As a newly minted consultant, my friends often get jealous at the thought of being able to travel. While travelling does have its perks, such as being able to explore different cities, and trying new cuisines, having to pack up on a Sunday evening to prepare for a 6:45 flight the next Monday morning every week is something most people don’t consider. Being away from home 4-5 times a week presents a huge shift in lifestyle that is often difficult to adapt to for most people starting out. Therefore, I have a few tips to mitigate the downsides so that you could enjoy your work travel as a consultant.
As a person who often forgets my keys and wallet, the idea of constantly packing to go to various places is a logistic nightmare. I cannot count the number of times when I leave miscellaneous items in hotels such as ballpoint pens, socks, and headphones. There is probably an online marketplace for these items at this point. Similarly, forgetting to pack critical items — such as pajamas — for the trip has happened from time to time. I grew tired of this and decided I needed a packing list.
This list included essential items: a change of clothes for the trip duration, personal hygiene products such as soap, shampoo, toothpaste, a toothbrush, and work materials including a laptop and charger. This is all you really need. To pack even less, I would call the hotel I’m staying at to find out the items they provide. Many places supply soap, shampoo, and a hairdryer so I didn’t need to pack these items 90% of the time.
Incorporating a list has shrunk a 2-hour packing session before a trip into a 30 minute one as I knew exactly what I needed to put in my luggage to travel the following week. I also stopped losing items at hotels because the list kept me informed of what to pack when returning home. Incorporating a packing list has kept me organized for the naturally chaotic errand of packing.
Early morning flights equates to waking up really early. Waking up to get ready, travelling to the airport and going through baggage security can take considerable time, so it was not uncommon to wake up at 5 or even earlier. The question has always been “what is the latest time can I wake up and get ready without missing my flight?” Each Monday morning, I would time myself to see how long it would take from waking up to getting to my gate.
Surprisingly, this whole process didn’t take as long as I had originally thought. As I pack my items the day before, waking up is a matter of just getting ready to look nice. Since I check in the day before, my boarding pass is ready to scan. Because most airlines charge to check your bags, I restrict myself to a carry on, but that’s more than enough. This means no need to wait at the airline counter to check in your flight ticket nor bags, saving a great deal of time. Plus, most luggage that gets stolen or lost tends to be checked in bags because they’re not with you most of the time. One less thing to worry about now.
From being well prepared to travel and timing myself each morning when I have a flight, I know exactly when to wake up. I’ve saved a good 30 minutes of sleep in the morning this way, making me more prepared and rested than before.
Living Out of a Hotel
Another difficulty of travelling is getting accustomed to living in hotels out of a suitcase. Unfortunately, hotel living isn’t as luxurious as one might think, and is definitely not the same as being at home. I’m sorry to say that you likely won’t find yourself crashing in a penthouse suite at Ritz-Carlton.
Rolling around the bed and frustratingly staring at the clock, seeing the hours trickle by happened way too often. Finding solutions to adapt is essential for a good night’s sleep and being as productive as possible the next morning. Here are some tips to making your hotel living hassle free:
- Earplugs: Hotels should seriously start investing in soundproof walls. Being a light sleeper, I often got jostled by noisy tourists next door, the sounds of toilets flushing and showering, etc. Not every hotel was like this thankfully, but unfortunately, it is still a reality for many. My coworker suggested I buy earplugs, the ones you can get at Shoppers for $2, to combat this noise problem. That alone seriously added 1 hour to my sleep at least.
- Sleep Mask: If you are sensitive to light, buying an eye mask comes in handy as some hotel curtains do not filter out light very well.
- Use the Gym: Most hotels have a gym. Studies have shown exercising boosts brain performance. So not only can you get some good exercise in. You can also be more productive when you run into a productivity plateau
Each person has his/her own tips as they usually arise from whichever aspect of travelling one finds difficult and this varies from person to person. The ones I have are unique to my travel experiences and learnings. What I would recommend is talking to various peers in your organization about their travel advice when you start travelling. In my opinion, travelling as part of your work is a valuable opportunity to learn and grow both as a practicing consultant and individual. There’s a world out there to be explored!