You have seen them, they all look alike, the regular ‘road warrior’ with their determined expression, wrinkle proof suit and pulling a beaten up carry on bag…whether you travel a little or a lot with your company there are many ways you can boost your personal productivity when you travel. These before, during and after strategies will help you maximise your time, limit your stress and overall increase your travel productivity.
Before You Travel
Buy the tools – you wouldn’t build a house without the right tools, travel is no different. To be a productive traveler you want to ensure you have a variety of tools to assist the comfort and productivity of your trip. Tools to consider purchasing are quality luggage, Ipod, noise cancelling earphones, soft briefcase and GPS system.
20-22 inch Carry On expandable luggage – I like Briggs and Riley, it is durable, light weight, expandable, self healing and well made. These are allowed in the US and other countries as carry on baggage. When you are buying luggage look for features such as pull along, strong wheels, stability foot on the bottom (in case it gets too heavy), external zippers (to hold travel documentation and the Ziploc toiletry bag) and also make sure the pop up handle is a ‘one pull’ action.
IPOD or MP3 – this is not a luxury, this is a requirement for any travel. I have a created a selection of play lists, including one with very relaxing music so that when it is time to sleep I can turn to this group and fall asleep.
Noise canceling earphones – these are a little bit of a luxury, but I wouldn’t travel anywhere without them. My husband previously flew many long international flights and he turned me onto this great invention.
Briefcase – I like a soft tote briefcase that allows me to include personal and work related items. My favourite is from Coakley Business Class (sorry guys these are just for women) and they are the best travel briefcase I have ever found. For the gentleman, try the soft Samsonite one, it has great suspension in the shoulder strap. When looking for a brief case also make sure it has the feature to be able to slide it over your carry on luggage (many have a soft strap or a zippered section to allow you to do this).
GPS (Global Positioning System) – this was the best gift I ever got! They are now getting smaller and smaller and are perfect to plug into your rental car when you arrive in another city. Also when we were in Italy last year we downloaded the European maps and it was great fun to get around tiny little towns. I have named mine ‘Bella’ – she keeps me company when I am driving late at night or in a city where I don’t know my way.
Consider clothing – When you are regularly on the road I suggest a few strategies to help make your life easier for both packing and arriving looking together.
Travel Outfit – Create your own travel outfit, yes it can be the same every time. Mine is a pair of black pants, black top (I have a short sleeve one for summer and a long sleeve one for cooler months), pantyhose and a pair of black patent leather flat slip on shoes. I wear the same silver jewellery with it all and I know when I arrive at the security line I don’t have to remove anything (except my shoes) – that is why pantyhose (or socks) are good when you have to take off your shoes. The fabric of this outfit doesn’t crease and is comfortable (which makes a huge different on those long flights).
Airport shoes – think about the quality and make of the shoes you wear to the airport. I suggest slip ons of some description so you are not awkwardly trying to tie up laces or straps. Also ensure they are comfortable and well made as you often have to walk long distances between gates or to the parking area.
Carry a pashmina – for the ladies, I recommend you invest in a dark coloured pashmina that has many uses. On the plane it is a great blanket (and so many airlines in the US don’t supply pillows and blankets). When I rent a car it becomes a booster seat for me (he he). When I have to sit on an airport floor (yes I have done that living here in the US) it is great to place on the floor … oh and yes I can wear it if I need to keep warm.
Jewellery – wearing the same silver jewellery when I travel I know I can wear it the next day and I can walk through the screening area without having to remove it. It simplifies the process and speeds up the line.
Belts – if possible, don’t wear an outfit that requires a belt as it is only one more item of clothing you have to remove at the airport line.
Productive Packing – there are many opinions on what to pack and I find the most productive way for me is having a series of pre-packed bags. This includes luggage, carry on plane survival kit, brief case, make up and toiletry bags.
Pre-packed luggage contents includes:
Ziploc toiletry bag
First aid items (band aids, safety pins and head ache tablets)
Make up bag
Clothes brush (I have a long haired cat and her fur seems to make its way across the world with me)
Book of interest
Cell Phone charger
Laptop power pack
Stamped stationery (note cards and envelopes)
Carry on plane survival kit contents include:
Noise cancelling earphones
Spare battery for noise cancelling earphones
Eye mask (for those long flights)
Travel size toothbrush and toothpaste
Make up kit – ladies if you travel a lot I suggest you buy a full set of make up and make up brushes and tools and keep them in a separate make up bag so you never have to go looking for something and you never forget something on your trips.
Ziploc Toiletry Bag contents include travel sized:
Decanted shower gel
Hair care products
Travel sized perfume or aftershave (most brands now supply a smaller size compliant with airline safety standards)
Spare contact lenses
Many department stores and pharmacies carry a range of travel sized products. I was fascinated when I was in Sephoria in Times Square recently that the merchandising near the payment counter had changed significantly and provided 50+ choices of regular band products in travel sized convenient containers.
