In the beginning of my career, business travel was a treat but after my gazzilonth trip to New York, I realized why people complain about traveling for work. Between the flight delays that airlines are famous for to the jetlag that leaves you wading through deadlines like a zombie, business travel can suck.
After hundreds of last minute trips and thousands of stress induced panic attacks, I have discovered a few tricks to make business travel fun again.
- Never stay in an airport hotel.
I live in a flyover state which means that I can never take a trip without at least one connecting flight. Because of this, flight delays often leave me stranded in strange cities overnight. Once, I had to stay in an airport hotel in Detroit. I think the hotel room was designed to be a reenactment of the movie Psycho. The smoke alarms were broken and they went off every five minutes. The. Entire. Night.
After that, I made it my mission to never spend another night in an airport hotel. Unfortunately, I can’t control flight delays, despite my many conversations with Delta customer service and my pleas to the weather Gods. Then I discovered Hotel Tonight and life got better. Hotel Tonight lets you find and book hotel rooms the day you need them. The rates are incredibly discounted because they are the rooms that hotels were unable to book so your finance department will have no complaints about the unexpected costs. Download Hotel Tonight and you can book a room at a nice hotel before the gate agent has even printed your free airport food voucher.
- See the city without the hassle of planning.
One of the hardest parts of business travel is that it is nearly impossible to plan your schedule. You can never be sure when a meeting is going to run three hours late or when you are going to end up working on a project until the wee hours of daylight. On top of that, figuring out where you will be staying in a city and how close that is to the restaurants and shops you want to visit can take an insane amount of time. Download Foodspotting and Swirl and you can instantly discover the best shops and restaurants near your hotel.
- Stay up to date on the go
Wouldn’t it would be great if the media took a break every time we were too busy traveling to catch up with our Google Reader? Flipboard is a great way to keep up with industry news while you are running through the airport to catch a plane. Here is my system: I flip through stories while I am waiting to catch a plane or walking between meetings and star the stories I want to read later. When I am back at my hotel all of the stories I was interested in reading are saved in my “favorites” on Twitter and I can quickly dive in and catch up on the news. If there are longer pieces you would like to read, download Instapaper and you are able to read the stories on your phone even when you are offline. Suddenly the words “we are now closing the cabin door” are less frightening.
- Forgo panic attacks through preparation.
The more you prepare for a business trip the easier it becomes and I have created a few systems to make preparing less painful.
Networking: One of the biggest benefits of business travel is that you get a chance to network with professionals that you otherwise might not have a chance to meet. If you visit certain cities often, create a list of people in those cities that you’d like to network with. (Google docs work great) Before your trip, choose 2-3 people and schedule dinners and lunches before you get there. Not only will you be strategically building your network, but you won’t end up eating room service alone in your hotel.
Home organization: I have a small child and scheduling childcare and remembering to make notes of all of the details said childcare will need while I am gone is impossible. Make an envelope for each day that you will be gone. In the envelopes, include a list of things that need to be done that day, suggestions for dinner, money for fun activities and a short note to make your kid excited about opening the envelope each day.
Travel Organization: Create a one sheet with all of your travel and scheduling details so you don’t end up searching through your inbox to find your flight info while strategically balancing your briefcase on top of your luggage as you run through the airport. Include flight information, hotel addresses and dates and times of key meetings.
- A simple wardrobe is a beautiful thing.
The first year I spent traveling, I would find myself running to the mall the night before my trip to impulse buy a new wardrobe because I decided the clothes that I had just wouldn’t do. I then learned that if you purchase a few key pieces, your packing becomes more of a routine than a nervous breakdown. Pick up a little black dress, two pairs of neutral colored dress pants, a black blazer and 5-6 tops that you can mix up. Stick to monotone colored tops rather than patterns to make your wardrobe last longer. Having a basic wardrobe makes packing a breeze and you can always change the outfits up with fun accessories.
My last tip is to make a run to the drugstore as soon as you get to your hotel. I can’t tell you the amount of money I have spent on $12 bags of M&Ms because I was starving in the middle of the night. Save your budget and waistline with a quick run to Walgreens. Pick up some fresh fruit, granola bars and a couple of drinks so you can have a healthy snack to choose from when those midnight cravings pop up.
Now I want to hear from you, what are your tips for making business travel less painful?