Travelling for work: 5 tips for surviving and thriving

I was chatting to my hairdresser Steve Corthine this week. He has just arrived home from 10 days at New York Fashion Week, styling hair working with the hair product company OriginalMineral. So jealous! Imagine being behind the scenes during the craziness of fashion shows? He even got to see Fashion royalty Anna Wintour. Sigh. I must have worked in fashion in another life. Anyway. Getting distracted. You can read about his adventures here.

While we were chatting he mentioned that he doesn't know how I do it! Referring, to travelling for work. Well sometimes I'm not sure either, but I have been doing it for a while both before and after kids and have compiled my best tips for you here.

1. Gotta love it!
To travel regularly for work you gotta love your job, and you gotta love travelling because it's very tiring. As an example, you need lots of energy to if you are expected to do this:

Get up at 4.30am, catch taxi to airport at 5am, to board a flight at 6am. Then land in Melbourne around 7.30am and hop in a car or taxi to drive about 45 minutes to the office. Work all day, mainly in meetings. Leave around 5pm to get to the hotel in the city. This trip could take an hour or more. Check in at the hotel and in 15 mins meet work colleagues in the bar for drinks before heading to diner at 7. Dinner may go to 10.30pm and then a drink in one of Melbourne's trendy alley wine bars. Well it would be rude not to, wouldn't it? Go to bed around midnight and be ready to leave the hotel again the next morning at 7.30am having already had breakfast. Repeat. 

This is just domestic travel. I don't do this every week but on average have been doing it every 2-3 weeks for a few days at a time. It's not that glamorous so you gotta love it.

2. Sleep it off!
For this kind of pace it helps if you are good at sleeping on planes, particularly on long haul flights and sleeping in hotels, or both. I am really bad at sleeping on planes but sleep like a log in hotels. On long haul flights, say to the US or to London, I usually don't sleep on the flight and arrive feeling like death warmed up, but a night's sleep in a hotel and I'm good to go. My husband Arran can sleep on planes. He falls asleep before the plane even takes off. If I am travelling with him I have to fight the urge to hit him. Hard.

Rest and sleep is essential when travelling and it helps you manage your energy and your emotions. Travelling for work puts your body through more stress than it does if you are going on holidays, so sleep is really important if you are going to perform well.

My favourite jobs have been the ones where I get to travel overseas. My very first business trip was to London. So. Lucky. Pinched myself the whole time I was there, but the jet lag!! Seriously. That trip I flew business class (so lucky) and arrived into what must be the biggest airport in the world, Heathrow, and had to navigate my way to my hotel, WITH NO SLEEP for more than 36 hours. I had hay-fever the whole trip. Thought I might die from lack of sleep, sneezing and rubbing my nose. 

After checking into the hotel I went for a wander for a few hours and then slept for about 20!

I also love travelling. I love getting to the airport and looking around the shops. I love the business lounge if I'm lucky enough to have access to one. I love getting on the plane and getting set up in my seat and I even love the airline food. I LOVE taking off! So sad. I know. But it helps. If you hate all that stuff and you have to travel on planes all the time, give it up. Seriously. Find a 9-5 job where you go to the same office everyday.

2. Manage your calendar
Sometimes you don't have a choice when you have to travel for work. There are times when you are attending a national or global meeting and in these instances you generally have to comply with the timing set by someone else. In my experience though, there are times when you either have a lot of choice or the ability to influence the timing of your trips. Recently I was able to influence the timing of a global HR meeting I am attending in the US because I have to travel the greatest distance (most everyone else is in North America). It was great because I could work with my husband Arran to work out the best timing for him, who would be left with the sole caring responsibility for our 2 small boys for the week. That makes a massive difference to our relationship.

Arran and I manage our lives through our online calendars, both work and home. That might sound a little sad but it seems to work. When I travel domestically I have my flight and hotel details in my calendar and make sure Arran is included in this appointments so he knows where and when I am travelling. We have a fair bit of give and take in our relationship. I travel for work but he travels for his passion, mountain biking. It works most of the time but it's a negotiation and we try not to take each other for granted.

3. Get out and about

This rule applies for domestic and international travel. It's important to exercise when you travel but I firmly believe you need to get outside. Forget the hotel gym or pool. You need to get outside and pound the streets. Breathe in some air. Get some sunshine on your skin. Work out your bearings. Give your mind a break. There are some countries and cities I don't recommend this (India comes to mind) but generally, get out there!

