Wednesday, September 19, 2012

10 Tips For International Business Travel


International business travel is a different animal when compared to a quick domestic trip. Flying for extended periods of time alone presents its own unique challenges for those who have not done it before. Still, international business travel does not have to be the grueling sort of ordeal that first-timers anticipate by following a few simple guidelines.

For our purposes here, we assume a) you do not have a huge corporate travel department taking care of the details for you, b) you care how much elements of the trip cost and c) can accept a seat in coach.

·         Booking airfare - Book air far in advance for the best seat selection. Keep on top of fares by registering flights with AirFareWatchdog (before buying) and Yapta (after). If the price goes down later, a refund or credit for future travel may be possible. Also, reduce travel stress by insisting on a minimum of 2 hours between connections, especially on the return flight to the U.S. If the arrival airport is not your final destination, you'll need time to recheck luggage and go through security screening again.

 

·         Periodically check reservations - Once flights are booked and seats assigned, return to the airline website to get a feel for how flights are filling up. You may wish to pay more closer to travel day for an aisle seat. SeatGuru can help with this. Also, be sure reservations have frequent flyer numbers on them to get credit for long flights. Be extra safe by saving boarding passes as proof later that you were on the flight.

 
·         Know what documentation is required - In addition to a valid U.S passport that expires a minimum of 6 months after your international travel, you may need to satisfy other entry requirements. The U.S Department of State's Smart Traveler Program offers all the information needed to enter and experience any given country in the world. Registering travel plans with Smart Traveler brings travel alerts and background information in advance of travel too.

 
·         Explore communication options in advance - Molding options on a cellphone plan to fit where your destination can make using your cellphone abroad a viable option. On extended trips a new sim card to match your destination might work best, but simply customizing options can work well too. Adding an international data plan, for example, will let you use smartphone apps that can be invaluable navigating foreign soil. Another option is to "Cheat On Your Cellphone Service With Tep Wireless."

 
·         Fly in a day in advance of important meetings - Have some plans in place but have the flexibility to spend the first day overseas adjusting to the time difference and getting used to new surroundings. If everything goes well, you may be able to hit the ground running. If a few parts of your travel plan don't come off as anticipated, all is not lost, just a bit behind schedule.

·         Start focusing on getting plenty of rest and eating right several days before the flight-Unless you're headed to Canada from New York, most international travel translates to some long flights. Sure, maybe we can't "bank" sleep but starting a long flight with a full tank of rest is always a good idea. Also see: "How To Deal With Jetlag."

 
·         Consider the allowed personal carry -on item your "flight bag"- and have everything that might be needed during the flight in it. Having at hand, under the seat in front of you, is huge and a must-do for all international flights. Also, finish packing (at least preliminarily) a week in advance. That offers the opportunity to be sure critical items are packed and allows time to source those items not packed first time around.

 
·         Enjoy the experience that international flights can offer in and of itself - Flight attendants or other passengers have wonderful stories to tell that can add a richness to our travels. Engage the world with smartphone apps like HipGeo and FourSquare to share your experience and record your journey step by step. Bringing along the new appTagWhat is almost like having a personal travel guide along for the ride.

 
·         Know a little of the language - While you're apt to kick yourself for not knowing more once on the ground, basic words and phrasing is a must. Questions like "How much?" and "Can you help me?" go a long way, along with: "Please," "Excuse me" and "Thank You." A smartphone app for translating languages is a good idea.

 
·         Money matters - Like language, have a good idea of how the local currency converts to dollars, not that you can do anything about that but just so you will have an idea of value and maybe not pay the equivalent of $10 for a Coke. Onanda's Currency app for iPhone is a good one to have handy. Use a credit card that will work internationally (not all will) and does not charge an extra fee for doing so. Be sure to notify card companies when you will out of the country too, otherwise they may shut you down, thinking your card has been stolen.

There are plenty of other tips for international business travel, including Gadling's International Travel Tips In 100 Words Or Less, but these have helped me quite a bit and some were hard lessons to learn.

One more: do not forget a power converter. I spent the good part of a day in Venice on my first international business trip, looking for a device that would allow me to stick my U.S. plug into the odd-sized electrical outlets in our hotel. Since the only Italian words I knew were from working at the Olive Garden decades ago, I walked around the city with a hand written note from the hotel desk clerk to help. I assume that note said, "This man wants a power converter," but it might have said, "Laugh at this silly American," because most people I presented it to did.


http://www.gadling.com/2012/09/17/10-tips-for-international-business-travel/

Chris Owen

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Beating the stress of business travel - Read what the experts say.

