If you’ve worked in the professional world for longer than a year or two, the magic of business travel wears off. You find that your trips away from the office involve working more hours, not less. You return, exhausted, with a bag full of dry cleaning and a week’s worth of e-mails to catch up on. But for better or for worse, business travel is a part of life for many employees. Here are a few tips to make your trips more bearable:
1. Keep a bag packed at home.
You never know when you’re going to need to travel out of town on short notice. Prevent frazzled, last-minute rushing around by keeping a travel bag packed and ready to go in your closet. Besides a suit and comfortable business shoes, include toiletries, regular medications, mints, business cards, and power cords for your devices.
2. Review your itinerary ahead of time.
Go over your schedule to make sure you know where you’re supposed to be at all times and how you’re going to get there. Leave large time cushions in between each activity so that you can make it from one place to the next without having a heart attack.
3. Print out important materials.
I hear that you don’t want to kill trees, but you never know when your laptop is going to decide to have a temper tantrum. Technology often fails us on business trips, so if you really need something for a meeting, carry both hard and virtual copies.
4. Assign colleagues to share your workload.
Keep the machine running by making a detailed list of tasks you need covered while you’re gone and delegating each one to a trusted colleague.
5. Carry snacks and a bottle of water.
In the alternate universe known as business travel, something as simple as eating can turn into a complex task you can’t be bothered with. In case you have to miss a meal, tide yourself over with a granola bar or a health bar. And don’t forget to stay hydrated, especially when you’re flying.
6. Dress up, not down.
When you’re attending meetings in unfamiliar surroundings, wear business-appropriate attire. Even if the folks you’re meeting with are dressed casually, no one will fault you for being the only one in a suit. Pack your clothes in a garment bag and use the iron in your hotel room to keep your attire looking neat and wrinkle-free.
7. Fly during business hours.
Inevitably, taking a business trip means working longer hours anyway, so don’t be a martyr and volunteer to take a red-eye flight. You’re already stressed, so why should you be bone-tired too? Also, don’t feel obligated to work during the flight out. Use the time to relax and mentally prepare yourself for the trip ahead.
8. Pay someone to drive you around.
Even if you take pride in your sense of direction, do you really want to be bothered with navigating a rental car through the bowels of a strange city? If your company will allow it, stick to taxis or corporate cars.
9. Have dinner with friends or family instead of your colleagues.
Does anyone from your personal life live in the city where you’re traveling? Make an effort to get together instead of hanging out with the same colleagues you see all day. Business travel is a great way to catch up with folks you wouldn’t get to spend time with otherwise.
I’ve logged hundreds of business trips, and I still get stymied by some of these. I’ll never forget the time I arrived at JFK Airport only to find that my flight to Washington was departing from La Guardia. If only I had reviewed my itinerary ahead of time! Learn how to travel smart, however, and your experiences as a road warrior can add a rewarding dimension to your job.