Females Flyin’ High: The New Face of Business Travel

Females Flyin’ High:

The New Face of Business Travel

In partnership with Upside Business Travel in celebration of National Business Traveler Day

Say goodbye to the traveling salesman of yesteryear and hello to his savvy female counterpart. As women continue breaking glass ceilings, walls, floors and other barriers to success and financial freedom, they are traveling on trains, planes, and automobiles to handle business. Last year alone, more than 514 million business trips were taken in the US, contributing to $547B, or roughly 3 percent of the country’s GDP. Despite the fact that many see the face of “business travel” as a middle-aged, perhaps balding, white man, DIY travel booking company, Upside Business Travel, reports that there’s a new traveler in town, and she’s got cash to burn.

With a penchant for seamless experiences and a good deal, today’s rising travel star is a woman between 30 and 44 years old (significantly younger than her male counterparts), who on average falls between 45 and 60 years old. She’s discerning, pragmatic, and knows how to have fun while on the job. Last week, we celebrated the inaugural National Business Traveler Day, recognizing the growing number of women and her male counterparts who take time away from friends, family and even their comfortable beds, in the name of enterprise.

“With more than 2 million business trips taken every day, we really think of business travelers as the unsung heroes in our economy,” says Upside’s Chairman, Jay Walker. “We thought it would be great if we could create a national platform that celebrates business travelers and everything they do to keep our economy moving forward.”

This new holiday also brings with it a new resolution in the US Congress that will recognize National Business Traveler Day each year. A bipartisan group of Congress members, including U.S. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia, U.S. Representative Jim Himes of Connecticut’s 4th District and U.S. Representative Scott Tipton of Colorado’s 3rd District, have joined together to ensure the important role business travel plays in the American economy is herforth recognized and supported.  

“National Business Traveler Day is a long overdue recognition,” says Rep. Holmes Norton, regarding the recently appointed holiday. “Our country’s economic growth is critically important, and business travelers are the ones who keep us going down the right path to prosperity.  I’m honored to join with my colleague Rep. Himes, in adding my voice in support of a day to give thanks to so many of our nation’s working men and women.”

To better understand the emerging female demographic, Upside Business Travel conducted an online survey of DIY business travelers across the United States. A total of 4,576 responses were received between February 28, 2018, and April 11, 2018. This survey identified a few key new traveler groups, and among them were ‘Million Milers’, ‘Luxury Travelers’, ‘Road Veterans’ and of course, women, who were named the “rising stars” of DIY business travel.

“This new demographic is flat out smarter and the reason they are smarter is that they’ve grown up more connected, are used to finding answers on the fly and not accepting the conventional wisdom,” says Walker. “They are looking to go on TripAdvisor, Yelp and social media to find a gym that’s really good rather than what we tell her is good. Yes, women are younger and more diverse, but it’s more so a psychographic change. This is a generation that says it’s not just product; I want service. And there are who set of service expectations that the travel industry hasn’t wrapped its head around. It’s a legacy industry that hasn’t fully embraced tech.”

Chief among the findings of today’s emerging traveler demographic is that there is no longer a one-size-fits-all profile to describe it. “The bottom line when trying to understand today’s business travelers is that there is no single group or image that represents them,” says Ellenthal  “They are more diverse than ever.” Additionally, as the workforce becomes more and more freelance, those looking to travel find themselves with a new set of needs, and no human resource department to help manage it.

“When it comes to the Road Warrior, traditional stereotypes die hard. For many, the mere words bring to mind the road-weary, middle-aged salesman dutifully hitting the road in search of new customers. But things have changed.”

-Genevieve Holmes, Senior Manager, Content at Upside Business Travel

"And speaking of female travelers, they are known for having the ability to more easily combine work and play than male travelers."

“Business travelers today are looking for customer service throughout their entire purchase journey, from the start to the finish,” says Upside Co-Founder Jon Ellenthal. “People don’t think of themselves as ‘business travelers,’ they are just people who happen to travel for business in the context of their well-connected lives.”

