Prior to Iterate, Jon was the founding CEO of eBags which grew for 8 years at a 34% CAGR (through early 2008, Jon’s departure). eBags, an innovator, wrote its own software to drop ship from ~400 warehouses (1999), accept ~1.4 million consumer reviews (1999), A/B split test website features (2000) and enter the UK / EU (2003).
Between eBags and Iterate, Jon was CEO of UsingMiles (acquired 2013), an aggregator of 400 loyalty programs and meta-search for air-hotel. He’s advised many startups, including Runa (acquired by Staples, 2013). Jon also sits on the following boards: Colorado Innovation Network and Eastern Europe’s premier Tech Accelerator, Happy Farm.
Travel Products & Places mentioned:
- San Francisco
- United Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Professional slim backpack from ebags
- Packing cubes
- Mizzen and Main
- Be Like Amazon book
Business Travel Hacks Episode 6 show transcript:
[00:00:00] I have some stories where things have gone kind of bad and that might be kind of interesting. You want to hear him. Once I was, I was doing a red. Well I flew a lot of red eyes for a long time and one. And then you know when you’re traveling a lot you always end up on a late flight. One time I was going in San Francisco and I arrived at my you know late into the city and got to my hotel like 2:00 in the morning and the room my room had been sold to someone else they had no place for me to stay. So I ended up asking you know if I could just stay in the hotel lobby they told me no I couldn’t. I had a meeting in the morning so I had to do something. And then they told me I could sleep because they wouldn’t let me do it in the lobby. They told me I could sleep in their like the broom closet where they kept all their maintenance stuff. So I ended up sleeping there on a cot and that morning the next morning when I woke up I came walking you know I walked out into the lobby because I needed to find a shower and it was so funny. My co-worker was standing there and he was in complete shock that I had slept in this broom closet overnight. It was kind of a shocking thing and to add to add to the problem my my bags didn’t show up that night. So I had to go shopping that morning for clothing to wear to my meeting.
[00:01:43] You know just to complete one of those one of those completely disastrous trips. But it all worked out in the end. And I think that’s an important thing. You know when you’re traveling you just always have to try to go with the flow and not let it bother you and not let anything bother you too much or experiences like that can completely ruin your perspective on things for the you know for a day or two following.
[00:02:40] My name is Jon Nordmark and I was the founder of eBags.com, or co-founder of it and then its CEO for 10 years chairman for longer than that. I run an innovation workflow company that helps large organizations become more digital and as a result of that today I travel, well I’m a I’m a million miler on United. And I’m a I’m a you know I usually get pretty close to 1 K every year some some years I am that and some years I’m at 75000 miles. But I do a lot of travel and it’s just because my work requires it.
[00:03:32] What’s your travel superpower? My travel superpower.
[00:03:42] You know I guess for me it’s what you know it’s really trying to stick with these two programs the Marriott and the United programs just to take advantage of all the points and miles I accumulate so that my family can take advantage of them and it really helps us have great family trips. Yeah I worked for while I was an investor actually and UsingMiles and and then ended up working there for a couple of years and UsingMiles was all about like learning how to get the most out of all your mileage programs and you know hotel programs car programs the tricks. I mean there are many kind of tricks involved with making the most of those programs. But I think the most important thing is just you know just sticking with one hotel chain or one airline. It’s really quite simple in a way.
[00:04:44] Being a co-founder of eBags. I’m sure you had your choice of luggage and roller boards and carry on and all of that and I think you’re going to provide them very interesting insight for people on this question which is when you travel you know how do you travel how do you pack? What do you use to travel with?
[00:05:06] Yeah. Bryan it’s true I’ve I spent 20, 30 on a long 20 over 20 years in the travel accessories business. And so I have had my choice of bags to travel with accessories to travel with. And I’ve landed on using it sounds really self-serving but I have no nothing in this anymore. I use ebags bags and accessories pretty much all the time and the reason is that the quality of those bags is so high. You know the backpack that I use which if I’m on a really short trip like a one day trip I may use it for my suitcase and my, my business case but the backpack to use is called the professional slim backpack from ebags it’s their brand. And I mean if you read the reviews the 4000 some reviews on the website for that bag. It is you know it’s just it’s just super functional. And so I like that one and then I use these things called Packing cubes and ebags I think kind of made them famous isn’t the right word but they sell you know millions of them and they help you organize the inside of your bags like your suitcases. If you go out you know if you’re on a longer trip you can you can put all your underwear in one bag your socks and other your shirts and another and it’s just compartmentalizes a suitcase that can a lot of times get pretty messy and then what I also like to do is is carry one of those that I use when I have dirty clothes so all I compartmentalize the clothes that I’ve already used them keep them away from the clothes that I have that are still fresh.
