A successful business trip is not only defined by your productivity. It’s also about staying healthy, mentally and physically, so you can actually enjoy what you’re doing and return back home ready to go. Easier said than done. So we asked Jason Womack, author of the new book, Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More, to give us his best tips for smooth and uneventful travel. He says it’s simple.
The Trick Is to Reduce Anxiety Whenever and Wherever You Can
When you spend the whole day just traveling, it means you have to catch up on emails, reports, phone calls and other tasks once you reach your destination. Plus, the knowledge of what you have to do later stresses you out all day long. When you work and travel smart, however, you can skip the anxiety, get more done and explore the city you’re in after checking into the hotel. You might even be able to enjoy that hot bath and a glass of wine once you finally return home. Here are some simple ways to keep the stress to a minimum.
- Always leave early! Allow more time than you think is necessary to get to the airport. Yes, this is “duh!” advice, but it’s surprising how many people don’t follow it. Missing a flight or a meeting because you wanted an extra 20 minutes of sleep doesn’t make any sense. Plus, if you show up early, you can use that bonus time to work on something else. And if you run into a problem en route to your destination, you won’t have to panic about the time.
- Make sure all travel itinerary info is in your cell phone. Don’t underestimate the value of having easy access to confirmation numbers for your hotel, rental car, flight and so on, as well as phone numbers for each of those agencies. Sooner or later, your plans will change when you’re on the go, and having all of the pertinent information at your fingertips can change the game.
- Take a (great) seat. If you’ve ever watched The Amazing Race, you know the contestants always jockey for seats at the front of the plane so they can be the first ones off when it lands. While you might not need to be as strategic with your seating as those racers, the aisle seat does have advantages. First, it allows you to easily get the items you need out of the overhead bin. (Side note: Plan what you’ll need during the flight before the plane takes off so you won’t have to keep opening and closing the overhead bin.) Second, having a seat in the exit row and on the aisle makes it easy to get up to use the lavatory. (And let’s face it: Drinking lots of water is one of the best ways to stay healthy while traveling!)
- Become a preferred customer. Having preferred customer status with car rental companies, airlines, hotels and other key travel vendors can be a big help if you go on more than a handful of business trips a year. If something goes wrong, preferred status can often mean that a company’s employees will help you resolve a situation more quickly. And if you’re a preferred customer with an airline, you’ll get to board early.
- Invest in an airline club membership. If you can, also invest in a club membership with an airline you frequently fly. You’ll gain access to that airline’s club space, so when you’re waiting for your next flight you’ll have a calmer, more comfortable place to be your best productive self. And perhaps most importantly, the space will be quiet enough for you to make calls to clients or colleagues without airport announcements blaring in the background!
- Always carry cash. You never know when a problem with your bank or credit card company will cause a card to be denied, or when your cell will lose its connection mid-transaction. Travel with cash so you won’t be left stranded without money for lunch—or a way to pay a cab driver.
- Plan meal times. From the airport to your destination city to the journey home, you gotta eat. Do a little thinking about where and what before you even leave your house. On short trips, I make sure to have a Balance Bar or a bag of nuts from Trader Joe’s. For flights longer than five hours, I make sure to include time in my schedule to grab a sandwich, a salad and a bottle of water at the airport. And figuring out beforehand where you’re going to eat at your destination will not only save you time searching for food once you arrive, but it will also help ensure you go to quality restaurants while on your trip.
- Know in advance how you’re going to get from place to place. Getting lost can be a huge time waster once you actually arrive at your destination. Plus, it can make you feel anxious, frustrated or downright panicked! Prior to leaving for your trip, plan your routes and how you’ll travel. You can even save directions searches in your smartphone’s navigation app.
- Avoid traveling during the busiest times of day. If you can, avoid planning your meetings, arrivals and departures during the busiest travel times of the day. For example, in New York City, taxi drivers change shifts around 3 p.m., so getting a cab to a meeting that’s scheduled for mid-afternoon can be difficult. The same goes for traveling to and from the airport (or anywhere) during rush hour in any big city.
- Get to know people where you travel. If you frequently travel to the same locations (or heck, even if you don’t!), get to know the locals. They’ll often be able to tell you the best places to go that might be off the beaten path. They can also recommend better routes to use while traveling or put you in contact with other locals whom you might benefit from meeting. Not to mention, it’s always nice to have a friendly face to see wherever you go.
- Learn to master your tech. Far too many of us have the latest gadgets … but no idea how to really use them productively. Learn about the features of your smartphone, laptop and tablet. For example, apps exist to help you find great places to eat or visit in your destination city, and to check in for your flight while you’re waiting for a meeting to start or in the cab line at the hotel. Your phone’s alarm can even remind you to stop shopping in the airport bookstore and get to your gate! And your cell phone’s camera, of all things, can provide a bunch of timesaving options: snapshots of things you want to buy, restaurants you want to try, presenters’ notes on the whiteboard, where you parked your rental car (and what it looks like), the number on your hotel room door … literally anything you need to remember.
Jason Womack is principal with The Womack Company, which provides training and personal coaching that gives practical methods to maximize tools, systems and processes to achieve quality work/life balance. He has worked with leaders and executives for over 16 years in the business and education sectors. Jason is the author of Your Best Just Got Better: Work Smarter, Think Bigger, Make More (Wiley, 2012).