how to survive work travel and keep your sanity

The first time I had to travel for work, I was about 24 and felt insanely adult and glamorous. But then I started traveling quite a lot and discovered that horrible airport food, living out of luggage, and returning to a soulless hotel room every night quickly loses its charm.

Here’s how you can keep your sanity and maintain your quality of life even if you’re on the road a lot.

1. Figure out what’s good about regular work travel, and embrace it. For instance, maybe you love reading but don’t get much time to read at home; start looking at your travel as an opportunity to get lots of reading in, on the plane and in your hotel. Or if you’re a food lover, aim to try the culinary specialty of every town you travel to.

2. Set expectations with your manager about how the travel will impact the rest of your work. You’re not going to be able to accomplish as much in a week on the road as you would in a week at the office – or at least not accomplish the same things. Make sure that you and your boss are on the same page about how (and when) you’ll handle work that might be piling up at the office while you’re away, so that you don’t feel pressured to meet the same expectations you’d have if you were in the office every day.

3. Don’t feel obligated to socialize when you’re reached your limit. In addition to often having you in meetings all day long, business travel often involves lots of invitations to socialize with the local team. If you’re energized by that, great. But if you’re not, don’t be shy about protecting your need to recharge in solitude. While you shouldn’t turn down everyinvitation, you don’t need to accept all of them. It’s fine to sometimes say that you’re going to rest up to be prepared for the next day. And speaking of solitude…

4. Learn to love seeing movies alone and dining by yourself. When I first started traveling for work, I felt awkward about dining alone; asking for a table for one felt unnatural, as did sitting alone in a restaurant while people around me socialized. But once I got over that, I discovered I loved being able to dine at my own pace while reading a book or people-watching. I also discovered the joy of seeing movies alone while on the road; you can see whatever you want without deferring to anyone else’s preferences, and can leave in the middle if the movie bored you! Embracing both these things upped my quality of life on the road significantly.

5. Pay some attention to your health. It’s easy to poorly while you travel, since drinks are often flowing and indulgent, overly rich restaurant and hotel food is convenient and on someone else’s dime. But you’ll feel better if you stick to your normal diet as much as you can, watch your alcohol intake, drink a lot of water, and get enough sleep. This might feel like a sad renouncement of the glamorous jet-setting lifestyle you could otherwise have, but in fact, moderation can be the thing that allows it to continue!

{ 164 comments… read them below }

  1. My 2 Cents*

    These are all very good pieces of advice!

    I want to emphasize what you said about not being able to get as much done as you can in the office. I went overseas for work and knew my meeting schedule was somewhat light, so I had my laptop and knew I could just get a lot of stuff done remotely. I was WRONG! First, the internet in Africa was spotty at best, I was tired, and I just didn’t have everything I needed to be able to work remotely. So, I accomplished very little outside of my meetings and felt bad about the fact that I had so significantly overestimated how much work I would be able to get done.

    1. Bea W*

      Even in places you would expect to have good coverage, like the US, it’s not always the case when you have to rely on hotel wifi. There have been times where my room would get barely enough signal to be usable. There was one where I could only get internet by sitting near the door to my room on the floor. If there are things you can work on without internet, save everything you need to your local drive so you still have it to work on when you find yourself forced offline. This tip also great for on the plane!

      1. Kera*

        I once had a trip that took me to Palm Springs and then directly to Nairobi by way of Toronto (from my base in London). Wifi in Nairobi was better than the three Californian hotels I stayed in.

        I now refuse to stay in certain chains because the connectivity is so poor and so expensive. If international data roaming on my phone gives a better deal, then something is seriously wrong.

    2. lonepear*

      So, so true. I also used to think “oh, it’s a long flight, I can work on the plane”–no. No, I can’t work on the plane. Inevitably I am next to some ex-linebacker whose shoulders are preventing me from extending my arms, and behind someone who is reclining all the way so I can’t put anything on my tray table, and the seat map said my seat would have power but it didn’t and the outlet I thought my laptop was charging it an the airport was actually a dud and I have 45 minutes of battery left. And also I didn’t get enough sleep and the stale air in the plane is making me sick.

      I have even given up on bringing substantial books. Unless I am really desperate to finish something, I use plane time to read light fiction and watch bad movies I feel guilty about otherwise.

  2. Meredith*

    Yes to all of these! I’m actually heading out of town to a conference tomorrow (and will be traveling several more times over the next few weeks). One thing I suggest is to bring gym clothes. I sometimes forget to bring them, but most hotels do have a gym, or sometimes I’m lucky to be in place with a nice path for walking or running.

    1. Chinook*

      Also don’t forget to pack your swimsuit. Many hotels have a pool with a hot tub or a sauna and soaking in something hot is a great way to wind down at the end of the day and soak your muscles after sitting in uncomfortable chairs.

      1. Meredith*

        Absolutely! Although, I was very sad to discover that my conference hotel last month did not have a whirlpool – I had even remembered to bring my swimsuit for once! I think you can check with most places’ websites to see what kind of amenities they have.

    2. Bryan*

      If you’re spacey like I am just a change of casual clothes. I was at a conference and meeting some colleagues for dinner. I really wish I could have changed but I forgot to bring clothes and just wished I could have had a fresh outfit. Also for traveling back home I wish I had a t shirt or something.

    3. wanderlust*

      Yes! I always try to run in every city I visit. It’s a great way to see more of the city and most hotels can give you a recommendation for nearby jogging or walking paths. Granted, some cities are better than others for this (an accidental run through a sketchy neighborhood in Louisville comes to mind – no offense, Kentuckians!) but it can definitely make you feel more at home and relaxed in a new place.

      1. Sunflower*

        Yes I love doing this! This is how I explored the majority of New York City although running is pretty hard on the sidewalks there. You can imagine my shock when I went to Southern California and found out most locals go to the gym and don’t run outside!

