The Business Traveller

When checking in late, ask about room upgrades. These rooms may well be going empty anyway, and front-desk personnel are usually empowered to give them away. Ask nicely and look tired.

When you book a hotel, ask if any renovations are under way. You don't need early morning buzz saws if you're trying to sleep in or recover from jet lag.

If you're booked at one hotel in town but would prefer to stay somewhere else, walk in and negotiate: "I was going to stay across the street, but I would rather stay with you if you're willing to match the rate." Most managers will negatiate rather than let a room go unsold. And be sure to call the first hotel before cancellation fees kick in..

If you're unfamiliar with the hotels at your destination, opt for the newest one; chances are it will have the best infrastructure and the least passe decor.

Upgrade to business-floor rooms. The perks (such as free breakfast or cocktail hour, fax service, newspapers, waived phone fees) often outweigh the extra cost.

If you plan to do a lot of work in the room, travel with an extension cord or request one from the hotel (so the laptop will reach the desk or the bed, since outlets are often inconveniently located). As a last resort, rearrange the furniture.

Reserve a nonsmoking rental car; these are usually , the newer vehicles in the fleet.

Reconfirm your car so that the agency will know you are definitely coming and when you're due to arrive especially in popular family destinations.Go to the car-rental line in the baggage-claim area before picking up your luggage (if you've checked any), in case the agency is overbooked.

Use express return whenever possible, but only if there are no contract glitches and not a single scratch on the car. If you find a great cabdriver in a city you visit frequently, get his name and phone number, tip well, and cultivate your own car-service relationship.

Carry a small travel humidifier so you won't wake up with hotel facedry, tight skin, like an involuntary face-lift.

Travel with your own tide-me-over food (such as granola bars): You never know when you'll be delayed in transit or stranded on a peanuts-only flight.

Drink about eight ounces of water per hour in flight, and bring a small bottle of water-you don't want to end up with stale airplane tap water when they run out of the bottled stuff.

Carry an in-flight travel kit: Tylenol PM, melatonin, herbal tea, earplugs, a toothbrush, an eye covering (hotel shoeshine cloths work well), a blow-up headrest, astringent and cotton balls, thick socks.

Stick to your regular diet. Just because room service offers eggs Benedict at the same price as a continental breakfast doesn't mean you have to eat them.

If you're traveling to an other time zone for just a day or two, sleep and take any medication on your home schedule.

If you have a few late afternoon or evening hours to kill, get out of your hotel room for a change of scenery. Ask the concierge about evening hours at local museums, botanical gardens, or driving ranges. Stay in touch with your family.Check the kids' homework via internet, and send notes and e-mail. Drop a card in the mail before you leave home so it'll arrive while you're gone.

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