Erin Palmer wrote me in the midst of some of the most horrific business travel I’ve experienced in my career. Cancelled flights. Broken luggage. Stinky rental cars. Overbooked hotels. Terrible food. In other words, I needed some advice. So when she pitched me on the idea of tips for stress free business travel, I jumped at the opportunity to gain from her wisdom.
Now if you’re asking yourself, “Why does an HR blog feature a piece on business travel?“, let me explain. The Global Business Travel Association projects 2011 business travel spend of over $250B – that’s “B” for billion. So if you’re in HR, this means that some percentage of your population (e.g., your sales function) and a nontrivial amount of your corporate spend may go to this category. With that context in mind, put your tray tables in the upright and locked position as Erin prepares us for takeoff. Take it away Erin!
I’ve always been an enthusiastic traveler. When my family went on vacations when I was younger, I was just as excited about the airplane and hotel room as I was about the theme parks and attractions. I loved everything from the flight attendant’s safety presentation to the seashell-shaped soaps in the hotel bathroom. Don’t even get me started on how excited I was by miniature bottles of shampoo.
As an adult, traveling has changed. Trips have become less of an adventure and more of a way to get from point A to point B. People who travel frequently for work purposes often find the experience more stressful than restful. Business travel might not be the most exciting way to spend your time, but it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. Here are some tips for making your business trip easier and more enjoyable:
- Pack wisely – A well-packed carry on is a must. Anyone that has ever lost luggage knows what a hassle it can be. Moreover, you don’t want to show up at your work functions in an “I Love (Insert City Here)” t-shirt that you bought from an airport gift shop. Carry your essentials on the plane with you, including at least one back-up outfit. Make sure that you consider the weather and what sort of activities you have scheduled when choosing your clothes.
- Travel comfortably – Even if your flight is short, make sure that you are dressed in something comfortable. Drink a lot of water to stay hydrated and make smart food choices. If you intend to sleep on the plane, bring noise-cancelling headphones and an eye mask.
- Separate work from travel – If you’re not going to sleep, you still shouldn’t plan on getting major work done on the plane. Turbulence, space-hogging seatmates or a kick-happy child behind you can make it impossible to accomplish anything. If you are able to squeeze in some work, than go for it. Just be sure that you have all of your necessary work done before you leave.
- Confirm all itineraries and other details – Your trip should be mapped out before you depart. Make certain that you have transportation to and from the airport. Know where your meetings and other scheduled activities are and how you will get there. Your office should also have a copy of any travel plans so they know where you are and how to reach you.
- Remember that you’re working – There is often a social element of business travel. Clients and colleagues might take you out for dinner or drinks. It’s nice to be able to have some fun, but remember that you are representing your company. There is a huge difference between a glass of wine with dinner and taking body shots off of a co-worker. Even in a different zip code, it is still necessary to remain professional.
- Enjoy yourself – Just because it is a work trip does not mean that you shouldn’t also have fun. If possible, try to break the “airport-hotel-meeting-airport” cycle. If you have any free time, try to explore the city. If you get to choose where to eat, ask the concierge to recommend a local favorite restaurant. When you’re flying, consider talking to your seatmates instead of ignoring them. Think of frequent traveling as a way to make new friends and contacts across the globe.
Though business travel might seem like an endless cycle of lists, plans and hotel lobbies, it can also be a rewarding experience. Make the most of your trips and don’t let them overwhelm you. At the end of the day, you’re accomplishing something. If that doesn’t make you happy, the miniature shampoos will!
Erin Palmer blogs on behalf of University Alliance and Villanova University. Villanova offers online programs that teach individuals to overcome the challenges of human resource management. Among the programs are HR certification courses and an HR Masters Degree. You can also follow Erin on Twitter.