5 Things You Must Do When Traveling For Work

5 Things You Must Do When Travelling For Work | Genpink

Editor’s Note: This guest post is from a good friend and someone I’ve had the pleasure of working with in a few different capacities over the years, Eric Swayne. This is part of a new series on Genpink of 5 Things You Should Know on varying topics. Yes, we are still taking submissions!

Ah, business travel. On the outside to many, this appears like a perk of the job: visiting locations far and away, all on someone else’s dime. It’s practically a free vacation, isn’t it? Unfortunately, for those that actually travel frequently, it’s far from a “free” trip. When you travel for business, you’re working, and you have objectives to complete during your trip that are very different than those you’d have for a vacation. Trust me: NO ONE intentionally visits a conference room while on vacation.

For a business traveler, the name of the game is reduce friction. Friction is anything and everything that keeps you from doing what you want to do on your trip. It’s delays, hassles, confusions and conflicts during travel that create real physical and cognitive drain.  All of these things steal energy from you, and keep you from putting everything you have into the things you want to do – closing that deal, meeting those people, speaking at the conference, or just learning something that could improve your career.

I’m not on the road most of my business days, but my time in the agency and startup worlds has given me plenty of travel, and here are 5 things I do to reduce my friction along the way.

5 Things You Must Do When Travelling For Work | Genpink{photo source: flickr larrison}

#1: Have Your Travel Mise en Place.

Mise en place is a French phrase literally meaning “put in place.” It’s most often used in the cooking world to refer to all the steps you take before you cook – arranging your ingredients, chopping your veggies, butchering your proteins and more. Professional chefs know this is absolutely critical, because the last thing you want in the middle of a time-sensitive preparation is to not have what you need.

Travel is definitely a time-sensitive preparation as well, so have all your ducks in a row before you go, along with backup plans for if things go wrong. My preparation starts with my Tripit Pro account – one for which I gladly pay my $49/year.  As I’m creating my itinerary, I just forward every confirmation email to plans@tripit.com and BOOM – everything I need to know about my flight, hotel, car and events is all in one place.  Plus, the Pro version automatically contacts me with alerts when it’s time to check in, when flights are delayed, and for many other things – all so I don’t have to worry about them.  Add in the points management capabilities and it’s a no-brainer.

Other things I do to get everything in its place:

  • Make sure I have mobile boarding passes in my Passbook (I’m an iPhone user) ready so I head straight to the security line – no printing out anything.
  • Know what I’m going to pack where when I get to security. My keys have a specific hook in my backpack, my wallet has a specific place – everything I can gets packed in my bag, so I’m not leaving anything in those crazy doggy dishes. (Pro tip: put the bin with your shoes and jacket through FIRST, so it’s first out of the conveyor belt. That way you can get started on putting everything back on while the rest of your stuff is still coming through.)
  • Have parking planned ahead of time.  Very rarely will I park at the gate or use one of those remote parking lots – I find a service like FreedomPark DFW is worth every penny in the time they save me.

#2: Know what needs charging, have it charged, and bring a charger.

Mobile technology has really transformed travel in so many very powerful ways.  I mentioned Tripit Pro already – on my phone, that’s my personal assistant for keeping me informed about where I’m going next. My phone has that, plus my electronic tickets, plus my main method of communicating with anyone that could help me get out of a jam – if it’s not charged, I’m in FRICTION. I keep my Mophie Juice Pack Air on my phone as my day-to-day case, because even though it adds some size and weight, I know I’ve always got extra battery there whenever I need it.

Another good reason for using my Mophie all the time? It charges with a standard micro-USB port, not the Apple Lightning port. I’ve got the Lightning cable, and I bring it with me, but it only charges one thing. With the Mophie now it, my LG Tone+ headphones, and my bluetooth speaker (great for jamming in the hotel room) ALL share the exact same charging port type. This means I have more cables that work for more things, and less headache when I reach in my bag to grab a charger. This also means that practically any of those external batteries work for me, as many of them don’t have a Lightning connector.  I also have my Cocoon Grid-IT organizer in my bag holding all my cables, wall plugs, and other small pluggables. It holds everything in place, and it’s easy to tell when something’s missing.