        1. cecilhungry*

          Yep! My last work trip, I was missing a super important week of half marathon training (my first, so I’m freaking out enough as is), but luckily my hotel was close to some good trails and I managed to squeeze in 10 miles. It was a really cool way to see the city, and I was tired enough afterwards that it actually relaxed me for my presentation!

          1. wanderlust*

            Hey! Race training is how I ended up in the sketchy parts of Louisville on accident! Some cities are better than others to eke out 10 miles.

            But in general… love the long run as a way to see the city.

        2. Lynn Whitehat*

          Ha! I was just there last week. Gorgeous day, nice scenery, apparently low-crime area and I was the only jogger around. Weird!

      2. GoodGirl*

        Haha, no offense taken. I actually lived in Louisville for several years, and will be moving back there in about a month. I bet I can guess what “sketchy” area you wondered into…

        1. AdminAnon*


          I’ve lived in Louisville for about 6 years and I adore it…but there are definitely some areas where I would never go running!

          wanderlust–if you’re ever back in the city, check out Cherokee Park.

        2. wanderlust*

          Yeah, my hotel was close to the river, so I did some quick internet research and went over to the Loop trail… they failed to mention that one direction is nice and new, and the other…. was not so much. I think since it was cold and rainy, that might also have contributed to the off-putting feelings. It’s just tough to get 8+ miles without making circles, which is a pet peeve of mine. Cherokee Park looks nice though! I’ll definitely check it out if I’m ever in the area again!

    4. books*

      I second/third/fourth this discussion. Also, know the people you’re working with. Will it suddenly be 7pm and you’re all heading to dinner? Get up and work out in the morning so that you’re not missing crucial gym time.

  3. Chocolate Teapot*

    My business travel experience has involved working in the other offices in my company. I find it hard to accomplish things as I am much more productive working at my own desk. Sometimes, a simple task in my own office takes on mammoth proportions elsewhere because I don’t know where things are, or who to ask to take care of something (e.g. spare pens, location of the photocopier, who to ask for ordering a taxi etc.)

    Still, they say travel broadens the mind!

  4. Phyllis*

    I would also add that if you are at a professional conference, protect your time there as you would in the office. I keep my phone on silent and only check for voice messages or emails during break times. Your office/agency sent you to the conference as a learning opportunity. If you spend all your time in the hotel lobby or conference atrium on your phone/iPad as opposed to being in the conference sessions*, you’ve missed the point.

    *And you’re not impressing anyone else by jumping up and leaving sessions every ten minutes to answer the phone. You’re annoying the other participants and the presenter. /rant.

    **Obvs does not apply to folks with whacko bosses who send them off and expect them to be available every minute, or if a true emergency arises. My condolences if that’s the case.

    1. KellyK*

      That’s a really good point. It’s silly to pay for a conference or class and then miss half of it.

      If your boss is reasonable about letting you protect your time, it might also be good to give them one method of contacting you for routine stuff (e.g., email) and one method of getting you immediately that’s only for true emergencies. That way, when your phone does vibrate in the middle of a session, you’ll know it’s likely to be, “We need you to change travel arrangements and come back ASAP because the server room caught fire last night” versus “Hey, did you get your TPS report done for the week?”

    2. Sunflower*

      I am someone who runs these conferences and YES it’s very annoying. I understand you will need to do things but there are people who spend the entire conference in the lobby. And our conferences issue credits for people to keep licenses so when you spend half the conference away from it, it puts us in a weird spot

  5. AdAgencyChick*

    Yes to all of these. Of course, I’m an introvert who has zero problem with dining alone — I bring a book or my Kindle with me (the latter is especially useful if you are going to be eating something messy!) and eat at the most interesting place I can find that’s within the budget. Of course there’s a place for just ordering room service, but I try to save that for when I’m really spent (or, let’s face it, if I want to catch up on RuPaul’s Drag Race).

    But the most “yes” of all to #5. The big problem with dining out is portion sizes! It’s so easy to eat everything on my plate, especially because my mother grew up in an occupied country in WWII and OH BOY was I raised not to waste food. So I try to order an appetizer plus a salad in lieu of an entree whenever I can.

    I also seek out the local CrossFit gym whenever I can, because I hate hotel gyms (no barbells and no pullup bars, BOO!). I get crabby when I don’t work out, and my clients don’t need me to be crabby :P

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I went to a sci-fi con in February in a summer resort town and the hotel restaurant’s winter menu was almost ALL fried food. I tried not to eat very much of it. My stomach does not like that stuff.

    1. Adam*

      +1 to needing to work out. Some people ask me how I can maintain a gym routine so easily. The answer is I pretty much have to. My body is so used to it if I start to regularly miss gym excursions I start to feel sluggish (and grouchy) pretty quickly.

    2. D*

      Yes! I always find at least one restaurant I want to try and have a great time enjoying a leisurely meal alone with a good glass of wine. I actually look forward to this ritual, even though the travel is otherwise draining.

      1. KellyK*

        Same here, except for the wine. Getting to try new restaurants is one of the better parts of travel. And having a leisurely meal by myself after a long day of conferences (or CMMI audits, which are not exactly a day at Disneyland) does wonders for my mood.

    3. Blacknocreamnosugar*

      I’ve found that many restaurants will offer a ‘lunch-size’ portion that’s not shown on the menu. Usually it is about half the size of the dinner plate. Servers aren’t happy about the lower tab, so I try to make it up by a much larger tip (40%).

    4. The Wall of Creativity*

      An Indian takeaway is another good treat (and easier on the expenses than a restaurant) but:
      (i) check first that you can get your hands on some cuttlery i the hotel, and
      (ii) ask around the office where’s a good place to use.

    5. EngineerGirl*

      Most hotels now have mini-fridge and microwaves. I’ll stop by the local supermarket for yogurt, soup, pre-pack salad. I’ll carry the collapsible cup and collapsible bowl from Sea to Summit as well as a spork.
      I also like going to popular restaurants and getting a spot at the bar (easier than a table). And like AdAgencyChick, I like the appetizers.