And its women who are starting to rewrite the needs of the modern business traveler, which these days begins and ends with a strong service proposition. Upside’s report revealed that women are twice as likely to rate their current travel solution a 4 or below (on a 1-10 scale) for customer service. Known for comparison shopping and enjoying highly personalized customer support, 60 percent of women are doing their research when booking business travel, which explains why women take 13 percent longer to book travel than their male colleagues. Additionally, of all the priorities the female business traveler of today have, the most important is having a smooth, “glitch-free” experience, this means knowing weather and traffic patterns ahead of time, to create a navigation game plan.

And speaking of female travelers, they are known for having the ability to more easily combine work and play than male travelers, as 32 percent of women surveyed are interested in nearby attractions like bars and museums, as compared to 23 percent of men looking for the same things. According to the team at Upside, the era of “Bleisure” is upon us, as 50 percent of business travelers are extending trips to add in some leisure activities. And in fact, only 3.4 percent of business travelers say that they do not at all enjoy their business travel.

“Business travel is still life; you’re still living,” adds Upside’s Senior Content Manager, Genevieve Holmes. “And in fact, some of the most inspirational moments can happen while you’re traveling.  You can put a stake in the ground and show you’re a boss lady, but beyond that, there’s a need to be constantly connected and for instant results. It’s a highly valuable underserved demographic.”

In short, it’s the generation of the DIY business traveler, as 50 percent of those in the business travel market book their own flights and accommodations. Given the strides women are making in entrepreneurship, it’s no secret that There are more women on the road than ever before – up to nearly half of all business travelers.

“This is a generation that says ‘it’s not just product, I want service.’ If it’s cold and you’re in heels and you have to walk 3 blocks, that won’t work. Three blocks isn’t just 3 blocks when you have an important business deal on the table. It’s a whole different set of service expectations that the travel industry hasn’t fully wrapped its head around.”

-Jay Walker, Chairman, Upside Business Travel

“These ‘road warriors’, women and men, young and old, representing the diversity of the American workforce, sacrifice a lot in terms of time away from family and home, and deserve this recognition.  Business travelers contribute significantly to our nation’s competitiveness. Their leadership in bringing together business deals and identifying opportunities contributes directly to economic growth and opportunity.  I am hoping that the Congress will act quickly to send this resolution to the President for signature,” said Rep. Himes.

In order to get in the spirit of smart travel, we asked female travel experts to dish their best advice. Here, the results…

Advice From Female Travel Bosses  

“I travel 3-5 times per month. Most importantly, organization is key. I have travel sizes of all of my hair and skin products always packed. My makeup is minimal, but I have a small makeup bag that I can just throw my go-to products into in 3 minutes. Mix and match is a must, I pack a limited number of colors and most can be re-worn if needed. Shoes must be comfortable and versatile and I only pack 1-2 pairs based on length of trip and need. Clothes are rolled, not folded. I have travel toothbrush, paste, soaps etc always packed in a separate small makeup bag. I can throw it all in a small carry-on and be out the door in 20 minutes, packed for a 3-day trip easily.”

-Tammy Davenport, CEO of WBDC World

“When it comes to packing, keep a second set of all your toiletry items packed in your bag and ready to go. Simply add in your daily makeup if you do not wish to duplicate and you are set. Immediately upon arriving home, refill the travel kit items. In terms of clothing, I like to focus on one color palette per trip – black, gray, brown, blue, etc. so that you may minimize shoes and accessory pieces. When you arrive at the hotel, hang up your clothing immediately and if wrinkled, steam in the bathroom with a hot shower. Don’t forget to bring along an empty envelope to place your expense receipts in one spot during the trip, or simply photograph on your phone for digital archives. Also, be realistic: do not bring along a stack of reading materials that you ‘intend’ to catch up on. Focus on just a few items if paper-based.”

