Do you love travelling for work? Or do you dread every trip and then wish that it was over? I land firmly in the middle. I didn't mind travelling for work, mostly because my work colleagues were awesome. But on the other hand, I am a bit of a homebody. And truthfully, I would always prefer to be at home with my family.
To make my work travel more bearable (and maybe even enjoyable!), I am always looking for tips, tricks and hacks. In this post, I am sharing some of those tips with you.
1. Always take a bag with wheels.
Why do I always forget this one? Every time I am travelling for work I think, “Nah, she’ll be right!". "I am only going for a couple of nights so I won’t need much!”. And then I end up cursing Past Bec as I hobble through the airport with my overpacked duffel. As cute as my duffel is (white with black stripes, gifted to me by my sister), I always regret taking it.
If you are travelling a lot, consider investing in a small carry-on piece with wheels and laptop storage!
2. Set some boundaries
Do your work colleagues want to go out partying after a full day at the office? If you want to party on, there's no judgement. But if you prefer to eat room service spaghetti bolognese on your crisp white sheets while watching crappy reality TV... well, you need to set some boundaries and stick to them.
Whatever you decide, just remember that you can’t operate on no sleep. Make sure you factor plenty of snooze time into your plan. Otherwise you'll spend your days in the office hating life! (I know this one from experience...)
3. Don't forget the self-care
I am no fitty-titty, but when I am away for work, I love a good pilates sesh. Even on the floor of my hotel room before heading into the office. I've also been known to pack my own trail-mix snacks and will never be seen without a bottle of water. Just because I am away from home, it doesn’t mean I have to stop looking after myself.
The same goes for you, so make sure you are incorporating some self-care into your travel plan. If you are a gym bunny, book into a hotel that has a gym onsite. Don’t forget to pack your gym clothes and your runners. If you have special eating requirements or you are on an eating plan, suss out the food spots before you go and work out where you can buy some simple, healthy essentials if you get stuck!
4. Spend the extra money to access the lounge
This tip was provided by Matt (my ex-boss), who explained to me that for a reasonable annual fee (usually a few hundred dollars) you can get unlimited access to the airport lounge. "What's the big deal?", I asked, obviously having limited experience as a lounge goer*. Matt explained that every time you fly, you are grabbing coffee, snacks and meals and the airport. This adds up and if you are flying frequently, the cost of lounge access can work out to be much more economical than ad hoc purchases. You can get your coffee and food inside the lounge whilst also enjoying the more obvious benefit of being so much more comfortable that you would be out in the general waiting area! This is a great tip and one that I plan to investigate myself!
Some further good news - chat to your accountant as you might even be able to claim your lounge access pass back as a deduction at tax time!
* Since writing this post, I have investigated. I love the lounge!
5. Carry a wide-mouthed water bottle
I was actually given this tip by my friend Brooke from The Pursuit of Wellness as I was preparing for a cruise. Brooke is an expert cruiser and gave me loads of tips. But this one is also super helpful for business travel. If you are anything like me, you are very conscious of staying hydrated. In fact, water for me is a little bit of a security blanket. If I don't have a bottle of water nearby I tend to feel a little edgy about when I am going to get my next fix. As you can imagine, when drinking bottled water, this can add up, very quickly!
On a recent trip to Queensland I spent over $40 on bottled water over a couple of days. Most places though, especially in office environments, have access to clean drinking water, or filtered water that you can drink to your heart's content. If you take a wide-mouthed water bottle, you can take advantage of the free H2O. Which is not only a huge cost-saving, but also a massive convenience!
6. Review your transfer options
This tip is from my good friend, Candice, who knows exactly how I like to travel. Well prepared and with as little hassle as possible. Candice and I both prefer to drive ourselves to the airport as it means that we aren't reliant on anyone else to get us to the airport in time. We both prefer to be in control of our own destinies!
Where we live, in Canberra, Australia, it is actually far cheaper for us to drive and pay for airport parking for several days, than it is to get taxi transfers. But it's best for you to review your options and see what works for you. If you have a good public transport system or are a fan of Uber, these could also be strong options.
Do you like travelling for work? Make it way more bearable with this EPIC post!
7. Build relationships with local drivers
Matt popped back in to share a little more of his travel wisdom. (Perhaps he didn't want to be outdone by Candice?) He suggested that if you are travelling to the same locations regularly, it can help to build relationships with local drivers. Matt told me that when he and his work colleague used to travel regularly to Melbourne, they had a specific driver who would pick them up at their request, in a previously agreed spot away from all the lines. This is a little bit of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours". For a regular fare for well-behaved travellers, a driver might be willing to make him or herself available for private bookings. If anything, it sounds like it is worth asking!