      1. periwinkle*

        Supermarket dining is my preference when on the road. I sincerely hope I get sent back to Publix territory soon because those stores are a wonderland of prepared foods that actually taste good. At the very least I can pick up some breakfast items like yogurt and fruit as an alternative to the Parade of Sugary Carbs featured at most hotel breakfast buffets.

    6. Bea W*

      The upside if traveling for me was that I ate much better than I ever did at home. I hate cooking and suck at putting good meals together or I eat on the run, fast food, and whatever junk is around and maybe not regularly except for breakfast because I can’t function in the morning without it. Traveling means i have sit in a restaurant and order a real meal, that tastes good and has all of the food groups on the plate, and I do this 3 times a day, along with a bite between big meals. At home, left to my own devices…well, there’s a reason I allow myself to spend money on buying lunch (and sometimes second breakfast) at work. It guarentees me at least one good square meal during the day, with like real vegetables and things.

  6. NEP*

    Great points. #5 so important. I work out pretty intensely on a regular basis, and learning some challenging bodyweight exercises and other moves one can do in a limited space (and with limited time) has been a real life-saver when traveling for work. And, yes, water — lots of water.

    1. fposte*

      If you’re cheap like me, BYO bottle and refill it rather than paying for ridiculous hotel or conference center water.

      1. Steve*

        It’s possibly all psychological – but I have a thing about drinking water when I travel. Even if I’m pretty sure restaurants filter their water I generally pay for bottled water – and try to stick to a national brand. It just seems to keep my stomach from going whacky over variations in the chemical make ups and additives in the local water supply. I even use bottled water for brushing my teeth when I’m away from home (even when I just travel out of state to visit my brother and his family.)

        1. fposte*

          I think we’re great examples of how knowing what makes you comfortable is really important, even if they’re two very different things.

        2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          I bought a filter water bottle I take with me when I travel. That way I always know the water is filtered, because I’m doing it myself.

      2. Zed*

        Also good advice for the airport! I have taken to carrying a metal water bottle through security empty and then refilling as soon as I am on the other side.

    2. Adam*

      Probably the thing that would irk me the most about travel would be the interruption of my workout routine, one of the few things in my life I’m consistently on top of, since in my experience most hotel gyms kind of suck.

      But learning to do Yoga has been a great boon for that because even if I can’t hit the weights like I prefer to, Yoga can be intense and feel great and all you need is a little open space.

      1. NEP*

        Exactly — as much as I dig being sent off to new and interesting places to work, the downside is that it can throw me off my pretty rigorous workout and clean eating regime. Indeed there are ways to minimize any detrimental impact and yes — yoga is great for this. A lot of core and strength moves, arm balances, etc can really make a difference when traveling.

    3. Robin*

      Another thing to consider is joining a gym that is a national chain, especially if your work is sending you to hotels that don’t have gyms.

  7. fposte*

    I’ve also found it enjoyable to develop some airport routines–at hubs that I know, I have regular treats that I’m allowed to purchase and that I genuinely look forward to (can make a tight connection pretty annoying, but it’s good the rest of the time!), and I know where the outlets, bathrooms, water fountains, etc. are.

    1. cecilhungry*

      No matter what I’m “supposed” to be reading at the time (for book club, or something I received as a gift, for work, etc), I always allow myself to buy a trashy novel at the airport. It usually only lasts me through a flight or two, so I still get to what I brought along, but it’s something I look forward to. By the time my next trip rolls around, the sequel to Devil Wears Prada should be in paperback, so I’m looking forward to that!

        1. Bea W*

          I always look forward to the crossword in the airline’s magazine they put in the seatback pocket, and SkyMall because where else can you find sneakers with the cool sperm logo.

    2. Bea W*

      I have these. When I took the ferry to the airport I also had a routine of treating myself to popcorn at the snack bar on the boat. I was totally thrown off when they switched boats and the new one didn’t have a snack bar and terrible metal seats. I was seriously disappointed! That may have been when I started using the airport express bus instead.

    3. el conejo del fuego*

      Yes to this! My favorite is salt water taffy at McCarran (LAS) of all places. Sky Harbor (PHX) just opened up a Sweet Republic in Terminal 4, so I am now in heaven when visit.

      Any recommendations at other airports?

  8. Matteus*

    I’ve always managed the stress of travel because, in my workplace, my schedule is often less hectic when I am travelling.

    Usually, when I travel for work, I travel to a contracting partner whose overtime polices are stricter and whose work-hours are shorter because of it.
    While I am there, since I am using their facilities and working with their people, my work-days are actually shorter than at home… and often, more relaxing, since my goals while on travel are more strictly defined, while at home, there is always One More Thing to Do before leaving for the day.

    For me, then, travel, at least usually, is a kind of a vacation.

  9. The Wall of Creativity*

    This applies more to conferences than to business trips to far flung offices but my advice is to get plenty of sleep. I’ve been to conferences telling myself that it’s OK to stay up late in the bar after dinner as long as I stay off the alcohol. Bad mistake.

    1. Bea W*

      I find conferences so exhausting I never even make it to the bar at the end of the day. Problem solved for me!

  10. The IT Manager*

    #1 is so true for me. I no longer travel for business because the government has really cut that (to the detriment of work efficiency in a lot of case), but I am often most excited about the time to read while travelling. It’s a benefit, and I plan what book I will taking before I even begin packing my clothes.

    Also for me in a lot of cases (but not always), it is a chance to catch up on sleep. The hotel has less of a commute than my daily drive to the office, I don’t have to cook for myself, run errands, or have other committments so often I can actually can get more sleep on a business trip than at home.

    1. Celeste*

      Agree with every word of this. I also take a smaller knitting project with me on week-long trips. It’s crazy how much progress I can make without any obligations at all. The things I go to often have a mixer or a dinner on one night so I’ll go to that, but unless somebody I know has gone along, I don’t worry about being social.

