Business travel can sap your strength and your sanity. You can't control check-in lines, flight delays or the behavior of a bored child in the seat behind you, but you can eliminate a multitude of other problems by incorporating the following ideas into your pre-trip planning.
Collect information in a file folder as soon as you decide to make a trip. Make it the repository for contact names, airline tickets, hotel and car rental confirmations, maps and driving directions, and receipts.
Speak personally with the key people you're traveling to meet and get a firm commitment from them. Plan only with assistants and you may end up meeting only with assistants. See 191 Schedule Appointments Efficiently.
Create an itinerary and leave a copy at your home base. Factor in jet lag: Whether it's a three-hour difference between coasts or a lengthy overseas flight, the time change and trip fatigue can greatly impact your mental and physical energy. Also scout out restaurants and local attractions on CitySearch.com and other sites in case you have extra time. Read 418 Prepare an Itinerary.
Develop a tried-and-true checklist of items to pack. See 420 Pack for a Business Trip.
Transfer the contents of your trip-planning file to a large, clear plastic envelope. Place this in the most prominent section of your briefcase (see 186 Organize Your Briefcase).
Back up files before you leave your office. Burn a CD of any files you need for your meeting in case of a serious computer crash.
Pack a simple meal or buy one at the airport. Airline food is universally abysmal--or nonexistent. You're better off with a bagel with cream cheese from the coffee counter than miserable mystery meat on the plane. In fact, more and more flights don't have food at all, so call the airline ahead of time and ask.
Do the best you can to squeeze a workout in. You'll feel better and have an easier time sleeping in different time zones.