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Travel Tips from Jim Harris, National Director, Nelnet Partner Solutions

November 8, 2011

Jim Harris, at one of the many conferences he attends across the country

I get the opportunity to travel quite a bit for Nelnet. My team is responsible for making sure that we perform well for our school partners. This means that we attend and speak at conferences for financial aid professionals, meet with FSA in Washington DC, and visit college campuses. It means that I am on the road quite a bit, almost every week. I have decided to share with you some of the things that I have found make my trip a bit easier. My goal is to always make it is as seamless as possible, to be prepared, and to stay healthy.

  • Make a packing list.  I have one on my iPhone.  It changes according to where I’m going, to what event, and how long I will be gone, but there are some things I always need. Before “the list,” there was always something I forgot.  A tie, a charger, cufflinks, or my extra pair of underwear. (Ever since I was a little boy, my mom always made me pack an extra pair “just in case I had an accident.” I am happy to report that I have never had to use them, but I know the first time I forget…that’s when the dreaded “accident” will occur. )
  • Avoid my dad in security lines. I love my dad, but if I had to choose to follow him through airport security OR a young family with toddlers, I would choose the family. A family with several small children is always organized – probably an acquired survival skill. My father seems to feel that he and his possessions are exempt from the metal detector, and that all the security rules only apply to Democrats. 

(TSA Agent) “Sir, you’ll have to take off your belt.”  

(Dad) “You’ve already made me take off my shoes, what next?” (Alarm goes off again.)

(TSA Agent) “Do you have anything in your pockets?” 

(Dad)  “Just change. Do coins set it off?  (Puts coins in tray. Alarm still goes off.)

(TSA Agent) “Sir, anything else in your pocket?”

(Dad)  “Nope, just my pocket knife.”

(TSA Agent)  “Did you say knife?”

So off he goes to get “wanded”. Meanwhile, the family with their little toddlers is already sitting down for breakfast at a restaurant near their gate.

  • Take your headphones. I consider myself a social person. But sometimes, if I am tired and just want to relax, read, or crank out some emails, I would prefer to not chat with the stranger sitting next to me.  Yet, I don’t want to appear rude. Enter my ear buds. Do not use the headphones in the seat pockets unless they are sealed. How many people have used those before you? Bonus hint: Feigning sleep also works well. 
  • Take a big packet of anti-bacterial wipes. I use these on the plane and in my hotel room. On the plane, I wipe off the armrests and the tray. I don’t think this is ever done by the airlines. We always hear about how easy it is to get sick on airplanes. Once off the plane and in my hotel room, everything gets wiped off. (Bathroom counters, light switches, remote controls, night stands, etc.). Even as I write this, I can sense that some of you, gentle readers, may perceive that I am a little nutty about germs. I proudly own it. I hate getting sick and don’t have the time for it. I am also quite certain that housekeeping at many hotels use the same cleaning cloths in every room, from the previous room’s bathroom to yours. Or think about last night’s guest sneezing, coughing, or scratching just before changing the channel or turning off the light.  Enough said.
  • Be a creature of habit. For example, always put your car keys in the same spot in your brief case or purse. (I have a “murse” or European Carry-All). I also try to always park my car in the same row in the airport parking lot.  Row J (for Jim) and 5th level. I do this every time, one less thing I need to think about.  If I can’t park where I want, I text myself a message of where I am parked because I know I will forget.  The more things you do consistently the same…every time you travel…the easier it is. 
  • Put something on your suitcase to make it stand out. I am almost completely colorblind…so it really doesn’t matter if I have a black suitcase or not.  However, almost everyone has a black suitcase.  My wife worries about this. On the rare occasion that I check luggage, she bedazzles my suitcase so no one else steals my running shoes (that I usually don’t ever unpack) or my new bottle of Old Spice. I have a flourish of red and pink ribbons on the handle of my suitcase…no self respecting person would be caught dead with such a suitcase.  Hence, it is always there for me and easy to identify.

Enough of my ideas…I would like to hear from others. What do you do to make your business or leisure travel easier?  Please leave a comment and share your ideas.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. jodilmiller permalink
    November 9, 2011 3:14 pm

    I always write my parking level and row on the parking garage ticket and then put that in the same spot in my wallet. However, I like your parking tip better! Of course, now I live in the buzzing metropolis of Lincoln, NE. So that is probably not necessary. 🙂

    • November 10, 2011 11:23 am

      Still…Jodi…It might be a good idea to record this info….knowing you. You might also want to jot down your address just in case your forget!

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