    2. Jillociraptor*

      Totally agree. I live on the East Coast so I can take the train a lot of places, which is for some reason the absolute best place for me to read and concentrate. I regularly finish multiple books on train rides and it’s the best.

      I also just get tons more work done on business trips, especially if I have my own hotel room. I love having long stretches of uninterrupted work time. For me that’s usually late at night or early in the morning, and with personal responsibilities at home it’s hard to have that time. But on the road: no cooking, cleaning, commute, other people. I can just put my head down and work as late as I want.

  11. Xay*

    All of these tips are great. I would just add – take a care package for yourself. Mine was usually good tea, sugar, and a tea cup from home because hotel tea is almost always bad. My cup of tea in the morning was my way of unwinding.

    The one thing I have never mastered is rapidly adjusting to time changes. Going from Eastern to Central or Mountain is fine, but the West Coast knocks me flat every time. Now that I’m starting to look at international work, I’m also looking at strategies to adjust quickly.

    1. Celeste*

      I pack a little pharmacy kit–antihistamine, analgesic, antacid, a couple of bandaids, and decongestant. I’ve never gone someplace where I couldn’t get to a drugstore, but it’s nice to be prepared in case you wake up feeling ill.

      1. AB*

        I do the exact same thing; I also include some vitamins and melatonin. Melatonin is really helpful when you’re trying to adjust to time change overseas. I keep my medications in one of those 7-day pill keepers, but each “day” compartment is several of one type of medication. I label the back so I know what it is. It saves space rather than bringing a bunch of different bottles.

        I also always pack a sleep mask, ear plugs, and noise-canceling headphones. I prefer to sleep in complete darkness, so planes and hotel rooms can be difficult to sleep in. Why do hotel rooms always have so many different blinking lights?

        1. Elizabeth West*

          That’s a really good idea about the melatonin. I’m going to try it out before my vacation. I hate trying to sleep on a plane, and I have trouble sleeping without a fan (which I can’t take with me). I’ll be in someone’s house and at least two B&Bs.

          I do have one of those pill things and an airline pack with pillow, blanket, sleep mask, etc. I’ll try that too. :)

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Does that actually make enough noise to sleep by? It seems like it wouldn’t last the whole night, in case he woke up.

              I’ll probably be so tired from walking all over the place that I’ll sleep like a log.

        2. Lamington*

          I would add Dramamine too. my first business travel overseas I got so ill due to motion sickness. I wasn’t able to go to the office the first day. actually it would be nice if you were alliwed to sleep and then the next day show up fresh instead of jet lagged.

      2. Xay*

        I do the same – I have a emergency kit with medicine, supplies, etc. I’ve stuck too many times at hotels that aren’t near anything and I hate spending lots of money at the hotel gift shop for basic needs.

      3. EngineerGirl*

        Yes, I pack a little kit too. I like to take blister packs where possible. It doesn’t matter if the pill gets crushed – you can just lick the drub out of the pack. I’ll add Imodium to your list, as well as Benadryl. Benadryl is great for time changes. One pill and you are out for the night without waking up in the middle of the night. And by the 2nd night I’ve shifted over.

    2. CTO*

      Slippers are my personal must-pack luxury for nearly any kind of travel. It’s so nice to kick off your shoes after a long day but still have something you can wear down the hall to the ice machine or whatever. They even make packable travel slippers, but I just usually try to make space for my regular home slippers since they’re comfy and familiar.

      1. AB*

        Have you ever flown Korean Air? They give you slippers to use in the plane. I absolutely love it!

      2. Nodumbunny*

        I’m always cold, so I’ve taken to packing a light-weight fleece top – it’s a substitute for a bathrobe while unwinding at night and I’ve slept in one more times than I can count.

    3. Cath in Canada*

      Yeah, that 3 hour time difference never feels like it’s going to be enough to throw me off, but then – WHAM – every time. Bigger time differences are almost easier to handle, because you actually expect to feel like crap for the first day or two, and other people make allowances for it.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        Oh, and yes, hotel room tea is the WORST. Even when I take my own tea bags, having to run the water through the coffee machine and then use cream instead of milk is still just nasty. I look up the location of the nearest Starbucks before I arrive and go there the first morning – their tea isn’t great, but it’s the best you can get in most places that aren’t my native UK, where people actually know how to make good tea and hotel rooms have actual kettles :)

        1. Xay*

          I’ve found that most hotels will provide hot water through room service without the room service prices. Also, the k-cup style coffeemakers are capable of producing hot water without that coffee taste.

          Three months in the UK did ruin me for American hot tea. I still like my Southern iced sweet tea, but when it comes to hot tea I have standards that those sad little Lipton tea bags can’t meet.

          1. giggleloop*

            The last time I went to the UK, I felt like the tea on the BA flight over there was better than the stuff in the US!

        2. CAA*

          Get an immersion heater. They are cheap, small, and they make it possible to make drinkable tea in your hotel room. Just make sure to never ever leave it plugged in if you aren’t watching it as they can start a fire if your water boils away.

          1. Cath in Canada*

            This (and the hot water from room service idea) ignores the fact (FACT, I tell you) that the ONLY way to make a good cup of tea is to pour BOILING water over a tea bag. A thermos of hot water, or putting the tea bag into a cup that’s already got water in it. just isn’t cricket, doncha know?

            I’m British; I know these things ;-)

            1. Windchime*

              I’m not British and even I know these things. Boiling water is a MUST, and it can’t be water that has gone through a coffee maker. Because then it’s coffee-flavored tea.

        3. Bea W*

          You know what’s worse than hotel tea? Hotel coffee. Can one even call it coffee? They also give you that horrible powdered non-dairy creamer. So glad I gave up coffee. I don’t miss that.

