Joining the life of intense work travel has taught me so much about the travel industry, hotels, airlines and airports. Many of my friends tell me they would love a job that allows them to travel. While this lifestyle can be glamorous and adventurous and is filled with perks, it also comes with a plethora of challenges that only my fellow work travelers understand. Some I expected, while others I learned along the way. Either way, if this is an aspect of your career that you’re considering or that you are entering, keep reading to learn more about what I’ve learned in the past year and tips I have for novices.
IF YOU’RE NEW TO WORK TRAVEL
- INVEST in a GOOD and DURABLE luggage set: For the frequent flyer, the cute luggage set that you found on Amazon is not going to cut it. In addition to wanting to look professional when you are running in and out of meetings, you also want luggage that is practical, spacious and durable because – let’s be honest – airport baggage handlers aren’t going to be delicate. If you don’t want to drop $500+ on brands such as TUMI or Louis Vuitton, Samsonite is a great alternative that can often be found at a discount at TJMaxx or Marshalls.
- Sign up for a rewards program: If you are traveling for work your company is most likely going to allow you to keep the points and miles that you earn. Take advantage of this and make sure you sign up for a rewards program with an airline, hotel chain and rental car service. My preferred vendors are Delta, Southwest, Hertz and Marriott.
- Remain loyal: Gaining status on an airline or with a hotel is not hard if you are consistent. This may require selecting a flight with a layover or staying in a hotel outside of the conference venue, but it will be worth it when you can reimburse those points for free nights or flights on personal travel. Also, loyalty comes with awesome perks such as priority boarding and check-in, free upgrades, checked luggage, drink tickets and flexibility when you have changes.
- Book one-way tickets: When traveling for work, you must be flexible. The easiest way to do this is by booking one-way flights. Even with status, airlines don’t allow for changes to be made on one leg of the trip without it affecting the other leg. Save yourself the headache of last-minute-changes by making sure you can easily change or cancel a flight when necessary.
- Invest in high voltage portable chargers: Most American airports have yet to install enough outlets to accommodate every traveler and airlines such as American and Southwest still haven’t installed outlets in all of their planes. Your devices will die. You will be SOL. Be prepared. Anker is my favorite brand at the moment.
- Get a workout routine: The downside to frequent traveling, is that you’re more susceptible to weight gain. Work travel is typically accompanied with a lot of eating, so it’s important that you pay attention to your health and have a workout routine that can be done in the hotel gym. This will be particularly helpful if you travel to a small town that doesn’t have fitness chains such as Soul Cycle and Orange Theory or if you only have a short amount of time each day to workout.
- Invest in a Travel Wardrobe: Living out of a suitcase can be difficult, especially when you’re doing 24-48-hour turnaround trips. You may not have time to find a dry cleaner or iron your clothes. Some trips may require you to wear your suit on the plane. Prepare yourself for this by selecting clothing that works well with travel. Clothing made from polyester is great for travel because it doesn’t wrinkle easily. Sticking to a black or neutral color pallet also helps eliminate the number of items you need to pack. A good flat – or comfortable heel – that can transition from day to night is ideal, especially if you’re going to do a lot of walking. I love Ralph Lauren dresses and Tory Burch flats, they can work as casual, business casual or business if you add a blazer.
- Download movies and shows on Netflix, Xfinity and other providers that allow off-line streaming: If you’re traveling on a day when you don’t have to do work on the plane or the Wi-Fi is not working and the aircraft doesn’t have a built-in studio, this will be a life-saver.
- Check the weather: This seems obvious, but you would be surprised how many people forget to do this and regret it later. Don’t assume that New England will be warm in the summer and Texas will be cold in the winter. An umbrella may not be necessary, but it’s always good to have. The more prepared you are, the better the trip.
- If you don’t have an admin, download an app or get accustomed to using your calendar: Work travel is hectic. In addition to handling your daily responsibilities, you also have to keep up with flight times, car rentals, check-in times, meeting times, etc. Maintaining an organized calendar is critical to ensure a smooth trip each time you travel. If you don’t have an admin to do this for you, apps such as TripIt are great alternatives.
WHAT YOU SHOULD BE PREPARED FOR:
- Missing out: Birthday parties, celebrations, baby showers aka all things that I’ve missed out on due to work travel. The downside of always traveling is that you’re never home, meaning unplanned events are hard to accommodate when you have a pre-planned work trip. It’s not the end of the world but do keep it in mind that there will be sacrifices to your personal life.
- Exhaustion: I don’t care if it’s going to the Caribbean for a beach vacation or New York for a conference, traveling is exhausting. Maintaining a healthy diet, routine workouts, and engaging in activities that are relaxing will lower the amount of stress you gain from traveling. If you can afford it, quarterly or even monthly spa treatments after a long stretch of travel are always great.
- Balancing work: Learning how to be productive while also catching planes and trains, checking in and out of hotels and changing your suitcase every week can also be challenging. All work travelers have mastered the skill of multi-tasking and you will too, but if you aren’t used to this, be ready to adjust to taking conference calls while doing your make-up in the back of a taxi, or finding time in-between meetings to “do some work.”
HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OUT OF YOUR WORK TRIP:
- Fly in early, leave late: The best part about work travel is the opportunity to explore new cities and countries, even those that were never on your radar. My IG looks like I’m always on vacation because I make it a point to fly down early and leave as late as possible to explore and experience the city. Although you probably won’t have time to be a full-out tourist, find time to check out a good restaurant, visit a church or museum or go on a self-guided walking tour.
- Connect with old friends and colleagues: Work travel creates a great opportunity to catch up with old college friends or work colleagues. Plan ahead and reach out to friends who you may have lost touch with. It will add a level of familiarity to your trip and 9/10 they’ll be happy to show you around.
- Take home a souvenir: Pick up a key chain, magnet or paper weight to commemorate your trip. They make for great ice breakers when you have a visitor at your home or office.
- Try new restaurants and cuisines: Most states have a food or restaurant that they are known for. Do some research before traveling and taste the local cuisine or schedule your dinner meeting at a famous restaurant; it will take your experience to a new level.
- Take advantage of hotel toiletries: Most nice hotels offer amazing toiletries. I haven’t shopped at Bath & Body Works in months because I’ve stocked on miniature lotions and shower gels. Be sure to check with your hotel about what is offered in the room so that you can also save space in your suitcase.
MY TOP 10 TRAVEL NECESSITIES
- Beats headphones: Any headphones work, just make sure you have something to enjoy the entertainment and block out the noise.
- An AUX cord: I accidentally left my aux cord at home when I was traveling from the east coast to the west coast. The $10.99 that I spent in the airport to ensure that I had entertainment during the 6-hour flight was totally worth it.
- An insulated water bottle: This is perfect for keeping your tea or coffee hot or saving money on overpriced bottles of water.
- A lint brush: I get lint EVERYWHERE. Keep yourself looking neat and clean.
- A perfume roller ball: Sometimes you just don’t have space to fit a full bottle of perfume and you always want to keep a fresh scent.
- Wipes: For women this include makeup wipes but having some type of baby wipe on you is helpful for when you need to freshen up.
- Hand sanitizer: Because germs are everywhere.
- Portable chargers: Because outlets are NOT everywhere.
- Cash: It seems like an obvious thing, but I’m willing to bet that most people don’t carry cash and believe it or not, there are places in America that don’t accept credit cards.
- Medicine pill box: If you’re like me and you need multiple medications when you travel, purchasing a little pill box is much easier to manage than numerous bottles.