Five Take-Charge Tactics to Make Business Travel Work for You

A global adventure travel entrepreneur offers five of his top tips for making business travel more bearable -- and purposeful.

BY BRUCE POON TIP

Business travel in the U.S. has rebounded to its pre-financial-crisis levels, and is predicted to grow to more than $310-billion in 2017, according to the Global Business Travel Association. That's a lot of individual-sized bags of salted almonds. If you're like me and find that airports are becoming your second home, be smart about the time you spend on the road so you can get the most out of it and not come home feeling like you've just gone ten rounds with Joe Frazier.

Here are five of my top take-charge tips for making work travel work for you:

1. Ditch the idea that flying is a fashion show.

When I was a kid, families used to wear their best clothes when they went flying. You'd get all dressed up and put on a tie. But today, it's better to dress comfortably. There's no shame in wearing track pants on long-haul or overnight flights--what I wear on planes sometimes is a half-step above pajamas. Well, it's flannel pants and t-shirts, and I do wear a jacket, but people don't realize how much of a difference loose and comfortable clothes make in helping you get a restful sleep and ensuring healthy blood flow On Qantas they actually give out pajamas.

2. Incorporate your real life into your travel plans.

For years, traveling was about just getting my work done and getting home. That was the wrong approach for someone on the road so often. If you unconsciously book any hotel just because it's the cheapest or closest, traveling becomes a chore very quickly. Planning your hotel choice around what your habits are at home will help you combine your travel with your "life". Today I will find the best hotel for me in, say, Munich, based on whether there's a great gym in the hotel or nearby. I'm happier and I feel better when I can keep up my routine. If you run regularly, you might  where there are nice running tracks or parks nearby. It works and makes being on the road much more pleasant

3. Exercise on the plane.

After all my years on cramped planes, I started getting swollen ankles after I flew. Searching for a remedy, I sometimes saw people putting on compression socks but realized that I would rather exercise and do subtle moves discreetly in my seat. There are tons of stretches for your neck, shoulders, arms and legs that you can read up about online and do while you're seated. Years of business travel has taught me how much better I feel when I arrive after I've moved my body.

4. Special meals? Don't mind if I do.

You'd be amazed at what airlines will do in advance to meet passengers' dietary requirements. It's a misconception that the main choices are simply vegetarian or non-vegetarian. For those who want to eat a little healthier, there are so many healthy options you can request in advance. All you have to do is contact your airline at least a day before your flight. Some airlines have 20 different options: low carb, gluten free, dairy free, low fat, low salt, you name it. When you're traveling around the world, you can choose from local alternatives. I've had amazing Indian lentil-based meals, Asian rice and vegetables, noodle soups, you name it. The bonus? You get your meal first. There's no waiting. Even if it's as simple as choosing the low-salt option, I get my meal first. It's amazing.

5. Don't underestimate hotel points programs.

Things started to change for me when I started looking at hotel-chain points programs. I'm usually against points programs, but a lot of hotels offer great benefits if you concentrate your stays in one chain. Since I started using one or two chains more or less exclusively, I get a couple of free rooms a year, free check-in, free wi-fi and all kinds of other perks.

Finally, I usually suggest this for leisure travel but it applies for work trips too: as much as possible, make it your goal to share a meal with a local person and make a meaningful connection that enlightens you in some way. Ask questions, listen, and share a piece of yourself by showing a picture of your family or describing a favorite tradition. That way, the journey will contribute to your happiness and global perspective, as well as your hosts', and not just be a blur of taxis, meetings, and baggage carousels.

Now more than ever, the world needs us taking this time to shake hands and share conversations with people who have different backgrounds, challenges and views. With this in mind, even business travel can be an opportunity for purpose and growth.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.