Long delays at the airport can be frustrating, but they don’t have to be. With a laptop or tablet, a cell phone, and a mobile printer, you can run your business directly from the gate. At the very least, you will be able to respond to e-mails and work on your documents.
For the small business traveler on the go, here are a few tips to be more productive at the airport:
- Many airports now have charging stations for your devices. If at all possible, take advantage of these, even if your device batteries aren’t fully discharged. Having a fully charged battery may come in handy later in the day, when you’re on the plane or at an airport without charging options.
- Invest in items like car chargers for your laptops and phones, as well as an adapter that will work with the special seat plugs on airplanes. Be careful, though. Using a non-standard adapter with your device could cause damage. When in doubt, order adapters directly from the manufacturer. Being able to charge your device everywhere but at the airport can help you out if you end up in an airport without charging stations or available wall plugs.
- If you’re unable to charge your device, change your laptop’s power settings to utilize as little battery power as possible. Warm batteries discharge faster, so avoid using your laptop on your lap. Set it atop a hard, flat surface and make sure vents aren’t blocked. Set your screen to the least bright setting possible to avoid battery drain and close any items in the system tray (the bottom right corner of your screen) to give your computer a rest. For smartphone and tablets, keep the screen off when the device isn’t in use and turn off Wi-Fi to avoid your devices needlessly searching for a connection. Also turn off any Bluetooth devices and GPS-enabled functions when you aren’t using them.
- “Skip airport wireless services,” Tippingpoint Labs’ Andrew Davis advises. “Airport wireless services (whether they're free or not) are a huge waste of time. Don't bother connecting to these, I've found that they're unreliable, often dropping my internet access in the middle of an important transaction, and not worth the time and effort they take to connect.” For laptops, Davis recommends mobile broadband device that you can buy from Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and many other wireless carriers. You can also tether your laptop to your smartphone’s wireless plan, usually for only a minimal monthly charge.
- If using a tablet, Davis recommends adding on a keyboard. Zagg has a great case for the iPad 2 that acts as a case, stand, and keyboard. Since adding on a keyboard, Davis has found his productivity has increased, but he’s also better able to write more high-quality replies.
- Take advantage of travel apps. If you need to know if your flight is on time, several apps are available that can help keep you up-to-date on flight arrival and departure times. FlightStats is a simple app that asks you to type in the airline name and flight number, then responds with an up-to-date listing of the status of that flight. The TripIt Travel Organizer will keep all of your travel information in one place. And Yelp can help get you to the closest restaurants and shops whenever you arrive at your destination.
- Davis also recommends noise-canceling headphones for working in public places. “They allow me to get into a productive mode and my own 'work zone' by filtering out the noise that distracts me easily,” Davis says.
Once you’re on the plane, you’ll likely want to keep working. Since you likely won’t be able to connect on board, be sure to prepare ahead of time by downloading everything you’ll need to get your work done.
Another consideration, if you’ll be traveling often, is screen size. Economy class isn’t conducive to large laptop screens and you may find you’re lacking in elbow room as you try to type. You’ll also want to consider that those seated around and behind you may be able to see your screen. A screen filter like this one from 3M can give you the privacy you need.
Small business owners are so busy, it’s important to maximize every minute available. By making yourself productive while traveling, you can make the most of long hours spent waiting at airport gates and flying through the air at 30,000 feet.