Travel a Mile in My Shoes

I write this blog entry as I’m wrapping up a trip where I saw family in Austin, had 2 meetings in Austin, had a meeting in Atlanta during a 2-hour layover, and had two meetings in Raleigh and only 2.5 hours on the ground before returning to San Diego. This trip occurred between 8am Sunday and 6pm Monday. I love this stuff.

I just love travel. My mother grew up traveling around the world every summer with her father (and mother, and then stepmother). While I was growing up, my father would travel all over the country and all over Europe for his business. Travel is simply in my blood.

As with anything else, travel is something you have to do right in order to have the most fulfilling experience with it.

#1: Consistency. If you travel for work, make sure you pick an airline or two and stick with them. One of the big perks of travel is frequent flyer status, and the other are frequent flyer miles. Last year, I traveled with my bosses on whatever airlines they flew, and when I traveled alone for work I took the cheapest flight available. By the end of the year, I had 12,000-15,000 miles on USAir, American, Delta, Continental, United and Southwest. Had I consolidated my travel, I could have qualified for frequent flier status on two airlines – which I did this year. It’s not worth the $20 savings to buy the cheapest airline – with just a little advanced planning you can get a very competitive rate and push yourself toward airline perks. Also, it didn’t help me to rack up 75,000 miles across all those carriers because their frequent flyer miles are incompatible with each other. I get no free flights from all that travel!

#2: Comfort. If you travel for work do not travel in your work clothes if your flight is longer than an hour or so. Travel in comfort. You can ruin a good suit/dress by sitting on a plane for 5 hours in it. Take a suit bag with your clothes in it, and change in the handicap stall in the bathroom when you land (if you have a meeting right away). Otherwise, wait to change until you get to your hotel.

#3: Working. If you travel for work, try not to work the whole time you’re on the plane.

#4: Learn to sleep on a plane – sit against the window and lean against it to sleep. Nothing makes your work more effective and your mind sharper for meetings, etc., than to have a great nap to the lull of the airplane engine.

#5: International travel. The goal is to avoid missing a beautiful, exotic spot on the other side of the planet via jet lag. To avoid this problem, I stay up the night before. Then I’m so tired I have to sleep through the many hours of flight – and if I have to encourage it with two NyQuil gel caps, I do that too. This trick is how I taught myself to sleep on planes – enough times, and your body responds to aircraft sounds with the unquenchable desire to snore.

#6: Packing. A few points here
–>a. Rolling: My grandmother (my mom’s stepmother) taught me this one. Take your clothes and roll them up really tight, one at a time. You can potentially pack twice as many clothes in the same suitcase this way. It’s like rolling a cigar – and all your clothes will be tight little cigars you stack on top of each other – even the underwear!
–>b. Shoes: If you’re traveling for work, wear the nice shoes with your pajamas/jeans – NO ONE CARES. But it keeps you from having to pack them. If I’m traveling long enough to need more than one pair of shoes, I always wear the bulkier shoes for my plane trip, even if they don’t make a lot of sense for the rest of my ensemble. Then kick your shoes off for the flight!
–>c. Wrapping. There’s no reason to take up suitcase space with them. Anything breakable, I wrap in jeans/sweats/something like that.
–>d. The BULK. In conjunction with #2 above and if possible, I wear everything bulky onto the plane. If you have a jacket and a

#7: Talking. You’re stuck on the plane with a couple of strangers. Why not talk to them? Start by asking if wherever you’re going is their final destination. They want to hear about you, and you can learn something from them. Don’t succumb to your inner introvert: you are already cramped in coach with them. How much more cozy can it get?

#8: Sudoku. Learn to like it. It’s in the airplane magazines and can keep you busy awhile.

#9: Traditions. My dad would buy Popular Science before the flight, and would order Mr. & Mrs. T’s (bloody mary mix – no alcohol) to drink. I now do the same thing. I have added cranberry juice to my ensemble, since it’s good for your kidneys and I’m sure flying dries you out. Figure out your own traditions and do it! Traditions can extend to other parts of the trip – I make a point to eat at hole-in-the-wall restaurants if I can find them. Sleep naked in your hotel room – no one can see you! Take a bath – they’re paying for the water! Whatever your traditions are, they can help relax you during otherwise stressful travel.

#10: Hotels. I like to stay at boutique hotels – they’re often reasonably priced, and they give you a trendy, edge place to stay with marvelous amenities. They’re just as easy to find on Hotels.com or Expedia as the major chains. Also, stay at the same hotel when you go back to the same city. You can start getting rooms upgraded, free wifi, etc., if you’re seen as a regular.