-Paige Dawson Rodriguez, Principal & Owner of Avery Blank Consulting

“Always book the window seat (unless you are a frequent pee-er). It provides a much better pillow than the guy next to you when you’re exhausted. Also, get to the airport early enough to buy a bottle of water and a something of substance, even if you aren’t hungry. Being grounded or delayed with no food or water can be brutally painful. You’ll also want the carbs so highly recommend a sandwich. Do not bring hot food on a plane. By the time you get around to eating it, it won’t be hot. Always be kind to the flight attendants. If you’ve had a bad day, I promise you theirs has been worse. Kindness can often lead to free wine or upgrades.”

-Lindsay Stevens, CEO of  Lindsay Stevens PR

“I don’t think twice about packing anymore. I have a Dopp kit at the ready. I throw wrinkle-free black dresses in my suitcase. I take a pair of dressy flats, simple heels, black boots and a pair of running shores. I always travel with a bathing suit and a set of workout clothes. For colder climates, I wear a very long puffer coat. For temperate climates, I have a trench coat. (It doubles as a bathrobe, if necessary!) I carry a black pashmina in my purse which I use as a scarf, a wrap or a pillow. I also keep a small, cross-body bag and a reusable nylon bag inside my purse.”

-Tracy Schneider, PR for CallisonRTKL

“Overall, the small things add up. When in doubt, do whatever you can to make travel more fun, easy, and joyful – and you will reap the benefits on every level. Here are some of my rules of the road:

  • Make travel as comfortable as possible. Fly first class, check everything you can, eat well, don’t drink too much, etc. It’s worth the extra expense to make travel FUN for you – especially on long flights. Wear clothes that look good but feel like pajamas and make sure you wear flat shoes (ladies especially, the boots and heels are always a threat to your TSA pre-check ease!)
  • Use the lounges. Lounges are all different – but they all offer small things that make such a difference in the quality of your day. I’ve experienced the joy of quiet, privacy, quality wifi, a shower, a massage (my favorite!), and a great cup of tea. Each one made my whole experience significantly better.  
  • Don’t schedule work. I like to make any productivity on travel days an extra bonus. That way the travel feels relaxing and easy – and it makes it easier to get back to work when I arrive. I bring at least one amazing book and download a great movie in advance so that I have entertainment I love the whole time – even if I’m surprised by the flight amenities
  • Dismantle your belief in jet lag. Homeopathics and melatonin don’t hurt either – but I have radically improved my experience of changing time zones by simply deciding that jet lag is not a big deal for me. It used to be my excuse to be less than 100 percent for days! Now I don’t tolerate that – I’m in the time zone I’m in at 100 percent capacity. I love it.
  • Do you. I’m the kind of person who loves her time alone on a plane. It’s like free time! Just for me! No one to know or bother me. Other people love talking to their seat companions – it’s fun. Whatever you’re in the mood for – do that… Otherwise, you will literally drain your energy and be miserable when you arrive.
  • Let yourself be served. Whenever a flight attendant offers you something, or offers to do something for you, let them! Use the travel to let yourself feel extra supported, to practice receiving, and allowing good things to come to you.”

   –Jesse Johnson, CEO of Jesse Johnson Coaching, Inc.

“Flying is a great, uninterrupted way for me to focus on work, so I make sure my devices are charged and that I have great music to listen to. Also, always carry a paperback or notebook so you have something during those tortuous 15 minutes of no electronics. Always wear layers on a plane. It can go from freezing to extremely hot within minutes. If you’re on an overnight flight, and you have a meeting as soon as you land, bring something to change into before arrival. You can ask the flight attendant to hang it for you as well.”

-Jazmine Valencia, President/CEO of JV Agency

“I keep packing checklists on my phone for the essentials I need to pack in my backpack, and packing lists that are arranged by the type of trips I often take (e.g., adventure travel, more formal press trip, or attending a birth). I also preload my phone with audiobooks and podcast episodes so I have entertainment on the plane without needing wifi. Maintaining a healthy diet can be really tricky while traveling so I’ll purchase mixed nuts and Luna bars for the plane and stop at a grocery store on the way to my hotel (if the room will have a fridge) to pick up fresh produce, probiotic drinks, and anything else that will naturally enhance my energy and prevent a slow digestive system. Because I have a husband and four-year-old at home, maximizing my time while I’m traveling solo I make a list of the projects I want to tackle and rank them in order of importance. I often do my best writing when I’m on one of these trips.”

