If you log a lot of miles on the road, like many entrepreneurs, you know how grueling business travel can be. Apps like TripIt are helpful but can’t solve the problem singlehandedly.
Over the past year, I’ve given nearly 100 talks on three continents to promote my book, Reinventing You. While exhilarating and rewarding, it has also been exhausting.
Here are the hard-won tactics I employ almost every week, which have made a real difference in the quality of my travel experience. Hopefully they will for you, as well.
1. Use a travel checklist. Even if you travel all the time, it’s easy to forget something. We should follow the advice of Atul Gawande in his popular book The Checklist Manifesto: To optimize performance, whether you’re a pilot, a doctor or a business traveler, keep a checklist and cross things off until you’re sure you have everything you need. Here’s an early version of the checklist I use today. (It is quite extensive.)
2. Pop some pills. I don’t mean the hard stuff – given the grogginess factor, I try to stay away from sleeping pills unless otherwise necessary (i.e., a short trip to Asia where I have to function at optimal levels).
Instead, an hour or two before leaving for the airport, I’ll take two pain relievers. I know from experience I’m almost certain to get a headache from dehydration, a neckache from carrying heavy bags or a stomachache from eating at strange hours. Of course, I try to avoid those possibilities, but an early dose of a pain reliever can help mitigate unnecessary suffering.
3. Always keep an energy bar in your carry-on bag. During one seven-hour delay I experienced in Miami, the airport vendors had literally sold out of food. If it’s a winter blizzard or a massive string of delays, you may be out of luck. Prepare in advance by keeping an energy bar in your bag so you’re always ready in case disaster strikes. Pro tip: At the grocery store buy your favorite kind in bulk -- they often sell them in boxes of 12 or more.
4. Record room numbers. If you’ve been on the road for weeks on end, it can be very hard to remember if you’re staying in room 304 -- or if that was last week’s hotel. When I park in a numbered spot or check into a new room, I create an entry in the “notes” function of my smartphone, so I can quickly remember where I’m going. It may sound unnecessary, but it’s saved a lot of confusion and grief.
5. Get a good meal. Yelp isn’t as sexy as some of the newer apps, but I use it on every single trip I take. There’s nothing more depressing than coming into a new city, being ravenously hungry and not having a clue where to eat (except for the decrepit hotel lounge). Use Yelp’s advanced search functionality to determine what’s “open now,” and within either a quick walk or a short drive. You can sort by type of cuisine and also by ratings, so you can ensure you’re looking at the best. This has led me to fantastic spots I never would have found, from a Thai/Vietnamese place in Akron to small gems on the side streets of Paris. (Note that Yelp is particularly strong in the U.S.; TripAdvisor may be worth consulting as an alternative if you’re traveling abroad and don’t see a lot of Yelp listings for the region you’re in.)
What are your favorite travel strategies?