Some people love business travel. Others find it annoying and uncomfortable to be away from home. I personally enjoy it in reasonable doses. I like to see new places and meet new people, especially when I can see how they work and live.
The tourist thing can get old though. I can understand why for some business travel can get dull and tired. Hotel rooms can seem stuffy and generic. The food can be hit or miss, and airplanes can feel uncomfortable.
I have already traveled a lot this year to Austin, Boston, Montreal, Mexico, Dubai, Istanbul, Germany and Iceland. Without forethought, all that travel would be incredibly disruptive to daily routines for both my staff and me. Road weariness can make it difficult to concentrate on the tasks away from home while still worrying about the work that needs to get done in the office.
There are ways to eliminate most of the stresses associated with business travel. Here are several best practices of successful road warriors.
1. Prepare everything in advance.
Just hopping a plane and hoping for the best can be costly both in time and money. Good pre-planning allows your mind to relax, knowing you have your details worked out. I make sure I have all the information in my smartphone and carry a paper copy as well. I leave some room for flexibility, but I always know flights, lodging, and transportation ahead of time. I also schedule most of my appointments in advance, carefully checking travel times so I don't overbook.
2. Keep regular contact.
When you are local, a simple text or email can solve problems in no time. But when you are out of the country or in a remote area, problems can escalate in a few hours of lost contact. Be zealous about checking in before the long flight or long meetings. Be proactive about discussing potential problems so your team at home base can take care of things with confidence.
3. Create routine.
The unpredictability of travel can be exciting for some, but disconcerting for others. There are many things you can control even when you are staying in a different place every day. Recently I traveled to 5 cities across the world with no more than 1 night in each city. Still I was able to maintain daily rhythms of thinking, working, exercising, and relaxing. Everything may be a variable around you, but you control you.
4. Work where you can.
Usually you are traveling because you need to see people or attend a meeting. It's easy to get caught up in those special events and lose track of your regular work. I keep tools that make it easy to work wherever I am. I have a small laptop that works for writing on planes or trains. My phone is set up so I can easily manage communication and get connected to the Internet. I forego excessive partying so I can get work done to clear my head.
5. Covet sleep.
Nothing will create travel fatigue worse than lack of sleep. Some people can sleep on planes like me, while others struggle. Regardless, you need to calculate your sleep into your travel. I prioritize my sleep over work, partying, and socializing to make sure I can be at my best on the road. Otherwise, mistakes could be made and opportunities could be lost.
6. Be self-sufficient.
As a traveling worker, I am at my best when I can take care of myself. I try and manage a little language or at the very least set up guidance from a colleague. I carry cash and credit cards that will work wherever I go and make sure I get Internet access immediately. Most importantly, I carry small amounts of over-the-counter medicines that will solve any minor problem including: ibuprofen, Zyrtec, Lomotil, nose spray, eye drops, and throat lozenges. Add in sewing kit, Band-Aids and an eyeglass screwdriver and I rarely come across a small issue I can't fix immediately.
7. Hoard your space.
Traveling can be cramped. Planes, trains and cities can be crowded and pushy. I always grab space when I see the chance. In airline terminals, I will walk to an empty gate within earshot. On airplanes, I choose window seats in rows where the aisle is already chosen. I cheek my bags, which rarely causes a problem these days but gives me better legroom. I have headphones and music to block out any annoying noise like children on planes. Most important, I close my eyes and meditate to block out the world no matter how much it imposes on me.
8. Always have a Plan B.
The number one rule of travel is that you are almost never in control. Transportation will be late. Hotels will be overbooked. People will change appointments. Once you are on a trip, you are fully committed, so you may as well make the best of it. Always be prepared to improvise and make the best of an inconvenient situation. Often a change in plans has led to my most interesting local food and cultural experiences.
9. Keep your sense of humor.
Travel should be fun. You get to meet interesting people, learn about culture and see interesting things. Sure everything is different abroad. It may even take you a half hour to figure out something simple like a toilet in China. Short of life or death situations though, it's rare that any travel tragedy will have long-term impact. If things seem to be going poorly, simply find the irony or silliness in the situation and enjoy the journey.