Also, if you’re bringing a laptop, make sure you bring that charger, too. I’m a PC guy, so I bought a separate charger just to keep in my bag – I particularly like this one from Cooler Master, because it lets me charge my computer and almost any other PC laptop I encounter. If you’re a Mac, may I recommend this MagSafe to MagSafe 2 adapter for your bag? Means you’ll be able to charge from practically any white cube you encounter.

(Pro tip: If you’ve left your charger at home, call your hotel’s front desk and ask for one. Many times they have a whole box of them that have been left by other guests, and they’ll often let you borrow one for charging overnight.)

#3: Download all the Apps you’ll need.

Do this with me now if you haven’t already.  Create a folder called “Travel” in your phone, and stock it up with the following:

  • TripIt Pro
  • Waze (navigation with crowdsourced traffic)
  • Uber (black car on demand service)
  • Kayak (best flight search app I’ve found)
  • Paymobile (works on may pay lots across the US)
  • PayByPhone (works on many pay meters)
  • Sidecar (ridesharing)
  • Lyft (ridesharing)
  • Hotel Tonight (If you can get out of your planned hotel, maybe get an awesome one instead!)
  • American Airlines app
  • Southwest Airlines app
  • United Airlines app
  • US Airways app

Why all the airlines?  Even if you’re not traveling one of those, it’s great to have it already downloaded and ready on your phone in case you have to switch flights.

#4: Set up your workstation.

Here’s one of the nasty facts about business travel: you rarely get any time to get any of your usual work done.  So all those reports, emails and other things that make up your “day job” just keep piling up while you’re at all the meetings and events you’re going to.  Save yourself some headache by getting ready for work as soon as you hit your hotel room.  I go through the same ritual when I get to any room, before I get back out for meetings and such:

  • Find the desk, clear it of all the crap and magazines hotels usually put on there
  • Identify where outlets are near desk and bed, and deploy chargers
  • Set up laptop with external mouse (and I love a good travel mousepad)
  • Get wifi situation figured out for laptop (paid, free, code, whatever)
  • Lay out the bathmat towel in front of your shower
  • Unwrap soap and move shampoo/conditioner in shower
  • Unpack other toiletries
  • Close the blackout curtains over the window (the view is nice, but it sucks forgetting these in the morning)
  • Fill the ice bucket or turn on the ice maker (I like to have ice water at night)
  • Make sure you know where coffee is coming from in the morning (if you’re a coffee lover, like me)

All of this reduces the friction of getting things done when I get back to my hotel room. It maximizes the time I spend before going to bed, and minimizes how early I have to wake up in the morning.

#5: Manage thine expenses.

Expenses SUCK.  Depending on who you’re traveling for, you may get a corporate card or you may have to put everything on your personal credit card.  Getting that money back is your top priority after you travel, because why? Friction. This used to absolutely whip me every trip I went on until I discovered Expensify. This FREE service has totally revolutionized my expensing process.  I can take photos of receipts, email in electronic ones, create reports from their iPhone or iPad apps, and submit it all while I’m on the flight home.  When’s the best time to create your expense report?  WHILE you’re traveling.

Other tips:

  • Buy a folder that looks nothing like anything else in your bag, and put it in there such that the opening is readily available.  This is your “dropbox” for any and all receipts.
  • Where possible, use services that provide an emailed receipt (Square, especially)
  • For meals, always write the names of who was there and the companies represented ON the receipt.
  • Empty your “dropbox” folder after every trip. Mise en place should include starting your trip with it empty.

I hope these tips and tricks help you on your travels, wherever they may be!  Feel free to drop more ideas in the comments – I’m always looking for new ways to avoid travel friction!