  12. scmill*

    For #1, I have room service bring my breakfast. I schedule it to arrive just after I’ve gotten out of the shower, and it feels so luxurious to sit there and eat while I finish waking up without having to rush to pick something up on the way to the office. And I don’t have to fix it or clean up after it.

  13. KellyK*

    One thing I learned the hard way—if you get to make your own travel arrangements, be realistic about them. Both in terms of not choosing flights with ridiculously small windows to make a connection, and in terms of how late evening or early morning travel will affect your ability to function.

    The last time I traveled, I planned to work a full day my last day of travel and have a five or six-o’clock flight. Living a couple hours from the airport, that meant it was almost midnight when I got home, and I was utterly exhausted. Even worse, I ended up not having much to do that day, so an earlier flight wouldn’t have hurt anything. Next time, I will definitely plan better.

    1. D*

      This is such great advice. I travel quite a bit with Partner A, and he prefers to work all day and take the latest flight to our destination. Or the very closest flight to the end of our meetings out of town, then you have to race back to the airport. I thought this was the proper way to do things until I traveled with Partner B who purposely gets to town in time for dinner and generally takes his time more. After doing that a few times, I realized how much less stressful it was and I always try to leave more time now, even if it does give me less time in the office on travel days.

      1. Bea W*

        My personal pet peeve, as one of the people arranging and helping to run meetings, are those people who book the next flight right after the meeting ends which means they actually have to leave the meeting early. Look, the meeting ends at noon. Stop scheduling flights for 12:30 and 1:00 when it’s a 40 min ride to the airport.

        1. Bea W*

          Oops I don’t do actually this anymore, not for about 5 years, but it was really that annoying!

  14. Poohbear McGriddles*

    1) If there is an airline or hotel chain that you tend to use, consider joining their loyalty program. Those points add up, plus you get perks as you accumulate more and more. (Employer policies may vary)
    2) If fitting everything into your suitcase tends to be an issue, try using large zip-loc bags for some items. Fold them, place them in the bag, then roll up the bag to let out as much air as possible. There are bags you can hook up a vaccum to, but where are you going to find a vacuum when it’s time to head home?
    3) If you’re traveling overseas and have access to wi-fi, making calls home using Skype or other VoIP services can save a lot of money.
    4) Try to find something about your destination to visit, like a famous restaurant or landmark. That way, you’re actually looking forward to going.

    1. AB*

      The bags idea is great because it you can also use the bags to help separate the dirty clothes from the clean. If you have to do a bunch of “hop travel” (a couple days at this location, a couple days at that location), it can be difficult to keep stuff sorted.

    2. Chinook*

      The loyalty programs are a great idea. Sometimes, signing up for free means things like free/cheap wifi, paper delivered to your door and quicker check-outs. My mother has been known to sign up for a loyalty program on her smartphone while checking in to the hotel and then showing the email as proof of membership by the time she gets to the front. (Travel level – expert. This is the same woman who turned two suites at the Jasper Park Lodge into a private cabin when the suites weren’t ready when the we arrived early and got free business class tickets for 8 for us to go to Disneyland earlier this month and yet only travelled for town council or school board meetings!)

    3. Monodon monoceros* has a rewards program where if you book 10 nights, you get one free. There’s quite a few hotels on there, and I can usually find one close to where I need to be (meeting, conference, etc.). I have already earned 4 free nights this year! I stayed an extra 2 nights in Brussels last month with some of my free nights. It makes me feel better about all the work travel to get some of those perks.

      1. Noah*

        I love Their loyalty program is simple and it is nice to have free nights to use on a weekend getaway.

  15. kyley*

    One big change I made, that improved life on the road drastically: When I first get to a new location, I go immediately to the grocery store and buy myself yogurt, fruits, vegetables, etc the week. This way I have healthy, relaxing options easily accessible for snacking and breakfast for the week. Being able to relax in my pjs and munch on carrots and hummus keeps me feeling healthy and relaxed. It has the added benefit of being less expensive than room service or eating out all those same meals, so my company appreciates the gesture too.

    1. The Wall of Creativity*

      The five stages of post conference grief:
      (i) craving water
      (ii) craving sleep
      (iii) craving greasy food
      (iv) craving solitude
      (v) craving vegetables

    2. cecilhungry*

      I do the same, but I also generally buy a six-pack of a local beer. I like to drink a beer as I unwind from the day, and this way I get to try a local brew, or at least something I can’t get at home. If I don’t finish all the beers before I leave, I just bring ’em home with me (this is the main reason why I always check my bag).

  16. Cat*

    In terms of decreasing scheduling craziness, I’m a fan of those room-service breakfasts you can order via a card you hang the night before. (At least when the cost isn’t completely insane.) It’s a lot easier to eat breakfast in your room in between ironing your clothes and going over your notes for the day then it is to wander out in search of a Starbucks or a

  17. Anonymous*

    I used love traveling for all the positive aspects of it that AAM mentioned.

    Now I hate it, mainly because of air travel, which means:

    1. No legroom
    2. Seats with very little reclining
    3. Draconian security, bordering on fascism.

    If I have to travel, I always look for ways to get there on the surface, such as driving or Amtrak.

    1. Monodon monoceros*

      Yes, security is the worst part of travelling for me. I’ve gotten my carry-on packing pretty much down to a science, but inevitably I still feel completely discombobulated by the time I’ve gotten through. I hate that security is different in different places, too. They tell you it isn’t, but it totally is. Some want you to take your laptop out of the sleeve, some act like you are insane for doing so. Some will yell at you for walking away from your carry on once it’s on the x-ray belt, some will yell at you for not moving and going to the body scanner fast enough. I now have a mental list of what I’m supposed to do in the airports I travel through frequently.

      1. CAA*

        Yes! A couple months ago a TSA agent at DCA was yelling at those of us in line “don’t hand me your ID, I can’t touch your drivers license, just hold it up for me to see.” That’s not even consistent within that airport, never mind across any other airport!

