Even if you're excited to travel at your company's expense, it's easy to get bogged down in arranging the logistics of business travel. There's packing, flying, reservations, and more. While your firm might handle some or all of the arrangements for you, it still helps to stay organized.
For every stressful aspect of business travel, there's a free smartphone download that can make your life easier. Sure, there are some great paid apps, too, but why pour your own money into business excursions? All of these recommendations are available for both iPhone and Android devices.
1. Organize your itinerary: TripIt
Store your hotel, flight, car rental, and even restaurant reservations in one place instead of fumbling through your backpack or inbox. Access your itinerary online or off, and also sync it with your calendar. If you're traveling with coworkers, share your plans. There's a paid version for $4.09 per month that's significantly more robust, but most travelers won't need to spring for fare refund notifications, automatic schedule sharing, or easy access to alternate flights.
2. Remember your toothbrush and socks: PackPoint
Let an app figure out how many pairs of socks you need, and if you should leave the rain jacket at home. Tell PackPoint where you're going, for which days, and what activities you plan on doing. In turn, you'll get an editable packing list customized for your needs. Share the list if you're traveling with others.
3. Find a comfortable seat on your flight: SeatGuru
Some people prefer aisle seats, and others windows. But no one seems keen on the pesky spot in between. Punch in your flight number and see a detailed seating chart. See where the empty seats are, then take it a step further: SeatGuru also measures legroom, shows which seats have outlets nearby, and passes on crowd-sourced warnings from previous passengers. The only thing you can't do, unfortunately, is actually change your seat straight from the app.
4. Catch up on reading: Pocket
It can be hard to keep up with current events and industry news while on the daily grind. But a long flight is a good time to catch up on reading — if you're not asleep, that is. Easily save articles, videos, and photos on Pocket (via your phone and your computer's browser extension) in the days before your trip. They'll download to your phone, meaning you can scroll through a display that's easy on the eyes without burning data or finding WiFi. Star your favorites to come back to later or share with friends and colleagues.
5. Check into your hotel smoothly: Hotel-specific apps
The only satisfying way to check into a hotel is to get to your room without speaking to a single person. It's an experience expanding to more popular hotel chains. Download the company's app and get assigned a room number. Depending on the chain, you can then either pick up a key from a hotel kiosk or, even better, use your phone as the key. Hotels with check-in apps include Marriott, Hyatt, and Starwood. Hilton will head that direction for some locations soon.
6. Beat jetlag: Entrain
Getting to meetings on time is no good unless you can manage to stay awake through them. University of Michigan researchers made an app that tells you when to switch off the lights each day to adjust to your new time zone. Following it exactly will likely prove impossible, but it's a start.
7. Organize your expenses: Expensify
Avoid the mad rush to find those travel receipts stashed in your coat pockets at the end of the month. Record your expenses as you go, and with minimal effort. Expensify lets you upload photos of your receipts, filling in the fields for you. Turn on your GPS on the road to automatically log miles.