If you don’t have to travel for business, then it likely sounds like a glamorous life. Jet setting around the country, client schmoozing, an occasional meeting that lets you sleep in a little later than normal and duck out earlier than you would at the office, room-service. What’s not to love, right?
I’ll tell you what’s not to love—the fact that the scenarios above leave out all shreds of reality.
Jet setting around the country means you’re spending more hours in an airport and on an airplane than you spend with your kids or your partner on any given day. It means delays, layovers and running. There’s always running. Whether it’s to catch a connecting flight or hail a cab fast enough to make it to the meeting—there is always running. And you’re never wearing the right shoes to do so without the fear of twisting an ankle, and you are always carrying too many things. Like a packhorse in high heels trying to win the Kentucky Derby on an icy track. It feels like that. Probably looks that way too. Did I mention the health inducing qualities of the recycled airplane air?
The day typically starts much earlier than your in-office work day. And it ends a whole hell of a lot later. Usually put in a 10 hour day at the office? You’re looking at a 14 hour minimum on the road. It’s just the algorithm of business travel. If I knew who was responsible for it, I would plead for an algorithm update. But I don’t know who is responsible for the suckiness of the business travel algorithm.
I do know this, however, after more than a decade of career choices that have taken me through varying degrees of business travel, there are ways to make it better.
1. Plan as if every electronic device you have will fail. Seriously. Have a printed itinerary—know where you’re going (address and phone numbers) and what time you’re supposed to be there. If you never need it or pull it out, great! But when you do need it, and you have it, even better. This has saved me and many of my co-workers more times than I can count. Smart phones get real dumb when the battery has died.
Using your phone as your alarm clock? Call and ask for a wake up call from the front desk too. Set the trusty alarm by your bed. You never know when a tornado will be ripping through and knocking out power. It happened to me, 2011, North Carolina. Luckily I had requested a wake up call—while my phone didn’t work (the old school land line)—they came and knocked on my door. How that woke me up but a tornado ripping past didn’t…well I don’t want to think about that.
2. Always travel in your work attire. I know what you’re thinking. What if I’m on my way home? What if I’m flying out a full 24 hours before I have any meetings? What if I know I have time to check into my hotel and change first. What if I hate being uncomfortable on the plane?
Those gate attendants—they judge. Oh, they judge. If they need to upgrade someone to first class, they’re looking for the person who is dressed nicely enough to be up there. Being nice to them will get you really far too. And of course, there’s the whole fact that you could run into anyone, at any time. And your flight could be ridiculously delayed and you could end up running to that meeting. Bet you don’t want to show up in your velour track suit. (Which, for the record, you should never wear out of the house anyhow.)
3. Don’t drastically alter your eating habits. Nothing will make a business trip more miserable than stomach issues, dehydration, low blood sugar—all of the above. Sure, you won’t be hooking up a hot plate in your hotel room and spinning a saladin the bathroom—but you can still make similar choices while you’re eating out or ordering room service. Your body is under enough stress while you’re on the road, don’t add to it.
4. Buy separate toiletries and a separate toiletry bag that you never unpack. Duplicate everything that you use regularly, add it to a designated toiletry bag and use it only when you’re traveling. Don’t unpack it. Ever. It seems obvious but I’m telling you if you travel often this will change your life.
5. Schedule and adhere to alone, unplugged time. Even if it’s for a 10 minute lap around your hotel or the conference center—give yourself a break. Disconnect from email, the phone, your co-workers and breathe for a minute. Don’t compromise this. Do it every day.
6. Sign up for the flight status alerts and have them sent to your phone via text. You will be updated well before the gate screens and attendants are. This will save you so many headaches and even more running.
There are certainly several other rules of the road but these are my top 6 sanity savers. Putting as much organization as you can to the innate chaos of business travel will allow your mind to be present in the moment making you feel more relaxed and allowing the fruits of your travel to be far more productive.
Go get em’ road dogs! May our paths cross soon.