8. Carry small amounts of cash
I am not a fan of cash. I use my debit card for everything. But when I am travelling for work, I always make sure that I have a little bit of cash in my wallet just in case. "Just in case of what?", you might be asking. Well, have you ever been caught up in meetings and not had a chance to duck out and grab yourself some lunch? If you have a little cash on you, you might be able to ask a colleague or friend to race down to the local cafe and grab something for you.
Or perhaps you only have limited time available and you can't find a vendor that takes EFTPOS. Maybe you are desperate for a drink and you forgot to bring your drink bottle and need to grab a bottle of water from a vending machine. Maybe you need a stick of gum but the EFTPOS minimum is $10. The credit card machines goes on the fritz in your taxi and you need to pay a fare. Picking up what I am putting down? Of course you can't be prepared for every single possibility. But having a bit of cash on you could save you from some awkward or time-poor situations.
9. Make the most of your travel location
La Tonya Roberts hit me up on Instagram and let me know that she loves travelling for work so much she has actually made a career out of it! That’s commitment! Latonya told me that her best tip is to make time to explore the location by doing some local activities and eating local food.
I totally agree with La Tonya on this one. I'm making more of a conscious effort to enjoy the places I travel to. Do you know, I have been to Melbourne three times for work and have not done any sightseeing? Seems like such a waste!
10. Embrace Airplane Mode
The lovely Johanna from Adventures of Jo sent me an email with her travel tip. She said to make sure you remember to pop your phone onto airplane mode so that you can use it in the sky. This is a great tip. My phone is an extension of me and I am lost without it. (I just had a mini digital detox and it was hard!).
To take Jo’s tip a step further, I recommend you download your favourite tunes or podcasts to your phone or tablet before you fly. Then you have plenty to listen to while you are up in the air! This goes for e-books and magazines too. Anything to avoid the crappy (and sometimes non-existent) in-flight entertainment, right?
11. Check in early
This might seem like a fairly simple or obvious tip, but I wanted to mention it just to be sure. Whenever I am travelling I make sure to check in as early as possible, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I am not a good flyer, so I am a little selective about where on the plane I sit. I like a window seat so that after the in-flight snack, I can rest my head on the side of the plane and fall off to sleep.
Secondly, it saves time at the airport. And it means that I can sleep in a little longer before an earlier flight. (One of the same reasons I also avoid checking in luggage wherever possible!).
Finally, it allows me to keep my boarding pass on my phone, which is always close to my fingertips. This means that it is one less piece of paper that I have to carry. (And possibly lose!)
12. Join the frequent traveller clubs
If your employer allows you to claim frequent flyer points for your work trips (unfortunately mine doesn't!) then you should definitely take advantage of it! Even if you don't travel often, the points can add up and can save you money on future flights or hotels that you book for holidays. And let's face it, every dollar counts! Frequent flyer programs can also offer you other benefits. These may include priority check in or even access to the lounge. (If you haven't already been convinced that membership is worthwhile.)
I saved a considerable amount on my upcoming travel to the Gold Coast. Firstly because I traded in some points to pay for part of my airfare. And secondly, because they sent me a birthday voucher – cash off my hotel bill!
13. Carry as little hand luggage as possible (especially if you have multiple stopovers)
Now, I have to confess, this is something that my husband and I disagree on. He prefers to check his luggage so that he can move about freely without having to carry a lot of bags. He reckons it also makes it easier when going through security. I hate checking luggage though. You see, I'm incredibly impatient and hate having to wait at the other end for my luggage to be released.
I can see his point though, and I'm willing to compromise, not admit that he is right! Consider your trip and what you need to carry when travelling for work. Do you have a laptop that you will need to take out of your bag at security? Do you have multiple stopovers or are you travelling for a significant period of time? These things will all help to inform your decision. But either way, don't say we didn't warn you! Haha!
14. Talk to the locals about where to eat and what needs to be seen
This tip was another from my husband and a follow-on from Latoya’s great tip about local food. Hubs travelled to Boston a few years ago for three weeks. He found it so helpful to chat to the local staff about where the best restaurants were and about any must-see tourist attractions. What he found was that his American colleagues were super keen to show a newbie around and took him out several times. This led to some of his best food experiences, which included sushi, food trucks and a lobster restaurant! It also meant that he could build stronger relationships with his American team-mates than he would if he went straight to his hotel room every night and ordered room service.
I wasn't a fan of travelling for work until I read this post - 22 practical tips to make it more bearable!
15. Order your meals ahead if you are in a rush
I mentioned earlier that sometimes taking lunch when you are on a trip away for work can be a luxury, and this tip can make it a lot easier for you to get some grub. Scout out local cafes and restaurants when you get a chance. Then order ahead so that your meal is all-but-ready and waiting for you when you arrive. If you have a few colleagues, you might want to get in on this together and have one team mate run down to pick it up to be even more efficient.
