Fittingly, I’m writing this article from an airplane headed down to Mexico City on a business trip, one of the 100+ flights that I take for business each year, and have been averaging for most of my career. I’m often asked how to make business travel easier, and should you find yourself staring at increased travel in the near future, hope you find a helpful tip or two.
1. Manage your mental state
While the external stresses of travel are often outside your control, how you manage them is completely within your control. If you let an unplanned delay throw you into a state of panic or rage, travel can become unbearable. When faced with anything from unending delays to slow-moving crowds, pay attention to your stress levels and take a deep breath, listen to music, or otherwise maintain your calm, and you’ll find travel much more bearable regardless of what’s thrown your way. This is especially important in unfamiliar environments. I’ve been threatened with deportation, found myself in Beijing back-alleys and completely lost, extorted, and dropped off at the wrong location with no way to communicate with my driver, but a deep breath and a smile ultimately allowed for recovery.
2. Pack snacks
Whether due to a travel delay, a never-ending meeting, or arrival in a different time zone, you’re bound to end up hungry at some point with limited appealing food options. I always carry three to five energy bars of some sort for just these situations. Look for something that doesn’t melt, crumble, or expire, and is well-packaged so it doesn’t end up spilling in your bag. I like Kind bars, as they’re still relatively tasty even when flattened and deformed after a few weeks in my laptop bag.
3. Minimize swapping key items
If you’re going to be traveling routinely, it’s worth buying duplicates of key items and leaving them in your travel bag, versus remembering to repack them after using them at home. For me, this is things like laptop and phone chargers, toothbrushes, and basic toiletries. I rarely forget these necessities since I have a travel set that’s always in my suitcase or laptop bag.
4. Start a running or walking routine
If possible, start a running or walking routine. This allows you to stay healthy on the road without relying on specific gym equipment or facilities, and also lets you tour the area you’re working in and get a sense of the place outside the cubicles and meeting rooms. I aim to do my running routine in the morning since evenings are usually consumed with dinners or catching up on other work, and it’s always interesting to see a place as it wakes up and engages in life’s little routines.
5. Plan for the unexpected
Even as a seasoned traveler, I’ll encounter situations I didn’t plan for, whether it’s a half-day delay or the simple act of getting to a hotel or meeting location in a new country where I don’t speak the language. Build buffer time into your schedule, bring entertainment options, and you’ll keep your stress level lower.
6. Know your perks
There’s an entire world of frequent traveler programs and credit card benefits that consume some people to the point of obsession. While collecting points might be a worthwhile hobby, it’s also worth knowing if your company or credit card provides benefits that can save you some money and help keep your sanity. These programs might allow you access to airline lounges, provide special phone numbers for restaurant bookings, or provide insurance and help during travel disruptions. Generally, if you or your company pays a fee for the card there are likely some benefits. As you fly more, airlines and hotels might provide upgraded seats and rooms, and if nothing else, usually provide a special phone hotline that gives you priority service when things go sideways.
7. Lighten your load
At least every six months I’ll empty my laptop bag and suitcase and remove items that I don’t regularly use. There are tons of travel and technology gadgets that seem like good ideas, and it can be tempting to pack backup clothing, batteries, and a half-dozen pairs of shoes, but at some point you’re going to be dragging, lifting, and hauling those items while they contribute nothing to your trip. In all but rare cases, items from clothing to chargers are available nearly anywhere in the world, so six pounds of backup gear is probably not worth hauling for a year on the off chance you will need it and can’t find a local replacement.
8. Be kind
It may seem touchy-feely, and I’ve often been guilty of forgetting this admonition, but generally kindness is repaid with kindness, whether it’s helping a fellow traveler, or giving a smile and kind word to one of the many travel industry employees you’ll come across. It’s just as easy to become angry and rude, but you just might get slightly better service and also keep yourself less stressed with a little kindness.