        1. Monodon monoceros*

          What kind of craziness is that? The next time you go through I wouldn’t even be surprised if they yelled at you for not complying with them and handing it over- an obvious sign of threat to security.

      2. Poohbear McGriddles*

        Airport security always keeps it interesting. I put my keys, loose coins, etc. in my carry-on so I don’t have to fool with those little bowls they make you put them in. That way I only have to set my bag on the conveyor. And my shoes. Seriously, one weirdo tries to blow up a plane with his Reeboks and now everyone has to doff their footwear. I was really sweating it when the guy tried to blow up his underpants!
        Amsterdam is a fun place to go through. Their pat-downs are… thorough. And the interrogations for the return flight are like an IRS audit.
        Beijing was a lot more relaxed than I expected. Still got a thorough pat-down, but at least it was by an attractive young lady. And I got to keep my shoes on!

        1. Bea W*

          I don’t recall the pat down in Amsterdam, but when questioned about where I stayed, I could never pronounce the name correctly or the same way twice. I am sure I mangled it and I felt totally stupid and embarrassed and hoping the guy didn’t think I was being shifty. What kind of person can’t pronounce where they have been visiting the last 4 days?

        2. CAA*

          Tel Aviv definitely wins for worst interrogations. Then after you play 100 questions with them, they take your passport and walk away from you. That always makes me nervous.

          1. Bea W*

            I’ve heard about that from people who have been there, but not about the passport part. Thanks for the warning. For some reason I always feel nervous crossing borders, like I’m doing something I shouldn’t be doing or nervous that the border agent thinks I’m up to something nefarious rather than just doing his job.

    2. Annie O*

      Yep, I’m so sick of air travel. I’m just too tall for regular coach seats. Taller than the average man with looong legs. My knees end up wedged into the tray table. And then I get awful back pain. On occasion, I’ve paid out of pocket for extra leg room or exit row seating, but I’m getting really tired of paying that expense for a *work* trip.

    3. books*

      If you fly often, I suggest signing up for tsa precheck. Shoes on, liquids can stay in your bag, laptop can stay in your bag, sunglasses can stay on your head…. The security lane is expedited. It’s worth the cost of signup.

  18. Sunflower*

    I always stock up on new music and books. I love music but find it’s so hard to listen to new stuff and on a plane or train is perfect for that.

    I like to eat at the bar when I’m traveling. The bartender is usually pretty friendly and not overly chatty and I still bring a book or something. Also I second the culinary thing. Every city I go to I try to eat whatever their specialty is or stuff I couldn’t get elsewhere.

    I also try to do stuff that I wouldn’t normally do if I was visiting friends. Like I’ve been to NYC and DC a lot to visit friends but I never did the tourist thing so I like to walk around and just see the town- it’s not too tiring and doesn’t take a ton of time either. Also ask the concierge what is fun to do!

    1. Judy*

      For the travel time, I use my library’s e-book and audio book collections. I prefer audio books when I drive, so I can download to my mp3 player a book or two, and if I’m flying, sometimes I’m in an audio book mood and sometimes a reading mood, so I download several books to my nook. And I can do it all from home over the internet.

    2. batmom*

      I have a subscription music service that lets me load stuff onto my phone for offline listening and I’ve taken to loading it with comedy albums for longer trips. I occasionally look like a fool giggling to myself, but that’s a nice problem to have.

  19. batmom*

    I was a road warrior for a few years and it can definitely tax your overall health. When I stopped traveling weekly, I lost 10 pounds in a few weeks just by not eating out, and I was pretty good about ordering healthier fare.

    My tips:
    Keep a small bag in your carryon with your flight essentials (ear phones, hand cream, chapstick, pen, etc.) that you can just whip out and pop into the seat pocket when you sit down.

    Don’t by clothes that need ironing and avoid jackets, if you can (too bulky). I get a lot of pointe material clothing. Super comfortable, look good, and don’t wrinkle. For a 4 day trip I bring two pairs of shoes, 2-3 bottoms, and four tops for mix and matching.

    Pack your go-to outfits and accessories or, if you’re like me and work from home most of the time, try on your outfits before packing so that you know that you’ve got everything that you need when you get there. It’s one thing to realize that your top has a spot or is missing a button when you’re at home and can grab another, but it sucks when you’re on the road and have no options.

    That being said, unless you’re going to the back of beyond, there will probably be stores around so if it turns out that you really did need that 5th pair of hose, you can run out and get one.

  20. Thomas*

    #4 was very helpful for me as I started traveling a lot. I quite like dining alone now, and it is a great way to get out and try the local places.

    I also listen to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks while I travel. I go out for long walks and catch up on news, listen to books I always meant to read, and nerd out listening to macroeconomics podcasts.

  21. BadPlanning*

    This goes for all travel I suppose, but double check that you have all appropriate chargers for your gear. Especially if you have a laptop charger at home and at work so you don’t normally pack it for to/from the office. I say this from personal and coworker experience!

    1. Sharm*

      To add to this, I would make sure to check that your work equipment is in working order before you leave. I used a company laptop for a conference once, and they gave me the wrong charger. Guess where I figured that out? Spoiler alert: 1500 miles away from my IT guy. Whoops!

  22. scmill*

    I can’t figure out what category this fits in, but a reusable packing list is a wonderful thing. There are a zillion different apps that you can use for this – some of them are specifically for travel, others for shopping, and some are simple list/to-do apps. I have mine set up as a different “store” in GroceryIQ. I don’t travel on business as much now, but it can be a lifesaver when you’re in a hurry.

    Also, if you travel a lot, duplicates, duplicates, duplicates that live in your carryon or suitcase are worth the money whether it’s power adapters, underwear or toothpaste.

    1. fposte*

      Oh, I *love* those. I use Packing. I also map the hotel, conference center, and other destinations out in advance on TripDoc, so I already have a few places to stop at if I want a nice walk or snack.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        Another big fan of Packing. I added things to the list like “do timecard” etc.
        Tripdesk TripDoc, etc all do the same thing but are compatible with different scheduling software. TripDesk for instance is used by Travelocity.

