International travel to Singapore, Tokyo, London, Berlin, Lyon, Boston – among other places – has been one of the perks of my job within marketing. I enjoy travel, and try to take advantage of a two way plane ticket paid by my company for domestic and global meetings, adding in a day for leisure and sightseeing when possible.
My former boss liked to joke that I would go anywhere for any trip – a statement that was not entirely true; thanks to the fact that pharma and biotech conferences are usually held in thriving biopharma hubs (and therefore techno-savvy cities), I have been sent to some cool places on business.
At the same time, there is a wrong and a right way to do business travel. You’ll make yourself crazy if you hit too many items on this “to avoid list”. I’ve put it together to give new travelers tactics on how to make business travel less painless.
(10) Jet lag: traveling west (from San Francisco to Philadelphia), I’ve needed to be strategic and account for jet lag. Traveling to Europe, I try to avoid those flights that arrive at 8 am (local time)! I have made this mistake too many times: a flight that leaves San Francisco during the day bound for Paris or Berlin landing at 8 am seems like a good idea, but is not. I always end up hitting a wall around 11 am… and then the day drags on forever.
(9) Too much alcohol: being hungover in all-day meetings or at a conference is not fun.
(8) Lack of a routine: not having any type of routine completely throws me off. I like setting boundaries for myself to know that I’m going to bed at a certain time, allowing me to wake up early and go to the gym even during a busy conference. This lets me continue some part of my normal life instead of each trip disrupting my travel.
(7) Red eye flights: these are such a trap: a red eye flight sounds so efficient. Instead of wasting a day to travel anywhere, why not just sleep through it? If you’re like most people, it’s impossible to sleep through noise, cramped seats and (sometimes) flight-long conversations.
(6) Not enough water: getting dehydrated is a bad idea, and can leads to headaches, sluggishness and overall grumpiness. Remember to hydrate when traveling!
(5) Luggage check in: even if going on a weeklong trip, challenge yourself to do carry-on only. I try not to check luggage unless I’m going away for at least 2 weeks. Too many lost luggage stories and delays at the airport. Challenge yourself to see how little you need.
(4) Lack of sightseeing / time spent outside of the hotel: getting out of the hotel is crucial. Even going on one tour makes me feel like the trip to a particular city was worth my while (when I traveled to Berlin, Germany in November 2012, I had terrible jet lag and didn’t get to see most of what I wanted to see – but I did go on an excellent walking tour of the city).
While in Frankfurt for a layover in November 2011, I stumbled upon the Occupy Frankfurt movement on my way to Goethe’s house. Even though I spent less than 24 hours in Frankfurt, I enjoyed seeing a few museums, dining at restaurants in town and getting a sense of the city.
(3) Lack of alone time: as an introvert, I’ve found I need to have at least one afternoon or a few hours of an evening to myself. The constant buzz of conferences and conversations with others is draining for me; being alone once in a while is nice.
(2) Lack of sleep: staying out too late and getting up early for multiple day conferences or meetings is so draining. If you can’t avoid during the conference, clear your calendar for the week days or weekends prior to the trip – this has allowed me to keep my sanity.
(1) Lack of exercise: business travels allows you (forces you) to eat out at every meal – which can lead to a week of high-calorie, high fat or sugar meals. Exercise can help to burn some excess calories when you can’t control where you are eating. Exercise also helps you to adjust to the local time zone, since it can help to tire you out.
Note that I lean slightly to the introvert perspective, which is why item 3 is very important to me; as an ultra organized live-by-my-calendar planner, item 8 is required. You might have the opposite viewpoint if you’re the gregarious, seat-of-your-pants type of personality.
How do you deal with business travel? Do you enjoy it, or do you find it stressful and tiring?
Feel free to share your comments below.