provide links to my related articles with details on the topic. Therefore this is the perfect place to start for those who are going for the first business trip ever. I hope that with this set of business travel tips you will not need any other source of information about business travel productivity hacks.
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Before we go further, I’d like to underline that this is my subjective point of view on waste in business trips. It can happen that things I consider as waste, for others appear as a nice experience (like waiting for an additional 4 hours for the delayed plane… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ).
You can use the table of contents to jump to the section which interests you the most:
Lean Manufacturing meets Lean Traveling
As I told you above – I’m going to use some techniques from the industry to help you find and eliminate the waste (or at least neutralize the effects of it) with some business travel tips. To do this, first I’d like to introduce you the concept of Lean Manufacturing.
The name: Lean Manufacturing was used for the first time in 1990 by James P. Womack in his book The Machine That Changed the World.
He compared the Toyota Production System which was focused on waste reduction and process improvements with Ford’s Production System which, at that time, was logy and less flexible. The book prooved that the Japanese one is more efficient.
To keep it short I will just say that Lean Manufacturing is all about removing the waste from the process and simplify the flow of goods, information and work.
As I wrote above, the idea initially came from Toyota and for the last 30 years Lean Manufacturing become a leading management technique in all industries for shopfloor management.
To link industry with business travels, I will use one of the basic Lean tools which is:
7 types of waste
One of the basics of Lean Manufacturing is the definition of Seven Main types of wastes (like 7 sins 🙂 ):
- Excessive movements
- Stocks and inventories
For the last years, I was traveling a lot in business and, as I said, business traveling (or rather in majority air traveling) contain a load of above-mentioned waste.
You don’t believe?
Then let’s go through all of above listed wastes and start with the biggest waste in each travel which is:
How it manifests:
This is the King of waste of each air travel. Just to say that many types of waste described later will come in the end to this one – waiting…
You are forced to wait since the beginning of your trip. And then it’s only getting worse.
Have you ever noticed that you are wasting a lot of time waiting for:
- Opening the check-in
- Checking-in your bags
- Security control
- Delayed plane
- Waiting at the gate for opening the gate and for boarding
- Passengers to take their seats
- Wait until plane will have the clearance for taking off
- Meals and drinks
- Plane to finish taxi
- Baggage claim
- In the worst case wait for your luggage (in case of mishandling 🙂 )
- Waiting for immigration procedures
Above mentioned are just a part of the total sum of waiting in the whole air travel process.
What we can do about it? Well, for some of these there exist no solutions to speed up. You cannot speed-up taking of seats by passengers or getting the clearance for takeoff. I mean it does not depend on you – airlines could do something about this.
But let’s focus on what a single person can do for himself. Let’s see then some business travel tips to reduce waiting:
What you can do about it:
Avoid checking-in your luggage
Instead of waiting for your bags, you can pack light and skip luggage check-in. Follow my guide about efficient packing and you will be able to travel with only one carry-on luggage.
Loyalty programs against waiting
By earning miles or points you will gain a premium status (like Senators in Lufthansa). This will open you the new possibilities to make your travel more efficient.
- Following privileges for special status holders will help you to reduce waiting:
- Use the privileged lines for premium customers of the airline and avoid waiting for check-in. Having special status you will be able to use business/first-class counter.
- You will be able to use fast-tracks. This is the best solution – you cancel all the waiting for the security check with that.
- Instead of standing (or seating) in front of the gate, waiting for boarding, take a comfortable seat in your airline’s lounge. Even if you don’t hold yet any special status then think of buying access to the lounge. For some long layovers, this is the best you can do. Remember that if you have a business or first class ticket, then you can access these lounges regardless of how many miles you have on your loyalty programme account. Next, don’t leave too early – keep an eye on your boarding announcements. Usually, in the lounge, announcements are muted. Therefore you should better install on your mobile the airline’s app and set up the notifications about changes in your flights status.
- When boarding, you can take a dedicated line for special status holders (ex. Lufthansa’s Gold Members) – you will board earlier and this will save you a lot of time and stress as you will be one of the first to place your carry-on bag in the compartment.
Go quickly through airport security check
To reduce waiting time for security check follow below-listed pieces of advice:
- Always pick the right line:
- Avoid the ones with older people and families with kids, especially those which look like going for vacation.