        One thing I do is create PDF copies of my travel receipts such as airfare, auto rental, hotel. I then store them in my GoodReader app which is not only password protected but encrypted. It reduces the paper I have to carry.

        1. scmill*

          I also have an entry for “Do timecard” as well as turn off lights, adjust thermostat, hold mail, fill birdfeeder and any other random things I need to do before heading out. Having that detailed list has saved my bacon on more than one occasion both outgoing and incoming!

          1. fposte*

            “Hold mail” and “put travel alert on credit cards” go on mine too. Lists save wear and tear on the brain!

    2. Celeste*

      I agree on the travel duplicate kit. I even leave a whole toiletry kit in there and splurged on travel sizes of all of my hair salon stuff. It changes a little with the seasons (sunscreen vs heavier skin cream) but the basic stuff is there so all I really have to assemble is clothing and entertainment.

      1. Judy*

        Yes, I keep my travel toiletry kit in my gym bag, and then it moves to the suitcase when I travel. Also important, just like diaper bags, refill as soon as you get home, not when you’re rushing out the door.

        I actually have a limited 3rd travel kit for flying that’s in 2 parts – a small fabric bag and the quart ziplock, so I’m able to have in my carry on. I have enough in there that I’ll feel human. Obviously ziplock has the liquids, and the fabric bag has toothbrush, hairbrush, hair elastics, etc. I’ve discovered that if I have toothpaste, deodorant, chap stick and hand lotion, I pretty much feel human, but without them, eeek! We had an unexpected layover, and you don’t get your luggage then, and the hotel they put us in didn’t have anything in the room but soap, and no “extras” at the front desk. When my sister had an unexpected layover with the same airline, they actually gave them a bag that had a t-shirt, toothbrush, toothpaste and a comb.

        1. Windchime*

          I actually carry a spare pair of socks, undies and a t-shirt to sleep in, just in case my luggage doesn’t arrive when I do. And I always carry my medicine, glasses, and enough small toiletries to get by in my carry-on (small lotion, lip balm, tiny toothpaste and toothbrush, etc). This all goes into the same bag as my laptop, kindle, etc–usually a backpack. I pack heavy so I usually check my bag with all my clothes and other stuff.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Me too. I have one of those hanging valet bag things. I keep it stocked and when I return from a trip, I restock it and put it back in my suitcase so it’s ready to go the next time.

      1. Scmill*

        Packing and Packing Pro are really nice. I was just already set up using GroceryIQ and too lazy to start over. I was a fervent HandyShopper user on my old Palm, so shoehorning a packing list into a grocery shopping list seemed natural to me! ;)

          1. Scmill*

            Yes, it works well enough. You have to tweak it a bit to keep it from mixing your underwear into the list containing lettuce, but it’s doable.

    3. books*

      So many good suggestions here! I have a duplicate make up bag for travel as well as duplicate chargers and a specific bag that I keep cords in.

  23. Monodon monoceros*

    I travel a lot for work, and I look low and high for hotels that have 1) kettle in the room 2) refrigerator and 3) can open the window. These three things can make all the difference, especially if I’m going to be there more than 2 nights. I travel mostly in Europe and it seems like only 1/2 the hotels have all of these. I actually just bought a travel kettle so that I could make my own tea/coffee in the room for when I can’t find a hotel with a kettle in the room.

    Most of the hotels here also usually include breakfast. I have learned to ask for a cheaper rate and not get breakfast. It is usually way cheaper to buy some yogurt/granola to keep in the room (main reason why fridge is important). I eat less this way (for some reason I feel like I have to get my money’s worth if the breakfast is included) and I find it more relaxing to eat leisurely while I get ready rather than getting ready and then sitting in the breakfast room, where I inevitably end up running into someone from the meeting/conference who wants to talk (I do not want to talk about work first thing in the morning).

  24. Cruciatus*

    It has always amazed me that people don’t bring stuff to do–anywhere. Not just while traveling. It’s a bit different these days in the age of smartphones and tablets where there is always something to fiddle with, but as a kid my mom always made sure we’d bring a book (or something, ANYTHING) to the doctor’s office to keep ourselves amused. She’d always ask if we had everything we needed for the doctor…and a book. Then and sometimes now I see people just sitting there. I wonder what they’re thinking about or how bored they are. Maybe some people are just fine doing this, but I’d rather read a few pages of a book than just sit, sit, sit. (It doesn’t help that my doctor’s office airs FOX news making it doubly important to bring something to occupy my mind).

    1. batmom*

      Agree – and a table is great for the plane, but not for takeoff and landing, when you have to have it put away, so I always make sure to have a book or news paper. I suppose that I could occupy myself with my own thoughts, but sometimes I can be poor company.

      1. Zed*

        You can use tablets and smartphones during takeoff and landing now. On airplane mode, obviously.

        1. batmom*

          The carrier that I travel with still asks that we put them away, so I do, like a good girl.

    2. Annie O*

      Sometimes, I’m one of the people who just sit there. It’s one of the few times in my life that I can literally do nothing.

  25. mess*

    I also bring or buy my favorite tea and hit the grocery store for breakfast foods and healthy snacks. I don’t want to eat pastries every day for breakfast.

    One of my best work travel purchases was a travel steamer! I actually use it at home too. $20 at BBB.

    Eating by myself is one of my favorite things about biz travel. When I am doing a lot of business socializing, it’s such a nice treat to take myself out to a fun restaurant in a new town. I will also often sit at the bar. A few years ago I was in Chicago and went to a popular restaurant, and I got seated in front of a bunch of big groups because I was by myself. Later, suckers!

    RE: number one though, with my laptop and internet available on most flights now, my days of reading on plane trips are over. Now it’s always, “Oh, you’ll be on a plane for five hours? Great, here’s a bunch of TPS reports to review!” Boo.