16. Stay the weekend
I used to live in Brisbane and some of my closest friends live there. But unfortunately I don't usually get up there much. This year I have the opportunity to travel there a couple of times for work and you better believe that I am going to stay the weekend! Where I work, they are totally happy for staff to do this, as long as we pay any difference in fares. (If the flights are more expensive for you to travel over the weekend).
This can make for an incredibly low-cost holiday, particularly if you are travelling somewhere where you have friends or family. If not though, don't discount it. Look for some low cost accommodation and lock it in. It could be a great chance for you to explore an unfamiliar city that you wouldn't necessarily travel to.
17. Check out upcoming events
Like the last tip, I am all up for encouraging you to make the most of your travel. And if there's an option for you to see a show or go to an event while you are away then I say "Go for it!" I've got tickets to see Danielle LaPorte later this month while I am away on a work trip. I had to slightly rearrange the dates of my work trip to make it happen, but if I wasn't travelling for work I would have missed it, full stop. Even though I live I Canberra, the capital city of Australia, we don’t often find that events tour here. So, this is a bit of a treat.
The great thing is that I convinced one of my work colleagues to come with me, which has two benefits. She has now been introduced to Danielle's work for the first time and we will have a chance to bond over the event! I can't wait!
18. Create a standard packing list
If you are travelling regularly, save yourself the pain of wondering "have I forgotten something?" Every time you travel. I learnt this the hard way, and have about 20 packets of travel sickness pills in my medication box as a result. Because every time I travelled I would forget them and end up buying yet another box at the airport kiosk. (For about twice the price that I can get them at my local pharmacy). Create your list on your computer and print it out every time you go away, or print it once, laminate it and check the items off with a dry-erase marker. I promise you, this is a game changer and will mean that packing your bag to go away becomes super quick and hassle-free!*
* Since writing this post, I've upgraded my travel checklist! I now have it in Trello. In fact, I have one checklist for travelling for work and another for personal trips.
19. Take a creature comfort from home
Candice popped back in to let me know that she likes to take a creature comfort from home when she travels for work. Especially if she will be away for a while. Candice suggested that your favourite pillow might be a good option, provided that you have room in your suitcase.
I think this is a fantastic idea. In fact, I've actually been packing my essential oil diffuser with me as my creature comfort. I love setting my diffuser up in the hotel room and diffusing oils to help me sleep, or to ground me after a hard day at the office.
20. Pack a set of clothes in your carry on
This tip only really applies if you are travelling a long distance (like, overseas), or have multiple stopovers as there is more chance of your checked luggage being lost or delayed. Got a meeting first thing the morning after flying? Imagine how embarrassed you would be if you had to rock up in your casual travelling clothes. Bags don't go missing or get hugely delayed too often. But you can guarantee it will always happen when you have somewhere important to be. Isn't that Murphy's Law?
If you pack some spare clothes, you can at least look semi-respectable for that meeting or event! (This may seem a little over-prepared, but if you are reading this, I am guessing you are probably a preparer. Being too prepared has never bitten anyone on the bum. Girl Guide's Honour)
21. Pack as light as possible, then lighter again
While we were on the cruise, Hubs and I spent quite a bit of time in the art gallery and even purchased some art to take home. This meant that we also got to know the ship’s Art Director, Ajay, who had been on the ship for the past seven months! My gosh, I couldn’t even imagine it! With this in mind I figured that Ajay was probably a master at travelling for work. I asked him to share his best tip. Ajay told me that it is all about packing light. He then offered these follow up pearls of wisdom:
- Make sure all of your books are loaded onto your phone or tablet, so that you don’t have to carry physical books.
- Roll everything – you can fit heaps more in. You'll just need to iron when you arrive at your destination.
- Stuff your socks and underwear into your shoes. You should be able to fit at least 4 pairs of socks in each shoe!
- If you are going away for a while, pack your socks and underwear into a plastic bag so that you can tip them directly into a drawer in your hotel room.
Have fun when travelling for work!
One thing I have learned about travelling for work is that I always hate it less when I let my hair down a little. Grumbling because you don't like travelling for business will not bring anything good upon you. So, save your complaining and work out how you can enjoy the situation that you are in. Whether that includes going out for dinner with your colleagues, hiring a cheesy movie from the in-room entertainment system, reading a trashy novel, splurging on a massage, or simply just choosing to smile instead of grimace, give it a go and be grateful that you have an opportunity that others would beg for.
I hope you have enjoyed this huge post about travel tips for work! Have a great work trip and let me know in the comments if you have any other great travel tips!