Canceled Flight Ruin Your Meeting? Here's Plan B

Flying and driving no longer have to be the default choices for biz travelers.
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Thousands of canceled airline flights, gas approaching $4 a gallon -- can business travel get any worse? And if so, is there anything you can do about it?

The bad news is that yes, it probably will get worse. The good news is that some simple steps can make a big difference.

The news that

AMR's

(AMR)

American Airlines has canceled more than 3,000 flights, including 570 on Friday, makes small business travelers shudder. With similar actions by

Alaska

(ALK) - Get Report

,

Delta

(DAL) - Get Report

,

UAL's

(UAUA)

United and others, more than 4,000 flights have been canceled for maintenance inspections in the past month -- and more are possible.

What is a small business traveler to do -- drive?

Uh, no.

Oil closed at record highs on Thursday, topping off (groan!) at $112 a tank, er, I mean a barrel.

Exxon Mobil

(XOM) - Get Report

just made history, recently reporting the highest annual profits for an American company, ever -- $40 billion. (Said J.S. Simon, senior vice president of Exxon Mobil to Congress last week: "Our earnings, although high in absolute terms, need to be viewed in the context of the scale and cyclical, long-term nature of our industry as well as the huge investment requirements." Blah, blah, blah.)

But even though it has become far more economical in terms of pure numbers to fly instead of drive these days, the plethora of problems at the airlines make that an unviable thought as well.

So we are faced with a Hobson's choice: Do you give your money to the incompetent airlines or the ravenous oil companies?

How about neither?

Alternative Routes

Take the train

: The first thing to consider is taking the train. No, it will not get you there as fast as a plane (well, then again ...), and no, it does not go everywhere you may need to go, but if Amtrak is headed in your direction, it is a viable, affordable, reliable option.

Your train trip will certainly be less aggravating, pleasant even. You can get work done as you go and only occasionally space out through the window. Maybe that is why, in Europe and Japan, business travel by train is commonplace.

Avoid car rentals

: Take the hotel courtesy shuttle. Taxis, light rail, even buses can be fine alternatives to renting expensive gas guzzlers, and the added bonus is that they give you a better travel experience.

Check out trip advisor

: Though I don't normally plug specific products or sites, in this case we have an exception. Try surfing on over to TripAdvisor.com to get an idea of insider tips on the place where you are headed.

Consider video conferences

: When possible, consider the option of not traveling at all. A videoconference uses technology to bring people from different locations together, online. Advanced videoconferencing allows participants to share documents, display Power Points and jointly work together.

Use smaller airports

: If you must fly, check out smaller airports in the area. Congestion will certainly be less. For instance, when flying into Southern California, consider flying in and out of the Long Beach or Burbank airports.

No, business travel is not easy these days, but with a little work, it can be easier.

Steven D. Strauss is a lawyer, author and USA TODAY columnist. His latest book is the

Small Business Bible

. He has spoken around the world about entrepreneurship, including at the United Nations, and has been seen on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC,

The O?Reilly Factor

, and many other television and radio shows. He maintains a Website at www.MrAllBiz.com.