No, they’re not typos. We’re using British spellings in honour of 10 U.K.-based road warriors: the small but mighty IMEX Group team that organises two huge trade shows and conferences for the meetings and incentives industry every year—IMEX, held in Frankfurt, Germany, and IMEX America, which has met in Las Vegas for the past three years.
These intrepid travellers, who circle the world for business, share their favourite ideas to ease the pain of business trips and the indignities of air travel. Here are their must-have products and experience-born tips to remember whilst on the road.
Tip or product: Always bring a pashmina
Why it’s a must: It’s really lightweight to carry, and very soft and cozy to snuggle into on a long-haul flight.
My story: On my recent flight to Las Vegas there was something wrong with the air conditioning/heating, so my pashmina stopped me from freezing.
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Tip or product: Roll up some spare underwear inside a shirt to carry in your hand luggage, and pack a few miniature toiletries (less than 100ml inside a plastic bag for airport security; that’s 3.5 ounces in U.S. speak).
My story: I was stranded in Frankfurt in December for five days due to snow whilst trying to get back to Heathrow. My luggage had been checked in, along with that of about 20,000 other passengers, and I never saw it again until two months later. So there I was, stuck in Frankfurt, which was fine, but not having any spare clothes or a wash kit meant things could have gotten pretty smelly had I not done some shopping in H&M. This tip is also useful if they send your bags somewhere else. Then at least you can change your clothes and wash the dirty ones each day until you are reunited. Don’t think it won’t happen to you: I thought that and it did.
Tip or product: Portable luggage scales to avoid paying “overweight” fines. My scale was a gift from Delta and is emblazoned with the Skyteam logo, but, as the disclaimer goes, other airlines (and no doubt their travel scales) are available.
Why it’s a must: With an overweight bag being so “chargeable” these days, and with so much travel involved in our business, it makes sense to make the very most of a bag without having to pay for it, both metaphorically and literally. As such, the scales have proven to be an invaluable asset in maximising luggage to carry the most it can without going over. There hasn’t been a trip since I’ve had it where my baggage hasn’t dangled off the gadget’s reinforced strap, telling me whether I can take two suits instead of the one or that extra pair of shoes for variety. Will putting two bottles of stunning American wine in my case—suitably wrapped up of course, but adding further to the weight—push me into dollar spends at the bag dropoff? Not anymore. It’s so small and light that I take it everywhere, checking my baggage weight time and again. I always smile triumphantly when the check-in scale at the airport tells me the two things I already know: the exact weight of my bag (so accurate the scales are) and the fact that it is not overweight. So there’s no negotiating with the airline staff to let me off the extra kilos, no trepidation in filling out my expenses form for overweight luggage (“after all, if I wasn’t carrying all those marketing materials in the first place…”), and no bag-open-on-the-airport-floor-stuffing-bits-into-my-hand-luggage-while-the-queue-checks-out-my-laundry dance.
My story: A single incident where the scales proved their worth was checking onto a domestic flight in the U.S. A colleague was way over on her allowance and was asked to move weight out of her bag. We moved to one side, did the necessary jigging, weighing as we went with the gizmo, and then returned the bag to the scales at the right weight, saving us from the up-down, up-down, “how much does it weigh now, oh, I have to take more out,” at the desk, not to mention all that tutting in the queue behind us.
Nearly every time I do a bag drop, it makes me smile. For almost without fail, the airline staffer checking my bag will look at that green LCD arbiter of fate and say, “That’s impressive: do you know how close you are to your allowance?” and the answer, although I don’t say as much, is always, “Yes I do. And it was on purpose.”
Tip or product: I have two tips. If I am flying economy or premium economy long-haul (from London), I always take a “Pret picnic” (healthy take-out from Pret A Manger) on the plane with me, including popcorn for watching movies!
When flying West, I try to stay awake for the entire flight so that when I arrive I can go straight to sleep until the next morning. It’s a great way to beat the jet-lag and catch up on sleep at the same time!
Why it’s a must: Well, I hate to be hungry and I hate eating food when I can’t actually decipher the contents, so a plane picnic of healthy snacks and not-so healthy treats is perfect for me! The sleep speaks for itself!
Other tips for long-haul flights:
• Always have a jumper (U.S. translation: sweater).
• Travel in a gym kit (U.S. translation: warmup suit). Much more comfortable, although not as stylish
• Take your night moisturiser in the cabin and apply often and liberally.
• Drink lots of water. I never drink alcohol on a plane.
The other thing I do is carry my teabags with me—
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Tip or product: Expensify
Why it’s a must: The app Expensify makes it easy to track expenses while travelling for business. It’s easy to use but very powerful. It enables you to take photos of receipts to make the process very fast, but you can also add internal expense codes to expense categories. This removes some of the administrative processes attached to business travel, and anything that can reduce my office admin is extremely welcome in my view.
My story: Recently, on a trip to Bangkok, I took the new airport express train into the city. I could not get a receipt for my train token, but because I was able to take a photo of the pricing list, I could get my cost accounted for and refunded.