You know the feeling: the excitement of an upcoming business trip. Daydreaming about how productive you’ll be during the trip, believing you’ll get double the work done in half the time. I kid. In reality, business travel is exhausting — disrupted sleep, lack of exercise, poor food choices and unpredictable internet connections make staying productive a lot tougher than you imagined it to be. Many times I’ve come back from business trips feeling triple exhausted and twice as behind on all of my work.
After years of business travel, including monthly trips across the country when I worked for a company located on the other side of the U.S., I’ve learned a few things about improving business travel. Here are five tips to overcome travel challenges and make the most of your business trips.
1. PLAN EVERYTHING IN ADVANCE
Before you head out on your trip, try to check off as many to-do items as possible. Prioritize responsibilities that are more challenging to do while working remotely. Meet with your project teams to get status updates and review upcoming deadlines. Don’t forget to let everyone know about your availability while traveling — when you’re completely out of pocket and when you will be most reachable.
Get to the airport early so you don’t feel rushed. Once through security, grab your coffee and find a comfortable spot to work before your flight. Download GateGuru to stay on top of your reservation. GateGuru provides all of the flight and airport information you need to manage your entire day of travel. It will notify you via push notifications of anything that affects your itinerary.
Once you arrive at your destination, schedule blocks of morning or evening for solid work times when you aren’t in transit or in business-related meetings.
2. LIGHTEN YOUR LOAD
Flying can drain your energy, so try to simplify the journey by packing the right way. Don’t check bags unless you really need to. If possible, plan your daily outfits to prevent overpacking.
If you have a presentation or are sharing product samples, ship your items to your destination prior to your arrival. Don’t forget to call the hotel ahead of time to double check that they will hold your packages.
3. DON’T WASTE FLIGHT TIME
If you can’t confirm that your flights have WiFi, write emails so they’re ready to send when you reach a location with WiFi. Make sure you save important documents to your desktop. Depending on your seatmates, planes could also be great for practicing networking skills, such as initiating conversations, asking questions and listening.
If you’re stuck at the airport because of flight delays, ensure you’ve packed your MiFi because internet connection at airports can be slow and unreliable. It also comes in handy if you’re on-the-go with spotty internet connection. If you travel for business often and don’t have a MiFi, I highly recommend purchasing one. It’s a portable broadband device that allows multiple users and mobile devices to share a 3G or 4G mobile broadband connection and basically create an ad-hoc Wifi network. You can load it up with data and only use what you need, when you need it.
A side note, don’t waste additional time at the rental car companies, either. If you’re not taking public transportation, Uber, Lyft, etc., and are renting a car during your business trip, join their loyalty program. It enables you to avoid the long lines of inexperienced vacationers. Loyalty programs drop you right at your rental car and let you get on the road to your destination immediately.
4. ORGANIZE AS YOU GO
Business travel can ignite tons of new ideas and bring in new contracts that can be impossible to absorb at once. Luckily there are ways to organize the ideas and information as they come through to ensure you don’t forget them by the time you arrive back at the office.
A great app for on-the-go organization is Evernote; it quickly organizes new info and will sync with other devices so you can share with your team. Another favorite of mine is Trello. You can add tasks on your phone as you remember them, and then they’ll appear on your Trello board when you fire up your desktop computer.
5. GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP & AVOID JET LAG
Unfamiliar hotel rooms, time zone changes or happy hours with coworkers can lead to a horrible night’s sleeps when you’re on the road. This usually compounds each day as you run around in meetings and squeeze in extra work during a short trip.
To get a good night’s sleep, be sure to wind down early the first night you get in. If home is on the west coast, but you’re traveling to the east coast, try to eat early and put yourself in bed even though it might only be 7 p.m. at home for you. Avoid alcohol and LED lighting from a phone or laptop, which can negatively affect sleep. Try bringing a travel essential oil diffuser in your suitcase and lavender oil, which should relax you and help you sleep. If your sleep cycle is really thrown off, consider a natural sleep aid with herbs like melatonin and valerian.
6. GET FAMILIAR WITH YOUR DESTINATION
Before you arrive, check out where you’ll be staying and what’s nearby. Is the conference center within walking distance? If not, what type of transportation can you use if you don’t have a rental car? Check out the nearest restaurants in case your client would like to go for a nice dinner, or you just need to decompress after a busy day of meetings with coworkers you don’t get to see often.
Knowing information about the city you’re staying in before you arrive will save you valuable time when you get there and give you one less thing to distract yourself from your work. Load up your smartphone or tablet with apps that make travel easier, like OpenTable for dinner reservations and Uber for transportation.
Business trips can be a great opportunity to expand your business and see a city you’ve never visited, but if you spend the whole trip stressing about basic needs, you won’t make the most out of your trip. These tips should help you focus on your goals — and avoid feeling tired, stressed and pulled in too many directions. You might even enjoy your business trip next time around.
This post originally appeared as a guest contribution on Hatchbuck.com — a great resource for small business owners looking for a marketing automation tool!