Work Travel — Tips and Tricks
Traveling for work is one of the best way to forge a great working relationship with coworkers with whom you aren’t co-located. It’s also a great way to better understand your company’s culture and mission, make new contacts on other teams, and expand the ways in which you can contribute to your company’s success.
In the past few years, there have been times when I traveled pretty frequently for work, especially when I worked at Intel. At first, I absolutely loved it. I’m a seasoned traveler and I enjoy the process of travel, from navigating airports to exploring new cities. But, over time, I realized that without preparation, it was easy for work travel to become, well, just work but more tiring. Here are a few of my tips and tricks for making travelling on business go smoothly so you can make the most of it (and still have fun along the way!)
Pack for the unexpected
Pack food! Always pack a few meals’ worth of protein or nut bars to tide you over in case your flight is delayed. You can’t count on an airport terminal having any food, let alone good food, and these will be a lifesaver if you’re ever stuck in a hotel somewhere or running late between meetings or locations. Also, they’re great for those mornings when you have to catch a really early flight. My friend Naz packs enough food to stave off hunger for the duration of her trip, just in case, but I pack enough to tide me over for a couple of days.
Pack work clothes, but overpack tops and unpack bottoms. If you can wear jeans to work, you probably don’t need many of those since they can be re-worn. As a rule of thumb, I pack 3 tops for every 2 days of travel. I also bring only two sets of workout clothes, since they can be washed in a hotel since they dry so quickly.
Carry-on your luggage. I never, ever check luggage. Unless you’re carrying supplies for work (like conference material), it’s not worth the risk and delay upon arrival. These travel space bags from Ziploc are indispensable and I never travel without them. Your clothes will take up half as much space and the bags keep them dry and smelling fresh. I travel with two, and put them in the suitcase itself, pack them, then take out the air to maximize their usefulness. Trust me, these are amazing!
Important: Don’t forget your noise cancelling headphones, a travel battery pack, and an international plug adapter. Bring your allergy meds. And, never assume that a hotel has serviceable shampoo and pack a travel sample.
Look up your hotel and its location
Is there a gym? Is there a pool? Is there coffee in the room? The answers to these questions will help you pack accordingly (gym clothes and bathing suit), and plan your days. If you can have a coffee in the room while getting ready and eat one of your snacks, it’ll save you having to find the closest coffee shop (and braving the lineup) before getting to the office.
I always look up interesting restaurants nearby, too. I save a few to Google Maps so that I can easily find them once I arrive. This helps me stay within my per diem, and saves me time after a long day at work. Bonus if your co-workers can provide recommendations, too.
Finally, check out the neighbourhood before you arrive and save places of interest. Even if you don’t have any dedicated time to sight-see, you may have an hour or two here and there to check out a nearby museum, a local gym or yoga studio, or visit a friend who lives in the city.
Phone and Headphones
You’ll have your work laptop with you, but your phone is what you’ll be using while you travel. Here’s how I get mine ready for the trip:
- Download Lyft and sign in (to save yourself annoying two-factor auth while roaming)
- Look into the best data roaming option for your destination
- Download Maps for offline usage (here’s how)
- Sync your flight and travel itinerary to the airline’s app for offline access. Screenshot your boarding pass.
- Sync music and podcasts for offline usage (I use Overcast for the latter)
- Charge your noise cancelling headphones (I can’t travel without these). Noise cancelling headphones mean you arrive feeling way more rested after a long flight. I mostly have them turned on without music playing.
Get lots of rest
Go to bed earlier than you do at home, trust me. Working while you’re outside your usual routine, home, and away from family is extra tiring. I never drink too much, and always try to get to bed early.
(I’ve even gone so far as to pay for the upgrade to economy premium on a long flight, or if I was booked on a red eye and the company’s policy wasn’t to pay for the upgrade. They aren’t always very expensive, so I even ask at the gate when I arrive at the airport in case there are seats still available.)
Don’t skip meals, and don’t eat too many things you aren’t used to. It’s harder to digest while traveling, and it’d be awful to miss valuable time for being sick. Also, I usually buy a couple of big bottles of water and keep them in my room as a backup.
Don’t eat lunch alone; invite a co-worker you don’t know to lunch. If you’re lucky, just asking an unfamiliar human around the office for a lunch recommendation will turn into lunch plans.
Set up meetings with non-obvious collaborators and stakeholders. I often just book something in their calendar with a subject like, “Intros — Kim and Vero” and outline a meeting agenda where I will update them on our team’s current projects and priorities.
Send regular updates to your home team, and keep up with your emails, but don’t work in two cities at once. I try to focus on working in the city where I currently am, knowing that I can catch up when I get back.
A few weeks ago, I was working from SoundCloud’s office in New York City. The trip was a huge success: We scoped out a big new project that spans many teams, I met a few people with whom I meet over videoconference weekly, and I even got to try out some amazing nearby yoga studios. The trip was a success for me, but I also went to bed really early, arrived in the office early to sync up with the team in Berlin (timezone overlap requirement), and had travel delays on the way home. Being prepared for these things helped me stay motivated, effective, and healthy.
Have fun, and don’t forget to introduce your home team to the new people you met during your work travel!
Do you travel a lot for work? What are your essential tips and lifehacks?