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As with so much in life, success in business travel grows out of failure. A left-at-home suit jacket prompted my travel checklist, ticked off as I pack. Turning the house upside down in a frantic search for my passport yielded the lesson: always remember to remove items from the computer scanner. As a new business travel year begins, I have formulated some new resolutions, largely based on what I failed to do before.
Stop going for gold. In each of the past four years, I have racked up enough miles to win a British Airways silver card. There are several advantages. The main one is you can pick your seat when you book. You can go through a less crowded security lane. You can use the lounges. This is a somewhat over-rated perk; they are often as packed as the terminal, but you can have a meal before you fly.
But as soon as you reach silver, BA dangles a new target: gold. This requires more than twice as much flying as silver, or at least more flying in the privileged parts of the plane. I never get close to gold and I’ve decided to stop worrying about it. What does gold get you that silver doesn’t? A different lounge, also packed, judging by the glimpses I get, and the chance to board before silver. It doesn’t seem worth it.
Read the destination country’s pharma rules. This, fortunately, does not come from getting caught out, but from a realisation that I’ve been too cavalier. Most of us travel with medication, bought over the counter or validly prescribed. Some countries take a dim view of this.
Japan, according to the UK Foreign Office, bans “Vicks inhalers, medicines for allergies and sinus problems, cold and flu medication containing Pseudoephedrine and even some over-the-counter painkillers like those containing codeine”.
Travellers arriving with these everyday drugs have been deported or even detained. A US executive working for Toyota was held for 20 days in 2015 for importing a prescription painkiller.
For all destinations, it is worth carrying a printout of your prescriptions and a letter from your doctor.
Watch the person in front at the passport gates. This is a niche resolution, applicable only to those of us with severe myopia. I generally welcome machine-operated passport gates. The problem comes where the machine asks you to pose for a picture. The camera often refuses to recognise me unless I take off my glasses — which means I can’t read the subsequent instructions.
But if I watch the people who go through before me, I can pick up the clues. Sometimes the gates open when the camera is satisfied, and even I can see that happen. In other systems, the frame of the photo machine turns green and you have to remove your passport to open the gates.
Until these systems are standardised, I will have to become a short-sighted expert in what each type of gate does.
Check the late-night openings. After a busy day, and possibly a dinner, I spend too much time in hotel rooms watching television. Regular readers will know that I am an advocate of searching out local culture — and that doesn’t have to happen only during the day.
After an evening of watching French political shows — hard to follow as people speak over each other — I realised I had been missing a Parisian trick. The Louvre is open until 9.45pm on Wednesdays and Fridays. The Centre Pompidou is open most days until 10pm, and 11pm on Thursdays, and the Palais de Tokyo contemporary art museum stays open, except on Tuesdays, until midnight. And I can look at the pictures with my glasses on.
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