I’m lucky to have a career that takes me to different places all over the country from time to time (the most random places having been Boise, ID, and a small town in eastern Oregon just last month). The way I see it, I have it made. I don’t have to travel weekly and spend too much time away from home, but getting to do it every so often makes it feel special. I love getting to experience new places and enjoy a change in scenery.
However, regardless of how often one might travel for work, it can present a set of challenges. This summer has been full of more trips than usual, and I’ve learned a few hacks along the way to make each trip productive, seamless and enjoyable. Here they are.
1. The most obvious tip is to pack light. Business trips are usually jam packed with little time to spare, so it helps when you don’t have to spend extra time waiting at baggage claim. Try to stick to a carry-on bag with the essentials: one business outfit per day (as a woman, I like dresses, since they take up less room in my bag), one or two outfits that can double as sleep clothes or a workout outfit, one casual outfit and toiletries.
2. Track expenses carefully. If your client or company is reimbursing you for mileage, accommodations, flights, rental cars, meals, etc., keep every receipt in a separate folder and file an expense report immediately upon return to the office. I’m always mindful, too, of how much is being spent. If a client is reimbursing for meals, I won’t order a steak dinner – I’ll take a club sandwich, instead.
3. Bring a little bit of home with you. Whenever I go away, I like to bring my favorite, most comfortable sleep shirt. It makes me feel relaxed, at ease and more at home after a long day.
4. Find some “me time.” Traveling for work can be stressful, especially with a busy schedule. If possible, squeeze in 30 minutes of time for yourself. This could be waking up 30 minutes earlier to go for a run, ordering room service at the end of a long day or relaxing in the jacuzzi tub. No matter what it is, it’s important to find a little sliver of time when you can turn your brain off and recharge.
5. Explore something new. No matter where you go, I guarantee there’s something there you haven’t seen or tried before. If your schedule allows, plan to see or do at least one thing you haven’t yet experienced. And if you’re traveling solo, even better. Don’t be afraid to do things alone. I was lucky to travel with a co-worker to Oregon, and we made sure we found a piece of the Oregon Trail to explore. Next month, however, I’m traveling solo to Orlando for work over a weekend. You can bet I’ll be taking a trip to at least one Disney park and taking advantage of those single rider lines.
6. Have something to look forward to when you return home. Not every trip allows for free time to explore, and jam-packed days can become overwhelming. I traveled solo for an event last month and worked three back-to-back-to-back 16-hour days. I knew I wasn’t going to have free time (but I did follow tip #4 and ordered room service for a late dinner one night!), so instead, I planned a vacation day for the day after I got home. When things got hectic while I was away, it was refreshing to look forward to some downtime upon my return.
7. Remember why you’re there. Although most of these tips highlight how to make the most of a business trip, it is a business trip after all. Remember that the event, meeting or conference is your number one priority. Be prepared, be energized and don’t forget to pack your A game!
Any other tips for optimizing business travel? Tell us in the comments!