Plastic helps – My friend Camille was an airline goddess for many years and gave me this great tip, using the plastic you receive from your dry cleaners around your clothes helps avoid creases.
Duplicate copies – to be more productive (and for a few extra dollars) consider investing in duplicates of everything you travel with. If you are a regular traveler, having a pre-packed bag will allow you to leave with minimum notice and save time and stress before any trip. On your list of items to buy you could include:
Toiletries available in travel size
Brushes – make up brushes, hair brushes or combs
Cell phone charger
Laptop power pack
Stamps and stationery
Spare items i.e. pantyhose, clothing brush.
Choose your seat – I like to sit in an aisle seat so I can get in and out and I don’t feel cramped by others. For longer flights (especially the red eye), my friend Shawn books the window seat so you can lean against the window to sleep, choose your seat wisely. If you have an option of an exit row choose this seat as it gives you more leg room. You may like to check out http://www.seatguru.com – it is a great website to see exactly what your seat will be on most major airlines.
Pre-print your boarding pass – whenever possible go online 24 hours before you fly and select your seat and print your boarding pass. This will save you time in the long lines at the airport check in and also help you find the seat you want.
Join airline clubs – if you fly frequently to same cities join the airline programs of those major airlines so you can also gather frequent flyer miles for all your travels. You may be able to use them for a fun trip with those you care for later on.
Join airline lounges – if you fly with the same carrier regularly to invest in a membership for that lounge so you have a quiet place to snack, get changed or to catch up on reading. I noticed in Australia this was a great use of money and well worth it however in the US the gates and lounges are so spread out and there are so many options to travel with different airlines this hasn’t been a worthwhile investment for me here, however if you fly the same airline every time it might be worth it for you.
Create a one page itinerary – create a one page template that includes your confirmation codes of all flight details, hotel and rental car information. Include on this template all your frequent flyer clubs and associations also so that if you arrive and they haven’t included this in your booking you can quickly get credit for your travel.
During Your Travel
Allow extra 30 minutes – add at least 30 minutes onto any amount of time you think it will take you to get to the airport or park. This additional time will save you stress if you are stuck in traffic, can’t find a car space or the security line is longer than you expected. If you have pre-packed a book or magazine you can use that 30 minutes to read or to connect with a friend or client.
Know the Parking Garage – if you regularly travel on the same airline, know the shuttle system or design of the car park so you can get in and out quickly.
Take your ticket – when you receive a parking receipt/ticket on your arrival place it in the same compartment of your bag or briefcase so you know where to find it upon your return.
Write the parking space on your ticket – in the US the parking garages are so big that I always write the colour and space on my parking receipt so that when I arrive back after a few days away (often late at night), I can quickly find my car and not waste time wandering around the parking garage.
Ground transport notice – when you enter an airport, notice where the taxis, rental car shuttles or parking garages are. This will save you time when you return and allow you to quickly make your way to the next place.
Regular rental – Use the same rental company each time you travel will also boost your productivity because you will expect a certain standard each time you fly. You might also consider joining their frequent customer program too. I like using Enterprise because they are affordable and also each time you arrive they look so happy to see you and they pay attention to small details including water bottles in the car and also pre-printed local lists of radio stations and areas of interest.
Play music – by creating different play lists on your IPOD you will enjoy your travel more if you can listen to music and block out the noise around you. This is effective in the airport lounge, at the gate and on the plane. You might also like to include a CD in your packing checklist for the rental car.
Getting through security – there are several tips to help you get through the line faster:
Wear an outfit that doesn’t require any removal of items or have any metal.
Place your cell phone and keys into your briefcase or purse before entering the security line.
Keep your Ziploc bag of toiletries in an outside zippered compartment for quick access.
Get your laptop out of your briefcase before you reach your place in line.
Place your laptop, shoes and toiletries in one container on the security screen belt.
Keep your boarding pass and photo identification in your hands.
Check in or carry on – I always carry on luggage (up to a five day business trip), I have learnt to pack well and have invested in a minimum number of outfits. I think there is so much time wasted waiting for luggage (not to mention the concern it may not arrive with you!) wherever possible try and carry on luggage for your business travel.
Laptop … or not – if your trip doesn’t require you to take your laptop, leave it at home. It is one less thing to juggle through security and some laptops add significant weight to your briefcase. Leave it behind if you can. If you have to take it with you consider buying a smaller, light weight model one that is easy to use and you can balance in small places. You do pay more for smaller, lighter models but it is money well spent.
Keep a reading file – as you collect articles, newspapers or journals you want to read, take them with you when you travel. Each week I receive the Philadelphia Business Journal and I take it with me on the plane to read and enjoy. It is a paper that keeps my interest and small enough it doesn’t crowd the person beside me.
