10:00 a.m. FINAL REVIEW My assistant, Isela Sanchez, reviews my itinerary for the last time. We do this before every trip. Before we developed the habit, I had a different habit of getting stuck in a city with no rental car, a cancelled hotel reservation, and plane tickets with the wrong dates.

"You have the 1 p.m. American out of LAX today arriving in St. Louis at about 6:30. Jose will meet you at the airport so you can share a cab, since you're at the same hotel ... You leave for Dallas Wednesday at 3:20 p.m. and arrive around 6. You have a rental car and will stay at the Melrose. ... Did you bring your coat? It's snowing in St. Louis today. Did you bring your gloves? No? Did you check the pockets of the coat? See, right where you left them last year … Oh, and the car service was booked, so you need to park at the airport."

She's a machine. I call her my ground control. Never leave the terminal without her.

11:30 a.m. PARK AND WALK Off to LAX. I don't mind driving, but I usually use Rick's car service when I'm gone for more than a couple of days. It's more convenient and cost-effective than the park-and-walk routine. I arrive an hour before my flight, park my car, and hustle to the American Airlines ticket counter.

12:15 p.m. SECURITY CHECK I have a carry-on bag jammed with three days of business attire, a portable projector, and my briefcase. I almost never get selected for a random bag check unless I'm in a hurry. On cue I hear, "Is this your bag, sir?" ...

12:30 p.m. THROUGH THE GATE Preboarding has already started. I'm starting to get tense because I have a phobia of finding no bin space for my carry-on. No need. I get the last upgrade to St. Louis and board with the first group. Once I've stowed my bags and overcoat and take my seat, I can relax.