As the guitarist and manager of an international touring band that has played in over 36 countries, I have learned a few things about surviving a relentless travel schedule. Roger Daltry, the lead singer of The Who famously said "I don't get paid to perform, I get paid to travel!"
During the first 10 years that the band began headlining major summer rock festivals in Europe, it was pretty standard that I would leave NYC on a Thursday night flight to the country we were performing in, arrive Friday morning, stay up all day, sleep for 10 hours, get up around noon on Saturday, go to the venue at 4pm, go onstage at 11pm play for 2 hours, go back to the hotel (this ride could take up to 2 hours each way depending on the location of the concert) get to sleep by 3 am, get up at 6am for the drive to the airport and get back home by 6pm on that Sunday.
Friends would ask me where I was over the weekend. I would say things like "I think we played in Greece on Saturday, or England, or Norway or Sweden or Germany or France." It was a crazy, unpleasant and inefficient way to travel.
The average business traveler probably hasn't encountered the extremes that my band and I have --nor do I wish them on anybody -- but what I've learned along the way applies to all sorts of travel, and I hope they'll make your travel a lot more comfortable.I've refined how I do it using the following travel rules:
- Get to the airport 2 hours early all the time. Avoid the anxiety of possibly missing a flight. I can never afford that mistake and I don't think any business traveler can either. I don't love airports but I would rather be there waiting than freaking out in a car in the middle of an epic traffic jam.
- Always check in with your airline the day before. Besides making your airport experience less time consuming by waiting on a line that you don't need to be on, you will find out if there are any changes to your flights.
- Identify alternate flight arrangements, in advance, if your flight gets canceled at the last minute. Trying to make these decisions under stress can be difficult.
- Never check your bags! EVER! Learn to travel as lightly as possible so you have the most flexibility to get in and out of an airport, change flights, and avoid all those costly bag check fees, which seem to go up by the day.
- Join every security pre-screened organization that will have you i.e. Global Entry, TSA Pre, and Registered traveler (UK) for those American citizens who have relatives in the UK or travel frequently on business. You must apply for each although members of Global Entry are automatically enlisted for TSA Pre checking, an expedited security screening that allows you to keep all your carry-on compliant liquids and computer stowed away in your luggage, and lets you keep your shoes on. Just like olden days! (TSA Pre isn't available at all airports.) Having any of these will make your life at airports much easier. When I return from Europe to JFK, Global Entry kiosks takes no more then 1 minuet to clear immigration. With Registered Traveler in the UK, an American can go stand on the always-shorter immigration UK line.
- When flying overseas to the east, fly the day flight whenever possible. It's more expensive, but it helps you get on local time faster, and you're not run down from missing a night of sleep on a plane. The morning flights to the UK from the east coast of the US are very popular for this reason, so book as early as you can. When I have west coast business, I try to leave a day early to acclimate.
- I use my trips to re-connect with friends or relatives where possible, not just business associates. This makes the journey something more to look forward to.
- Upgrade for more legroom whenever you can. I'm tall (6'2"). I need leg room. No matter how I fly (meaning coach at times, it pays to pay for that upgrade with cash or points.
- Even if you are getting food on the flight, always pack a snack for the flight. I always carry cashew nuts as they fill you up quickly, metabolize slowly and don't weigh much.
- Always remember to carry extra batteries for your various devices.
- Check that you have everything with you BEFORE you get up to leave the plane, train, taxi, etc. Pack in such a manner that you can get to items that you need easily (e-readers, i pods, phones, books magazines, headphones, pain relievers, prescription meds) and that you have a checklist on what goes back where. I have left many items behind before I really got organized. (I got most of them back, luckily.)
- When you check in to your hotel, ask for a business card and keep it with you at all times in case you forget where you are staying. It also aides in explaining to cab drivers where to take you when you don't speak the language.
- Always passport, credit cards and cash WITH YOU. Do not assume that the hotel room safe is safe! If you really need to leave valuables behind, ask the hotel if they have a master safe in their offices.