This business-travel story is being written in real time on my smart phone, during a business trip from Chicago to Orlando. In real time, here are my thoughts on what is working these days for frequent travelers.
*Public transportation: I skip a cab and take a Chicago Transit Authority bus to a train that drops me inside O'Hare International Airport. It took 40 minutes from my starting point to the security line. Good for the wallet, good for the environment, and sometimes public transportation is a more direct route. Ditto for New York.
*Carrying my bag: Yes, it rolls, but I do this for exercise, especially in the run-up to sitting still for three hours.
*Priority access: I sure hated the short security line for "preferred" frequent fliers when I didn't have access. Now that I do, I don't mind being rewarded for my hours of airport and airplane time by getting to jump the line. One day, when I am no longer one of those "preferred" customers, I'll hate myself for writing this.
*Mobile boarding pass: It's a small thing, but there is nothing wrong with fewer pieces of paper. I use a mobile boarding pass almost exclusively these days; only once have I had a problem with the bar code not scanning properly.
*Checkpoint-friendly laptop bag: It's the little things, like having your boarding pass on your phone, that make travel easier, and here is another example. Though pulling a laptop out of your bag to put it in one of those disgusting gray TSA bins isn't so taxing, simply unzipping the back of my computer case and laying it flat on the security belt is a marked improvement.
*Decent airport food: So much of it is bad-tasting and bad for you, but it seems every major airport (and a few of the midsize) has at least one decent spot. Whatever airport you're in, frequent business traveler, it's worth doing homework to find the good food.
*An exit row seat: The leg room makes a difference. Also, because it's on the wing, the exit row gets one of the smoother rides on the plane.
*Free Wi-Fi: Not enough airports offer this, but they do at Orlando International Airport, the JetBlue terminal at JFK, and in Las Vegas, Long Beach, Calif., Phoenix, Denver and Salt Lake City, among other places.
*The openness of modern airports: At the older and dingier airports, you can feel as if you're atop your neighbor whether at the gate, in the restroom or waiting in the rental-car line. The newer ones, such as Orlando International and JetBlue's terminal at John F. Kennedy in New York, allow room to breathe.