Senior Pastors of growing, outreach-focused churches have two things in common: they all travel a lot, and they all hate traveling.
- Attending a conference
- Speaking at a church or event
- Sitting on the board of another organization
- Taking continuing education courses
- Going on mission trips
- Getting the heck out of dodge for vacation
- or what’s become my favorite learning experience – flying to a metro area and interviewing 8-10 pastors of growing churches twice our size and taking video/pictures for my staff back home…
Even the most reluctant Senior Pastors among us will find themselves leaving their daily routine and squeezing into seat 23C of a Delta flight between 3-6 weeks a year.
We all agree that we love doing what we do when we get to our final destination. What we hate are the headaches, frustrations, delays, and complications common to all travelers.
It occurred to me last year that without a concrete plan for hitting the road I was wasting precious ministry time before, during, and after all my trips.
What I needed was a concrete plan for how to travel smarter, faster, lighter and cheaper, so I decided to reach out to friends of mine across the country – distinguished business and ministry leaders for whom travel is a significant part of their job – and I asked them this question:
“What are the 3 best lessons you’ve learned in all your years of travel that you can share with Senior Pastors like me that will help us travel smarter, faster, lighter and cheaper?”
It turns out they all share the same frustrations with travel that we do.
But their insights on how to travel smarter, faster, lighter and cheaper were pure gold. But before we get to their recommendations, let me share with you the three best purchases I’ve made that will make your travel much easier. For me, half the battle is getting the right equipment.
3 Must Have Recommendations
BEST TRAVEL SUITCASE
Samsonite Winfield 2 Hardside 20″ Luggage
$89 on Amazon
I believe this is the best travel suitcase on the market for the price. I bought it in brushed orange, so it stands out if I’m forced to check it plane side on smaller flights. Meets TSA specifications for carry on. Bags are always a personal preference, but the price, sweet look, eight colors to pick from, durability, built-in TSA lock, multi-direction wheels, and inner compartments make this a no-brainer purchase. Here’s a quick video review to show its features.
BEST BACKPACK (for travel and everyday use)
$59 on Amazon
Here are the two things I love about this bag: First, the “trolley” or “pass-through” sleeve allows it to fit snugly over the handles of my travel suite case. Doing this allows them to become one unit so I can zip around terminals without carrying my backpack. Second, it’s great for everyday use. (FYI – I only like this specific version of the bag. I hate the rucksack version)
Boise QuietComfort 35 II
$349 from Bose
Recommended by some people in this article, this has been the single best technology investment I’ve ever made with the highest ROI. Worth every single penny.
Travel Advice From Industry Leaders
New York Times Best-Selling Author
Ego is the Enemy, The Obstacle is the Way, Perennial Bestseller
Here’s mine: First thing to do when you get to a new city is go for a long run. You get to work off the jet lag and the bad airline food, and you get to see the place first hand. You also inevitably bump into a bunch of local, smaller landmarks/restaurants/statues/parks/etc that you otherwise wouldn’t have noticed that you can come back and visit later with your friends or family.
Camilo Ruan, US Sales Director
1. Learn how to pack for ease of use and success:
- Lay out everything and eliminate anything you “might” want to wear but are not sure.
- Pack clothing for multiple uses/versatile. If there is a pair of shoes, a shirt, a pair of pants you can use for casual and business, do it!
- PACKING CUBES! Greatest invention since the airplane itself. This article shows my current preferred method.
- Figure out a folding system and stick to it. Watch this video. All the cool kids are doing it.
- Get actual travel size items like shampoo, toothbrush, etc. and have them in a small bag you only use for travel.
- Never check in bags. Ever.
- Merino wool! Seriously. Lightest, warmest fabric you can take.
- Thin jackets like Patagonia, etc. if you’re going to go somewhere cold.
- I only pack clothing for three days tops, even if trip is longer, and only what fits in my carry on. Most places/hotels have laundry facilities.
2. Transportation in and out of airports:
- Uber/Lyft everywhere. Avoid rental cars and taxis like the plague
- If you can get either TSA approved or “Clear,” it’s worth its weight in gold.
