MZ’s travel tips

Jun 18, 2015

iphone 077Years of travel have led to some rules-of-thumb that firm leaders can implement while building their companies.

In the “good ol’ days” I used to fly 150,000-200,000 miles each year. Now I am down to probably 50,000-80,000 miles a year, but I still go somewhere about 35-40 weeks out of the year. As someone who has been doing this for a long time, I’ve learned some things that help make travel easier. A lot of you are in the same boat – travelling more than ever as you build your companies from local firms into regional, national, and even international ones. Here are some of my best travel tips:
  1. Have a toiletry bag pre-packed. There’s no reason to be trying to remember to bring your toothpaste and prescription drugs or to pack a razor before each trip. I include everything I might need in one bag and leave that in the bigger bag I travel with. Deodorant, nail clippers, sewing kit (for buttons that fall off), cold meds, Advil, Aspirin, beta-blockers, Band-Aids, sharp razor, hair brush, toothpaste and toothbrush, dental floss, phone charger, and more – all are there, so I never forget what I need and have it every time. I keep all liquids and gels in a separate Ziploc bag, even though, as a recognized frequent traveler, I rarely have to pull them out these days. I keep this toiletry bag on the same side of my bigger bag and zip it such that I can quickly pull my liquids and gels out, if needed. One more thing: It is a good idea to check your inventory periodically to be sure you have everything you need.
  2. Get a good soft-sided bag. I do not use a bag with wheels. Why? Because I can ALWAYS fit my bag on the plane – even a small commuter. This is critical when you have frequently tight connections between flights, as we do flying out of Northwest Arkansas Regional. I usually go to Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, or Charlotte on my way to most other places, and the fact that I don’t have to wait in a long queue in the jetway to retrieve my plane-side checked bag gives me a good 5-10 minutes that I may need to catch my next flight. It also relieves stress. And, if I do stand-by and get on a crowded flight at the last minute — trying to get home early — I never have a problem with my bag. I can fold it in half and jam it under the seat in front of me, if necessary. You CANNOT do this with a bag that has wheels, yet everyone seems to want them.
  3. Have multiple charging devices. I have my beloved BlackBerry Classic phone plus an iPad, and I bring portable rechargeable batteries that will work with either. I have more than one wall charger and cord for each, in case I have problems. I have the lighter socket plug-in, too, as some planes have those types of sockets, and I may need a charge. Not much is worse than running out of power on a trip: You are completely cut off.
  4. If there is GoGo internet on the flight, pay for it every time. Why? I can get more done, instead of sitting there reading Skymall (yes, it’s back in the seat pockets again), and when I land, I only have phone calls and texts to read and respond to, without an additional 47 emails. That reduces stress greatly and makes me more responsive.
  5. Get the Uber app. I rarely rent cars, doing so just slows me down and is expensive. Only if I have to go from SFO to Napa, or something, would I even consider it. Otherwise, I use Uber, if it is available. Uber is faster and better in every way than a stinky cab, piloted by someone who just got to this country three weeks ago and who does not know anything about where they are going. And, believe me, that is the profile of the typical cab driver who will wait in a two-hour line at the airport to pick up a single fare. Cab drivers who wait in that line are kind of like hair stylists who work at Supercuts: They are neophytes, just starting out. Their cars are clapped out and, nine times out of 10, they don’t even have a clue about where you want to go.
  6. Concentrate your miles on one airline. For me, that’s American. It depends on where you live and where you go, but the dominant player is the one you want to invest your miles in. That way, you are more likely to get a higher status frequent-flyer certification – and therefore more miles, faster, and more free tickets and upgrades. And the upgrades really do make flying better, believe me. It isn’t just the free drinks in first class that I rarely take advantage of, it’s food that may not be too bad and a lot better seating, where you aren’t jammed between two other people who are spreading into your personal space. (Most airline seats would be perfect if everyone was 4’8” and weighed 86 pounds!)
  7. Bring a book. If all your powered accessories fail or prove to be unusable, you will always have your book to read. If not a book, stock up on your back issues of The Zweig Letter, Civil + Structural Engineer, and Inc. Magazine. Have something worth reading, better than The American Way (American Airlines’ magazine).
  8. Expect things to go wrong. They always do, and if you expect it, then maybe you won’t be so bothered when it happens. Don’t get upset when you get stuck in Chicago for the night, or the plane develops a malfunction that they cannot fix and you miss your connection, or the crew needs to be changed out because they just worked too many hours and your departure is delayed because of it. All of these things – and many more – will happen. It is amazing the system works as well as it does and we all get where we are going safely. Any trip where I make it where I am going is a good trip, as far as I am concerned. I cannot stand it when I see someone yelling and cursing at a gate agent about a late flight – as if the gate agent can do anything about it. Be calm, be nice, and relax, and you and your fellow travelers will all be a lot happier.
I could go on – but I am out of space. What are your favorite travel tips you’d like to share with our readers? Email me, and maybe we can publish them!
Mark Zweig is president and CEO of Zweig Group. Contact him at

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Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.