Business travel sounds sexy - to the uninitiated.
It's true that the opportunity to see different corners of the globe - on someone else's dime, no less - is a great privilege and often exhilarating. However, it's equally true that sometimes international work trips are rough, a hard slog that leaves you worn down and wishing you were home - precisely when you need your game face the most.
In my past life, I traveled to many countries to launch MySpace and my current company, Trip.com, just launched in France, Germany, China, Spain and more. Here are my top five quick-and-dirty tips to help you own your next work trip.
Checking bags is for suckers
Never, ever check a bag. It is inevitably a losing game, one that's nearly always directly proportional to how important your meetings are. If your bags don't make it - and I have personal experience with this on an ill-fated trip to Istanbul - you will be buying new clothes on the fly in Turkey (or wherever you land). That's a detrimental distraction when you should be getting ready for the work meetings or events that were the purpose of your trip to begin with. Even if your bags aren't irretrievably lost, you're still wasting valuable time at every stage of the journey - from checking in on the way there and back, plus doing that interminable wait at baggage claim...twice no less.
Small, random objects are your best friend when it comes to international travel. A clothespin is cheap, tiny and great for keeping the drapes shut tight (no sleep-ruining sunlight shining through a pesky gap in those curtains). Earplugs are non-negotiable; you need them to eliminate the noise on the airplane and maximize your chance of some decent shuteye. One colleague brings a cheap rubber doorstop if she's staying in places that feel less than safe - shoving it under a locked hotel room door offers another layer of protection. Also look for items that pull double duty - a voluminous sweater or soft coat can work as a blanket, for instance.
When in Rome...
If it's 2 a.m. in Europe when you're getting on the plane, then aim for sleep. Conversely, if it's early morning in Morocco, then stay up and work. As much as possible, you want to make an immediate transition to the new time zone so you're as productive as you can be while you're there. Get your brain around it early by setting your watch, phone and laptop to local time as soon as you board your flight.
Sleep aids are crucial
Exhaustion is the adversary. But don't be afraid to hold the enemy at the gates with the strategic use of a sleep aid. Time-released melatonin is a great weapon to have at your disposal. But if you'd prefer to go without, the aforementioned earplugs plus an eyeshade and comfortable neck pillow will set you up for success.
Don't forget the right technology
Always keep charging cables with you in your purse, backpack or laptop bag - whatever will stay with you in the cabin. You'll also need charger packs to recharge your mobile phone on the go (don't roll the dice on this one - it will inevitably bite you during a full day of meetings when you need updated email and calendar access the most).
If you can, opt for a lightweight laptop to avoid neck strain as you lug around your bag. Make plans to bring some entertainment with you as that's typically hit or miss, especially on international flights. Tablets are a good choice here - their batteries are optimized for long life and they can handle the streaming entertainment options many airlines now offer). Plus, you can stay on top of the news, listen to music, or play games.
What are your best international travel tips?