I had the opportunity to speak at 11 conferences recently. It was a busy schedule, and I lost count of the hours I spent at the airport or sitting on a plane. I’m regularly on the road traveling to meet with clients and to facilitate programs. At last count more than 3,000 leaders, 20 countries, 4 continents. I’ve had the opportunity to visit the North Slope of Alaska, Chile and Peru, Hong Kong and countries across Europe.
While I enjoy the new places I get to visit, I don’t always enjoy the journey to get there. Travel, and business travel in particular, isn’t the glamorous life that people seem to think it is (well maybe if you are going first class it can be. I’ll let you know if I reach this status!) I can think of many descriptions for business travel -- exhausting, frustrating, claustrophobic all with a lot of waiting around thrown in. Glamorous would not be a word I would choose for it.
When others hear I have visited a country or city, I will often be asked “Did you see…?” Unfortunately business travel tends to follow a predictable pattern: Leave the house, get to the airport, fly to the city, drive to hotel, deliver the program, and then repeat the journey home. Little time for sight seeing, especially as my family isn’t there with me to enjoy it too.
With all the miles and hours I have spent traveling here are five travel tips that help me to manage my travel experience:
1. TSA Pre: It took my six years of having my own business and regular travel to finally sign up for TSA Pre. I wish I had done it much earlier. It’s available in U.S. airports, and means that I can speed through security lines. No X-rays, just a metal detector, and we get to keep our jackets and shoes on.
Though I have learned that ladies shoes (especially heels, which I love to wear) have metal inside and often trigger the alarm. On those occasions when I forget, I often have to go through the detector again (with shoes removed) so remember -- flats or sneakers. Of course, if you all sign up for TSA Pre then the lines will increase, so pace yourself.
2. Shoe bags: I had never used them until a recent trip -- and different encounter with TSA / Homeland Security. I recently had to check a bag, and my luggage was searched during the journey. I know, because the TSA leave a nice little note in the suitcase to let me know that they had rummaged through my items. Unfortunately, my shoes were replaced in such a way that the heel of one damaged the leather on the other. I won’t make that mistake again. Shoe bags are my new standard requirement in my suitcase.
3. Power: I don't know about you, but there are never enough charging stations or open sockets available at airports. Everyone is trying to recharge the multiple electronic devices they have. I’m way past wanting to sit on the floor next to the lone socket just outside the rest room or the solitary pillar with one socket that is so loose the plug of my laptop has to be held in place.
My new solution is the Belkin Mini Surge Protector. Three sockets, two USB charging ports. Not only does it ensure I can charge my items, but I have made new contacts by sharing it with other travelers about to run out of juice and looking for a charging point.
4. Pack light: Over the years, I have learned to pack efficiently. I rarely check a suitcase (which made the damage to my shoes so much more frustrating). Most times I travel, I will only take one small carry-on suitcase (with wheels for easy manuverability) and a backpack. The good news is there is no waiting at the carousel for bags, no worrying about whether your bag will be lost enroute.
My son and I recently traveled for spring break. A one-week trip, and all we took was one carry-on suitcase between us and a backpack each. I’ll wear my bulkiest shoes for travel (sneakers or boots) and pack one (occasionally two) pairs in the case. I pack a few key items of clothing that provide many versatile mix-and-match outfits. I’ve yet to adopt the "all black, nothing but black" extreme of one colleague I used to work with -- but it's coming close! I opt for travel-sized cosmetics and have stopped carrying shampoo, etc., as most hotels provide these.
The next time you return from a trip, run a critical eye over everything as you unpack. What didn’t you use or need? Learn from this and leave it at home next time.
5. Patience: While I may have the earned the title of road warrior, I realize that not every other traveler is in the same position. Patience is key, and the most important requirement for regular travelers. Whether it’s the traveler trying to fit an oversized bag into the overhead (it won’t go however hard you push -- promise), or the person who rides the escalator in front of you and stops immediately on stepping off, blocking the way forward, oblivious to the pile of passengers and luggage coming up behind them, or the passenger who starts looking for their seat in row seven despite their boarding pass saying 32D -- patience is key.
Take a deep breath. The plane won’t leave until everyone is seated and the doors shut. Getting heated won’t help the situation. Instead offer assistance if you can, and be understanding of the novice. You were one once.