- If you need to rent a car, get a major rental car plan like National’s Emerald Club so you can go straight to car instead of waiting at the counter.
3. If flexibility in travel schedule is key, fly with an airline that allows changes without charging you an arm and leg for last minute changes (ex. Southwest).
4. Sometimes you want to talk to people sitting next to you. Sometimes you don’t. Nothing says, “l don’t want to talk right now” like a pair of noise-canceling headphones like Beats Studio or Bose.
5. Charging blocks. I have at least two with me at all times. One lightweight (1 complete charge) and a heavier one (2+ charges for my phone).
6. Pick a central managing electronic system for everything. I use Evernote for my whole life, so anything I need to recall is there: flight numbers and boarding passes (I also put my boarding pass in Apple Wallet). I’ll take pictures of everything and save them in Evernote for quick recall. I also have every app for every airline in a folder in my iPhone.
7. Neck pillow!! I’m not a first-class guy, so I always carry a neck pillow to rest on for long flights. Tumi has this one that is a jacket that turns into a neck pillow. It’s pretty fly.
Jeff Cranston, Senior Pastor
Low Country Community Church
1. I’ve been privileged to travel to over 40 countries and have learned a few travel lessons along the way. Two rules I live by: (1) There are those who pack light, and there are those who wish they had packed light, and, (2) checked luggage is lost luggage.
2. Lighter. Packing only carry-ons avoids the luggage fees and frees up waiting time at the luggage carousel. While others are standing around bemoaning the slowness of the airline baggage handlers, you’re already out the door and on your way. For tips on how to pack lighter and smarter, check out Rick Steves packing checklist. Good for five days or five weeks. If you want to get detailed into this aspect of travel, Michael Hyatt has a video showing exactly what and how he packs his carry-ons.
3. Cheaper: no one is cheaper than consumer expert Clark Howard. In this video, he offers great tips on how to find the best and lowest priced airfares.
4. Smarter: Carry a small basic first-aid kit, some duct tape, a copy of your passport in case it’s lost or stolen, earplugs, a water bottle (take it through security empty then fill it on your way to the gate), and some sealable plastic bags. You’ll never regret having these things along with you.
5. Helpful travel apps: Kayak, Uber, Google Maps, airline apps (make sure it’s updated prior to your trip), TripCase, and Mobile Passport.
6. And never, never travel without a good book. I always max-out one of my two carry-ons with multiple copies of Second Guessing God and Finding Favor by my friend Brian Jones. They make excellent gifts and also serve well as coasters (hahaha).
Russell Johnson, Regional Vice President
The Solomon Foundation
Here are a few suggestions to help ministry friends travel cheaper:
1. Book your hotel as soon as you confirm your speaking engagement. Lots of factors cause hotel prices to rise (ex. Sporting events, concerts, etc.). You can always cancel, but if you book too late you could pay a substantially higher price because an event came to town that you didn’t know about.
2. Consider everything negotiable – flights, car rental, hotel, up-charges, etc. Always ask, “Is this the best you can do?” You’ll find out if there’s any wiggle room in the price. Often times there is. A coupon here. A discount there. All of it combines to help us be a good steward of the Lord’s resources.
3. Finally, pay attention to even the tiniest costs. Benjamin Franklin said, “Beware of little expenses. Small leaks sink big ships.” For instance, when scheduling hotels many of them include breakfast. Pick those. When ordering meals, water is always free, so make it your habit to only drink water when you travel. Etc.
Brian Dodd, Director of New Ministry Partnerships
INJOY Stewardship Solutions
1. Never remove the fitted sheet or pillow case and get a good look at your mattress and pillow. That is unless counting stains over sheep is your preferred way to drift off.
2. Be friendly to those at the front desk. While you’re talking they are deciding if you deserve a nice room or one that has a history.
3. Never use the glass cups in the bathroom. The health department requires restaurant dishes be cleaned in water that reaches 120-160 degrees. I’ve never seen a dishwasher on a maid’s cart.
