Editor’s Note: Navan CCO Danny Finkel is one of Navan's most frequent business travelers.
With more than a decade in the travel industry, Danny shares his personal travel style and business travel tips in this piece: How he prepares, what he optimizes for, how he seeks out moments of bliss, and why he still loves crossing the jet bridge. These hacks and habits go beyond reminders to sign up for TSA Precheck and Global Entry, why printing boarding passes is no longer necessary, or how to spot the best corners for coworking on the go.
Read on for his personal travel style, in his own words.
The first step in starting a business trip is selecting flights and hotels. I think we at Navan have the best tool to compare and contrast different flight and hotel options — and I’m not just saying that because I work here! I travel so often for business meetings that I try to make trips as efficient as possible, and the Navan app is really useful for smoothing out all the wrinkles.
I used to be much more loyal to one airline, but given that I travel so much, it's now more about finding the best travel times, planes, and business-class seats; fortunately, the robust inventory and rich content within the app offers me lots of choices.
There are times that I’m going to Europe, for example, and I find multiple nonstop flights on multiple airlines at similar times for a similar price. The decision becomes more about the service, seat, and perks I’ll get on that plane rather than skipping a layover. I still geek out on plane details like Wi-Fi and available upgrades.
It’s the same with the hotel. I typically travel for business meetings, so I enter the address of the office I’m going to and get the distance because I want to maximize my time for the best night’s rest and a workout.
On the hotel side, unlike airlines, I always stay at one particular brand, so being able to sort by the brand and making sure I'm getting loyalty points is important.
Checking that there’s a good gym at the hotel is important, too. I travel so often that I want to make sure it’s convenient to work out; being able to look at all the different amenities and pictures is key. Fortunately, the Navan app makes it easy to filter by all these factors: distance, amenities, loyalty programs, and rewards programs.
Even though I travel a lot, I still get excited every time I go to the airport, and I'll do weird things like check the winds to see how long the flight will be.
There are websites where you can check the tailwinds and headwinds, see how strong they are, and anticipate whether the flight will be at its average length or a bit faster. I’ll use that to think through my plan for working and sleeping on the plane, which is especially helpful for long overnight flights.
I’ll also check FlightRadar24 to see where the inbound plane is coming from and when it’s scheduled to arrive because that dictates when I leave the house. If the plane runs late, I don’t need to leave precisely at the right time.
I minimize extra time at the airport before any work trip. There's a saying that if you've never missed a flight, you spend too much time at the airport. I strongly believe that, even though, embarrassingly enough, I have missed a couple of flights in my day.
When you spend so much time traveling, you don’t need to be at the airport much, and I’m okay with skipping the airport lounge for more time at home or work.
I pack light.
I can pack in five minutes before going to the airport, even for a week-long trip. I know exactly how many pieces of each type of clothing I typically bring. Of course, I always make sure that it all fits in carry-on luggage, even for a multi-week trip, just because of the extra hour you need to get to the airport to check in or wait for your bag. It’s a lot of travel time compounded over the number of trips I take.
I also ensure that I have enough room for workout clothes and running shoes — that probably takes up the most space.
I have a Travelpro for corporate travel. I’ve always had one, and they've always been good to me. They last forever. I had my last one for ten years, and it was bittersweet to get rid of because I have all these memories with it — rolling it down the cobblestone streets of Prague and the steamy hot alleyways of Bangkok. That bag was with me through so many journeys. I replaced it with another Travelpro, but that’s my brand allegiance — there are lots of great travel bags out there.
I bring the following essentials in my carry-on bag on every flight:
Then I have a backpack with the essentials:
I try to keep my backpack as light as possible since it’s also a good place to store things I buy during a trip.
If I'm in a new place, I'll look up the tipping custom; it changes by country or city, of course, and it’s important information to know. I’ll try to get a shower after a long flight to refresh and beat jet lag, but sometimes you have to go straight to the meeting and make it work.
I’ll take public transportation from the airport if it’s the most efficient option, like in London, but taking a car is often more efficient. Efficiency is my most important factor, and I can join meetings from my cell phone in an Uber. I mostly skip rental cars.
I’m flexible with travel plans since sometimes last-minute opportunities arise on the road, but I always have my son in the back of my head. With Navan, I have a travel agent in my pocket, so it becomes easy to change flights or extend a hotel room with a few clicks of a button. It takes a lot of the worry and hassle out of making these changes and allows for a lot more flexibility just because of how easy it is.
Recharging is important and usually involves little things like going for runs outside, which I use to explore a city and see more sites.
A great meal is essential, too. I love exploring cultures through cuisine, and it’s such a great way to get to know a place. Food creates lasting memories, and I always try to taste the local cuisine. It’s fun to share those moments on social media, too.
By supporting a company’s travel, we facilitate amazing experiences, connect the world, and make commerce happen. It’s so much more than just enforcing a travel policy.
Travel is magical. I still get excited walking down a jet bridge and smelling the recirculated air.
I’ve been in travel my entire career, and Navan Expense is the best tool out there. It’s the most user-friendly and personalized. Our payments and expense solution is truly magical and one-of-a-kind in travel management. It makes the journey so simple and saves me so much time.
I'll organize dinners with partners and prospects and pay with my corporate credit card. Extending the invite in my calendar is easier than asking my assistant because Navan makes this a super-simple, amazing experience that ties these different contextual elements together to make expense reports obsolete. I love that it reminds me to take a photo of the receipt in real time; I can’t tell you how many receipts I’ve lost in the past.
The worst is figuring out all the different taxes and fees on hotel invoices. I remember fighting over 2 cents that I paid with a travel credit card in old expense systems. It was impossible, and not having to do any of that is insanely amazing.
Now, one of those things that everybody dreaded, hated, and thought was so clunky and cumbersome is something you don’t even have to think about. It’s an important part of the business trip process because there's the travel, and then there's this interaction you must do no matter where you're traveling. Navan Expense has changed the whole experience.
On my second real business trip during my first real job after college, I went to Amsterdam for a big aviation conference — it was my first time leaving the country for work. I realized during that trip how important it is to get out of your usual safe space.
I saw how travel helped me build relationships more meaningfully and that it involved so much more than just exchanging business cards. I didn’t know the people I worked with until I traveled with them.
When traveling together, the bonds you can create and the trust you can build with your colleagues are exponential. I started to crave opportunities for connection; that experience pushed me to build and deepen relationships that I ultimately relied on to solve problems or harness opportunities.
The last thing I’ll say is that there’s this human connection that you can make when you're not at home. All of these extra personal interactions happen throughout the course of a day when you're on a business trip, and they truly make a lasting difference.
Discover more business travel tips in Navan’s Road Warrior's Cheat Sheet.