Buy bottled water – part of my routine as soon as I get through the security line is to head to the nearest store to buy 2 bottles of water. During the flight it is essential to drink water to keep you hydrated, two bottles allows me to drink before the plane arrives (has been helpful when there are large delays) and during the flight.
Eat healthy – many airlines don’t supply quality food on board so try to find healthy solutions within the airport to satisfy your hunger. You may also like to buy something to eat on board for longer flights so you are snacking on healthy items. I like to travel with a bag of almonds and pecans so that I always have a yummy (and healthy) snack available. AS you are flying from the same airport each week, become familiar with the food offerings inside the terminal so you can quickly find something you enjoy eating.
Hotel routine – no matter what time I arrive at a new hotel I have the same routine. I open my suitcase, remove my suit and hang it on a hanger. If it has gathered small creases in the travel I take it into the bathroom, hang it up and turn on the hot shower to create a ‘steam room effect’ and this removes any creases. Now for my Australian readers who are experiencing a drought right now that seems very wasteful so you may want to hang these clothes while you are showering the next day to avoid water waste. You might like to take this opportunity to iron your clothes instead. I then plug in my laptop, set up my cell phone charger, set my alarm and pull out the documents or reading for the next day. By having the same routine each time you will be productive and not forget important details (and you save time in the morning also).
Exercise – if you don’t have a gym in the hotel consider either taking a walk outside at the beginning of your day or exercising in your room. I often place a towel on the floor and then do a series of stretches, yoga, sit ups and push ups. You can establish a routine especially for travel that doesn’t require any equipment i.e. push ups, sit ups, squats and any yoga.
Call a client – you often have down time in the airport so it is a great time to reconnect with a client or colleague. I use this time to touch base with important people in my life and it becomes part of my business development time.
Be strategic – time in hotel rooms can be lonely or unproductive so I use this time to design new products, review my business plan, catch up on reading and design new models or programs for my business. Some of my best ideas have come while sitting in my hotel room – use this time for strategy and thought space instead of turning on the TV to keep your company.
Stay connected – when you arrive at your location notify someone important to you. I like to call my husband when I have arrived in my hotel so he knows I am safe and sound and I get to hear his voice. Calling your family or friend is a great way for you to keep connected on the road.
Write thank you notes – because I carry stamped stationery with me when I travel, I use the flight home to write notes to people I met during my trip. When I arrive my next destination I post them. It is a great way to reconnect with people after you have met them and is a productive use of flight time.
After Your Travel
Know the quickest route home – understand the quickest and least traffic congested way to get out of the airport so you can be home with those you care for in the smallest amount of time. Where I live there are 2 major ways home and if you take the wrong one at some particular times during the day it can add up to an hour to your ride home (not so much fun after a long flight) so know which ways are best at different times during the day.
Unpack quickly – if you arrive home early enough, unpack your bag, refill any necessary toiletry items and allocate clothes for washing or dry cleaning.
Refill and replace – update any items in your ‘pre-packed’ toiletries or luggage that need attention to save you time for future trips. Note any additional items you may have forgotten on this trip and place them in your luggage so you don’t forget them next time.
Debrief your trip – recall any items you missed, notice things that you enjoyed or frustrated you and make the changes that are within your control. Each time you travel you may learn something new that will help you save time or save you frustration for your next travel experience.
Thank your team – if you have an assistant, let them know what went well about the trip and any enhancements you would like to make for your next trip. Thank your travel agent for the trip planning and also let them know if something didn’t go well and discuss how to fix it for the next trip. Thank your client for the opportunity to work with them. If you experienced great service at some point in the trip take the time to email or write a thank you note to that organisation. The simple art of thanking people is often overlooked but is one of the most powerful things you can do to boost your productivity and make someone else’s day!
Gather your receipts – there is so much paperwork collected on trips including boarding passes, rental agreements, and food and hotel receipts. Keep this in a central place when you travel (I take a clear plastic folder for this very purpose each time I travel). When you arrive home quickly sort through the paper, action business cards and file any receipts or keep them aside for your clients. Process all your paper within 24 hours.
Action business cards – if you have met new people during your productive trip take the time to now action those cards. You might like to write a ‘nice to meet you’ note, scan them and add them to your database and write a note for any follow up action required. Following this process diligently each time you travel will avoid piles of business cards gathering on your desk (reminding you of action you haven’t taken!)
Be grateful – if you are travelling for business it means you have a successful job that is supporting you and your family. Stop hating it and start enjoying it. Giving thanks for the opportunity to see new places, meet new people and share your experience is a privilege.
Change your language around travel, enjoy it, embrace it and you will be more productive! Next time you see another road warrior smile at them and let them know you understand. You can be more productive every time you travel by applying these before, during and after you travel strategies… now where am I off to tomorrow?