From handling missed connections to enduring a lumpy mattress, it’s no secret that traveling for work often feels like a lot of work. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little help from these new products, cool services, and savvy strategies, it might even start to feel like fun.
SCORE AN UPGRADE: TIPS FROM A TRAVEL AGENT
Don’t discount the ease of booking through a travel agent: It puts the work on someone else’s plate, freeing you to concentrate on business. Plus, as Eric Hrubant, president of CIRE Travel in New York, explains, they know all the tricks. Here are a few:
> Dress to impress. “People from different industries dress different ways,” Hrubant says. “When I travel I take it up a notch. It helps you get upgrades, but also I’m representing my company.”
> If possible, rent a car later in the day, when most standard and compact vehicles have been taken, leaving only the nicer ones.
> Earn elite status by consistently booking with one airline, hotel, or rental agency or with one airline alliance; by racking up points on associated credit cards; or by seeking out status “matches” from competing airlines.
> Be nice to service people. “If someone likes you and has empathy for you,” Hrubant says, “they will try to help you.”
> Skip the lines
The Department of Homeland Security’s “trusted traveler” programs have been around for years, yet only about 1 percent of Americans are enrolled in them. The best one for most business travelers is Global Entry, which “expedites your passage through customs coming back to the US,” says Dan Espinal, director of investments at Allied Minds in Boston and a frequent flyer. It costs $100 to apply and makes you eligible for another program called TSA Precheck, where a security separate line means you “don’t have to take off your shoes and don’t have to pull everything out [of your bag].” After an interview for Global Entry, you’ll receive a number that gets linked to your passport, which you can then scan at kiosks.
> Consider business class
Last year, 96 percent of business travelers flew coach on domestic flights. In business class, though, “the ticket is twice the price, but the service is three or four times better,” says Espinal. Persuade bosses to spring for it on long flights by reminding them it will mean more hours of productivity.
> Get grub
The AirGrub app lets you order and pay for food before you get to the airport by providing a list of restaurants and menus in your terminal. When you arrive, it’s waiting for you in a special line. The service rolled out in San Francisco and is newly available at Logan Airport and JFK.
> Use Logan Airport’s new parking and shuttles
There’s a lot happening on the ground at Logan, including 1,700 new parking spaces in the central garage, a 1,100-space Logan Express garage in Framingham, free Silver Line service to South Station, and a nonstop shuttle to Copley Station and the Hynes Convention Center for just $5 (free with a Charlie Card).
> Find a cab
Long taxi line at arrivals? Go around to departures to find empty cabs galore.
LUGGAGE GOES HIGH TECH
In 1970, New Bedford native Bernard Sadow put wheels on the bottom of a suitcase and earned the unending gratitude of load-lightened travelers everywhere. Not much has changed since then, but it’s about to: A slew of high-tech carry-ons will be hitting the market soon, and pre-ordering them now, at $245 to $399, will save you about a third over retail prices. Among the standouts: Fugu (fuguluggage.com) expands from carry-on to full size with the push of a button, and optional shelving transforms it into a portable armoire so you never have to unpack. Benga 2S Duo 2 (benga.eu) splits in two, doubling its carrying capacity. Bluesmart (bluesmart.com) includes a built-in scale, app-controlled locking, two built-in USB chargers, 3G/GPS tracking, and a trip-data app. And the Barracuda (barracuda.co) easy-store collapsible bag has a USB charger, a hidden laptop tray, a GPS locator, and a swivel handle that stops those annoying twisty crashes when you’re running to catch your plane.
If this keeps up, your luggage may soon be smart enough to travel without you.
NEW INTERNATIONAL FLIGHTS FROM BOSTON
Logan’s Terminal E is undergoing a $100 million renovation, expected to end in late 2016, that will allow it to handle the largest commercial crafts in the skies, with wingspans of up to 262 feet. What follows is a list of some of the new flights queuing up on the tarmac.
New nonstop destinations
> Barbados (JetBlue)
> Beijing (Hainan)
> Dubai (twice daily on Emirates)
> Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific)
> Istanbul (Turkish Airlines)
> Mexico City (Aeromexico)
> Tel Aviv (El Al Israel)
Scheduled to start in December 2015 or 2016
> Copenhagen (Scandinavian, then Norwegian)
> Cork (Norwegian)
> Doha (Qatar)
> Guadeloupe (Norwegian)
> London-Gatwick (Norwegian)
> Manchester, England (Thomas Cook Airlines)
> Martinique (Norwegian)
> Oslo (Norwegian)
> Toronto (three times a day, WestJet)
The TripIt Pro app ($49 a year ) collects all your bookings, sends real-time alerts that can help you find alternate flights at a good price when you get canceled, tracks your reward mileage, and tells you when your preferred seat becomes available. Wallet (iPhone) and PassWallet (Android) also handle your itinerary as well as save boarding passes and hotel confirmations from participating partners.
Even if you hate annual fees, the AmEx Platinum Card may be worth $450 a year for this alone: It gets you into more than 600 airport lounges worldwide, free. It’s not the only perk, but with air travel the way it is these days, it’s the best one.