Business travel can be particularly stressful, say experts.

(CNN) -- Traveling for business presents particular dangers of a stress overload, according to experts, but there are ways to take the strain out of country-hopping.
 
Missing out on sleep, working non-stop on the plane or train, and eating unhealthy foods are all common habits of the business traveler lifestyle. With some employers looking to cut travel costs, business class tickets can also be bumped down to the less luxurious economy seats.
 
All this can create havoc with stress levels at a time when the pressures of preparing for presentations and making meetings mean business travelers are already on edge.
 
Neil Shah, director of The Stress Management Society.
Neil Shah, director of The Stress Management Society.
"There is absolutely added stress for business travelers," says Neil Shah, director of The Stress Management Society. "Unlike leisure travelers they are more likely to have no down time and will be working constantly, unable to switch off."
 According to Shah what sets business travelers apart is that they often lack opportunities to burn off the stress chemicals built up over a hectic trip.
"When we are stressed we go into fight or flight mode. Cortisol and adrenaline are produced and the best way to combat this is light exercise and breathing fresh air," he says.
"However, business travelers are more often stuck indoors with artificial air conditioning and without natural light, both of which affect the body's ability to deal with stress. On a packed business trip travelers can't always burn the stress off."
The problem of jet lag is the result of another chemical imbalance -- a lack of serotonin, which regulates sleep patterns, appetite and your mood.
Sue Firth, author
Sue Firth, author
Sue Firth, author of "More Life -- Less Stress," and a psychologist and business stress expert, carries 5-HTP supplements when traveling, available in all large chemists, to counteract serotonin depletion.
"I take two tablets once a day with food, which is 100mg. It's an enzyme called tryptophan which helps you manufacture enough serotonin so that you can sleep when you need to and it helps keep you alert and able to concentrate.
"If you really have a problem sleeping, melatonin -- a hormone that is part of the human sleep-wake cycle -- in a 2mg dose can be useful."
Business travelers can also anticipate and combat stress with some pre-trip planning, starting with their wardrobe.
"Dress to be comfortable," says Carol Margolis, who runs SmartWomenTravelers.com and is author of "Business Travel Success: How to Reduce Stress, Be More Productive and Travel With Confidence."
"Don't try to have a different outfit or pair of shoes for every day," she says. "I stick to one color combination per week. This way it's so much easier and needs only one pair of business shoes."
Look at each trip as an adventure and know that you'll get through anythingCarol Margolis, author
Entering the trip with the right mindset -- and being prepared for the unexpected -- is also key, she says.
"Look at each trip as an adventure and know that you'll get through anything. If a flight is delayed, make the best of it by reading, napping, going to an airport spa for a massage, or nearby fitness center."
The Stress Management Society has worked with British Airways to come up with guidance for how travelers can relieve stress during journeys. Top of its tip list is a breathing technique.
"It is very important to take slow deep breaths," says Shah. "Imagine a balloon in your belly that you are inflating and deflating. Being in a highly oxygenated state helps combat stress."
It is very important to take slow deep breaths. Imagine a balloon in your belly that you are inflating and deflating.Neil Shah, director, The Stress Management Society
Staying hydrated is also important. "The stress of traveling makes the body dehydrate very quickly. Avoid drinking alcohol on the plane and skip caffeine and sugar and you'll feel much better when you arrive at your destination," says Shah.
Once travelers hit the tarmac the key is to fill up on healthy foods that are easily absorbed by the body, and then to stretch their legs.
"Dodge carbohydrates and eat salads and vegetables instead, as the body can break them down quicker and gain energy. Then go for a walk, even if it is only for 10 minutes around the block. Sitting statically makes the blood pool around your ankles. You need to get it circulating again," says Shah.
Kathleen Hall of The Stress Institute and Mindful Living Network offers the S.E.L.F care route to blissful travel.
S - Serenity. Reacting to every obstacle will raise your blood pressure and heart rate. Surrender to your travel and treat it as a classroom (learning experience), not a prison (punishment).
Dr Kathleen Hall of The Stress Institute and Mindful Living Network
Dr Kathleen Hall of The Stress Institute and Mindful Living Network
E - Exercise. Exercising releases endorphins that reduces your stress response. Plan for a quick 15 minutes on the treadmill or a couple quick laps in the pool before breakfast.
L - Love. Traveling is stressful, so take tools to comfort yourself on the plane and in your travels. It may be your favorite blanket, pillow or music
F - Food. Eat foods that are high in omega 3 and B6 / B. Try a tuna sandwich or banana. Avoid eating fatty, greasy foods, which can make you feel more anxious.
But for Margolis, the real key is to switch from thinking just about work to incorporating wider interests into your trip. She also recommends common courtesy as a sure-fire way to lower stress levels.
"Be nice! It's amazing what the power of a 'Good Morning' to a hotel desk clerk can mean as you walk by each morning," she says. "These people remember the friendly folks and often go out of their way to enhance our travel experience just by being nice in return."

