How to Survive Work Travel and Keep Your Sanity

Work travel is fun the first time you have to do it but the unending parade of hotel rooms, living out of luggage, and long days sandwiched between airport gates can quickly wear you down.

Here’s how you can keep your sanity and maintain your quality of life even if you’re on the road a lot.

1. Figure out what’s good about regular work travel, and embrace it. For instance, maybe you love reading but don’t get much time to read at home; start looking at your travel as an opportunity to get lots of reading in, on the plane and in your hotel. Or if you’re a food lover, aim to try the culinary specialty of every town you travel to.

2. Set expectations with your manager about how the travel will impact the rest of your work. You’re not going to be able to accomplish as much in a week on the road as you would in a week at the office – or at least not accomplish the same things. Make sure that you and your boss are on the same page about how (and when) you’ll handle work that might be piling up at the office while you’re away, so that you don’t feel pressured to meet the same expectations you’d have if you were in the office every day.

3. Don’t feel obligated to socialize when you’ve reached your limit. On top of keeping you in meetings all day long, business travel often involves lots of invitations to socialize with the local team. If you’re energized by that, great. But if you’re not, don’t be shy about protecting your need to recharge in solitude. While you shouldn’t turn down every invitation, you don’t need to accept all of them. It’s fine to sometimes say that you’re going to rest up to be prepared for the next day. And speaking of solitude…

4. Learn to love seeing movies alone and dining by yourself. When I first started traveling for work, I felt awkward about dining alone; asking for a table for one felt unnatural, as did sitting alone in a restaurant while people around me socialized. But once I got over that, I discovered I loved being able to dine at my own pace while reading a book or people-watching. I also discovered the joy of seeing movies alone while on the road; you can see whatever you want without deferring to anyone else’s preferences, and can leave in the middle if the movie bored you! Embracing both these things upped my quality of life on the road significantly.

5. Pay some attention to your health. It’s easy to eat poorly while you travel, since drinks are often flowing and indulgent, overly rich restaurant and hotel food is convenient and on someone else’s dime.  But you’ll feel better if you stick to your normal diet as much as you can, watch your alcohol intake, drink a lot of water, and get enough sleep. This might feel like a sad renouncement of the glamorous jet-setting lifestyle you could otherwise have, but in fact, moderation can be the thing that allows it to continue!














Alison Green

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.

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  • TarteAuCitron1

    In relation to #5, I check that the hotel has some gym facilities and I pack some basic gear or a swimsuit if they have a pool. I would aim to some kind of workout done in the morning before meeting my colleagues for breakfast.
    I usually travel with other work colleagues, so my evenings are often written off with dinners and/or drinks.
    I would always try to get some sightseeing done if possible, as I’m interested in photography.

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