World Executive Digest | Traveling on Business: All About Business Trips During COVID-19 | On August 16, roughly 863,000 people went through Transport Security Administration (TSA) airport checkpoints, the most travelers since the world shut down in mid-March.
Thousands of trade shows, conferences, and meetings have been canceled. Many countries have closed their borders to international travel, making global business travel less common. But while the COVID-19 pandemic may still be taking its toll on our business’ daily rhythms, it hasn’t yet brought travel to a complete standstill.
Whether you’re traveling on business or for pleasure, making your way through a crowded airport may seem a little stressful at the moment. However, reparation is key to deciding if, when, and how to jump back into business travel. Read on for the business travel news, tips, and essentials you’ll need.
Decide Whether Traveling on Business Is Necessary
As we’ve grown used to a world with COVID, we’ve learned that it’s critical to weigh the potential risks of each action we take.
Are the benefits of your business travel worth the risk? Should you use video calling software instead? After all, technology has helped us stay connected during the pandemic.
However, many people still prefer meeting clients in person, where you can see facial cues and body language without software delays. In fact, one 2008 study found that even a simple handshake releases oxytocin in the brain, encouraging trust between strangers and opening the doors for collaboration.
Fortunately, getting on a crowded plane is hardly as unsafe as it sounds. Airplanes may be confined spaces, but their airflow design refreshes cabin air with the air outside anywhere from 20 to 30 times per hour. And most airports and airlines have new safety measures in place to minimize the risk of spreading coronavirus.
No one can decide for you whether the risk is worth the travel, of course, but there are a few things you can to make your business trip safer.
Bring Some Business Travel Essentials
If you’re used to frequent travel, you probably already have an ongoing list of trip essentials. If not, here are a few you’ll want to consider, including a few COVID-related items.
- Wear comfortable shoes you can slip out of during a security check, and wear socks as well
- Grab some comfortable, wrinkle-free business clothing, but avoid anything metallic you’d have to take off, such as belts or jewelry
- Pack light, as your luggage slows you down in crowded spaces
- Bring a battery pack to recharge your phone as you go, but be sure to keep your battery in your carry on and never in your checked luggage
- Have your own noise-canceling headphones for in-flight entertainment and business calls
- Make sure to bring COVID gear, including face masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer, and keep it easily accessible
These items can help you stay comfortable as you move more easily and safely through the crowded lines and checkpoints of your airport.
Prepare for Your Business Trip
If you’re a frequent traveler who hasn’t done so already, consider getting TSA PreCheck, which is a great help for speeding through long security lines during peak travel times. Global Entry is a great option for international travelers, though you might see less global travel during the pandemic.
In addition, you should prepare to follow national guidelines. In a mid-June press release, the TSA announced its new best practices, which include routine disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces in the checkpoint area. There are also several new national guidelines for leisure and business travel:
- Keep possession of your boarding pass instead of handing to agents
- Separate your food from your bag for X-ray screening
- Practice social distancing between others in the security line and TSA employees
- Wear a mask, but expect to lower it as you go through security so the agent can compare to face
The TSA also encourages travelers to pack smart, double-checking the existing list of prohibited items to minimize time spent in the security line.
When you book your flight, opt for a window seat for a little less exposure to other travelers. You should also plan to arrive early. This has always been a good idea, with most airlines recommending an arrival of one to two hours before the flight.
But in airports impacted by COVID, where staffing and operations may be affected, it’s even more important to arrive in advance. Don’t forget that current travel crowds are no longer as light as they were in the early months of the pandemic, so you should expect to wait in line, especially given the new procedures airlines have been implementing.
Know Your Way Around the Airport
No one wants to spend any more time than necessary in a hectic airport, but with concerns about COVID, it becomes a health risk as well. Minimizing your time in crowded spaces can in turn help minimize your risk of exposure.
Unfortunately, airports are notoriously easy to get lost in. They create sensory overload: we worry about making it to an upcoming meeting on time, which way to turn next, whether there’s time to grab a snack, and (most recently) if our precautions will keep us from getting sick.
The key here is again to prepare in advance. Most airport websites include maps that you can use to tell what direction to head when you disembark the plane. You can also try trip planner sites like TripIt, which breaks down interactive airport maps to connect you to your next flight.
Don’t forget to also download your airline’s app or sign up for text notifications when you check in to your flight. Most airlines will notify you of any gate changes or delays the second they happen, making them an invaluable resource for getting where you need to go.
Finally, give yourself enough time not to panic. Smart travelers will book flights that offer a little extra time to make it to their next gate during connecting flights. You should also consider having corporate transportation waiting for you on your way out of the airport, minimizing the time spent hunting for a connection to your hotel.
Travel Smart, Travel Safe
Even in these uncertain times, it’s clear that airplane travel isn’t coming to a halt anytime soon. But when you’re traveling on business, every second counts. Prepare in advance and use these business travel tips to make the most of your journey while keeping yourself safe from risk.
As you prepare for your next move, don’t forget to check out our other posts for tips, updates, and more.