- Look for the line with guys with laptop bags and small carry-over bags.
- Look on the floor for markings which indicate the remaining time to the check:
- Prepare yourself in advance: take off your belt, watch and empty your pockets. Check if you did not forget about any bottle of water or other drink (this can result in additional x-ray scanning of your bag after taking out of such bottle).
- Have your toiletries in a plastic bag.
- If you carry a power bank then check if it has appropriate markings on it (printed, non-stickers).
- Read some more on this topic in my article on airport security checks.
Online monitoring of the situation
- Before you will leave home or hotel, check the current status of your flight. If you know the previous route of your plane (for example LH1356 turns after landing to LH1357 in return flight) you can check precisely when it will arrive. Use flightstats.com or flightradar24.com to track plane delay online.
- If your connecting flight is delayed, you cannot do anything but check if you are entitled to plane delay compensation for EU flights (and for US flights). If yes, then at least you trade your time for money :-).
Skip waiting for meals
To do this, pick the special meals. For example, when you fly with Lufthansa, you can order a special meal via Lufthansa’s site in your booking section. You can select from a variety of special meals and, what’s more important, you will be served first in a row 🙂
The only thing you should keep in mind that you can order it up to 24 hours before departure.
Always take into consideration the size of the airport and immigration and passport procedures. Regarding the size of the airport – if your connecting flight is a long-haul flight, then probably you will arrive at the domestic airport, at the very distant runaway and arrive to the termial by bus – this is easily 20-30 minutes. But usually, this is not even a half of the way. Next, you have to go to the direction of the international terminal, pass the passport control (this is always unknown factor how long will it take – can be 5 minutes or 0,5h) and get to your final gate. Therefore, 1 hour for European citizen in Frankfurt – it’s possible but only when everything goes smooth.
Speaking about immigration procedures, you can assume as a rule of the thumb that it takes up to 2 hours, depending on how many people before you will leave the plane. That’s why the next one from business travel tips is to have seats close to the exit doors. You can save a load of time on the immigration.
And don’t forget to fill the immigration forms in advance – while you are on the plane. Usually, flight attendants distribute these forms an hour or two before landing. Make sure to have the pen in your carry-on bag.
Kill the time
Even if you are well prepared and you know all the business travel tips and you took some actions to eliminate waste from your trip, you will face a load of waiting. The moment will come, and you will have to entertain yourself. On the plane, you can use the onboard entertainment system. If you prefer your own choices, install Netflix, Showmax and other services and download what you like.
Show me yours 🙂
Speaking about the mobile apps – it’s worth to check my list with top flight apps in 2018.
If you like reading (or listening audiobooks) I can recommend you my recent best choices:
- Power of habit by Charles Duhigg
- The Operator by Robert O’Neill
How it manifests:
Transportation waste considers any excessive transports not related to adding a value to the product. In our, business travel case, we should focus on Connecting flights.
Airlines tried to rationalize the connections and came up with the idea of hubs like Frankfurt, Atlanta, Beijing, and any other big airport. The idea is simple – long-haul flights are operated only from big airports. It means that if your airport is a small town, you will add an additional 30 to 40 % of your traveling time for layovers, takeoffs, and landings.
On top of that, one delay of your connecting flight can ruin the schedule of visit.
Then your trip can be prolonged for a day or more if you are unlucky.
Let’s think about what kind of business travel tips to reduce transportation:
What you can do about it:
The direct connections should be your first choice. Unfortunately, such possibilities are limited, unless you live close to the hub airport. To minimize the risk of delays and reduction of time follow these simple rules:
- Keep the direction of your trip. If you travel East do not pick connecting flight with a hub in the east – you will lose another hour or so.
- If you arrive at your connecting flight’s airport in the evening, you will be limited with possibilities to rebook your flights in case of any delays or cancellations. Moreover, the risk of delays increases in the evening as kind of the bullwhip effect comes to play. It means more or less that one airplane delay causes the delay of other planes. These delays sum up in the evening. Therefore always try to arrange your itinerary to be at your connecting flight airport in the morning.
How it manifests:
Looking from the traveler point of view, overprocessing would mean everything that:
- you have to (or you are forced to) do more than necessary, more than is required by law,
- you figure out that what you have paid for – a product or service you receive are with higher quality than you would need.