    1. mess*

      Oh yeah, and I always bring an envelope to keep all my receipts in for my expense report, so I’m not fishing around for them in my bag when I get back!

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      OMFG I hate when coworkers are, all, “Can you look at this on the plane?”

      No. No, I cannot. Not unless I get an upgrade to first class, because I do not work well hunched over my tray table, with someone’s elbow in my lap, as always seems to be the case now that airline seats keep getting narrower.

      I try really hard to maintain an “I don’t work on planes” policy. About 75% of the time I can do it, and then there’s always someone who has to have something RIGHT AWAY AND OMG NOBODY AT THE OFFICE COULD POSSIBLY COVER FOR YOU. Annoying.

      1. mess*

        It’s sort of expected at my company. Sometimes I will read if I am flying at night or on a weekend. Once I was in a meeting and someone joined from a plane via Lync. They were listening in with headphones and typing responses by IM. A little ridiculous. I wanted to say, you’re not THAT important, dude.

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          I literally could not do that, as the only way I can even stand plane travel is by staring straight ahead at a fixed point (or with my eyes closed) the entire plane ride. Even then it’s iffy, especially if there’s turbulence or a rough takeoff/descent. If I look down or even to the side (like out the window) for more than a few seconds at a time, it’s bye-bye to the contents of my stomach. Meclizine has helped take the edge off, but I still inevitably arrive at my destination dizzy, headachey, and in desperate need of a good night’s sleep.

          I listen to a lot of audiobooks when I fly.

    3. Laura*

      I literally could not do that, and I am so glad I do not work for a company that asks for it ever. I am at best woozy on an airplane, and at worst I am asleep. (This is actually a learned response: I used to have panic attacks instead. I would greatly rather sleep through a flight than panic through a flight. In neither case am I mentally capable of work, whether or not I am physically capable of it, and in coach I am usually not physically able either.)

  26. Katie the Fed*

    I LOVE work travel, probably because I only do it like once a year and it’s usually abroad.

    I do things I never do when traveling on my own – namely veg the hell out, order room service, and get a good amount of exercise. Since I have so few distractions I can catch up on reading and rest. I sleep more when traveling than I do at home because I don’t have pets clamboring all over me all night.

  27. giggleloop*

    I will say that I had one of the best meals of my life and made two friends on a night I was travelling for work and went out to dinner by myself. The couple next to me travelled for work a lot and understood the plight of the solo diner and struck up a conversation with me.

  28. Julia*

    I love to travel for busines, I’m lucky that I don’t do it so often that it gets old. I don’t mind eating alone, I sometimes sit at the bar and order an appetizer or two or a salad. I always have my iPad (with the Kindle app) and I can amuse myself for hours. Business travel is just about the only “alone” time I get!

  29. Al Lo*

    I recently spent a week on the road for work and my roommate and I (we’re a non-profit educational org, and the kids with us bunk 4 to a room and share beds, but the adults are booked 2 to a room, which isn’t the worst) marveled at how quietly the other slept. My husband snores, and I sleep with earplugs in every night, so it was a nice change of pace to actually be able to sleep without earplugs — even with another person in the room.

  30. Noah*

    If you travel a lot for work, Global Entry and TSA PreCheck are totally worth the cost. I used my AmEx to pay for Global Entry and AmEx refunded the charge. With Global Entry you automatically get TSA PreCheck too. PreCheck means you don’t have to take off your shoes, your belt, or take your laptop out of your bag. Breeze right through airport security.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I just enrolled in global entry. The last time I came through customs at Dulles I almost renounced my US citizenship because it seemed faster and easier to deal with that than wait the 2+ hours in the line for citizens :)

      1. Monodon monoceros*

        Dulles customs and immigration is awful. I also had no cell service in the customs and immigration area, so no way of telling my family that I was stuck in customs hell and that they should probably just go eat lunch or something instead of driving around in circles. But the non-citizens line was 3x longer that day, so I was glad for my US passport then.

        1. Judy*

          Every flight I’ve been on from overseas announced that we couldn’t turn cell phones on until we were through customs and immigration.

          1. Noah*

            CBP doesn’t allow you to use your cell phone in the customs and immigration area but you can use it after landing and before you get to customs.

          2. Monodon monoceros*

            I live overseas now, and the last few times I entered the US it was in Anchorage (until the Dulles experience) so maybe Anchorage isn’t as forceful about the no cell phone use, or I wasn’t paying attention. The lack of attention certainly could have been the case!

  31. AVP*

    I’ve been on the road for 3 of the last 4 weeks and usually travel 1-2 weeks per month. Here’s what I’ve learned…

    -Consider upgrading your wifi for $10/day if the hotel offers it. Sometimes the free wifi is okay, sometimes it’s not, but being able to download websites quickly and stream movies is priceless.

    -People above talked about bringing their own tea cup, slippers, etc. This is great! Also, scented candles and those tiny music speakers.

    -You don’t have to let the housekeeping service in, if you don’t want to. For me, making my own bed and keeping my room neat on my own feels more like home.

    -I hate the tv so I always put it away in the closet if I’m going to be there for more than a few days. But I make sure to put it back so as not to make the housekeeping staff deal with my crazy.

    -If i have time to get to a store and buy some yogurt and granola and fruit to keep in the mini-fridge, I try to. I hate eating “out” so many meals in one day, and it adds up.

    sent from a Hampton Inn in Tuscaloosa, AL. Roll tide.

  32. Vera*

    I’ve been strongly considering starting a blog just about healthy business travel, mostly because I use blogs for inspiration/reminders about how I want to live my life, and I can’t find ANYTHING that helps motivate me to be healthier while I’m on the road, which is a lot of the time. Many blogs write one-off articles like this one about business travel, but I’d love a whole blog with regular posts about it. Does anyone know of such a thing?

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