Nine Tips To Make Business Travel More Bearable


And then … your daughter sees you packing … and she grabs William the Bear and she tries to climb into your suitcase to go with you.

And it breaks your heart. But you go, dude. You go.

Here are nine things I do to make road trips more productive and bearable.

Yep. I sure did. Sorry.

1. Be kind. Be kind to airline folks. Be kind to hotel personnel. Be kind to your hosts. Be kind to your guests. Go out of your way to do unto others on the road. This may sound nuts until you realize how easy it is to play the victim and ruin not only your day but at least one other person’s. Don’t. You haven’t grabbed a rifle and been asked to man a post. You’re flying to a city and staying in a hotel. Shut up about your inconvenience and be kind.

2. Keep the TV off in your hotel room. This has changed my life the last 18 months. I’ve written a book largely in hotel rooms as a result of keeping the TV off. I keep up with work. I read. I get to bed earlier, and I’m not watching absolute CRAP. Isn’t that what you watch in hotel rooms anyway? There’s typically no guide, so you end up watching the latest stretch-of-reality show, and then another, and then another. Then it’s 3 a.m. Oops.

3. Hydrate. If you’re going to be at a place for more than a couple days, go to a neighborhood store and buy water. Drink at least eight glasses a day. You should be doing this every day, but even more so when you’re on the road – where soda (and booze for the drinkers reading this) lurks around every corner.

4. Noise machine. Use a white noise app or machine to lull yourself to sleep at night. Also asking for a room away from the elevator helps if you’re a light sleeper. All-natural melatonin spray or time-release capsules can help, too.

5. Make a packing list by day. Check the weather channel, then plan out what you’re going to wear each day – including shoes. It’ll help you minimize the amount of junk you pack. I’m not a wash my underwear in the sink kinda guy, but I do like packing minimally. Preparing means you can trim any excess. Traveling light means traveling with freedom. It makes traveling 10000% more bearable.

6. Exercise. This is a new one for me, but it’s an important one. Make space for a pair of running shoes. Use the fitness center – or better yet – go for a walk on the Willamette or the Charles. But walk. You don’t need to run ten miles. Walk two. But do it.

7. Take a picture of where you parked and your room number with your phone. Especially if you travel bunches and you get confused. You laugh at the ‘wait – what day is this and what city is this’ jokes, until you’re in your 25th airport in 45 days. Take the picture.

8. Unpack. Don’t live out of your suitcase. Take time to put stuff in closets and drawers. Put away your suitcase. It makes things a little more orderly and bearable.

9. Schedule times for FaceTime or Skype before you leave. Make time. Keep these appointments sacred. These supersede last-minute client invitations to dinners, shows or clubs. Remember the real reason you’re on the road and honor your family. They miss you. You miss them.

Bye, Choo Choo. Be kind to Bubs. See you soon. Luhz you.


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As CEO and Head Custodian of Miles & Company, Tim Miles helps owner-operated companies do more with less. He's the author of Good Company: Making It, Keeping It & Being It.

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  • JoeyH

    I don’t travel as much as you do, but may I add 9 of my own?

    1. Use packing folders. They compress your clothes into bundles that save space and help keep wrinkles minimal.
    2. I agree with packing light, but one extra thing that goes along with me is an old cellphone and charger. Losing your cellphone on the road is the worst. You can easily call your carrier to switch your account to your old phone and be reconnected right away.
    3. Another thing that goes in the bag is a small flashlight. A power outage or emergency in a strange hotel room can be a lot safer with some light.
    4. Read the local paper. You find out about interesting things going on while you’re in town and also about important things like transit strikes, highway shutdowns, or that the National Association of Drum Majors is also in town. I like to go online and look at the paper at least a couple of days before I’m traveling.
    5. Put a second photo ID, your secondary credit card, and a small amount of cash somewhere separate from where you’re carrying your primary stash.
    6. A small extension cord (or a superlong iPhone cord) will allow you to keep your charging phone next to you on the nightstand instead of halfway across the room where the outlet likely is.
    7. Toss a couple of clothespins in your bag. They’re good for clipping the ill-fitting blackout curtain closed.
    8. If you accumulate a lot of literature at a convention, consider shipping it home. The carryon quickly becomes uncomfortably heavy with a catalog or two.
    9. Echo Tim’s #1: Be nice. Nice people get upgraded. Nice people don’t get bumped. Nice people get found a table in a sold out restaurant. Nice people get treated nicely. And, being nice makes you feel good when you provoke a smile or a laugh from an overworked underappreciated gate agent.

