Sleep in yoga pants and 10 other things expert travelers already know
I remember being on a business trip when I was only a few years out of college and found myself sitting at the bar of the fancy Bellagio lobby bar. I felt successful. I felt wordly. I also felt out of my element. I called a friend, waking her because I forgot about the time difference, and asked her “why didn’t anyone teach us how to do this?”
Fast forward to many years later, I found out that now I have a bit of a reputation when it comes to my hyper-vigilance around efficient biz travel. Rumor has it that newbies who find out they are flying with me are secretly tutored so that they are prepared.
I feel like you can find tons of tips on how to pack your bag (roll your clothes) or what to eat on the plane (anything that isn't too messy or stinky) but there are many other things that no one has ever taught you. There is no reason for any young professional to fall for rookie traps when they start to travel so here are some words of advice:
- Check your seat assignment right after you book your flight. If you are surprised by your middle seat when you board the plane then that is your punishment. Enjoy the 6-hour cross country flight! I on the other hand will be in the exit row.
- Join every airline and frequent flier program there is. Then download every app and log in so when you need to use it you aren’t fumbling to find your password or username. Learn the tricks for your most used airline. For instance, knowing where your plane is coming from is really helpful when you are navigating weather issues. Some hotels let you check in on your app now and you don’t even have to stop at the desk.
- Look into your plane’s amenities. This information is usually available 24 hours before a flight. Once you know how your plane will be equipped then you can strategize about your device plan. If they don’t have outlets then you need to bring an extra battery pack. No tvs? Then download any movies in advance. Never promise anyone you will email them from the plane. Those systems are still way too delicate and temperamental to be trusted so don’t rely on them working especially if you are trying to send a large-ish file or image.
- Bring a small extension cord with multiple outlets so that you can always charge your device in the airport. Ask the person who is hogging the outlet if you can plug their device into your surge protector so you can share the power. The extension cord part is really helpful for reaching awkward outlets in your hotel room too.
- Bring small bills for tipping and remember to tip the maid by leaving the money on the desk when you check out. I try to do $5 a night.
- NEVER talk about your company or your client or your project in great detail at the gate or on the plane. I will never forget flying out to help a client pick their public relations agency and then on the whole flight I heard the prospective agency sitting behind me and rehearsing. They inadvertently were revealing confidential information and that is a rookie move. You can only imagine how awkward it was when we were sitting across the table from each other an hour later. If you are going to be working on anything super top secret buy one of those privacy screens for your laptop so your seatmate can’t read what you are writing
- Bring yoga pants/leggings to sleep in (See #9)
- Once you arrive at your hotel, request your room location at check in if you are finicky. I hate being near the ice machine or housekeeping station because I’m a light sleeper. Some people prefer being by the elevator or being as far away from it as possible.
- Order your breakfast the night before so you aren’t at the mercy of the room service delivery in the morning when you will be rushing. Most hotels have a door knob tag to use for this or you can call room service directly. Remember those yoga pants? You will be really glad you are wearing them so you can answer the door without being in your pjs and without having to get dressed into your work clothing first. Also think about when the best time is to take a shower so that you don’t have to answer the door in a towel.
- Mini bars are really tempting. Make sure you know if your company will reimburse you for your purchases because some companies won’t pay for anything purchased in your room. These products are almost always super overpriced but it will be the best $5 of Orangina you’ve ever had if you are getting into your hotel in the middle of the night and you are parched. Also super chic boutique hotels often make their mini bars look like snacks they are leaving for you as your friend. Nothing is free. (This tip courtesy of one of my favorite travel companions who thought she was just staying at a really generous joint who wanted her to have a bottle of Patron.)
- For the love of all that is good, bring or buy yourself a damn snack. No one, especially your boss or client, should be held up because you are getting hangry. In fact, always bring a spare in case your boss or client isn’t as prepared. A well timed granola bar is a way to make friends!
There are a million more of these tricks that I will assemble for a future post including who should drive the rental car, who should pay the bill at a client dinner, and what not to wear to get through security. Business travel has lots of unspoken “rules” that people don't think to teach to others. Real road warriors make it look easy but I’m certain that is because over the years they have learned the hard way.