-Bailey Gaddis, Author, Freelance Writer

“I’m a 55-year old woman and have traveled extensively my entire career–sometimes once a month, sometimes three to four times a month. Here are some tips that have been invaluable to me as a traveler: Keep a contact file of all of your Frequent Flier, Frequent Stayer, Frequent Renter numbers so all of the information is at your fingertips when you check in. It’s amazing how many times they don’t have your number in your record. If they don’t have it, you miss out on points. Leave thank you notes for hotel people. Many times they will reward a “thank you” with a free breakfast, free drink, or an upgrade. Security is paramount. Never make your hotel room number accessible. Don’t let the front desk person say it aloud, cover it on anything written. Don’t sign it at the bar or restaurant table. If your room number is accessible, you’re vulnerable. Don’t take the chance. Always check your room out completely before locking yourself into it. More than once, I’ve opened the door to find someone sleeping in the bed. This time it’s a mistake by the front desk. Next time, it might be a tragedy. Another security tip: Set your suitcase in front of the door. If someone does try to break it, it’s one more obstacle for them.”

-Laurie Richards, President of LR&A

“People don’t think of themselves as ‘business travelers,’ they are just people who happen to travel for business in the context of their well-connected lives.” -Jon Ellenthal

“After 25 years of traveling back and forth to Asia and Europe numerous times during the year, I have taken a contrarian view on packing. I prefer to pack heavy and never feel deprived. One should always have the right clothes and shoes for any occasion, from dining at Mr. and Mrs. Bund in Shanghai to trekking in Tibet on the same trip. I like to bring a lot of black clothing! Black can easily be dressed up or down, for daytime running around cities and also for nice dinners out. Also, invest in Phones and iPads that work everywhere and a local SIM card in a flip phone that allows cheap calls back home for less than 25 cents a minute instead of over a dollar. Take simple luggage so it doesn’t stand out and you don’t get robbed. Flashy luggage (e.g. leather Louis Vuitton) is a mistake for checked baggage!  Luggage that is black and doesn’t show the dirt or polycarbonate luggage that is lightweight and doesn’t get scuffed. When it comes to cash, take brand new clean US dollars for exchanging into local currency. Many countries such as Myanmar won’t accept banknotes more than five years old. I also take a stack of 100 clean new US $1 bills for tips.”

-Catherine Heald, CEO & Co-Founder of Remote Lands

“If you want to maximize your productivity inflight, get your devices, power cords, water bottle, glasses and so forth out of your bags before you settle into your seat. You won’t be able to access the overhead compartment again until 45k feet, but the in-flight Wi-Fi network becomes available at 10K feet.”

-Patricia Hume, CCO of iPass

“I pretty much have two of everything at this point. Two toothbrushes, two phone chargers, two hairbrushes, two deodorants. One set stays home, and the other lives in my suitcase so it’s always handy and I never forget to pack it. I also always keep a set of camp-style silverware in my suitcase. I’ve had a takeout place forget to give me a fork and/or tried to eat leftovers in the room by tearing a plastic water cup into strips that I could use like shovels one too many times. Now, if I need silverware, I just rinse off my own set and eat in a much more dignified manner. Another tip, download and use the free airline apps. They give you automatic check-in reminders and allow you to change your seats on the fly. You can also get current gate info if you’re trying to make a tight connection and even order food on the run in some airports.”

-Kris Morton, Travel Blogger

“Travel light. I don’t take a carry on (it saves money and hassle). I take one small suitcase for clothes, shoes & accessories and one large bag (for books, snacks, laptop). When I keep it light, it’s easy to jump from plane to train to bus to car! It makes the day easier on my body too! I always take a notebook and pen to jot down the random ideas I have while traveling or the random information you collect while traveling (hotel manager names, phone numbers, emails, whatever randomly comes up!)”