- it can also be repeating some actions over and over
The obvious wastes in this category are:
- In some countries, governments filter the content of the web by blocking some sites. China is one of such countries. Most of the popular websites in EU or the US like Google, FB, WhatsApp are blocked by Chinese GreatWall – the firewall established by the Chinese government. To connect with your favorite sites you have to make additional efforts – overprocessing of internet connection. Believe me, I spend I think 0,5h per day to deal with connections when I’m in china.
- Despite the fact that you checked-in online, you have to queue to drop your luggage at the check-in counter…
- Miscommunication – did you ever try to explain your problem to somebody when none of you know the language of the other one? There is a lot of… repeating, saying C-L-E-A-R and L-O-U-D in your language like it could help 🙂 .
- Cultural differences – to explain where we have here overprocessing I will use an exmple. Let’s imagine a business lunch in China for European people. The Chinese rule is that at the end of the dinner, there should be some leftovers on the table – the meaning is that the host ordered enough food. In Europe it is opposite – a sign of a good taste is to finish what you have on your plate. By that you confirm that the dish was delicious. Then… If you will gather at the dinner people from China and Europe who are not aware of the tradition of their partners, they will jump in an endless loop of overprocessing – Europeans will try to eat everything that’s on the table and Chinese people will order each time more… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
As you can see we have some serious topics waiting for some business travel tips to reduce overprocessing:
What you can do about it:
Use the VPN connection
For example, to deal with the Chinese Great Firewall, you can install a VPN app on your mobile phone and computer. Keep in mind these rules:
- Install the VPN app before you leave to China. Later it can be difficult to download such apps.
- Don’t rely on one VPN app, download some more as Great Firewall is also improving in the detection of such connections. To know some more details on this topic, read on my article about best VPN apps when traveling China.
Automatic bags check-in
So far I’ve seen this solution only in some US airports. You just scan your boarding pass, drop the bag, scan again and if everything is ok it goes quite quickly.
Use fast lanes if you are already late
On some airports in China you can see dedicated lanes for passengers who are in hurry or already late:
Use it to speed up your bag drop.
Know at least a few words in the local language
Or at least know where to find these basic phrases. You can use the list from my article with basic phrases in five languages.
Know the basics about the culture of the place you go
As we are talking about business travel tips, you should check first:
- Communication and hierarchy etiquette
- Sens of humor
- Tipping policy
- Local cuisine
- Political system
- Dangerous topics
As an example – after a few years of visiting China, I’ve written a quick guide about Chinese culture. You will find all the necessary details, from my point of view, about China and Chinese culture. And if you are interested in tipping around the world you can read my article on that.
4. Excessive movements
How it manifests:
Whenever you do something out of your comfort zone, move back and forth by mistakes, You are forced to work/rest/wait in non-ergonomic position, this is a waste called Excessive movements or Excessive motions. I have some good examples of this:
- If you ever flight in economy class during a long-haul flight, then you know that after 3 hours of sitting in the standard you know what means ergonomy or rather lack of it. Well, not without a reason people call the economy class as “chicken” class.
- All the long distances to go in a hurry
- Gate changes – sometimes you move a hundred meters to get to the new one,
- Unpack, then pack again at the security,
- Reaching to the compartment for the things you have forgotten to take out,
- Usually, when you visit the country for the first time you want to buy some souvenirs for your for your loved ones. Then, you need to visit a couple of stores going back and forth to buy something,
Now, let’s see some business travel tips to reduce some excessive movements:
What you can do about it:
Think about upgrades
Standard flight seats are a disaster for 10 hours flights. And not only the seats can be a problem. Read on my article on how long-haul flights impact your health, to know little more on that.
Anyway, to increase your comfort you can invest some money to upgrade your class to Premium Economy. According seatguru.com the fair price for such class is 10-15% more to the standard economy class. But be careful as not all what is called by airlines premium economy means the same. The differences are sometimes huge and sometimes you will not see a much different from regular economy class.
Luckily, I’ve investigated this topic in details and you can check the ultimate comparison of Premium Economy classes for all major air carriers around the globe. Additionally, you can jump to my articles with reviews of Premium Economy of two big airlines:
Prepare for security check in advance
Know the basics in advance to go fast and without additional scans of your luggage. Check my guide on the airport security check to go through it like a pro.
