The Efficient Traveller is a six-part series that highlights how small-business owners and entrepreneurs can get the most out of their business excursions.
As the founding president of a Canadian travel and tourism public relations firm, Siren Communications, Ann Layton logs about 100 days of travel a year. Technology is absolutely essential to her efficiency.
"I could not do my job without it," she says, "at least not in the manner that I do now."
To continue working while travelling, she became an early adopter of mobile devices during her previous life as worldwide vice-president of public affairs for Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, another job that kept her constantly on the road.
"I have not had a desktop since 1992," says Ms. Layton, who founded her own PR firm in Toronto 13 years ago.
"I work everywhere and anywhere with lightweight portable laptops and my phone, on which I can write whole proposals."
Ms. Layton also relies on well-chosen apps to help her navigate her world, including a world atlas app showing time zones, weather patterns and other information about countries to which she frequently travels.
Amber MacArthur, the founder and president of Konnekt Digital Engagement in Toronto, says that tech has evolved to address the specific needs of the business traveller.
"Tech has made business travel more efficient, especially for those who need to be in touch 24/7," says Ms. MacArthur, a lecturer on tech trends who also is frequently on the go.
"The right gadgets and apps help them stay organized and – especially for the small-business owner – help them save money when planning business trips."
Ms. MacArthur cites two apps she personally uses when travelling for business: Hopper, an airfare predictor, and
HotelTonight, which provides last-minute deals on deluxe hotels and resorts.
"I use both on a regular basis," says Ms. MacArthur, who accesses them on her Apple watch.
"I am a big fan of the Apple watch for a number of reasons," she continues. "I especially like the built-in activity monitor, which will send out a signal reminding you to stand up and stretch if you've been sitting on a plane for too long."
For her part, Ms. Layton chooses tech that keeps her connected to her clients in 25 countries around the globe – among them Air Canada Vacations, Silversea Cruises, Gansevoort Hotel Group, and the countries Barbados and Dominican Republic. But she is picky about what she will buy.
"My attitude toward technology is that it should be like a toaster – simple to use and utterly effortless, yet delivering a wonderful result," Ms. Layton says. "If it's too complicated – and does not meet the toaster criteria – I just won't use it."
Here are the top tech tools that Ms. Layton uses to keep her business flying in high gear:
Lightweight Asus laptop: "A reliable workhorse. I switched to a laptop before anyone I know. I have not had a desktop since the early 90s when I got a Toshiba 1000 with a little blue screen."
BlackBerry Classic: "I use it as a business tool, pure and simple. My reason for keeping it is the keyboard. I can go weeks using it to write full proposals, respond to emails and do almost anything I would on my laptop."
Waterproof iPod for swimming: "Business travel is exhausting and it is hard to stay fit on the road. I try to swim every day. My waterproof iPod is a great motivator and eliminates the boredom of doing endless laps. It perks me up, which helps when jet-lagged.
Useful apps: "I am obsessed with Rome2rio. This is a brilliant site that tells you the fastest route between two points. Most major travel websites usually try to redirect you to large hubs which often involves backtracking or overnighting. Rome2rio will show you the shortest and most efficient route by car, train or air."
Seatguru.com: "I literally will not book a flight till I consult Seatguru. The app takes much of the guess work out of what type of aircraft you will be on. It prevents you from booking one of the dreaded semi-flat tilted business class seats that have you sliding downwards all night by showing you clearly the seats that won't recline."
Living Earth: "This is an award-winning clock and weather app with amazing graphics. You simply input the destination cities you travel to most often, and swipe between the cities to see not only the exact time at the destination – something I never get quite right– but also the weather patterns, including cloud formations and tropical cyclone tracking. Indispensable."