-Sheena Jeffers, Founder, and Co-owner of WELLwomen, Inc.

“Travel light. I don’t take a carry on (it saves money and hassle). I take one small suitcase for clothes, shoes & accessories and one large bag (for books, snacks, laptop)." -Sheena Jeffers

“For working moms: Circle the Wagons–work travel is hard on the entire family, even if your spouse is 100 percent hands-on and supportive. So utilize calendars and lists to make sure that everything is handled when you’re away. Enlist grandparents and helpful friends if shuttling to and from activities is hard with just one parent on deck. This goes for traveling fathers, as well. It does take a village, so if one chief is out of town, have others willing to step in on the backburner.”

-Meaghan Dawson, Writer, and Blogger

“Make sure to wear loose-fitting, yet smart attire when traveling long haul, as you will have a staple to fall back on if you lose your suitcase.. I bring my biggest wrap if I am flying coach class and a Sneck to make me comfortable. Drink one cup of water (at least) for every hour of the flight and very rarely have any alcohol inflight, as you would hate to arrive jaded. No one arrives at their destination feeling anything other than gross, having slept in a seat that thousands of others have slept and sweated in before you. Thus, bring a little pump dispenser spray with a mixture of half alcohol (vodka will do) half water and 20 drops of your favorite essential oils and spray it on the seat before you sit down. It will make you feel better with the familiar smell and the oils are also antibacterial so they kill some airborne bugs.”

-Grainne Kelly, Founder of BubbleBum

“Here are just a few of tidbits of advice on how to fit in fitness and healthy eating when your travel schedule gets too full to function. Be sure to start hydrating 3 days prior to a long international flight. Do not consume alcohol when on international flights. Sleep on the plane and eat a well-balanced and substantial meal before leaving the house so it’s easier to say no to plane food. Bring granola/CLIFF bars to stay fueled on the road, and keep snacks on hand to have during long meetings. If you can, get in a couple extra workouts while on the road since you’re likely cutting down on commuting time (and your hotel probably has a gym). Get your traveling workouts done first thing in the morning. Record your daily workouts to give yourself a sense of accomplishment for the day. Drink all of the water throughout the day.”

-Rhonda Vetere, President of Data + Analytics, nThrive

“Some travel advice from a woman on-the-go:

  • Seek natural light. At the airport or at a restaurant, position yourself next to the window and take in the sun for a moment. (PS Natural light also makes for the best Instagram lighting for people and food.) Sunlight boosts your mood with that feel good vitamin D you may be missing after a long flight. Also, when you’re in your hotel room, don’t use the blackout curtains, let the room fill with inspiring, natural light in the morning to wake you up. This will help you feel “normal” asap in a new place.
  • Always ask for stuff. As a business traveler, time and comfort are of the utmost importance. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and need to make you comfortable. Ask for that better seat, a better hotel room, a free upgrade. Often the exit row on an international flight does not cost anything extra. The worst they can say is no, and if you don’t ask for it, someone else will. And treat all staff with respect—travel can be rough, so ask for what you need with persistence and humility, assuming the kindly brontosaurus stance.
  • Arbitrage Awesomeness. For example, if you’re in Bangkok for a meeting, make sure to get a massage. If you’re in Taiwan, don’t get stuck in a restaurant, they have some of the best street food in the world. Tokyo has amazing hand printed scarves for less than $20USD, a worthy wardrobe splash of color in place of Hermes. Every place has something delightful to experience and take advantage of while you’re there.
  • Don’t be afraid to combine work & pleasure. “Bleisure Travel” is on the rise! Now more than ever, business travelers are extending their work trips a day or two, bringing their significant other (in my case, a video/photographer or business partner) for a short yet inspiring getaway, and seeking out renowned restaurants, museums, and bars while they’re on their work trips. Make the most out of your time in a different city.”

Leiti Hsu, co-founder of Journy:

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