Click for the CNN article
By
Laura Miller, for CNN

Monday, August 27, 2012

Study: Ease Of Use Critical In Expense Management Selection

In evaluating expense management solutions, "ease of use" was the most important criteria for more than a third of 130 surveyed finance professionals. Conducted in the winter of 2011-12, the poll by the Institute of Financial Operations found that another 18 percent cited integration with enterprise resource planning systems as the key. Corporate card integration and "lowest cost" each were selected by 17 percent of respondents.
 
Card integration is important; nearly six of 10 respondents said their companies electronically feed corporate card data into expense reporting systems. Nearly 29 percent said they don't integrate card data and 12 percent said their companies don't have a corporate card program.
 
Among represented companies with corporate card programs, 71 percent said they receive a rebate based on spending or file turn (the average number of days between the time charges are posted and payment is received). "A year ago, only 65 percent reported rebates," noted the study's authors. "So it would appear that more companies are benefitting from the competitive corporate card market," or better managing file turns to maximize rebates.
 
Meanwhile, 12 percent of respondents said their organizations prepopulate reservation data in expense reporting systems. Nearly seven in 10 don't plan to increase integration of travel and expense systems in the coming year.
 
Nearly 30 percent of respondents said their organizations still used paper-based expense management processes, while 3 percent said they use electronic spreadsheets and 6 percent cited internally developed technology. The remaining 60 percent identified a variety of third-party expense brands, ERP options or card company-provided software systems.
 
Regardless of the process or system in use, more than half of respondents said it has been in place in their organizations for more than five years. Nearly 29 percent said their expense process had been deployed within the past three years.
 
The vast majority (66 percent) had no plans to change their expense management program. About 30 percent said they planned changes within the next 18 months and 5 percent cited longer-term projects to update or replace systems.
 
Mobile Expense Use Low  
Despite the growth of smartphones and introduction of mobile functionality to create, approve and submit expense records and complete reports, no respondents cited "mobile device capabilities" as an important buying factor.
 
Ninety-eight percent of respondents indicated that less than 25 percent of employees in their organizations use smartphones to enter or approve expenses. "Only 2 percent of respondents reported smartphone use for expenses beyond 10 percent," according to IFO's 2012 Trends in T&E Expense Management report, sponsored by InterplX Expense Management.
 
More than one-third (36.1 percent) of respondents were from small to midsize companies with less than $250 million in annual revenue. More than 20 percent said that figure was $250 million to $1 billion. About a third represented organizations with annual revenue of $1 billion to $10 billion, and 9 percent said it was more than $10 billion. Respondents reported T&E budgets of less than $1 million (44 percent) to more than $100 million (4 percent).
 
Survey results also confirmed the movement toward a more restricted travel buying environment. More than 60 percent of respondents—up from 51 percent in the same study in 2010—said their companies require travelers to find the lowest-price coach-class fare on any airline. Nearly 6 percent (down from 15 percent in 2010) said their companies restrict travelers to the lowest price in coach for domestic travel and lowest price in a premium class for international travel. More than 13 percent said travelers can fly business or first class if their flights exceed a certain number of hours.
 
This report originally appeared in the August 2012 issue ofTravel Procurement. 
 
By Mary Ann McNulty
Business Travel news

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Steps to Control Business Travel Expenses

In a globalized and increasingly competitive economy, business travel is imperative to success. For many companies, business travel is considered an operational necessity. In fact, even during a recessionary economic climate, companies are still spending on travel.

The Association of Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE)’s Index shows that travel activity went up 17%, from 102 at the end of 2011 to 128 in the first quarter of 2012, with most of the growth coming from Asia-Pacific, Canada and the United States.  

