I admit that I was at one point in time not only a terrible traveler; but an inexperienced packer, and poor planner. Perhaps it’s because I’m a millennial–but I think that this crosses the generational social divide theory.
All of these things lead to extreme stress and anxiety that caused sleeplessness during a business trip or the week leading up to it. By the time I felt almost “settled” into a new routine it was time to return home and my travel anxiety increased again. Thankfully I have never had a fear of the actual act of flying, (that would be far to reasonable).
After many years that can only be described as “putting up with myself” and my terrible habits I decided to make a change. I read articles, I sought others advice, I picked up travel buddies, and I went from being the wide-eyed rookie to a seasoned professional like Anna Kendrick’s character Natalie Keener in the 2009 movie Up in the Air. With Dreamforce around the corner November 6 – 9th and thousands descending on San Francisco, CA from all over the world to participate in Salesforce’s catalyst event I felt it was time to disperse some of the tips I gained over the years.
So without further adieu and in no particular order…
TIP #1: Everyone has busy lives and demands outside of work. Always treat travel as a privilege. Not a chore.
TIP #2: Packing checklists save you time and money.
TIP #3: If you have something that you absolutely cannot be without. Pack it in carry-on luggage with you. If it’s a short trip save time by only using small carry-on luggage.
TIP #4: Confirm reservations in advance of travel. Add your check-in and out times to your calendar with a reminder and include all relevant phone numbers for quick access.
TIP #5: If you are going to ask for free items or upgrades–or just need to notify a staff member of a problem you should start by being nice first. Nobody appreciates a condescending tone or being told how to do their job.
TIP #6: Save your itinerary, room numbers, photos, or anything travel important in the cloud. If you lose your phone or laptop at an event or out and about you can easily access the information that you need for the rest of the trip.
TIP #7: Buy a strong shell suitcase with rolly wheels. These have personally lasted me the longest and items inside don’t get crushed when piled in cargo with other luggage.
TIP #8: If you are traveling internationally don’t depend on apps like Uber to get you around. Budget for additional travel expenses to take cabs or prepare a drop-off and pick-up service in advance.
TIP #9: Know if your hotel has 24hr room service or concierge service. This is great after a late night with business colleagues and you don’t want to travel around a strange city looking for food. Also helpful if you misplaced your room key or need something after standard business hours.
TIP #10: Always pack an extra travel charger. Put the spare in your suitcase if you have another in your carry-on or vise-versa. When travelling internationally make sure you have the proper country converter always on you.
TIP #11: Plan for your meetings to run over by at least 30 minutes. This will allow you to make sure you don’t run late to future plans and shows your client or colleagues that you value their communication and time. In the same train of thought; don’t overbook yourself at events. Part of the reason you are at an event is to network, gain and share knowledge, resources, and insight. Being in meeting rooms the entire time limits the scope of what you can accomplish.
TIP #12: Protect your information. Not every wifi connection is created equally. Don’t use any public wifi for payment transactions or online banking. And don’t expect a great internet connection everywhere.
TIP #13: Know your business reimbursement budget. Get in the habit of asking for receipts everywhere so you can be reimbursed if not using a company card. Put the receipts in a safe location so you don’t lose them.
TIP #14: What is your maximum trip budget? My biggest rookie mistake going on my first few business trips was thinking that mostly all my costs would be covered by my company–WRONG! An old hand-me-down suitcase broke after my second flight and after tracking it down at security and gathering up all my items (which were not gathered for me neatly). I had to purchase a new one. I also had numerous experiences of going out with colleagues for evening dinners and night caps. Which were great for team building and developing social bonds but terrible for my bank account. Now I budget for these things in advance.
TIP #15: Dress for success. Be aware of the climate and atmosphere of where you are traveling for business. Make sure that you are representing yourself and your business with dignity. This extends to after business hours.
TIP #16: Check-In. Make sure that you connect back with “home-base” so people are up to date with your whereabouts and itinerary.
TIP #17: If you travel at least once a month think about joining a loyalty program via airliner or pick up specialty travel friendly credit cards.
TIP #18: Reality check. You are traveling for business and not for a 24/hr party. Try to sleep for at least 8 hours everyday. Don’t think that you are going to cram in all these extra outside attractions. Keep your business objectives and the purpose of your trip at the forefront.
TIP #19: Don’t over-plan your trip. This probably sounds weird after I listed 17 tips but that’s what they are–tips.
Leave yourself open to some flexibility. I was a terrible business traveler before because I was the extreme far end of the scale, the “anti-planner”. I wanted to leave myself open to whatever rolled my way and stay “flexible” for whatever the business needed. But that also left me higher than normal stress levels, higher bills, and toting around extra large and cumbersome luggage pieces. Utilizing some of the tips above allowed me to provide a bit of structure to my daily routines and greatly increased my willingness and happiness to travel more.