4. If you plan to sleep after sunup use the pants hanger with metal clips to snug your curtains.
5. The TV remote wins the award for serving you up with the most germs. If you don’t have something to sterilize it with, use the clear bag from your ice bucket as a slip cover.
6. When the mirror steams up from your shower write an encouraging message (or stalker note if you prefer) on the glass. When the next tenant steps out from their sauna, it’s the first thing they’ll see.
7. Always pack flip-flops. A quick internet search will provide you with a plethora of test results from UV light room examinations. Having a better understanding of what’s on the carpet, bathroom floor and in the tub will convert you to not leaving home without the coveted foot sandal.
8. When in cities with a history of bed bugs, pull your fitted sheet up enough to check the seams for unwanted critters.
9. Request a room at the end of the hall. The farther away from the elevator and higher traffic areas will lend to a better night’s rest.
10. Request an upper-level floor. The view can be half the pleasure of the room. It also further removes you from the outdoor commotion that could keep you from resting.
11. Never leave valuables in the room. The safe is not as secure as you think and it’s only a matter of time before a maid decides to check out your luggage. Leaving the “Do not disturb” sign on the door while your away is a wise choice, but let’s be real, it’s a piece of paper, not a dead bolt.
Vince Antonucci, Senior Pastor
Verve Church, Las Vegas
1. Have a unique set of all the toiletries that you’ll need in your suitcase. Buy an extra of everything and have it in your suitcase all the time.
2. Get Global Entry. If you never travel out of the country, get TSA pre-check, but Global Entry gives you TSA precheck in America AND for international travel. It’s relatively inexpensive and will save you lots of time standing in lines.
3. If you want to meet people on airplanes or try to share your faith with them, I respect that. But if you want to get work done on the airplane, put headphones on BEFORE you get on the plane. If you board and take your seat with headphones on, the talkative person sitting next to you won’t even try to start a conversation.
Brad Dupray, Senior Vice President, Ministry Development
1. PACKING: Keep a travel set of toiletries that matches what you would use at home in a zip lock bag. Same thing with electrical stuff. Use the same set of shoes and pants for your trip that you wear on the airplane. Pack non-wrinkle shirts, then steam them in the bathroom for about 5 minutes when you unpack. Keep some zip lock baggies in your travel bag; you’ll be amazed how often they come in handy. Keep a big supply of business cards in a small pouch in your travel bag so you don’t have to think about packing them.
2. CUTTING COSTS: Whenever you get $1 bills in change, stick them in a pouch in your travel bag, so you always have a few bucks for tips (I don’t generally carry cash). Eat whenever you get a chance because you never know when your next meal is coming. Throw some protein bars in your bag, just in case. Rental car – no. Uber – yes.
3. FLYING: Studies say that window seats carry fewer germs. No people walking by you all the time, nobody climbing over you. You’re in your own little cocoon. If you’re in “Group Six” to get on the plane, follow the last guy who appears to be in Group Five. By the time you get to the gate, they’ll be calling Group Six, and you’ll be sure to get an overhead bin for your carry-on bag. If you travel a lot, buy the Bose mini noise-reducing earphones.
Doug Priest, Retired Executive Director
Christian Missionary Fellowship
1. If you have a 3+ hour layover in an airport between flights, spring for an entrance into your carrier’s lounge if one is available. You will have better amenities, opportunities for snacks and drinks (part of the price of the lounge). Seats are usually plush, the bathrooms are not crowded, and there are plenty of places to go online. Yes, it may seem pricey, but after a long flight, and another long one coming up, it is a good choice. You want to arrive in the best shape possible.
2. Place a few toiletries in a sandwich bag and carry on your person (not in luggage). I usually carry a couple of aspirin, throat lozenges, mini-toothbrush with a small tube of toothpaste, antacid, floss pick, and any daily medicine. You might also want to add a handy-wipe or two. You can clean your eating tray with one of these. Add a breath-mint or two as well.
