After several years of tepid growth, business travel is on the rise.  The Global Business Travel Association recently upgraded its 2013 forecast from 4.6 percent to over 5 percent growth.  Additionally two major airlines released their second-quarter results, which showed a strong business travel segment.  Both airlines anticipate this trend will continue through the end of the year.

The increase in business travel is due in part to a greater level of  business confidence. But as a road warrior myself, I believe it also has a lot to do with the ease of staying connected on the road today.

Stephanie Hetu, owner of Success Internet, Inc., a company that helps service professionals grow their online presence and build virtual teams, has been running her business from the Web since 2003.  “I currently have clients in 37 countries around the world,” she relates. “I take my business wherever I go, with good online tools, but also by knowing how to manage my time and by being very clear with my clients on the way I work with them.  With only a few online tools and my laptop, I can work from anywhere in the world,” she says.

If you travel at all, I’m sure you’ve seen how tethered business professionals are to their work while on the road.  It’s funny to watch people rush to turn their smartphones on as soon as a plane lands.  Even if it’s been a short 45 minute flight, business travelers can’t wait to get reconnected — myself included.   The Sheraton Hotel chain surveyed its business travelers last year and found that 54 percent of the respondents admit to turning on their phones while the plane is still taxing on the tarmac, and 12 percent say they never turned it off in the first place.  Checking their smartphone is the first thing 36 percent of business travelers say they do when they wake up in their hotel room.

For this blog post, I thought I’d share some of my favorite tips to help you stay connected while on the go.

1. Don’t Miss a Call. 

One of the things I hate to do when traveling is to call into my office phone to check my messages.  Too often I write down the wrong phone number, or have to listen to the message more than once to get the information.  It’s a hassle. That is no longer an issue for me.  I use an AT&T product called Office@Hand.  It’s a cloud-based solution that is similar to an expensive PBX office system.  We have one business number with multiple extensions for myself and my team.  Calls follow us wherever we go so if I’m traveling, it comes to my smartphone just as if I were sitting at my desk. The app also allows me to transfer calls to other team members, and it stores all my messages in the cloud so I don’t lose anything. My husband and I spent a week in Hawaii, and not one of my clients knew I was on vacation.  I didn’t miss a beat.

2. Avoid Expensive Wi-Fi Costs.

There are several ways to avoid getting hit with hefty Wi-Fi charges.  First, many hotels that cater to business travelers offer free wifi in your room.  Secondly, depending on your mobile device and service provider, you can tether your cellular data to your laptop.  If your phone supports this service, you basically have a Wi-Fi router in your hand.  Alternatively, if your phone doesn’t support tethering you can invest in a mobile hotspot.  For a monthly fee, you can have Wi-Fi access wherever you travel.  Finally, many hotel lobbies, airports, and coffee shops offer free Wi-Fi connections.  For example, I belong to the Admiral’s Club where AT&T provides free Wi-Fi for guests.  Wi-Fi Free Spot is a website that offers a list of open Wi-Fi options.  (www.wififreespot.com)

3. Save That Thought. 

When I’m in the office, I keep a hand-written “to-do” list nearby, but when I’m traveling that gets to be a hassle.  However, if I don’t write it down, I’m apt to forget.  Maura Thomas, a speaker, trainer and founder of RegainYourTime.com recommends using your smartphone voice recorder to capture your random thoughts when out of the office.  “Just be sure to email the recording to yourself so you don’t have to remember to go listen to the messages somewhere else,” she adds.

There are also cloud-based “to-do” list applications to help you stay on track. Apple’s “Reminders” is a popular one that ties together all your Apple devices. You can also access the information via the cloud.

4. Track Expenses. 

Keeping track of your business related travel expenses is important for tax purposes.  Yet, it’s easy to lose receipts or forget to make a note of cash expenditures.  Once you return from a business trip, who has time to organize and log all those expenses into your bookkeeping system? Mobile applications are now available to help you easily capture, track and report expenses in real time. Not only do they enhance your productivity, but they may save you money at tax time.

5. Cloud-Based Document Sharing.

Sometimes I prefer to leave my laptop behind and travel with only my iPad and smartphone. But what happens if you need a document stored on your laptop’s hard drive.  There are software programs that allow you to connect to your office hard drive from your mobile device; however, you must remember to leave your computer turned on.  A better solution is to upload critical business documents to a cloud-based system.  You and your team can access the information you need, plus you can collaborate on projects from any location.

On a final note, don’t try to penny pinch when it comes to staying connected on the road. Some advice from the pros? “This is your business not a hobby.  Spend whatever is necessary to stay on top of the business. One lost client can easily cost you more than you could save with years of penny pinching on staying connected,” explains Barry Maher, a fellow road warrior who is a speaker, consultant and author of “Filling the Glass.”

Depending on the nature of your business, there are mobile applications available to help you manage every aspect of your business operations.  So get out of the office and go build your business–and share your recommendations in comments.

 

Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, author of three best-selling books, multi-media personality and contributor to ABC News and other outlets, public speaker and attorney. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.