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Part Three - Tips, Tricks, Devices and Services That Make Staying Connected Easier

In parts one and two I've discussed mobile calling services and tactics to keep the costs of International Roaming down as well as the devices and methods to keep your data rates down.

For transparency sake-My agency represents FreeTalk and parent company ISS which manages the Skype Shop. Some of the products mentioned below are available via Skype Shop.

Now it's time to focus on other devices that make staying connected easier while you're on the go:

A Respite from the Noise- Global Office Access Card

There are two ways to get away from the noise and being in a very public place when traveling. Either hide out in your hotel room, or find a place you can work that's got all the comforts of an office, or an airport airline club lounge. But joining every airline club is both expensive and unnecessary. I've been using Priority Pass for the past five years and have found that even one visit a year somewhere pays for it in value. While the lounges in all countries are not the same, their network includes both airline clubs and local business lounges in major airports around the globe, and they usually have access to more than one in each airport. Another way into some lounges is with the American Express Platinum Card. Just recently AMEX added US Air Lounges, but with the airline also selling day passes, and excluding their Envoy Lounge in Philadelphia, but since no US Air flights ticket is required, it's even more meaningful than the flight ticket required access to Admirals Clubs from American Airlines or the Delta Crown Room that as a result of the mergers between Delta and Northwest are now accessible, along with Continental's Presidents Clubs.

Away from the airport nothing beats a Regus Businessworld Membership. With over 1000 locations around the globe, the $15 a month Gold Card gets you into any of their centers. While each center is very different, and has different rules and hours, I've used these in every country I've visited the last four years and would never leave home without one. With my Platinum membership I also have access to ten days a month of day offices, meaning I have the luxury of a door, a phone and administrative help all around the globe. Plus, with their RegusNet Internet Service, you'll be assured of amazing bandwidth, versus having to share the Internet at some coffee shop or cafe.

Travel Routers

Without a doubt, the travel router is a necessity if you are in a hotel, or meeting room, that doesn't have WiFi, or where they want to charge you per device connection. My favorite travel router is the Apple Airport Express that works all the way up through the 802.11 N standard. A second choice would be the Asus Wireless Travel Router followed by products from D-Link, Netgear and even Cisco.

Headsets and Microphones

I'm biased, as we represent FREETALK, and I serve as Head of Marketing for the company, but without a doubt the FreeTalk like of Skype compatible headsets is without a doubt the best value for money line on the market today. Between the Everyman Wired and new Wireless versions, as well as the FreeTalk Wireless Headset, these offer Skype's SuperWideband Codec, SILK, embedded into the headsets Digital Signaling Processor, meaning, the compression and decompression of SILK is handled by the headset, not your PC.

SpeakerPhones for Those On The Go

I remain a fan of the Polycom Communicator, the Skype and PC Speakerphone, but lately Polycom has been lagging in keeping the product updated. For example, they haven't updated the drivers for Windows 7, and when I've reached out to their folks who previously asked me for input on the product, they've gone silent. That's usually a sign that the product is being mothballed which is a shame, because the form factor, Skype integration and audio sensitivity, as well as price made it a very good value. It's one drawback is the lack of SILK integration into the device, something the more expensive, but very sleek Yamaha Speakerphone has adopted. While pricier, the Yamaha delivers more than the Polycom, as it doubles as a stereo speaker system. Lastly, the Clear One Chat 60 deserves a serious look. Like the Polycom and Yamaha it is also Skype Certified, and it's slim design, and low profile look makes it a easy tuck in to your travel bag.

Power Outlets and Surge Protectors

Nothing beats the MonsterCable Outlets to Go Six Outlet power strip. The reason is unlike some of the traveling surge protectors, this is not surge protection, which means you won't be turning out the lights in Europe or Asia with it. Take this along, add on a local country plug converter and you're now using your USA power plugs. Monster also makes a more petite four outlet version.

A second must have is an IDAPT if you carry more than one "portable device." Personally, I've used two of these, one at home and one in my carry bag, and between avoiding cable tangle, the iDapt offers a neat way to keep everything organized. Their newest product, the i4 will also make it easy to charge the iPad. Given the success of the i3, I'll be adding that to my carry on collection of essentials.

Don't Be Cheap

It's one thing to be frugal, and it is another thing to be cheap. Too many companies like to impose travel policies on employees and vendors that seem to make good fiscal sense, but waking up in a hotel that has lousy Internet connectivity, poor plumbing, or guests who party all night long really doesn't pay off when you have that important meeting the next day and just need to be at your best. Joining hotel loyalty programs is the first step but being property loyal in cities your regularly frequent wins hands down. Over the past few years San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia, Barcelona, Madrid, Seattle, Paris and London have become almost regular stops at least three or more times a year. As a result I've found that paying a negotiated business or industry rate, vs. a deep discounted rate usually results in a better stay and more perks. I've also become accustomed to a "welcome home" type of arrival, more than being just another nameless and faceless guest. As someone who has spent over 300 days on the road in 2008, and 275 days on the road in 2009 with a similar pace this year looming it seems, having those personal relationships, and paying a fair price each time has gotten me more upgrades, perks and benefits than any loyalty program ever would have. For example, at the amazing San Francisco Intercontinental, which is just down the street from Moscone Center I have my own personal bathrobe that's always hanging in my room (as does my wife.) We're greeted by the impeccable staff and almost always have a drink with the master of polite efficiency, hotel GM par excellance, Peter Koehler. The long time San Francisco hotelier is perhaps the finest GM on the planet. His encyclopedia like mind keeps track of guests likes and needs, while his guest relations manager Shehani and her team in the sixth floor lounge (Luis, Regina and Bridgette) find a way to make every stay just a bit more pleasant.

Up in Seattle, the technowonderful Hotel 1000 with 100 megs of XO powered Internet speeds, elevators that arrive when you walk up to them, non-intrusive housekeeping staff that know when your in and out of your room, plus a dynamite bar/lounge and restaurant (BOKA) makes this my first choice in Seattle each trip.

Over in London and in New York City it's the new Hyatt Andaz properties. In London, they've learned I don't like the rooms without a stall shower, and need enough elbow room to shave. The grade A property there, converted by Terry Conran from a 1800's hospital into a 21st century hotel has no charge internet, but single sign on throughout the hotel and the public areas. In New York, the hotels internet sometimes though needs a boost, as the Nomadix gateway seems to be limiting in speeds. In Philadelphia the Sofitel wins hands down. The recent addition of more power outlets in every room, and the double paned windows makes it a can't be beat work and rest location, especially when you add in T-Mobile's rock solid WiFi hotspot coverage and wired outlets in every room. In Barcelona my two hotels of choice are Casa Camper and the Pullman Skipper while in Paris its Mama Shelter or the Pullman Bercy where I have stayed now for ten years and through at least three renovations and upgrades. All have great Internet connectivity, but more importantly provide the kind of vibe, and offer the kind of service that a business traveler in need of a bit of TLC can always expect.

At the root of all this is both convenience and the willingness to spend a little more, but save yourself from hours of inconvenience and hassles. Life on the road doesn't have to always be tough, but it's not all lights and glitter. After you experience a few later than expected arrivals or an early check in hope following a red eye, you begin to understand why having a hotel that feels like home and your own productivity amenities along with you, makes it all seem just a little bit better.


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