Q: As an executive for a global company, you must travel extensively. How often are you on the road? What are your top travel tips and tricks? What is your ‘day in the life’ when you visit an office/city?
Leading a global company has necessitated extensive travel for me. I spend 40-50% of my time on the road, either traveling for the company or for boards on which I serve. But I enjoy traveling for pleasure as well. I find the most important thing to keep in mind when corporate demand requires travel is to make the most of where I am – whether that is at home or away.
I think the biggest misconception about business travel is, “Oh, you get to go to all these amazing places!” While yes, the company is sending me to different locations, these are not vacations. There is a big difference between work travel and vacation travel. On business trips you rarely get to see and experience the cities you visit, and you often end up working longer hours when traveling in order to take full advantage of your time there.
Occasionally, you can plan a few hours or a day of downtime to sight-see, but that is a rarity. For most trips, I am focused on maximizing my available time to prepare for the business aspects of the trip ahead.
There’s a lot I have learned about expediting preparations and making travel a smoother process, and a lot of that that starts before I ever leave for the airport.
Before You Go
Packing and luggage are important considerations for travel. The length of the trip and the timing of my travels will often dictate if I can carry-on or need to check a bag. With all of my bags, four wheels is a must! There’s not much that is more exhausting than having to carry or fight with a heavy bag through a maze of travelers in an airport.
At home, organization for packing is key. I find it very helpful to have duplicates for charging cords and toiletries – one set for home, one set for travel that stays in the suitcase. I especially value having a 6-foot charging cord for my electronics, as you never know where outlets will be in relation to where you need your device. Another important consideration is to know and understand your systems. Know what you need access to, when you’ll have access, and how to fix an issue (or who you can call).
A good travel agent is a critical partner in the process – someone who can arrange everything for you, and can make last minute changes when needed. Be sure to check the weather for where you are and where you are traveling to. This is important when considering what to pack, but also in anticipating where you could potentially run into delays.
When you get to the actual traveling, I have two words for you, Travel Programs. TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry and other programs, like the UK’s “Registered Traveller Scheme,” make the airport security and customs experience much easier. Similarly, club memberships with major airlines or through credit cards can enhance your airport experience. Club lounges often offer comfortable (and quieter) places to spend time and can help turn airport time into productive work time.
Be sure to plan for productive work time while traveling. Download documents to work on in-flight when you likely will not have access to your work servers.
Once You’re There
Travel can be exhausting. It is important to regulate your system and adjust to time zone changes quickly – this includes adjusting your sleep and meal schedules to the local time. Maintaining your standard routines can greatly help with that, including keeping up with normal exercise whenever possible. Water and food are other key elements. Be sure to hydrate throughout the trip. Pack snacks, and find your go-to places for food in airports and the cities where you travel.
While I don’t often get to experience the city when I travel, I always make sure to take time to get to know the people there. This is especially important when I may only visit an office once every year or two. I make an effort to get to know people’s names and faces and something about them – in order to make a personal, human connection.
Maximizing your time away and being present wherever you are is central to making the most of your business trip.