There is a hope that soon the waiting time at security checks will decrease as airports are also thinking how to speed up things. Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam is testing new scan machines which no longer require from you to take out all your liquids and electronics from the bags. I’ve been testing this recently and it’s working very well – very promising.
Pick your seat in advance
Don’t forget to pick your seats in the airplane in advance. Most important for me is to always pick the aisle seat. It’s because you can reach compartment easily whenever you want and you don’t need to ask anybody to let you go. You just stand up and do whatever you like.
Check my article on how to pick best seat in a plane to know some useful tips in this topic.
Focus your purchase force on specific things
Instead of walking from store to store and finally buy a magnet for refrigerator, check my guide about best souvenirs to buy around the world. This will save you a lot of time and efforts, and your loved ones will be delighted from the received presents.
How it manifests:
Non-quality meaning is more-less obvious for everybody. Whenever you feel disappointed with the service or product, we speak about non-quality.
Below I’ve listed some examples of of non-quality waste in business travels. Among the others, these are:
- Public WiFi connections on airports, hotels, restaurants. The connection is always slow and you are randomly bumped off the net every few minutes.
- Dirty bathrooms at the airports or train/bus stations. However this is not a common situation and it has improved recently but still, you can see some toilets in horrible condition. Another thing is the location and size, which sometimes doesn’t match to the needs – if you ever had to do the sprint for 300 meters to find the operationg toilet, then you know what I mean 🙂 …
- Plane delays. I’ve just checked the reports about delays for European major airports on Flightstats.com and looking just at October 2018, on average 25% of flights were delayed. Keep this figure in mind when booking a ticket with layover – always have some minutes in a backup. Air industry is not a just in time business.
- Plane cancelations. This happens to 1%-2% of flights worldwide. There are many reasons for that like for example weather conditions, machine breakdowns or the personnel on strike (see the recent hundred of Ryanair’s flights canceled)
- Almost 2,6% of passengers claim mishandling of their baggage. Your bag can be lost and found or lost permanently but this does not change anything. Anyway, you will lose your time and money to stock up on necessities.
- Beside mishandling, your luggage can get damaged.
Now I’m going to share with you some business travel tips to deal with non-quality:
What you can do about it:
Have your own WiFi box
International data roaming can be extremely expensive (like 6 pounds per MB in China for UK citizen…) when you travel to the other continent, therefore it’s not a good alternative for lousy public hotspot connections.
But what you can do is to rent or buy your own WiFi box with access to the internet for almost any country from the global providers like Skyroam or XoXo Wifi.
This is much cheaper comparing to your operator’s data packages and you will never again ask for a password for the hot spot.
Keep your layovers long enough
Don’t let the 30 minutes delay ruin your connection. Think about it in advance. You can use flightstats.com performance reports to check the airline and airport performance regarding delays.
Always keep in mind that if you have a connecting flight for a long-haul, then you will need to change your terminal from domestic to international. Depending on the size of the airport this can be hell away from your domestic flight departure gate.
And don’t forget about immigration procedures. This can take a while – check in advance by asking your friends or google search for it.
Be prepared for cancelation
You cannot do anything with the flight cancelation. Rather, you can limit the effects of it. And base on my experience, the faster you will react, the less frustrated you will be. If you want to know more, then read on my article on what to do if the flight is canceled.
Pack up as if it was certain that they would lose your luggage
A quick tip is to have in your carry-on bag necessary survival kit in case of mishandling of your luggage. Put there at least one day outfit with underwear and the amenity kit (toothbrush, shower gel, medicines and so on). You can reach for my article on how to pack for a business trip where you will find all the necessary information.
Fight for compensation
If flight cancelation, delay or your luggage is damaged or lost there is one more thing which may give you a little reward for your nerves and troubles. You can apply for compensation. Depending on your travel directions and airlines you should read my articles on that:
- How to apply for delayed flight compensation – step by step guide for EU flights
- Delayed flight compensation for US flights
- Denied boarding compensation – the ultimate guide
- What to do if your flight is canceled?
- How to pick the best flight claim management company?
It’s definitively worth to apply for that as you can be entitled to receive up to 600 EUR for canceled or delayed more than 3 hours long-haul flight arriving or leaving to EU.
