Business Travel: Gadgets give you an edge up in the air

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The Independent Online
THE NUMBER of ever more sophisticated gadgets that loiter provocatively on the shelves of electronics shops is enough to get Bill Gates reaching for his stress-relieving crystals.

For the business traveller in particular there are so many clever new tools that keeping up with the latest technology can be a difficult job.

The first thing you'll need is a phone. Until the satellite phone system takes off, the most popular new kid on the communications block could be the FirstFone from Option International (01256 316596).

Combining a GSM phone and data card in a single PC card, this smart little number will send data, faxes or e-mail from a notebook without needing a tangle of cables. And, for a simple life, it also works happily as a regular GSM phone.

An alternative to this would be the Philips Nino windows CE palm PC. It costs pounds 280 from Dixons (01442 353000) and works as a comprehensive organiser and PC companion with handwriting and voice recognition. The Nino's 4Mb memory will let you jot down notes, scribble off faxes and send e-mails using software that's compatible with your PC but it is no bigger than a paperback book - a good compromise if you need to work while you're travelling but want something smaller and cheaper than a laptop.

For the serious business traveller though, size probably does matter. For a complete desktop replacement, the Armada 7800, from pounds 2,295, from Compaq (0845-270 4000) has a vast memory and comes with all the latest technologies and graphics, including a standard DVD-ROM or CD-ROM drive.

Finally, you will need somewhere stylish to carry all the necessary adaptors and cables your equipment dictates. The Bridge (0171-589 8055) produces a range of luggage in very sleek Florentine leather which, unlike most travellers, improves in looks with age.

For a short business trip, the 48 hour bag has separate sections for clothing, laptop, files, telephone, passport and so on and is conveniently small enough to qualify as cabin baggage, though be warned - airlines are cracking down on the weight as well as volume of carry-on luggage. It costs pounds 485.

The canny business traveller these days though will leave his or her 48 hour bag tucked away securely in the overhead compartment.

The range of in-flight services for business class passengers on most airlines has improved so dramatically that it seems a shame to work when there's so much else to entertain you.

British Airways, for example, now indulges its Club World passengers with seats that have been endorsed by a Harley Street spinal disorders consultant and even in economy some flights now provide a "Raid the Larder" service where long-haul passengers can snack or nibble at snacks laid out in the galley whenever they feel the urge.

Air New Zealand goes one further on the food front with Pacific Rim menus dreamed up by Peter Gordon, head chef at London's Sugar Club restaurant. Passengers can even recreate that airline-food experience at home, thanks to the glossy take-home recipe cards handed out on board.

Aside from seats and sandwiches though, the most innovative addition to business class services is on the majority of Upper Class flights with Virgin Atlantic, where you can indulge in a neck and scalp massage or manicure treatment from one of the in-flight beauty therapists. Specially adapted for flying, the therapies can either relax you or make you feel awake.

Other tips to ensure you arrive in peak physical and mental condition include:

Avoid alcohol, nicotine and heavy meals and make sure you stretch frequently or join in with the in-flight aerobics

Try some alternative remedies such as ginseng, guarana or melatonin (available over the counter at pharmacies in the States) to help lessen the effects of a flight. Australian Bush Flower Essences produce a travel essence (pounds 5.95 from Neals Yard Remedies on 0171-627 1949) which is specifically designed to alleviate the stresses associated with flying. Alternatively, get an Outside In (01954 211955) light therapy gadget to help re-balance your body clock.

Pack a personal travel health kit to keep you in top condition during a journey. Ideally include a water spray, moisturiser, toothbrush and toothpaste, socks to keep you warm and an eye band to block out the light. Or you could cheat and pack a portfolio-style Jo Malone In-Flight bag, containing miniature Jo Malone products such as orange and geranium night cream, protein skin serum, and a toothbrush, face towel and shoe horn. Available by mail order on 0171-720 0202, the bag costs pounds 45.