[00:07:04] Well you know I definitely have nothing in ebags but you know it. But I am a loyal customer as well. And you know I have two different ebags backpacks that I’ve used for travel. You know one of them is over a decade old has seen you know probably close to a million miles already and it looks as good as the day I bought it. So you know and I think I use the packing cues. So I will not argue with the quality part to it.
[00:07:31] If we were to take your backpack and dump it out of what we find in there?
[00:07:36] My backpack I keep packed all the time with cords. I never take them out. And the reason the reason I do that is I have a forgetful mind I’ve got a lot of stuff on my mind and the last thing I want to think about is like all these little little accessories and doodads that you know if you forget they make your life kind of miserable on the road. So. So what you’d find in my backpack is travel, travel accessories like extra cords from my phone, my computer. I also keep a little kit of like toothpaste, toothbrush, those kind of things in my bag just in case. So you know it’s kind of like a ready made mini travel bag all the time and I and that’s the case whether or not I’m just working near my home or whether I’m you know getting ready to travel it’s just kind of I’m always ready to travel backpack.
[00:08:39] Tell us about your favorite travel hack my favorite travel hack?
[00:08:44] Maybe maybe I’ve got two and I wouldn’t call them like they aren’t. They aren’t rocket science or anything but I think just keeping an extra set of cords in my, my work backpack all the time that I never forget my computer cord, never forget my phone cord, is you know really really important to me. The second one would be when I’m traveling on the long trips is using using my packing cubes because I can they’re just so compartmentalized in my suitcase. You know I can I can segment everything I need and just feel really organized as I travel you know as if I’m at home. So those are probably the two things that I’d call my travel hacks.
[00:09:36] Do you have any special like travel clothing that you wear? Like you know I like to wear wrinkle free shirts for example when I fly like. How about you?
[00:09:46] Oh it’s funny you say that that would be a travel hack for me too. I will only buy wrinkle free shirts now. And you know you can get great. You can get really good ones I think from a number of places. Look dressy or or even casual but you know if I have to iron a shirt or you know or spend too much time preparing it in the in a in a hotel you know before going to a meeting or something it’s just a waste of my time and I’m not very good at it anyway once when I was young I tried to iron a shirt on my back. Well it was on my body and I burned myself. And I would know that that kind of goes to show how much preplanning I do going into a trip. So the wrinkle frees are a big deal to me.
[00:10:42] I just actually found a new wrinkle free brand that I’m in love with. Which one have he. Have you seen Mizzen and Main? Not only are they wrinkle free. They are machine washable and you just hang them. Because they’re performance fabrics. Yeah that’s that’s pretty much what I try to find too. Wait and they have a third third benefit, they are moisture wicking so that when you’re like I perspire a lot especially when I’m under hot lights when I’m speaking right and wearing a blazer as well. I could take off my shirt at my blazer at the end of it and I don’t even have a pit stain.
[00:11:25] Is there a destination that you want to go to and have never been to yet?
[00:11:32] Definitely Israel. I want to go there really bad. I you know I’m thinking in the next year I will go there. But I every you know hear again and again from people like it’s just a great place to go. It’s one of the most inventive places in the world. You know. One of the most productive places in the world. And I want to experience that.
[00:11:59] What is the one thing you never travel without besides your cords? Besides my cords I never travel without my computer, my phone, you know or a book. I take a book with me every time I go somewhere. Like right now I’m reading one about the civil war I just went to Gettysburg with my family and it was it was phenomenal. A great experience. We got a private tour on that trip, which which is easy to get there just people that are retired they give these tours around Gettysburg, but as a result of that I bought a book about the war. And so I carry that with me wherever I go now. You know in case I get a little time and I read that book and whatever I’m interested in the time sometimes it’s business books sometimes it’s not. I will take that with me. And it’s also a book it’s not a Kindle. It’s I’ve got multiple tablets and kindles but I carry the book for some reason.
[00:13:08] Heck you know what your book was one of them I carried around your Amazon book. I carried that with me. I carried a few copies. One to give to people. And I enjoyed it. That’s exactly the kind of book that all haul around with me everywhere I go. I change about as I finish them but that yours was one I carried with me.
[00:13:34] What is the best lesson learned?
[00:13:37] Best lesson learned. Stick with your stick with your loyalty programs. That’s mine. The lesson I’ve learned. Traveling for many many many years now. I wish I would’ve picked one or two earlier on and stuck with them rather than going for the cheapest price. And for me it’s you know I do that all the time now and it’s paid off. I just wish it would have I would have done it earlier sort of started paying off a lot earlier than it has for me.