There's lots of research to suggest that sunlight helps reset your body clock to get you into your new destination's time zone. And it feels great. When I travel I spend lots of time in airports, aeroplanes, hire cars/taxis/, the office, hotels and restaurants. All inside. 30 minutes getting out in my sneakers is great. I admit there are times when I pack my sneakers and they don't get out of their shoe bag, but when they do I love it!

This rule also applies to the airport and the plane. Try to move about in the airport. Why sit down when you are about to board a plane when you are going to be sitting for hours? If you are on a long haul flight go for a walk during the stop over. Don't sit or sleep on stopovers less than 4 hours. Walk around, look at the shops. Keep moving. 

On the plane, get up regularly. I drink lots of water on planes which means I have to go to the toilet a lot (I always request an aisle seat). So often I have been sitting next to someone for 8 hours who never got out of their seat, even to go to the toilet. How is that possible?

A great tip I learnt from my friend Jacqui is to have a shower on the stopover on long flights. This makes you feel great. Pack some clean undies, some deodorant and utilise the business lounge facilities. Getting naked and having hot water on your body is so nice when you have been cooped up for hours and hours. You get back on the plane feeing fresh and clean for the next leg.

4.  Listen to your body
I'm not a big proponent of "getting into the time zone", by staying up till your normal bed time in your new location, particularly if your new location is the opposite side of the world. I have been to London a few times for work, which is pretty close to the opposite time zone to Sydney. The flight typically arrives at around 7am London time, arrive at the hotel around 9am. I generally have a shower and go for a walk about have some lunch. By about 2pm I enter into a woozy muddled head-space where I don't know which way is up. I go to bed and generally wake around 9pm and then go back to sleep until morning. that's the way I handle it. I'm much more about listening to your body (if you can). Of course having a little nap in a meeting at 2pm in the afternoon is probably not going to work.

5. Back at home

Get back into your home routine quickly. Unpack your bags and get everything put away. Get some exercise and a coffee from your favourite cafe. It you are tired at 8pm go to bed. If you are too tired to work at night, if you normally would, don't. Get out in the sunshine and air and leave work early for a few days. Connect with friends and family, face to face.

Inspire me

Quick tips you might found helpful but I'm hopeless at!
  • Got to bed early: I'm seriously bad at this. If there is a social situation to be a part of I'm there. Stuff the sleep! I also have lots of energy in the evening. Most nights I could easily stay up to midnight without much effort. The evening is when I get everything done. I exercise, sometimes I work and I blog at night. Even if for some reason I'm back in my hotel room early, I still manage to while away the time and end up going to bed late.
  • Don't drink alcohol: I like wine. I really like wine. Arran and I have been known to organise holidays around wine. If I'm in a new city to country it's a pretty safe bet I want to try the wine. I also have built a reputation in my current role of picking good wine at restaurants. I would have to partake then, wouldn't I?
  • Travel light: actually I'm pretty good at this now. I can travel for a week with a small carry on bag. Plan well and work out a flexible range of clothes that won't need ironing. I find that the bit easy as I don't iron full stop. The hardest part for me is shoes. If I'm being really restrained I can manage with a pair of sneakers, a pair of flats (which I wear on the plane) and a pair of heels. I think there is nothing worse then struggling around an aiport with heavy luggage.
  • Don't eat on planes: I have a good friend who sticks to this rule. It seems like a good idea, I guess. I mean you aren't moving very much to burn up what you are eating. Trouble is I like food. I like airline food. I even "booked the cook" for my next flight to Singapore. And it gives you something to do. Eating fills up some time....
  • Take vitamin supplements: To keep up the pace when your diet may not be the best it's good to get a little help. I pack vitamins but always forget to take them. Hopeless

Develop me

Need more help? Check out Road Warriorette, a blog about travelling for work.

Just for me

One way to make travel for work more enjoyable is to keep doing something you like doing. For example, when I'm away I like to blog and take photos. I generally don't take by digital SLR when travelling for work because I try to travel light, but I take lots of shots with my iphone and post them using instagram. I love taking shots of interiors.

Hard Rock Hotel, Singapore

Hard Rock Hotel, Singapore