I’m fresh off a 10-city book tour that sent me flying (courtesy of Bridgeline) across 27,143 miles since January. (Aren’t you glad I resisted the urge to toss in “And boy are my arms tired!”? You’re welcome.)
So much about traveling is fun. In Atlanta, I finally connected in person with Elizabeth Fairleigh, who somehow managed to pull it together to attend a breakfast talk even though a freak storm had knocked out electricity at her house. In Dallas, I met longtime MarketingProfs fan Jeff Corkran, and in San Francisco, I saw Kiki Mills, met Aprimo’s Paige O’Neill, and the Zoomerang gang (hi, Jason!), and—in the Marriott Marquis San Francisco lobby—bumped into Lee Odden. Seeing Lee was an unexpected surprise: It felt like finding a hundred-dollar bill on the sidewalk. Orange Country was a two-fer: I had dinner with my childhood homey Ron Ploof ; then, the next day, I saw a passel of MarketingProfs colleagues all in one place at the same time—a rare occurrence for our virtual company. Actually, a three-fer: I had a "preunion" with Eric Bratt.
I also had a ton of fun palling around with Becki Dilworth and Alexa Stabile, who morphed over those 10 weeks from mere friends to my new work sister-wives.
But, at the same time, traveling is also a bitch. Setting aside for a minute that I hate to fly (and I do hate flying, with a special kind of passion you might otherwise reserve for getting a root canal), it’s also stressful to be away from your family, out of your routine, sleeping in a strange bed and then forgetting—when you wake up—exactly what city you’re in.
Here are a few tricks I learned in the past few months about how to make travel a little less stressful:
1. Leave a little extra room in the suitcase. Pack sparingly—resist the urge to over-pack. For me, this means I consciously have to curb my tendency to bring too many pairs of shoes. I get by with two: one dress and one casual.
Not over-packing cuts down on the amount of stuff you’re lugging, of course. But it also affords some room to bring back that special something you saw in Philly, to accommodate the outfit you had to unexpectedly buy in Atlanta when jeans at dinner suddenly didn't cut it, or to accept the bottle of Puerto Rican rum that someone—in this case, Raúl J. Colón—schlepped all the way from Santa Isabel. (Thanks, Raúl!)
2. Take on-location photos. I’m not talking about site-seeing photos here. I’m talking about practical photos that help orient you. Between the book tour and other events and travel, I stayed in 26 different hotels in the past few months. After about the fifth or sixth, I started forgetting my room number. One time, in fact, I tried my room key on Room 1035 with repeated aggression (Stupid! Magnetic! Strip!) only to realize that Room 1035 was in New York, and here I was in Chicago. Duh.
It was then that I started snapping a photo of my room number with my phone and keeping it handy so I could refer to it and navigate my way back to my room without pounding on a stranger’s door.
It’s also a good strategy for remembering where you parked, including in the airport parking garage.
3. Check luggage. I’m not really sure why checking luggage is anathema to so many people. What’s the big deal of what generally amounts to an extra 10 minutes hanging around baggage claim?
For me, it’s a whole lot less stressful to check luggage than it is to (a) worry about banned liquid contraband in the carry-on (because my favorite products never come in trial-size), and (b) compete for overhead bin space with every other traveler on the plane (and fret about boarding early enough to secure said space).
Plus, one time I tried to make a connection in O’Hare that was in a different terminal. The sprint was fruitless—I didn’t make it—and to this day, I blame the fact that I was lugging a 17-inch laptop strapped to my back and dragging a roller-bag that felt within minutes like I was the ball carrier on some PBA tour.
So go ahead and hate, but from now on ... I check. I know plenty of people have had horrific experiences with lost or damaged luggage; feel free to dissuade me of this practice in the comments. (All that said, I suggest you carry your house and car keys in a carry-on. Just in case.)
4. Never fly through O’Hare. That airport is insane; it should be renamed Ringling Brothers and Barnum O’Hare. See above.
5. Spring for TripIt. TripIt is an extremely useful trip planner that keeps all of your travel plans in one spot. The mobile app seriously rocks. It’s like having a super-organized travel elf take care of all those annoying little details and reminding you to check in for a impending flight, notifying you when flights are delayed, when gates change (and to where!) and so on. In other words, it thinks about that stuff—so I don’t have to. It's a no-brainer to upgrade to TripIt Pro. It's $49 a year, but I'd exchange my right arm for it. (Hat tip to C.C. Chapman for this one.)
6. Get a travel wallet. My friend Beccy gave me a special billfold before we flew to London this past February. It’s meant to hold a passport, but even when I fly domestically, I now use it as a “travel wallet” to keep myself organized, without carrying all the other stuff in my usual wallet. It’s big enough to hold boarding passes, luggage slips, receipts, and the rest; it’s also where I store airline and hotel loyalty cards so I have them handy. The receipt thing is key, at least for me. It saves me a lot of aggravation after the trip because I don't have to cull receipts from various pockets, bags, and other nooks and crannies that I otherwise tend to haphazardly tuck receipts in.
7. Don't unpack. After forever “losing” stuff in the hotel room, I devised this rule: Resist the urge to make your hotel room feel like “home” by spreading your stuff and other comfort objects around. It’s not home—you both know that.
Hang the stuff that wrinkles in the closet, but otherwise keep everything contained as much as possible in an open suitcase. It makes for a quick exit, too, when the taxi is waiting and Alexa is tapping her foot because she’s the one who has to drop off the rental car, missy.
8. Use the Skype app for iPhone. This is my most important iPhone travel app, more so than my beloved Starbucks and TripIt apps. I like this one so I can say goodnight to my kids in person. Kinda.
Anyway, it's free, and it's got video. And what I save on long-distance calls I can put toward their therapy down the line when they tap into their pain at having had an absentee mother!
BONUS TIP: Create some content on the road ...
So---your turn. What are your insider tips for coping with business travel?
Take the first step (it's free).
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