Breaking the Index results into travel category, First Quarter 2012 hotel activity growth was up 34% (from 73.6 to 111 on the ACTE Index); air travel growth up 13% (113 to 128) and car rental activity grew 6% (101 to 107). While spending on travel has increased, businesses have become conscious about their spending, shows another survey.

According to the fifth annual American Express/CFO Research Global Business and Spending Monitor, a majority of senior finance executives (58%) say they'll spend the same or more on business travel over the next 12 months. That's down from last year, when 64% said they'd keep travel spending the same or boost it.

Control & Monitor
In an uncertain economic climate, controlling business travel expenses is inevitable. While business travel cannot be completely abolished, spending should be controlled to avoid cash problems in the future. The rising prices of fuel and hotel will ultimately affect the travel budget.
There are many ways companies can tighten controls. According to JP Morgan, recent trends include as much as 25% reduction in spending limits, and better training for personnel who approve expense reports. Some companies have also mined credit card data to identify policy violations or corporate credit card misuse.

Communication is very important in controlling travel expenses. Businesses should regularly communicate travel policy information to employees, especially if there are changes. There should also be strict enforcement of the policy.

Policies governing reimbursable business travel expenses should be tightened as padding corporate travel expense are very common. It is widely known that mealtime is often the right time to conduct business and close a deal.  It is also where the most abuse occurs. Thus, it is important to audit all expense reports that business travelers submit -- to check for instances of fraud, out-of-policy expenses and other potential.

A corporate card would provide the most accurate record of restaurant and other T&E charges incurred by business travelers. It provides the controls and tools necessary to simplify expense management and drive savings to the bottom-line.

While controlling card misuse and reducing cash advances are common practices today, businesses should also consider automating expense reporting and integrating card spend data into their accounting and information systems.

In Hong Kong, employees spend an inordinate amount of time – equal to about HK$1.2 billion (US$154 million) annually – wrestling with travel and entertainment (T&E) expense claims.

Shop & Negotiate
To get better airline deals, shop around to get the best deals, book ahead of time, or haggle with your travel agency. Many airlines allow online bookings, and most of the time, their online rates are much cheaper.  The airline industry, however, has a history of adding ancillary fees to increase revenue. Check with your airline before booking to make sure it does not charge a fee for Web booking.

Many alternatives to business travel have been promoted by technology vendors. These include video technologies such as telepresence. However, for most businesses, the latest technologies are a poor substitute for face-to-face business travel for current or future customers.

“Strategically managed business travel helps to sustain the growth and profitability of individual companies as well as the expansion of the global economy,” says HervĂ© Sedky, Senior Vice President and General Manager, American Express Global Business Travel.

When it comes to travel, nothing creates value like meeting with clients. So focus your company travels on meeting with customers that deliver clear returns.

By Melba Bernad |


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Manually reconciling and cleaning travel data - - 442,000 hours in staff time per year or $22.7 million wasted as per study.

Messy, Inaccurate, Confusing: Study Finds Corporate Travel Managers Waste Over 400,000 Hours Reconciling Travel Data