3. Reading material makes the trip go faster. Some people like to work while they fly – filling out their expense report or editing a paper. I prefer to read, and my Kindle is a constant companion. Be sure you have your charger packed in your luggage because a long trip might mean your Kindle loses its charge.
Tim Cole, Executive Director
Waypoint Church Partners
1. Get TSA pre-check ASAP. Not having to take off your shoes and belt (and pull out your laptop) are worth the one-time fee. Plus, you get to feel so superior to all the riff-raff in the regular line.
2. I take my own pillow. When it fits, I stuff my pillow in my suitcase which lets me sleep much better in a strange hotel room. If I remember the story correctly, Jack Nicklaus wrote in his biography that he lost a tournament once due to a crick in the neck. He traveled with his own pillow from then on.
3. I buy the first ticket that fits what I need. I’m prone to surf the internet for deals or better itineraries for way too long. Then I once calculated the pay cost it took me to save $50 on a ticket. I probably spent $100 of company time to save $50.
Tom Warner, Retired Vice President
1. Do your own booking. Don’t rely on your secretary to do it for you. You’ll learn how to get it done faster and won’t have to get up at 4:00 am to make a 6:15 am flight.
2. I used Hertz for rentals. Their cars are new and clean, and they have a no-hassle process. Cheaper, no, but there are undesirable consequences of cheaper. Make sure your rental car is on site at the airport. The guys at CDF were just starting to use Uber when I retired in 2015, so I don’t have experience with that.
3. Take your wife with you whenever possible. If you’re driving, it doesn’t cost any more for the car or the lodging. Together you can see parts of the country that you wouldn’t otherwise. We were able to see Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, and lots of other sights at little additional cost.
4. Regarding air travel, never sit in a middle seat and never use the toilet on the plane if you can help it.
5. Buy two of everything, like a razor, deodorant, etc. Have it packed and ready to go so you don’t have to gather it up at the last minute and forget something.
6. Be careful where and what you eat. Eating badly is easy to do when traveling. Usually eating too much of the wrong thing and spending too much money.
Greg Nettle, President
Stadia Church Planting
1. Get TSA Precheck, Global entry and CLEAR. I want to spend as little time in the airport as possible.
2. Fly the same airline as often as you can. Being a frequent flyer gives you free luggage check, better seats, access to sky clubs and dedicated help when you need it most (delays, rescheduling, etc.).
3. Whenever possible DO NOT check a bag. I can pack for five days with my carry on.
4. And just for fun: Wireless earbuds, iPad loaded with books, music, movies and favorite games, Take five candy bars, Starbucks Via, and leak-proof pens.
Andy Needham, Church Relations
1. Try to schedule travel for your weakest productivity window.
My best hours of the day to maintain healthy rhythms (mind, body, soul) and get things done is from 5 am – noon. Whenever possible, I schedule travel for the afternoon or evening. This helps keep my disciplines and efficiency strong. Beware of allowing travel to dictate your schedule too much.
2. Invest in Good Travel Tools.
If you fly more than once or twice a year TSA Pre Check is a must. I invested in a big USB battery pack that can recharge my phone four times. I also have a separate set of chargers that I keep packed. Apple Air Pods have surprised me in how much I love them.
3. Bring Comforts of Home
This past Christmas my wife bought me an Aero Press which is essentially a single serve coffee press. I jumped on Amazon and bought a small collapsible hot water kettle. Being able to avoid terrible hotel coffee is one way I enjoy the comforts of home when I am on the road. If it is a car trip I often bring my memory foam pillow which increases my chances of getting great sleep when away from home
Chris Davenport, Sr. Dir. of Construction & Planning
1. Lyft and Uber are awesome means of cheap transportation if you haven’t far to go and you will be in an out of one location. If you are at a convention or a meeting that doesn’t require a bunch of little trips in a rental car, take the Uber. Not only do you get a fast ride, but you will also meet someone new who can give you priceless local information on trending, hidden gem restaurants and fun things to do in your off time. Much more pleasant and cost-effective than a cab.