  • M Rice

    How did you know? I’m packing right now. Not a fan of being gone so this helped. Thanks.

  • Carlin

    Great list!

    I was US Navy for 9 years, so we used to say if it doesn’t fit in the duffle bag (or Sea bag) it isn’t needed.

    A trick I’ve used lately, seems to work well. Ever notice how big a can of shaving cream is, when you only need it for a few days? I’ve been using either hair conditioner or lotion, both usually provided by the hotel. Works pretty well.

    I always take my camera out on the walk, and make it a point to find good things to take pictures of in each new location.

    I’m currently planning a motorcycle trip, and I’m taking a real hard look at what I’m taking!

    As JoeyH already echo’ed, Tim’s #1 tip, be nice. Its the grease that makes things glide easier. Everyone on the road is under a lot of friction!

  • Phil Wrzesinski

    I spent 15 days in Turkey with just a carry-on bag only a few years ago and never lacked for an item. It is amazing how much I sometimes pack for a 3-day trip to Vegas. Great tips and great reminders – especially water and exercise. Being Nice is #1 on my list, too.

  • Jeff

    Great list, Tim! I’ve never exercised on the road before, unless the hotel had a nice pool, but now that I’m exercising a bit more at home, I’ll make it a priority. The water and unpacking stuff was already part of my travel thing, but I’d never thought to use a noise maker — will definitely add that to the list.

    I don’t travel even a fraction of the amount you do, but I had a few things I might add to your list:

    1) Bring a travel-sized power strip with you for the airports. That way, even if an outlet is taken, you can still ask the person to share your power strip and get power.

    2) I also bring my tempurpedic pillow with me. Yes that makes me a big whussy, but it makes a HUGE difference in the quality of sleep I get. If you’ve never tried a tempurpedic pillow, give it a try. And when you inevitably fall in love with it, consider bringing it on the road with you.

    And finally, that picture of “Choo-Choo” is BEAUTIFUL! I luhz it : )

    – Jeff

  • Robert McMaster

    Tim, you got it right except for one thing. DON’T UNPACK AND PUT YOUR CLOTHS IN DRESSERS AND CLOSETS. Bed Bugs are now a common risk when traveling, if you haven,t come across them yet it is only a matter of time. You can place you luggage in the tub or keep it up on the luggage rack. You can also purchase a product called pack-tite where you can place your luggage in a small heat chamber when you return home. Also pull up sheet covers and inspect mattresses and around headboards before unpacking, look for small insects around cordage and buttons of mattresses, also around headboards. Sorry to rain on the discussion but this could be a marriage saver.

  • Liz

    This is a fantastic list! My husband travels all the time and I love how you added the skype dates. Because at the end of the day, you are traveling for your family. Great post Tim!

  • Carri Bugbee

    I found your post when searching for a travel extension cord. Alas, I still haven’t found one that’s very long, but I do like your tips! What type of small white noise machine do you use? That would be useful, but seems like it would take up a lot of space.

    Most women can skip the clothes pins (referenced by JoeyH) and use hair clips instead to clip the black-out curtains together. I’ve been doing this for years!

    You can connect with me on Twitter (@CarriBugbee) if you have other ideas! I’m always looking for (or sharing) great travel tips.