It never fails. I get settled in my seat on the plane and as I take out my laptop to put the finishing touches on my presentation for the next day, the couple in front of me orders bloody marys. Why? Because they are on vacation. It's a double dose of salt in my open wound; they're on vacation, I'm working. They are together, I am alone.
It only takes a few repeats of this scenario before you start looking for ways to make solo-business travel less miserable. And though traveling for work may never be as fun or relaxing as traveling for leisure, here are a few tips to make it not so awful.
1. Schedule something to look forward to.
Spruce up an otherwise tedious trip with even just one bright spot. Get recommendations in advance for an amazing restaurant and make a reservation. Splurge and stay at an upscale hotel. Or make an effort to see an old friend.
I was in the middle of a particularly long week of travel. I was tired, stressed and missed my family. Fortunately, an old friend of mine lived in one of the cities I'd be staying in. I sent her a message and we met for dinner when I was in town.
Any time I started getting down about the grueling trip that week, I looked forward to how fun that dinner would be. And it was.
2. Get in some local exercise.
Exercising while on the road isn't always easy but is critical if you don't want to "outgrow" your work clothes. Fortunately, on-the-road sweat sessions can kill two birds with one stone; calories get burned and you can tap into a community, if just for an hour.
Spin classes are my exercise of choice. Whenever I am in a city with a SoulCycle, I always try to catch a class. Not only does it feel good to get my heart rate up, but it feels good to spend time together with a group of people. Even if I never see them again, the dose of camaraderie is often just what my lone soul needs.
3: Stay in, veg out.
Though constant travel can be draining, there is something refreshing about checking into a hotel room, asking for two keys, and knowing you're the only one who will be using them. Taking advantage of the piece and quiet, especially if you have kids at home, is a benefit of solo-traveling worth reveling in.
The next time you have a king bed all to yourself, take full advantage of it. Get comfy, order room service, turn on the television and spend the whole evening in. How often do you get permission to do that at home? Not often.
4: Work now, play later.
All those tips aside, here's the truth. Typically, the moment I get on the plane, I start working. I work the whole time in flight. I work in the car ride to the hotel. I work once I check into the hotel. I take a break to workout and then get back to work.
It sounds miserable, and it can be, but there's a reason I do it: The more I work while I travel, the less I have to work when I'm at home.
Traveling, especially as a parent, is hard. The only thing I've found that makes it easier is to run a little contest with myself -- can I clear the work queue completely before I touch back down at home. The deferred pleasure is always worth the wait.