#11: Don’t do bad things. They will come back to haunt you. We live in a very small world and your actions will come back to haunt you.

#12: ET phone home. Call/email/text home. They miss you.

#13: Junk food. I can’t tell you how many frequent travelers I know whose health has gone to pot and whose girths have doubled or tripled. You don’t have to eat at Denny’s, McDonald’s or Waffle House. There is plenty of delish food out there for a reasonable price. As for me, I love Indian food. I can buy Indian food in any city on the planet, and it’s always good. Pick your food and find it.

#14: Exercise. You don’t have to pack the gym gear (though more power to you if you do!). Make a point not to take the escalator/elevator if it’s reasonable to do so. Take the stairs. Walk 10 blocks instead of cabbing it, even if it’s cold or hot or whatever your excuse may be. Don’t order take-out food (dovetailing with #13), walk to a nearby restaurant and feed yourself there.

#15: Take pictures. Anywhere you go, there may be something that moves you. You can turn a mundane trip into something exciting, or take an exciting trip and preserve it forever.

#16: facebook. Share where your’e going and what’s exciting to you. Your friends and family are interested. You could inspire them!

#17: Shaving. Shave before you go. Once, in Austin, I shaved like any other day. What I didn’t know was that the water there is terrible. It got into my skin and I broke out like I had a fungus or something. It was horrible. Take care of that stuff just hours before you leave. If you are traveling too long, you’ll have to shave, but you may be used to the water by then if you’re bathing regularly.

#18: Caffeine. If you’re traveling for work, you don’t have to prop yourself up with caffeine. You can make yourself alert with the proper balance of protein and sugar. Today, I had a tuna sandwich and a peppermint hot chocolate from Starbucks. I was alert, with only a few hours’ sleep.

#19: Loved ones. Take them along sometimes, if your’e traveling for work. They will happily wait in the hotel room/poke around town while you’re doing something for the office. Then you get to retreat to your Love’s embrace.

#20: Security lines. Be ready. Don’t be “that person” holding everyone up. Untie the shoe laces while you’re in line. Take off your jacket. Pack your fluids in a Ziploc before you leave the house. Empty the pockets (I put all of my things in my bag as soon as I leave the car).

#21: Parking. Find one lot you like to park in. In San Diego, the commuter terminal has a lot that costs significantly less than the more convenient lots. I park, walk across to the Commuter terminal (which I very rarely use), and then take the shuttle bus to my terminal. I save time and the shuttle is free! There are always more distant lots which are cheaper, but the lot owners don’t really pay their shuttle drivers. You end up with a shuttle driver who gives you nasty looks because he expects a tip. You’re already paying for parking – don’t pay for the ride, too!

#22: Extended leg room. For $50-$75 each way, you can upgrade your seat to more legroom. It’s worth it if your flight is longer than 2 hours.

#23: First Class/Business Class. Sometimes you can upgrade to these for as little as $50 each way. It’s worth it if your flight is longer than 2 hours. The flight attendants treat you with more respect, too. And you get more points. And you can get fed. It’s worth it and your’e worth it!

#24: Charging stations. If you have electronics, charge them up while you wait for your flight to board. There is little more frustrating than getting on a plane with a half-charged iPhone/iPod/iPad/laptop

#25: Keeping Track of the Regulars. I’m a natural-born forgetter. And yet I travel a lot. This travel tip may be my most important. When you travel, there are little tickets (e.g., for parking), papers (e.g., tickets for various flights), keys, your wallet, ID/passport, etc. You need to have one consistent place for everything. Check before you leave the house to make sure it’s all there. When you get out of your car at the airport, put it all in your special spot (e.g., a particular pouch in your bag). When your’e packing up from the hotel, check to make sure it’s there. You can completely avoid the disasters from losing any one of these things by forcing habits on yourself. I’ve seen seasoned executive travelers show up at the airport just in time for their flight and realize they don’t have their ID! To avoid this problem, and avoid the embarrassment from it, I always travel with two forms of ID. That way if one is stolen/lost while I’m far, far away, I am not stuck being unable to board my flight. I have a passport and my driver’s license. Either one will do, but both ensures I sleep peacefully in New York, Chicago, Raleigh, Atlanta, Austin, Houston, San Francisco, Portland, Cleveland, Boston or anywhere else.

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