Founder Travel Hacks
tl;dr: The tips @jonathancordeau uses to be super effective on the road.
Although I spent the better part of 2014 in the San Francisco Bay Area, as the founder of LaunchTrack a part of 500 Startups’ Batch #007, my full time home is in Florida. Better known for hanging chads and #FloridaMan, I find myself traveling quite a bit. Why am I in Florida you ask? I cover that in more depth in my post on How We Make Remote, Florida and Home Cooked Meals Work.
Since I’m on the road a few times a month, I’ve learned some crucial hacks to keep my sanity. Here’s my battle tested plan for traveling like a pro.
Be smart & efficient. Pack only what you need.
Don’t pack any liquid/gels — “travel sized” items are always available at the front desk of any hotel (don’t be afraid to pop into a fancier hotel than the one you’re staying at to ask for items — they won’t ask you what room you’re in). No liquids/gels speeds up airport security navigation.
Get a good bag that will fit 2–3 days worth of items, using space saving bags.
My go to is the Booq Boa Flow XL It’s discontinued, but you can usually find it on Amazon or Ebay. It’s a bit expensive, but worth it. It’s packed full of smartly designed pockets and compartments, is super sturdy and stores a laptop securely in an exterior reinforced pouch. See a great review (and how you can pack this thing to the brim) here.
Plan your wardrobe
Don’t pack extra clothes. Plan what you’re going to wear for the meetings/activities in advance. Stick to one color scheme, so you only have to bring 1 pair of shoes, (get a pair of casual shoes that are comfortable, but could be dressed up, or dressed down). If you plan to workout, get some “barefoot style shoes” that are less bulky and easy to pack. Wear your most bulky items on the plane, so you don’t eat up precious space in your carry on. Never check a bag, (unless you are staying for a long period of time). Here’s what goes in my bag for a typical 3 day trip:
4 t shirts, 5 socks, 5 underwear, gym shorts, dress shirt, belt, gym shoes
Here’s what I wear on the plane:
Jeans, t shirt, hoodie/jacket (blazer if necessity for meeting), casual shoes
Bring a multi plug & usb port. Don’t be that person hogging all the power outlets. Plug in and share.
Find out if the airport you’re visiting has wifi in advance here. Even if your airport doesn’t have free wifi, most of the VIP lounges can be accessed if you sit close enough. Many of the food courts, or restaurants are starting to offer wifi too.
Do us all a favor and plan for the security line. Don’t wear a belt, watch, impossible to untie shoes. Put all of your electronics and things in your pockets into your carry-on while you’re in line. Many TSA agents will bump you to the preferred travel line if they see that you are traveling light and are well prepared to get through security.
Air BnB versus Hotels.com
I’ve been using Hotels.com for years, so I’m really familiar with the interface and enjoy racking up points to use for free hotel nights. However, when I travel to San Francisco or New York, I use AirBnB. Hotels in some major cities have become way too expensive, and I’ve found a couple of awesome “go to” AbnB’s. On my last trip to SF, I saved ~$800 by staying with AirBnB.
To optimize your search, no matter which site you use, filter for (in this order):
Proximity to meetings (you’ll spend more on cabs then you save on the room)
Free Wi-Fi (kills any deal you thought you were getting on price)
Free Breakfast (eat only the fresh fruit & real eggs if they have them)
Complimentary Happy Hour (great time/place to meet friends/clients on budget)
Schedule, Schedule, Schedule
If you’re an entrepreneur, you travel to close deals. To make the most out of your time away from the office and the money you’re spending, schedule your trip down to the T well in advance. Stack your calendar with meetings. Send email confirmations, and set the meeting reminder to 24hrs in advance to hedge “forgetfulness”. A few days before you leave on your trip, confirm all of your meetings. This way, you can always back fill with another meeting if you have a cancellation. Don’t get stuck with empty time slots. Here’s how I prioritize who I’m scheduling meetings with:
Biz Dev Partners (who can help acquire customers)
Don’t fall into the trap of “eating on the go”, just because you’re on the go. I always bring pre portioned Phood packets and meal replacement bars. Eating junk will make you sluggish and cost you too much. If you’re staying in an Air BnB, read the reviews to see if they stock their place with food. If you have to eat out, try and supplement the meal with snacks you bring or are free (hotel/Air BnB).
Get Enough Sleep
One of the biggest problems with travel, especially across time zones, it the negative effect on your sleep patterns. Here are a couple of tricks:
- Account for 90 minute sleep cycles. If you go to be at 11pm, wake up at either 5am or 7:30am. Waking up in between will most likely put you smack dap in the middle of REM Sleep, which means you’ll be tired .
- If it’s a short trip, sleep/wake on the same schedule as back home. This may mean going to bed early, but there’s a side benefit. Use that early morning time to get a workout it and/or catch up on all that out of office work you’re putting off for meetings.
- NO CAFFEINE after 1pm. I love coffee, so this is a tough one. However, any hint of caffeine, coupled with an uncomfortable mattress, noisy cityscape or coach airline seat will surely put you in insomnia mode. Be strong here and fight the urge for that 5th cup of coffee you’re offered at the onset of a late day meeting.
While travel is an important part of any business these days, (especially a tech startup outside of Silicon Valley), you don’t have to suffer through it.