Mixing business and pleasure is tempting, but you’ll be better off approaching business travel like it’s your job, instead of a mini-vacation. In fact, by focusing on efficiency, productivity and professionalism, you’ll probably enjoy smoother travel and receive better treatment than an infrequent traveler on vacation.

Here are five tips for traveling like a road warrior, according to a column on The Business Journals’ website.

  1. You’ll never know unless you ask … for upgrades. Even if you haven’t been traveling long enough to earn elite status with airlines and hotels (more on that below), you can still get occasional upgrades. And upgrades don’t have to be free to be a deal. The price difference to bump you up a class can be surprisingly modest. Just ask — nicely, of course.
  2. Only take the technology you really need. When deciding whether to pack an extra gadget — phone, camera, tablet, laptop, MP3 player, you get the idea — remember that each piece comes with at least one cord to keep track of and added responsibility. A well-equipped smartphone can handle most travel tasks, from managing your boarding passes and email to web apps for business expenses. For more focused work or giving presentations, skip the tablet and go for the full functionality of a laptop.
  3. Earn elite status. Most companies offer some kind of loyalty program, and all that business travel you’re doing can add up to meaningful perks. Once you reach “elite” status with one airline program, others may be willing to match your status. And that status can mean free airfare, upgrades — and greater comfort on the road.
  4. Pack with a plan. Make a checklist of your business travel essentials, and keep them pre-packed in your carry-on, the article suggests. To keep your items organized as you go through security, stock your carry-on with extra zip-top bags.
  5. Remember the golden rule. On any given day, the person at the hotel or airline counter has already dealt with 100 people just as important as you, and they’ve heard nearly every problem and request. Treat travel and hospitality professionals the way you’d want to be treated — anything less just marks you as a newbie. Smile, use their names, thank them, and tip when appropriate.

When you’re traveling on business, approach it like you would any other aspect of your job. And remember that as a business traveler, you are now a steward of the company checkbook. Be as careful with your expenses as you would if you were traveling for pleasure. You might be surprised at what a difference a professional attitude makes on the road.

We’d like to hear your thoughts. What do you think of these travel tips? What additional advice would you offer to business travelers? Share your feedback in the comments section!

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