With planning, a business trip can be a pleasure


A decade ago, women who traveled alone for business were a rarity. Now, we're a market that airlines, hotels, car-rental and credit-card companies are scrambling to corner.

For those of you who may be new to business travel, here are some of the rules that can help you survive -- and grow to love -- the experience.

Over-packing is the No. 1 mistake every inexperienced traveler makes, so start with a list of the clothes and accessories you think you'll need, then cross off anything for which you have no clear, specific need.

If you're bringing that cute little cocktail dress because you might go out for cocktails, bring a black suit, blouses, scarves and jewelry for daytime wear, and a silk camisole and flashier jewelry for evening wear.

If you can, pack everything into one or two carry-on bags -- airlines can't lose luggage they can't get their hands on -- and always carry on medications, toiletries, underwear, a fresh blouse and your valuables.

It's a good idea to call ahead for a seat assignment on the plane, especially during busy summer months, and you can reserve a fruit plate at the same time, in place of the high-fat, high-calorie meal you'll otherwise be served.

You'll feel better after a flight if you avoid alcohol, caffeine and those salty snacks flight attendants are always tossing at us. Drink plenty of water and fruit juices instead.

Safety is a real issue for women business travelers, but most major hotels (and their lawyers) have gotten the message by now and modified their security measures.

If you're renting a car, ask your hotel ahead of time about valet parking -- underground garages are no place for a woman alone -- or if it will supply an escort to its garage or parking lot.

Make sure all rooms have deadbolts, chain locks and peepholes -- and use them without fail. Also ask for a room near the elevator to avoid long walks alone down dimly lighted hallways and insist that your room not be on the ground floor or near an outside fire escape.

When you check in, record only your last name and initials and store your valuables in the hotel safe. The vast majority of business travelers, male and female, who were victims of hotel crimes during the past two years experienced a theft from their hotel room.

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