How it manifests:
Overproduction means that we produce more than customer ordered or more than is needed in the next process. Overproduction leads to many risks, among which you can find the risk of obsolescence. If the product becomes obsolete, your options are: scrap or rework it (if possible).
How does it look like in the world of business travels? Probably you have heard about the story of a 69 years old passenger dragged off overbooked United flight. Airlines sell more tickets than available seats. They know it from statistics, that there is a high probability that at least a few passengers will not show up due to many reasons like traffic, delayed connecting flights and many others. So the logic is simple – we can sell more because anyway, we will have some seats free.
Unfortunately for airlines, once for a while, the situation becomes complicated and in the worst case can end in using force like it was in 2017 in case of United. Overbooking is the mirror situation to overproduction in Manufacturing.
So, do we have any business travel tips to reduce the risk of overproduction / overbooking?
What you can do about it:
You will recognize that the plane is overbooked when the flight attendants will start to announce proposals to reschedule your flight in exchange for some benefits.
If you ever will be interested with such deal keep in mind that agreeing for their conditions, you lose your right to claim your late arrival to the destination. To get more details about it, read my article on denied boarding.
One thing more – even if the offer given by airline at the counter desk seems to be very generous, ask for details. Among the others, two seems to be crucial, and you should ask for that:
- If they offer you the money, then ask if this will be in cash or the vouchers for flights or Amazon.
- Certainly, they will rebook your flight – check if the time and route satisfy you. It can happen that you will exchange your seat fora additional layover or your travel class will be changed.
Take care about the above business travel tips and you should avoid problems in case you will exchange your seat for some benefits.
7. Stocks and Inventories
How it manifests:
If we talk about stocks in terms of manufacturing then it’s obvious that we mean inventories of goods (for example components, work in progress, finished goods, spare parts).
What does it mean Stock in business trip language? Well, it means the people… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Ok, it can sound weird but if we consider people as a “goods” which needs to be “processed” by a “machine” called, for example, airport security gate, then everybody in the line waiting for security check are the “stock”.
This interpretation comes from the application of Lean Manufacturing outside the manufacturing – in banks, hospitals, and government institutions.
So let’s approach it in an above-mentioned way and try to answer the following question: what is the root cause of every single line on the airport, road, hotel, restaurant and so on?
People want to be served first because of many reasons but among them, one is the most common for all of us: Time-saving. This is our natural need to fight with the waste number 1 – Waiting.
Ok, but what can we do with that? Let me share with you some business travel tips to reduce stocks in your trip:
What you can do about it:
Before you will line up, think for a second if it’s worth. There are two types of lines:
- The first type is the most common – you line up, wait for your turn, do your business, leave/pass through. In this type of queue, your goal is to be as close to the beginning of the queue as possible to win the time.
- In the second type of queue, everybody will be served and the place in the queue plays no role – will not speed up the whole process. Let’s take as an example boarding of the airplane:
- Each person with a boarding card will enter the plane in the end,
- Each person has a predetermined seat, so nobody will take your seat,
- The airplane will not take off before everybody will be on board. It means that if you are the first on the board, you will spend the next minutes waiting for others.
Of course, somebody can say that if you are first on the board you will have no problems with placing your carry-on luggage to the compartment. Therefore – pack light and have a small bag to fit it in the worst case under the seat.
… and number 8 – it’s about you.
Long travels with time zones change are extremely exhausting. I already mentioned my article on health risks of flying. But one thing in particular is always killing me – long haul flights with time zone change. Going far east you will be robbed from the night and coming back you will have problems to survive till the dusk. It can hit you like a train. This phenomenon is called jetlag. You can check my article on the best ways to overcome jetlag.
My best business travel tips among the others:
- Try to sleep ona plane going east and avoid it going west.
- Order special meals – choose light meals
- Stay hydrated and be careful with booze (it dehydrates you)
Business travel tips can save your time
Each time you hit the road, you will face the enormous amount of described above waste.
Just as an experiment – next time, when you go on a journey, try to calculate – how much time you will spend waiting, walking, seating in a planes, trains, buses and how much time you will spend in the company (assume 8 hours working day). It can appear that more than 60% of time you spent on airports and in the air and only ~40% in the company…
Therefore, because our time is the most precious thing we have, it’s really worth to use some of above listed business travel tips to snatch a little of this time.