2. Depending on where you are flying in and out and the time you will be somewhere (and if the destination is within 7 hours drive), consider just renting a car and driving. Flights are getting more and more expensive, and by the time you figure in getting up early, driving to the airport, parking the car, paying to park the car for the length of time, going through security, sitting at the gate, flying, getting there, getting your bags if you checked them, getting a rental car, navigating out of the airport, and finally getting to your destination, if you were within seven hours drive you likely could have just driven in the same amount of time. Plus, you will save a bunch of cash just getting a rental car and buying gas.
4. Get a decent hotel. There are plenty of decent hotels out there between $100 and $140. Don’t go cheap. First, you will not get a good night’s sleep. Second, you will likely not get free breakfast. Third, you won’t be able to build loyalty points. Fourth, you will likely get a nice case of bedbugs.
5. Eat Local. A man who doesn’t experience local food is missing out on life’s greatest pleasures. You can eat chain food at home. Experience the local cuisine and partake to your heart’s content. In Kansas City, I can name five different must-eat-at BBQ joints. In Baltimore, I can do the same for the best crab cakes on earth. There’s nothing better than great food and a great story to go along with it. Plus, eating local is usually cheaper than the chains anyway.
David G. Kittle, President
The Mortgage Collaborative
1. Fly early. NEVER take the last flight out. There’s a high risk of delays and cancellation. And give yourself a minimum of 90 minutes between connections. Delays and distance between concourses become no big deal.
2. Join your favorite hotel’s Frequent Stay Program. Download their app and check in to your room on it so your room will be ready when you arrive! Less stress ….
3. Get your most used airline’s credit card. You’ll be able to check bags for free, upgrade to better seats, and the yearly fee is a deductible expense.
4. If you travel at least once a month, pay the extra money to join an Airline Club for the use of their lounges. The expense is deductible.
5. If you’re speaking any time before noon, go in the night before! It gives you more time to prepare and ZERO stress the morning of. You will be gone from home, but it’s an important trade-off to be your best in front of your audience!
6. Carry sanitary wipes and ALWAYS WIPE DOWN THE FOLDING TRAY AND ARM REST. You can’t travel and speak if you’re sick!
7. Finally, if you can, have your host cover the cost of flying first-class. You’re worth, no…. Your audience is worth every penny!
Tom Jones, Executive Director
Stadia Church Planting
1. Never check luggage.
2. Consistency is important: same airline, same hotel (get used to same bedding), same rental car, but…
3. Never rent a car if you can get someone else to do it or pick you up or you can Uber. Don’t waste time getting rental cars.
4. Never share a room with anyone but your wife. Sleep is important.
5. Read fun stuff on planes, novels, etc. Nothing spiritual.
6. Invest in good noise canceling ear buds and quality luggage with good wheels.
7. Most important, stop getting anxious about late, canceled or missed flights. If you conquer that tendency, you’ll be less stressed.
8. Fulfill your obligation and go home ASAP.
David Wasserman, President
1. Always wear sweatpants/shorts and shoes that slip on/off. Makes security a breeze. Avoid sandals. Some airports are the size of cities. Good, supportive footwear is important.
2. At PHL, I always park in ‘H’ in the economy lot. It’s the last pickup shelter, so you get right to the departures area quickly, and it’s the first drop off shelter when you return, so you get right to your car.
3. I always load my iPad with movies/TV shows. Netflix and Amazon Prime let you temporarily download content now.
4. Avoid checking a bag, if you can.
5. If you do check a bag, attach a very “pronounced” (no matter how ugly) luggage strap so you can spot it quickly.
6. Pick luggage that stacks and attaches. My large luggage allows for my backpack to easily slide over the handle, and my backpack has the strap necessary to allow this. This takes the strain off your back so that I can move quickly. Most large luggage also has wheels now that don’t require you to tilt to roll.
7. Online check-in is a MUST. I also typically add my digital boarding pass to my Apple “Wallet” on my phone and watch.
8. Download your airline’s app. The digital boarding pass does not typically update if your gate or boarding time changes. The app is the fastest, most accurate way to keep tabs on your flight status/location.
