For many people business travel can get old real fast. Crowded planes, jammed seats, weather delays, rushing around, and traffic jams can fray the nerves and create fatigue. At best, being a regular road warrior can give you some perks like time in the lounge, but these days you have to log a lot of uncomfortable miles away from home to get the benefits.
As someone who regularly travels about 35,000 miles a year or 5 to 7 days per month, I have learned some valuable techniques for keeping business travel a "want to" versus a "have to" in my life. With just a bit of forethought and a few Internet searches, each trip becomes a fascinating adventure of fun and learning. Here are some ideas to try next time you are dreading the junket.
1. Remove the annoyances.
Many of the things that make business travel a drag can be easily solved. Traveling light saves carrying and bag check hassles. TSA Pre-Check makes the security line minimally offensive. Earplugs or good headphones render the screamiest babies inert. Putting your bag behind your legs after takeoff gives you plenty of legroom. Airbnb provides a cheaper and homier feel than a motel. Managing your frequent-traveler perks eliminates lines and helps with upgrades. Most important is to give yourself a little time cushion in your travel so you rarely have to rush and stress.
2. Add a day of vacation.
I am a budget conscious traveler and often find substantially better airline fares when my trips include a Saturday night stay; so I often structure my trips to head out over the weekend. That way I can use that extra day or two for exploring the city, visiting with friends or taking some time for myself. The air savings often outweighs my lodging cost, and for this New Yorker an extra day or two in LA or Miami sure is nice in February.
3. Meet up with a LinkedIn contact.
All that virtual networking is fine, but there is real value in connecting face to face. Use your travel opportunity to actually meet someone you connected with online. I've been treated to free drinks, great meals and awesome experiences through these contacts in places from San Francisco to Dubai.
4. Make a city specific music playlist.
Music is a great mood enhancer and nearly every town has a vibrant music scene. Today it's easy to find local indie bands and set up a playlist to get familiar on your way. Check the local search for a concert or two and go dance your heart out to a band you would never see or hear otherwise.
5. Go on a foodie tour.
Sure you could stay in and order room service or pizza, but a little effort can uncover an interesting feast just about anywhere. I have yet to find a location that lacked some interesting local food hangout. Even my trip to Oklahoma City uncovered an incredible German restaurant that had a decades-long local history. Living in the Yelp age makes finding culinary goldmines fast and easy.
6. Create your own cultural guide.
Rather than sitting quietly in a dull motel, go out and explore. Keep a journal of your travels, hunt for the fun, kitsch Facebook pic that will make all your friends and colleagues smile or laugh. Nearly every locale has something interesting within a stone's throw; it might be a strange museum, historical sight, or a minor league sports event. I even found socially redeeming sights in Cleveland, Ohio and Fargo, North Dakota. Save the list so you can share it with the next person traveling to Kalamazoo, Michigan.
7. See an old friend.
Facebook's most redeeming value is keeping contact with decades old friends. Often those friends are near my business travels. A couple of drinks or a relaxing dinner keeps the relationship strong and the laughter going. Just the anticipation of a visit can up my mood for the whole plane ride.
8. Go on a treasure hunt.
There is little you can't buy online these days, which makes finding a local craft a rare joy. I often scour a city for something unusual to impress my wife and bring a smile to her face. It might be a strange trinket or an artisan tasty. But often the journey can be interesting and fun.
9. Take advantage of the "me" time.
Some feel business travel is a constant personal space invasion. I personally use it as a perfect time for commanding my personal space bubble. I love being at home, but on the road I am often anonymous with pockets of captive time (some call it waiting). With a good book, good music, and a journal, I find myself with plenty of mental space to think, write, and relax. It might be for minutes waiting in a line or hours on a plane. Regardless that time is my own to enjoy. Everyone else can wait until I return.