Travel Tips for Association Executives

By Neil Mullanaphy

For busy association executives, traveling is an important and integral part of the job.  There are times when the trips are so frequent that it seems the suitcase never gets put away and is on permanent standby.  It becomes common to hurry up and get to the airport, only to wait for security checks and planes that have been delayed.  Before dreading that next trip, read the following tips that will make life “on the road” much easier to handle—and may even make traveling enjoyable.

Prior to packing for a business trip, find out what the weather is like in the destination and the types of events planned.  This information will help to streamline the packing.  Why lug extra pounds of clothing that will never make it out of the suitcase when a glimpse at the schedule and the temperature can eliminate unnecessary items?

Speaking of a suitcase, why not forgo it and bring just the necessities in a carry-on bag.  That means not having to check baggage or wait for it after the plane has landed.  There’s also no risk of the airline losing a suitcase and the hassle of trying to track it down.

There’s nothing worse than cutting travel time close, so make it a practice to always get to the gate at least an hour in advance.  In a world with so many travelers and a dozen things that can cause a delay between driving to the airport and finally taking a seat on the plane, it’s best to plan on being early.  Rather than running hurriedly to the gate, it’s more productive to keep stress that’s avoidable to a minimum.

Executives who travel frequently internationally will find an invaluable resource in Nexus, Sentri, or Global Entry.  These trusted traveler programs are vital and allow expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers.  With Global Entry, program members at airports proceed to kiosks, where they present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingerprints on the scanner for fingerprint verification and complete a customs declaration.  The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt, directs the traveler to baggage claim, and then the exit.  Travelers must be pre-approved for the Global Entry program, including a background check and in-person interview prior to enrollment.  

Once enrolled in the Global Entry Program, it means a traveler is eligible to participate in the Transportation Security Administration Pre-check (TSA Pre).  Or, only enroll in the TSA Pre, and take advantage of expedited traveler screening through TSA security checkpoints in participating airports.  TSA Pre is currently available at 180 airports with 30 participating airlines in the U.S.  In February of 2017, 97 percent of TSA Pre waited less than five minutes to get through security checkpoints. For more information about these programs, visit or call the TSA Contact Center at (866) 289-9673.

Make sure to pay attention to the U.S. Department of State travel warnings.  If a security concern is within the international community, a travel alert is issued.

It’s also wise to take advantage of VIP programs offered by airlines. The opportunities for priority seating, complimentary food and beverage, better ticket prices, and more will reduce the stress of traveling.  Every little bit of help in skipping a line or receiving something extra is worth it. 

According to some seasoned travelers, to beat the jet lag from some flights means not sleeping in the city they arrive in—not even a catnap—until it’s nighttime in that city.  This may even mean fighting the urge to sleep on the plane to keep up with the destination’s time, as it has proven to help with getting acclimated and keeping sharp for business the next day.  

Business travelers are more likely to get sick than the average person, so be sure to use extra effort in keeping hands clean and bring along aspirin, Sudafed, and other medicines to stay healthy.  While traveling often means eating on the run or dining out on six-course meals with clients, it’s important to stick to a diet as much as possible.  In addition, try to avoid or watch alcohol intake.  Instead, grab a bottle of water for hydration and an alert mind. 

Remember to bring that book that’s been collecting dust on it because of a busy schedule.  At the airport and on the plane is a great time to indulge in some “me” time.  When at the destination, try to carve out a little time to explore the surroundings even if it’s only for an hour.  Discover something in each destination, such as a restaurant, shop, or museum.  This will make the trip well-rounded and the traveler a little less weary.

Neil Mullanaphy is the Director of Meetings & Conventions/The Foundation for the American Traffic Safety Services Association.  He has been in the meetings and conventions industry for more than 30 years.