9. Want an emergency row seat but don’t want to pay extra? SOMETIMES arriving early and being extra nice to the airline staff will allow you to move your seat at no extra cost. If comfort is a MUST, then you may want to pay ahead of time for the upgrade.
10. If you travel often, it will be worth it to pay for TSA Precheck. The cost is minimal, but it means you speed thru security. You don’t have to empty your bag or remove your shoes!
11. Last but not least – if you’re going to Uber, most airports have special pickup locations. Figure out where they are BEFORE you call your Uber. Otherwise you end up wandering and not finding one another. Most airports now have “ride share locations” where you can get your Ubers and Lyfts.
Shawn Lovejoy, Founder and CEO
Courage To Lead
1. Fly the same airline. Loyalty comes back to you via points, upgrades, etc.
2. Use one travel site. You’ll save hundreds of hours trying to remember and look up details later!
3. Fly out early the next morning instead of late at night. When you fly late at night, it washes you out the next morning anyway! If you stay over, sleep well, and fly out early the next morning you can get a bunch of work done. It becomes a productive morning!
Doug Lucas, Founder and President
1. Pack carry-on’s only. For me, this is a backpack and a rolling carry-on. If it doesn’t fit in those, just don’t take it. On a flight to India a few years ago I was snowed-in and marooned in Newark. They ended up changing my whole itinerary and putting me on the first flight out with seconds to spare. If I had luggage checked, I probably would have never seen it again anyway.
2. Take a flexible attitude. This includes saying, “It’s such-and-such a clock my body time.” When I hear the thump of the jet door closing, I set my watch to destination time and like Christopher Reeves’ character in “Somewhere in Time,” I start pretending I’m already adapted to the new time zone. Using this strategy, I might get sleepy from 30 hours on jets, but I no longer let my body rule me based on what time it is.
3. Build your trip in advance on the app “Tripit.” The pro version of the app advises you of everything from connecting times to connections in danger of misconnects. AND, if you miss your connection, it gives you other options with other carriers. It helps me to see everything in one place. It even provides the number of minutes it will take to walk between arrival and departure gates.
Charles Jones, Retired sales representative
Sebago and Wolverine
Finally, this last piece of advice comes from my dad, the greatest spiritual leader and business executive I’ve ever known. Many leaders will say this about their fathers as an endearing way to honor their father’s influence, but in my father’s case, this is the case.
Because my dad was in sales, he spent a considerable amount of time on the road, but in all my years of playing sports, from age 3 to 18, he only missed one of my 1,000+ sport’s games. One. That’s not an exaggeration. His answer below helps me understand how and more importantly why he pulled that off.
1. Under how to travel smarter – make sure it’s a worthwhile trip using whatever measure you use to determine that. Mine was 80% of my business was done with 20% of my accounts, so I made sure it was a profitable sales call. Maximizing profit by minimizing expense is central to any endeavor. The 80/20 rule applies to church as well as business.
2. The best lesson I learned was in scheduling air travel. Cheapest is not always best. Direct flights are huge money savers if you go by the adage “time is money.” Get there fast and maximize your time there. In other words, “Plan your work and work your plan.” Don’t waste time sitting around a hotel room. They are for sleeping only.
3. Plan your return trip the same afternoon or evening the meeting ends. Check out of the hotel that morning and take your bags to the meeting. Go to the airport ASAP. That’s easy to do traveling east to west, but a little harder traveling west to east. Red eyes are a great way to minimize expenses and reduce time away from your family and your church.
4. In my travels, I’ve seen way too many people enjoy the glitz and glamour of business travel to the extent of neglecting family time and at the expense of family finances. Spending unnecessary time away puts family relationships and finances at risk. Brian, #3 has always been a problem for me as I watched guys spend money on the road drinking, going to sporting events, and blowing money on expensive dinners. I always wondered how their excess spending affected their families back home. In many cases, I knew the answer.