Seat 2B By Joe Brancatelli
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7 Tools and Tips to Improve Your Life on the Road
October 1, 2015 --Yes, fellow travelers, there are those of us who still roam the globe with ancient flip phones. There are business travelers who absolutely refuse to part with their 20th-century four-function calculators. There are even frequent travelers who don't have wheels on their bags.

Okay, I cop to that last one. I remain a schlepper. But just because I still sling luggage over my shoulder doesn't mean I don't obsessively look for new and better tools to make business travel easier and more productive.

Here's the best of what I've found lately. I think you'll agree they will improve your day-to-day life on the road and solve some vexing problems.

Luggage locators
With wheels or without, luggage shouldn't be a mystery. After all, UPS and FedEx track packages at every link along the delivery chain, so why can't airlines? At least two now do. The real-time luggage trackers from Delta Air Lines and American Airlines promise to tell you exactly where your bags are from the moment you surrender it at check-in to the moment it tumbles off the baggage carousel. Other carriers would be well-advised to catch up fast. Meanwhile, if your bags have gone missing on virtually any airline anywhere in the world, the World Tracer function from a transportation-services company called SITA can update you on the process of locating your "mishandled" cargo.

Back to the telephonic future
Remember when "the phone" meant a hulking black mass that sat on your desktop or hung from a wall in a public phone booth? Good riddance to them. But let's be honest. Talking all day on even the best smartphone is no picnic. Wired earbuds and bluetooth-powered wireless solutions are less than 100 percent reliable and comfortable. The alternative? A lightweight handset that looks like the one from the phone hulks of the past. The retro handsets plug into your mobile device's earphone jack. They've been around for a while, but now the sound quality has improved dramatically and the price has fallen precipitously. Depending on color, they currently sell for as little as $10 on Amazon.com. Because we are fickle folks, the brutish 1940s styling is suddenly in vogue again, too.

Uber isn't ubiquitous
Uber and its junior counterpart Lyft have grown so fast that many business travelers think the ride-sharing services are everywhere. They're not and that's especially true at airports, many of which push back against unlicensed and unregulated drivers. The solution? Download the apps of Flywheel and Curb, two services that offer on-demand pick-up from traditional taxi companies and other licensed drivers. Meanwhile, Groundlink is one of several apps that connect you to traditional black-car operators. And always have Salk International's Airport Transit Guide on your mobile devices. It details all public and private options for traveling between the airport and the city.

Surf softly
We could spend thousands of words talking about Internet privacy, hacking, data security and even your desire to screen a broadcast some overseas entity doesn't want you to see. But let's boil it down: You should have a service like CyberGhost loaded on your laptops, tablets and phones. CyberGhost offers international proxy and virtual private network options. The basic service is free, surprisingly flexible and works fine for several hours at a time. The paid versions offer even more useful options and are inexpensive enough. Bottom line: Whenever you feel the need to tread softly and surf anonymously, CyberGhost is a cheap, accessible, easy-to-operate instant solution.

Take back the music
I live for convergence devices that allow business travelers to multifunction. If you care about music, however, you're surely disgusted with the sound quality you get from your smartphone or other portable music player. A better solution: The Pono Music Player created by Neil Young, an artist so finicky that he blocked the re-release of one of his most popular albums because he didn't think the sound quality was good enough. The tiny Pono isn't cheap ($399) and it does has some drawbacks (limited battery life, less-than-intuitive controls). But your existing music files will sound noticeably better and tracks specifically remastered for the Pono system are astoundingly rich and warm. Plus it's got a cute triangular shape, feels good in your hand and will fit in an otherwise empty corner of your carry-on bag.

A new day for day rooms
Hotel "day rooms" have always been synonymous with afternoon delights and other supposedly unsavory activity. But business travelers have a more prosaic needs. We often arrive in a city long before the traditional hotel check-in time and frequently need a place to work after check-out time and before our evening flights departs. And sometimes we're stuck for hours at airports between flights. Elite members of some hotel frequent guest plans are given early check-in/late check-out perks, but the option is hit or miss. You also can call directly to a hotel and ask for if they sell "day rate" accommodations. Or speed up the process substantially by checking out two relatively new services that specialize in hotel reservations that don't include an overnight stay. Dayuse operates in the United States and a dozen other country. Hotels by Day focuses on U.S. properties.

Or just have a drink...
If the tips and tools mentioned above aren't helpful, chuck it all and have a drink. Or two. The Carry on Cocktail Kit is a clever (and portable) way to mix a better adult beverage on the road. Available in three formulations old fashioned, gin and tonic and Moscow mule the kits include everything you need except the booze. Packaged in a container about the size of a large tin of breath mints, they'll even work fine with the booze you buy in flight. The Old Fashioned Kit, for example, includes a metal mixing spoon, a small bottle of aromatic bitters, packets of cane sugar, a linen coaster and a recipe card. Each tin contains enough non-alcoholic supplies for two rounds and they are easy to reuse with your own product refills.


This column is Copyright 2015 American City Business Journals. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2015 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.