I published a blog article back in October on my experiences with travel over my first year as a developer advocate. Since then I have thought of several more travel tips, and also learned a couple more, so here is a second article on the topic. If you are a Concur user, you might find my section on Concur trips particularly helpful.
Rapid Fire Travel Tips
- If you are planning on working during a flight and are flying British Airways, it would be wise to avoid the exit row. British Airways does not allow ANY carry-on baggage to be stored under the seat in front of you. This can make retrieving/storing your work laptop more troublesome.
- If you find yourself traveling to certain cities frequently, purchase a transit card if applicable. This will make using that city’s public transit easier.
- Don’t put your passport in the wash, but if you do, dry it out immediately and place it under some heavy books and you should be fine. I have gone through border control in several countries since largely without issue*.
- Get a passport carrier to hold your transit cards and also help prevent you from doing something dumb and putting your passport in the wash.
- Check for promotions for hotels you stay at or airlines you fly with. Hotels and airlines frequently have promotions offering bonus points or additional credit towards status, but you have to register for them.
- Because most hotels have a no fee cancellation policy as long as you cancel the reservation more than a week before the check-in date, it can be a good idea to book a hotel room for large conferences even if you aren’t sure yet you’ll be attending.
- Before you fly, be sure to download podcasts, tv episodes, movies, or any other entertainment you might be interested in to your phone or mobile device. I’ve been on trans-Atlantic flights where the plane’s entertainment system was unusable for the entire flight!
- Get a power pack and make sure it’s fully charged before long days of travel. Outlets might not always be available.
- TripIt can be a great application for storing your travel itineraries, particularly if you have a busy travel schedule.
- Most of the trouble came because after the second time I put my passport in the wash was the day I left for travel and my passport was a little more “rough” looking. I got a couple of questions during that day of travel, but have since gone through border crossings in several countries without issue.
Powering Through Concur
Concur is a widely used tool by organizations for administrating travel. There are a few other tools, but Concur is one of the biggest and a decent chance you will be interacting with it if you find yourself traveling a lot for work.
Initially I found Concur incredibly frustrating and difficult to use. Over the past year as I have become more familiar with Concur, I have found ways to make it, if not pleasant to use, definitely much more bearable. Below are some tips I have learned over the past year to make working with Concur a bit easier.
Searching for Hotels
Concur has an option to search for hotels by “reference point” and it is actually pretty effective. Initially when looking for hotels I would painstakingly fill in the address for the conference venue. The reference point option is way faster and easier. It gives “Statue of Liberty” as an example of something to search for, but it can actually match on much less well known spots. For example in October I presented at the JFall conference which is held in the Pathé Ede cinema in Ede, Netherlands. Needless to say, this is hardly a well known location. Concur has no trouble locating it though:
Filter for Your Preferred Hotel Brand Easily
Once you narrowed down the geo-location of where you will be staying, you will need to select your hotel. In my previous article on travel I mentioned the importance of sticking to a single hotel chain. However chains like Marriott, Hilton, IHG, etc. operate under many different brands, and it can be difficult remembering which brands go with which chains, luckily Concur has the ability to sort by Superchain instead:
Modifying Your Hotel Stay
You travel enough and you will run into situation where your travel plans will change. When your hotel is booked through Concur changing your check-in/check-out dates only takes a few clicks. Find your hotel reservation in Concur, and in the top right corner click “Change”. Modify your check-in/check-out dates as appropriate and you are all set. Using this feature I was able to modify two hotel reservations in all of five minutes when some of my travel plans got moved around.
Filtering for Your Preferred Air Carrier
Concur doesn’t have a way to filter for airlines like they have for hotel chains. This can make booking air travel a little frustrating until I learned a trick. Once Concur has finished retrieving flight information, you can filter by connecting airports which should be located on the bottom left of the page (it’s collapsed by default). By selecting for the major hubs your primary carrier flies through, the flights to choose from should be filtered much more closely to match your preferences.
Mind the Details When Booking Air Travel
In the above image there are two flights going from Kansas City (MCI) to Barcelona (BCN) that look all most identical; they are both listed as American Airlines, the total travel time is about the same, and the price is also the same (I removed the actual prices for confidentiality reasons, but trust me they were the same). However if you look at the descriptions for the footnotes, the second option has one additional flight marked as being operated by British Airways (6153), expanding the details gives me this:
On my flight out to Barcelona the trans-Atlantic flight from Dallas (DFW) to London (LHR) is operated by British Airways.
Depending on your opinion of British Airways or American Airlines, this detail could have a fairly significant impact on at least the flying portion of your travel experience. With the first option the trans-Atlantic flight to Barcelona is operated by American Airlines, the second option it is operated by British Airways.
In my situation I would choose the first option because of I have grown accustomed to flying on American, but regardless it is important when selecting a flight to look at these details as it can make a lot of difference.
There’s a lot of trial and error involved when you make that transition from traveling only a few time a year to dozens. I hope these articles can help other people make that transition a bit more smoothly than I have.