ALEXANDRIA, Va., July 17, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- GBTA Foundation Study Finds Travel Managers Lack Single Solution to Efficiently Manage Multiple Data Streams Costing Companies Millions
Effective Use of Travel Data Can Help Companies Control Travel Spend
Travel data can play a key role in helping travel managers control travel spend, increase compliance, negotiate with suppliers and manage safety and security risks - but data management systems need to be improved. Research released by the GBTA Foundation, the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Association, found that despite the demonstrated value of travel data, travel managers struggle to manage and process multiple travel data sources to realize their business goals.
The survey, The State of Expense Data Management and Consolidation in the Business Travel Industry, sponsored by Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT), found that travel managers are not convinced they have a complete or accurate picture of the total cost of individual trips. Respondents struggle to reconcile data, spending 442,000 hours in staff time per year or $22.7 million manually reconciling and cleaning travel data.
"Corporate travel managers need accurate, timely and complete data to effectively manage the multitude of responsibilities they have within their companies, from ensuring travel dollars are being spent wisely to making sure travelers are safe on the road," said Joseph Bates, senior director of research at the GBTA Foundation. "From this study, we've learned that the data management industry needs to provide consolidated, clear data so travel managers can control spending, deal with compliance issues, and better leverage the plethora of data they currently receive."
The Data Deluge
There are many shortcomings with how travel managers currently receive and utilize their data. A full 82% of travel managers "strongly" or "somewhat" agree that they have to manage multiple data sources to answer questions from management about travel spending, and three-quarters (73%) say they have challenges reconciling differences in reports due to data formatting.
Six in ten (64%) do not trust that they have all the data they need, and nearly as many (58%) feel they spend too much time reconciling and cleaning what they do have to overcome inaccuracies. Only 37% of travel managers believe their data is completely accurate and 44% would like it to be more timely. Two-thirds (64%) do not trust that they have complete data to calculate the total cost of a trip.
Nearly three-quarters of travel managers surveyed (73%) felt a glut of information from multiple sources presents challenges when compiling and analyzing data. Additionally, 82% of respondents said that they have spent time managing multiple data sources. In fact, the report found that GBTA members overall spent 442,000 hours in staff time per year, or $22.7 million, manually reconciling and cleaning travel data.
The Future? Travel Data Consolidation
Travel managers who most effectively meet their business goals are significantly more likely to receive data from travel expense management systems than those who are not meeting their goals (65% of successful travel managers vs. 49% of less successful managers). Therefore, travel data consolidation, where disparate data sources are combined into a single system, may be able to solve many of the issues travel managers experience.
The problem is that only 15% of travel managers say that they consolidate all of their travel data sources into a single system today. The primary reason travel managers want to consolidate their data is to ensure it is accurate (47%), although some focus on getting richer data for analysis (27%) and less manual data reconciliation (19%).
"Capturing data is of the utmost importance for travel managers as they rely on that information to drive supplier negotiations," said Nick Vournakis, senior vice president, Global Product Marketing and Solutions Group, CWT. "Without an accurate picture of their overall spend its difficult to prove the benefit that strategic deals can offer to both suppliers and corporations, so it's extremely important for travel managers to work closely with their industry partners to improve and consolidate their data."
The full report is available exclusively to GBTA members by clicking here and non-members may purchase the report through the GBTA Foundation by emailing pyachnes@gbtafoundation.org. Carlson Wagonlit Travel will also be hosting education panels during the GBTA Convention on July 22-25, 2012 in Boston, Massachusetts. For more information on the event, visit gbta.org/convention.
About the GBTA Foundation The GBTA Foundation is the education and research foundation of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the world's premier business travel and corporate meetings organization.
Collectively, GBTA's 5,000-plus members manage over $340 billion of global business travel and meetings expenditures annually. GBTA provides its network of 17,000 business and government travel and meetings managers, as well as travel service providers, with networking events, news, education & professional development, research, and advocacy. The foundation was established in 1997 to support GBTA's members and the industry as a whole. As the leading education and research foundation in the business travel industry, the GBTA Foundation seeks to fund initiatives to advance the business travel profession. The GBTA Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. For more information, see gbta.org and gbta.org/foundation.
About Carlson Wagonlit TravelCWT is a global leader specialized in managing business travel and meetings and events. CWT serves companies, government institutions and non-governmental organizations of all sizes in 150 countries and territories. By leveraging both the expertise of its people and leading-edge technology, CWT helps clients derive the greatest value from their travel program in terms of savings, service, security and sustainability. The company is also committed to providing best-in-class service and assistance to travelers. CWT services and solutions comprise Traveler & Transaction Services, Program Optimization, Safety & Security, Meetings & Events and Energy Services. In 2011, sales volume for wholly owned operations and joint ventures totaled US$28.0 billion. For more information about CWT, please visit our global website at www.carlsonwagonlit.com . Follow us on Twitter @CarlsonWagonlit.
SOURCE Global Business Travel Association
Article Source: Click Here

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tips on how to get the right room in the right hotel: Else the business trip could end up being a nightmare!

(CNN) -- We've all been there. At the end of a long flight, you get to your hotel and check in, only to find that your room is right next to an ice machine that sounds like it has a severe case of whooping cough, or it's the only one on the floor not occupied by members of a high school marching band practicing through the night for a major competition.

Yes, a bad hotel room can ruin anyone's trip, but when you're traveling on business, the stakes are even higher. If it's not up to par or presents too many distractions, you may not be able to finish that big presentation or you might not be rested enough for that important client meeting.

To help you avoid these pitfalls, we consulted with Doug Peckham, who, after an extensive career working in hotels and resorts from Philadelphia to Puerto Rico, now oversees the stately Stoneleigh Hotel & Spa in Dallas. Located just minutes from the offices of major corporations such as Cinemark, Merrill Lynch and Southwest Airlines, the historic Stoneleigh attracts a significant business clientele, and Peckham knows just what those travelers need.

