Business travel slows during summer, but it doesn't disappear. It also carries its own unique set of challenges.
Chris McGinnis, a travel consultant who writes and blogs for several outlets, including for the Best Western hotel chain as its business travel expert, didn't hesitate to call summer "the toughest time of year for business travelers."
"They have to share space with infrequent travelers," McGinnis said. "Most are patient and understand that people need to travel their one or two times a year. But it slows things down."
The biggest issue, he said, is airport volume: more bodies, more slow-moving families, more strollers and equipment that stretch lines into seemingly interminable waits. Then there's the grim reality of being surrounded by people on vacation.
"It's a more lonesome time; the people are around you are having fun, and you're going to Des Moines on a sales call," he said. "I've experienced it myself. When you're out there and everyone is going on vacation, all you can think is, 'That has to be more fun than this business trip.'"
McGinnis offered these tips for coping with the saddest and warmest of business travel seasons.
—Choose your room wisely. Common areas become even noisier in summer with more families and squawking kids. Request a room away from the pool, the elevator and the ice machine.
—Choose your dates wisely. Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be the slowest travel days, so work them into your itinerary. "Avoid like the plagues Friday afternoons and Sunday afternoon," he said. The busiest travel day of the year usually isn't the day before Thanksgiving; it's often a Friday in midsummer.
—Bring your own Internet. Hotel Internet networks slow down in summer because so many people are trying to document their fun via photos and videos. "It's a good reason to invest in a broad band air card," McGinnis said.
—Invest in the airline club programs. They're usually several hundred dollars, but day passes are closer to $50. There are fewer people, complimentary food, free Wi-Fi and — so key on that 95-degree, humid day — showers. McGinnis said he recently invested in an American Express Platinum card with a $450 annual fee that gets him into airport lounges for four airlines. "If you've been through a hot, sweaty summer experience, that shower can help perk you up a little," he said.
—Fly early. The first flight of the day will be less crowded and is less likely to be delayed by a summer thunderstorm.
—Actually, do everything early. "The breakfast bar can be packed with families later in the morning," McGinnis said. "If you get there early enough, you won't have to deal with a family of six eating all the eggs and sausages."
—Travel in style (if you can). Coach fares typically rise in summer, but business class fares usually fall because there are fewer business travelers. Rates can be a third cheaper. "Those prices might be out of reach of ordinary consumers but maybe not a corporation," McGinnis said.