For many of us in the PR agency business, travel can come in waves and totally upend your routine. With conference season upon us, the Mobile World Congress and HIMSS-bound communications pros will be on buses, trains and planes over the next few months.
I have been riding that wave over the past several months with some short-notice trips and have learned quite the mishmash of new things. For example, running in the Denver airport from gate to gate for a tight connection is hard – the altitude is no joke and the airport is apparently larger than a few major cities. Madison, Wisconsin is quite the hub for health IT. Everything really is bigger in Texas. And I’m a little horrified at the thought of how Alaska Airlines is going to reconcile and refurbish the club-like lighting on their Virgin America planes.
I also mastered some helpful packing and travel tactics. Here are some tips to help fellow PR pros get out the door faster and hopefully less stressed.
- Keep a business travel bag. If space allows in your home, find a nook where you can keep the critical goodies for a successful meeting in one place. Be sure to include 10 business cards, gum or mints, a nice notebook or legal pad folio, two ballpoint pens with the agency logo, a mechanical pencil and your extra laptop charging cable. I recommend ballpoint pens specifically because the ink ones can get all over your hands in a meeting and they are more prone to explosions and leaks. By keeping all of this together in one tote bag, you can literally grab and go with confidence for any last-minute trip. Ideally, you keep this alongside your general travel bag that has your toiletries and other must-have personal items. When you get back home, refresh your stash that weekend. You can also create a checklist that captures each of these items in an easy to access place – whether that’s on a permanent sticky note inside of your travel notebook or a digital one in a to-do list app.
- Travel light and, when possible, hands free. Get to the airport dressed like you’re ready to run – because chances are likely that you will have to do that at some point (ex. unexpected flight delays, tight connections, etc.). Wear your dressier tennis shoes or flats. Skip the checked bag and limit yourself to a carry on and one truly small personal item. Do not pack more than one pair of shoes in your rollaboard and stick to the one outfit you need. This next recommendation is a personal preference and probably influenced by SF’s obsession with trendy backpacks, but consider leaving the purse at home. Totes are arguably more fashionable, but they’re bad for your shoulders. And unless they have that trolley slip in the back, they can be extremely cumbersome when walking through the ever-shrinking aisles of the airplane to your economy seat. A trendy and fashionable backpack can spare you from adding this physical and mental stress to an already hectic work day. It can also help with the next tip…
- Master the security process. There are countless YouTube videos on how to do this, but here are a few of the basics to consider. Pack your laptop and liquids in easily accessible sleeves. Tuck your boarding pass away in a similarly accessible but zipped sleeve. Keep your socks handy if you opted for heels or sandals so you don’t have to walk barefoot in the airport. Start de-shoeing and unpacking, getting all your belongings in the appropriate bins once you’re close enough to reach them. By channeling your inner NASCAR pit crew pace, you not only get to your destination faster – whether that’s the bar or getting a seat right by the gate lines – but you are setting a great example for fellow travelers who will hopefully adopt your style. I like to think of it as a way of sparing future-me from running into the person who doesn’t realize that the laptop goes in a SEPARATE bin by itself.
- Don’t try to take on too much and be kind to your body. Remember, this is a work trip and your primary objective is to do a kick ass job with the client or prospect. To do that, you need rest and to destress more so than anything else, especially when you’re moving across multiple time zones. Whether that means not being too hard on yourself for augmenting a fitness routine or being unavailable on a flight because you need a nap, do what you need to be your best self. Your team will understand and can plan ahead if you communicate in advance that you won’t be available on your flight. You can work out twice as hard when you get home; don’t bother packing the yoga mat or running sneakers if it’s just going to add unnecessary weight. Do what you need to be your best professional self.
Even if none of this works out and you forget everything, remember this: it is only temporary. I have wasted tons of physical and emotional energy during high-stress business travel worrying about things there were beyond my control. Smile, stay caffeinated, be kind to those around you and move on. You’ll be home soon enough!
Senior Account Manager