PACK LIKE A PRO
> If you’ll be gone even just one full day, bring two pairs of shoes. Dressy ones for important meetings and client dinners may get uncomfortable quickly, so throw in another pair — still presentable — for walking around on your own.
> Simplify your life by keeping a checklist of everything you need to bring. There are plenty online to get you started.
> Keep these essentials in your bag at all times: TSA-compliant toiletries, earbuds, extra cords and chargers, spare reading glasses. That way you’ll never have to obsess about whether you packed them.
> If you’re not wedded to a business suit, the Scottevest Fleece 7.0 ($80, scottevest.com) makes carrying all your stuff around a breeze. It’s lightweight, toasty — but with removable sleeves — and has 23 pockets that magically don’t bulk you up when filled.
> For women, a RainRap ($65-$75, rainraps.com) can replace a traditional cumbersome trench for ever-changing weather; it’s a good-looking two-color hooded poncho that weighs only 8 ounces.
RIDING (TRAINS, BUSES, PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION)
> Wheel deal
Boston to New York was the second-most traveled domestic route in 2014 (after New York to Chicago). Consider avoiding the crowds with LimoLiner (my.limoliner.com), a bus line that shuttles between 39 Dalton Street in the Back Bay and 6th Avenue at 53rd in New York, with a stop at the Framingham Park and Ride. The trip harks back to the golden age of air travel, with an onboard attendant, meal and beverage services (including wine on evening trips), large, clean restrooms, and — remember this? — legroom! Free Wi-Fi, on-screen entertainment, and outlets at every seat let you work or relax during the approximately 4¼-hour trip, which has 13 departures weekly for $89 each way. Bonus: Travel 10 times and the 11th is free.
> Join the club
Acela Express business-class passengers and those with business-class tickets on Northeast Regional trains can buy a $20 day pass to ClubAcela in Boston. You get snacks like Cliff bars and nonalcoholic beverages, photocopy service, conference room access, a helpful attendant, and a little peace amid the hustle of South Station. It might even make sense for locals.
> Get around like a local
Moovit is a free app that demystifies public transportation in 700 cities across 58 countries. Never get lost again.
> Take a taxi
By now everyone knows about Uber and Lyft, but if you’re still more comfortable with cabs, the Curb app can help you find one in 60 cities around the United States, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C.
> The automobile office
If you’re among the 81 percent of business travelers who prefer to drive, consider investing in a mobile wireless router to make your car a Wi-Fi hot spot. Most carriers offer them, and some don’t require contracts. Netgear, a standalone service, is about $200 initially, plus $25 for each gigabyte of rollover data (netgear.com). Add on a desk for your car — such as the JourniDock (starting at $140, journidock.com), with holders for your cell, pens, and coffee — and you might never need to go in to the office again.
> Make expenses easy
The MileTrack GPS ($150, plus service fee, miletrackgps.com) frees you from logging billable miles by doing it for you when you turn the car on and off. The BizXpense Tracker app ($6.99) records travel time, mileage, and photographed receipts. It’s customizable and shareable among devices, and it supports all major currencies.
> Scan your passport and other important documents and e-mail them to yourself in case they go missing (but make sure you have a strong e-mail password).
> Save money by remembering to turn off roaming and push notifications on your phone, set e-mail to manual, and stay in airplane mode.
> Call your bank and credit card companies to let them know you’ll be on the road. Security has tightened in the past few years, and even standard travel expenses like cabs and hotels can be blocked if you’re in another city or country.
Speed your check-in
Many hotels are offering mobile check-ins to streamline the process. Marriott now lets rewards program members check in via Apple Watch.
Sleep on it
Sharing-economy companies such as Airbnbhave been making big plays to access the business travel market, but if you work for a large corporation, that might not be available to you. If you travel for a smaller company or own the business yourself, though, you may save money and feel more at home. Airbnb is making it easier with centralized billing and trip-management dashboards.
The local building boom is continuing. Boston and Cambridge added 972 hotel rooms in 2015, and more than 3,000 are coming in the next few years, including a micro hotel by Yotel on the waterfront with rooms as small as 176 square feet (and smaller rates to match). You can already stay at Yotels in New York and London.
Use WiFi Finder and similar apps to locate hot spots when you’re out and about. Boingo lets you access more than a million Wi-Fi hot spots worldwide for as little as $10 a month (the first month is just $5).
AND DON’T FORGET TO HAVE SOME FUN
With apologizes to wordsmiths: “Bleisure” (mixing “business” and “pleasure”) is now a thing. Whatever you want to call it, a lot of companies are letting employees combine business travel with a weekend of sightseeing. In a 2014 survey by BridgeStreet Global Hospitality, an international business accommodations company, 60 percent of respondents said they were more likely to take some extra time for leisure during their business trip than they were five years ago. Roughly 54 percent bring family or significant others with them, often using frequent-flyer miles to defray costs. When you can, fly with a carrier that belongs to a global airline network like Star Alliance (staralliance.com), Oneworld (oneworld.com), or SkyTeam (skyteam.com), which consolidate members’ programs, allowing passengers to earn and redeem miles across the network. Several airlines out of Logan — including JetBlue, British Airways, and Emirates — offer friend- and family-sharing plans.
Elizabeth Gehrman is a frequent contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.