A senior partner dreads the L.A. visit because of the traffic. A new client coming to town doesn't eat sushi. An old client has been here so often he wants to avoid the usual haunts. A big investor has decided to bring the family and stay the weekend, but where?

People come to Los Angeles on business all the time, but that doesn't mean they necessarily enjoy the experience. Let's face it, L.A. is tough: high prices, horrendous traffic, enormous sprawl and not always friendly people.

For the uninitiated, almost every aspect of the trip becomes a big deal: Where should the client stay? Which restaurant for dinner? Should they rent a car?

All of which involves considerable planning and decision-making. And while it's not your fault if the 405 is backed up or the hotel is overbooked, any business experience good or bad could reflect on the host. How many times have you encountered problems in a strange city and wondered to yourself, "Why didn't they warn us?"

It's clearly the most challenging part of any business trip, especially if the arrival point is Los Angeles International Airport. While travelers stand a good chance of reaching the gate on time LAX has one of the highest on-time percentages in the nation it's getting from the airport to wherever that can try the patience of those unaccustomed to wall-to-wall cars.

The first rule of thumb is the most obvious: avoid arranging a flight that lands between 3 and 6 on a weekday afternoon. That arrival time almost guarantees a gridlocked seat on the San Diego Freeway. Also be careful with early morning flights, although traffic flows at those hours tend to be a bit better.

For important visitors who expect more handholding, it might be worth going the extra mile.

"Airports have become more stressful and chaotic, so people like being walked through it," said Steve Robb, operations manager at Executours Inc., a Century City agency that handles business travel. He arranges to meet visitors as soon as they pass security and walk them to their car. A similar escort can be arranged for the return trip: the client is brought to the airport, walked through the check-in process and deposited in an airline lounge.

Arranging a car service is a nice touch because it gives at least the illusion of control over the travel experience and it's just a lot easier to let someone else do the driving. Julia Gouw, chief financial officer of East West Bank, says that visitors coming from Asia almost always get a car and driver.


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