We were just outside of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on our way home to Iowa, and had run out of Corn Nuts. We were low on gas, and bladders were full.
There were five of us (if that helps explain the variety and quantity of our snacking and drinking), and we had just driven through on-again, off-again blowing snow conditions for about 100 miles or so. And we still had many, many miles to go before we could sleep.
What could have been a more mundane point in a trip resulted in us recognizing the absurdity of our snacking purchase and documenting it for posterity in that glorious photograph. And it gave us the strength to journey on.
Business travel is a necessary part of doing business, particularly when you work in a service industry such as ours with clients stretching across the country. Some see it as a “necessary evil.” Some dread time away from the office or time away from loved ones. Some dislike the inconvenience of our travel infrastructure, the uncertainty of weather and airline schedules, and, of course, the expense.
But staying positive and remaining open to the benefits of business travel (and there are many) will help make for a better experience. Here are my battle-tested tips for getting the most out of your business trip:
1. Enjoy the face time with your clients, customers, prospects, or whomever you’re going to see. With so much communication being done via email, phone or fax, like in this ancient United Airlines commercial that illustrates this point: actual time together is something to look forward to. Take advantage of it and strengthen relationships.
2. Enjoy the face time with your colleagues. The best, most open and honest, and most entertaining conversations often happen outside of the office. Car time and airport waiting time are good brainstorming opportunities, too.
3. Get caught up on important but back-burner items. Use your transit time to clear through all those articles you meant to read, or to put some thought into that proposal you can never find time to get to. Or read a book. Uninterrupted plane time can be productive.
4. Consolidate your travel loyalty with a few key providers, if possible. It’s what most of our clients (and we as an agency) want from our customers … loyalty. Loyalty leads to repeat purchases, and with travel it comes with benefits and savings. Taking four trips on airline A, four on airline B, and four on airline C will likely provide few benefits, but 12 trips on airline A can get you some needed perks while traveling. Ditto for your hotel provider.
5. Try new food. Business travel offers an opportunity to sample the local cuisine or try something different. I’ve had frog legs, incredibly spicy hot wasabi, Rocky Mountain oysters, and other foods I may not have ordered on my own. Be adventurous.
6. Eat at the local brewpub. This has been my No. 1 travel rule, personally and professionally. The food will undoubtedly be good. The building will likely be interesting. The bartender will be friendly. And surely there will be an interesting beer to try. Eat at Applebee’s when you’re home, if you must, but you’ll rarely have a bad meal at a brewpub.
7. Tack on an extra day for yourself if you can. I like exploring, so this is a no-brainer for me. If I’m visiting a place anyway for business, why not take advantage of a new destination when possible?
I do my best to go with the flow when I have to travel for work. There are many aspects of travel that are beyond my control, but staying calm and being prepared can help minimize the anxiety or unpredictability. Enjoy it when you can, but also recognize the absurdity of it all, particularly when stocking up on $24.72 worth of snacks at a random truck stop.
Happy travels in 2017!