"A failed business trip may result in no less than a threat to job security," said Peckham, "so it's important to do a bit of research prior to committing to your hotel selection."He shares his thoughts on how you can get the right room in the right hotel and avoid sabotaging your trip before it even starts:

As a general rule, what rooms in a hotel should business travelers avoid?

-- Rooms near an indoor pool, especially at hotels with rooms that surround an internal atrium. Unless you enjoy the permeating aroma of chlorine in your room, avoid this location.

-- Rooms near the elevator lobby on each floor. Not only is there a lot of guest traffic, room service delivery, etc., the noise from the elevator machinery itself can be constant and annoying.

-- Be careful about rooms assigned on the second floor or the floor just below the top floor of the hotel. If there are public or event rooms located immediately below or above you, you may find yourself "attending" a loud, late-night party lasting until the wee hours of the morning. It's not a great way to wake up refreshed and ready to accomplish the next day's business tasks.

Airline amenities: Eight bright spots

-- Smoking rooms. Although smoking rooms are becoming more rare, it can be annoying to find yourself in a smoking room if you check in late and they are the only rooms available. Another potential pitfall to avoid are rooms in a hotel recently converted to nonsmoking. The lingering smoke can permeate every fabric and is very difficult to eradicate. Be ready to point this out to the front desk staff and request an alternate room if available or have the hotel provide an air cleaner unit, which many hotels have on hand unbeknownst to guests.

-- Beware of hotels that allow pets. Although it is trendy for high-end and boutique hotels to accommodate travelers with pets, the wear and tear on furnishings, as well as the pet dander and pet accidents, can quickly destroy a room. And you don't want to attend your next business meeting in a suit covered with pet hair.

What questions should a business traveler ask to getting the best room?

-- Are there any conferences or conventions taking place at the same time as my stay? Groups that take up a large portion of the hotel typically overwhelm the facilities and reduce the quality and levels of service for the individual traveler.

14 outstanding airport amenities

-- Do you have rooms available on higher floors? The upper floors of a hotel are typically reserved for individual travelers or members of the hotel's frequent-stay program and are usually quieter, being farthest from street noise, late-night bar or restaurant activity and large groups with three to four guests occupying each room, especially on weekends.

-- Does the hotel feature rooms with special configurations or amenities designed to enhance the guests' stay?

These room types offered at some hotels include:

Clean air or PURE rooms. These rooms have special filtering devices installed to maintain very low levels of pollutants, pollen, dust and eye irritants to which some travelers are sensitive.

Fitness rooms. Some brand and boutique hotels offer fitness equipment in some of their guestrooms, making it convenient and also offering privacy for the guest's daily workout routine.

"Outfitted for business" rooms. Many hotels are configuring a portion of their guestrooms with specific "high-productivity" arrangements such as multiline speaker/conference phones, fax/copy machines, secure Internet access for high security (government employees frequently require this) and expanded workspaces. Connectivity dataports that allow plug-and-play functionality to flat-screen monitors and TVs using laptops and iPads to review or display presentations and other media in-room are also often available.

Amazing first-class air cabins

What about security?

-- A room on the first floor, if offered, is not always the best choice when considering safety, as unwanted access from the exterior street level outweighs the advantage of a speedy exit.

-- Google's Street View feature allows you to get a 360-degree view of the hotel at street level, which may provide a stark and daunting contrast of the actual surroundings versus a pretty website photo of the hotel entrance alone.

-- Ask the hotel if they have 24/7 security officers touring the building. If the hotel has surveillance cameras but no one is monitoring them, they're only good for reviewing recordings of crimes already committed. Also ask if the security force is made up of hotel employees or an outside service.

In almost every case, you're more secure in a hotel with its own security officers, as the "rented" officers are rarely motivated to truly care for the hotel guest in the same way as a professional employed directly by the hotel. This becomes less significant outside of city-center locations, but even suburban hotels have vandalism and crime issues.

-- Research whether the hotel has in-room safes, which today accommodate laptops and several other items with ease.

-- Female business travelers should consider booking a room at the growing number of hotels with a women's only floor. Rooms on these floors are typically accessed via a special keycard and sometimes even have added security.

Which rooms do you try to book or avoid? Do you have a story of a hotel room gone wrong? Share your tips and stories below.

By Jill Becker, Special to CNN
 
Click for the CNN article