I travel a lot for work.
When I interviewed for my current job, I was informed that there would be a lot of travel. “How much?” I asked. “A couple times a month or so. It depends,” they said. I love travelling! Awesome!
But what’s the reality? If you get to go to a place you haven’t been or an exotic place…awesome! But most of the time…not awesome!
When I tell people I travel a lot, I almost always get the response, “You’re so lucky! I wish I could travel for my job!” You know what? The first couple of months it is kind of fun and glamorous. But after that, it can become a real hassle. So before you take a job that requires a lot of travel, take the time to decide whether or not it would be right for you.
Obviously, people who have children have a whole other set of issues to think about. Since I don’t have children, I’ll talk my personal experience with work travel and give you some things to consider.
1. The getting there and back. You can spend a lot of time just getting to your final destination, especially if you travel beyond the continental United States. I know some people who can pull out their laptop and work while waiting to board an airplane or sitting in that cramped airplane seat in flight. I’m not one of those people – which means there is a lot of work I’m not doing because I’m travelling, and it starts to pile up, resulting in a lot of catch up when I get back to the office. However, if you love to read or watch movies/TV shows, this can be the perfect time to catch up on your favorite book or the next movie in your “to watch” queue!
2. Travel delays. I once got stuck at the Chicago airport because of bad weather and ended up sleeping overnight on a cot in some distant terminal with dozens and dozens of other unlucky travellers.
It was incredibly uncomfortable and freezing cold despite the thin blanket they provided. I also happened to be dealing with a pulled muscle in my lower back at that time, and was in a lot of pain…lowering myself into the cot was a major feat. But that was nothing compared to trying to get myself up from the cot! Anyway, the reality is that you will have to deal with travel delays and missed connections. At least half the time I travel, there are delays. It’s a pain. Yes, it means I have more time to enjoy that sci-fi book, but at the end of a trip, I just want to go home!
3. Exercise. If you exercise regularly, work travel will disrupt your workout schedule. I work out pretty much every day. When I travel, it’s hard to get in a workout – and that totally stresses me out! One or two or three or four days without exercise?! It stresses me out. But here are a few tips. Obviously, you can find out before you go whether or not your hotel has a gym and what equipment it has so you can set aside time for gym workouts. Most hotel gyms have one or more bikes, stair steppers and/or treadmills. If you’re lucky, they have a set of weights. Some might have a few weight lifting machines.
If your destination gains you a few hours (for example, flying from Washington, DC to San Francisco), you’ll probably wake up between 3-5am local time. Take advantage of hitting the hotel gym first thing in the morning before your meetings, workshop, conference, etc.
I have an online yoga membership so it’s easy to whip out my laptop, load a yoga session, and do yoga first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. Some hotels even provide you with a yoga mat! I also have a set of boxing gloves from a class I took in college. It’s easy to do a little boxing routine first thing in the morning as you’re watching the morning news or warming up for yoga. I’ve stayed at a few hotels that provide maps with routes for walkers or runners, or bikes. If you have workout DVDs, bring them!
4. Food. I’m a healthy eater and am careful about the food I eat – which is why I cook or prepare almost everything I eat (yes, I love to cook!).
That said, if I go out to a restaurant, I splurge! Appetizer, main course and dessert! Bring it on! In fact, I deserve a little treat, how about two desserts! Work travel is one big restaurant splurge after another…after another…after another for me. Not good! If you’re one of those people who enjoys food, work travel is your enemy. If you are frequently away for multiple days, you will eventually gain weight if you’re not careful! I can attest to that personally!
One tip to consider. Bring your own snacks! I always bring a container of mixed nuts, a dozen granola bars, and several apples. Sometimes I’ll bring a bag of popcorn or sesame chips. Jerky is good, too, for those of you who eat it. You get the picture. Another tip, when you get to your destination, you can usually find a convenience store. If I can find one close by, I’ll buy several bottles of water and a few healthy snacks, if needed. If you’re waking up at 3am or 4am local time, you’ll need something to tide you over until the hotel restaurant or nearby restaurant opens for breakfast.
5. Pets. Unless you have friends, family, a spouse/partner who can take care of your pet while you’re gone, you need to budget for the cost of boarding your pet or paying for a pet sitter. Last year, I spent over $1000 on pet sitting services.
6. Sleep. I don’t know about you, but I rarely get a good night’s sleep in a hotel room. If you’re one of those people who can sleep anywhere – I envy you! If you’re not, expect to be sleep deprived! Bring earplugs!
7. Fun. I don’t know how many times I’ve said to myself, “I know I’ll be stuck in meetings all day, but I’ll have time to check out the town at the end of the day!”
The reality is that most of the time, you arrive at your hotel, spend all your time at meetings or a conference, go out to dinner, and then head back to your hotel room or head to the airport to go home.
You may tell yourself that you’ll have time in the evenings to explore the city, but the reality is that you’ll be jet lagged, exhausted, and/or having a hard time adjusting to the time difference. And besides, nothing is open in the evenings except restaurants. If you happen to be travelling to a place you haven’t been and would like to explore, then you’re in luck if you can extend your stay over the weekend and give yourself a few days!
But you’ll need to budget for that. Over the years, I have been lucky enough to go to London, Belfast and Zurich and was able to get in a mini-vacation in each place after my work stuff was done!
I know there are people out there who travel a lot for work and absolutely love it. I think most of us enjoy a bit of work travel. But I believe most people would find a lot of work travel to be a bit of a hassle. But, there are some benefits, too. I hope the above helps! Let me know if you have other work travel tips!