For the last 4 years I have traveled to various places with my work as an IT consultant, some places have been more interesting than others – but all have been an adventure
This brief piece is to show the strategies l have found to be very useful when traveling.
1. Booking your travel and accommodation
Companies quite often use Travel agencies to book travel for their employees, this is both a blessing and a curse.
A blessing because it takes frees you up to get on with doing more exciting things, a curse because quite often the agency lacks the bigger picture of what you want.
I once was booked to travel to a client’s site using the travel agency, they managed to book me into a horrendous hotel that was rated one of the worst hotels by Tripadvisor users – simply because it was on their list of hotels in budget for that city.
When the client informed me of the horrendousness of the hotel, I jumped on to Laterooms.com and found a much nicer hotel, highly rated on Tripadvisor, in budget and also on the company list of hotels – my question to the agency was why was I not put there in the first place?
Simple – the people booking on my behalf did not have to live with the choices they made on my behalf, they just checked me off their to-do list.
2. Knowing your destination
Before travelling anywhere I am not familiar with, I check 3 things
a. Tripadvisor - anyone who doesn’t know of this site should get themselves on it immediately and see the wealth of information on places – iPhone users must have the app
b. Local city guides -for information on getting around, because taxi’s are not always the best way to get around of see the city
c. Google Maps - useful to get your bearings, also Streetview is exceptionally useful for picking out landmarks along your route – that way you do not need to look like a tourist all the time.
3. What to pack
For me, I usually travel to a single location within a geography so packing for me is reasonably easy – although some people I know travel through several climatic zones, so packing for them is quite difficult.
The basis of packing for travelling is the always the essentials – toileteries and underwear, no matter where you are going you always need these.
As I usually do not check my bags on the plane , so as you can see from the picture I pack fairly light on toileteries – simply because the hotels I stay at supply shower gel so I just use theirs.
Packing your case is an art in itself, the enemy of packing is little gaps and the goal is to keep the level of your clothes even. I prefer the rolling method of packing (shown here)
I am not quite as good as the picture above, but I do alright
Electronics is an essential in my job as an IT consultant, given the chance I would have every lead and power supply I own in my case – but I do not have the room.
Moving from one place to the next is also a recipe for losing things if you do not have a good system.
Since some idiot decided to try and blow up a plane, people have had to use clear ziplock bags for their toiletries, I now have two very nice washbags which are useless to me as washbags.
Consequently I use them as holders for my leads, memory sticks and mouse, I have a single place for all my leads which is beside my laptop all the time – so when I am finished with something I just throw it back in.
Also because everything has a place, the bag, I have stopped losing things.
4. Surviving the airport
This is heavily dependant on how long you have to stay in the airport, for example the survival strategy for a 1 hour stay in the airport is much different to one that will see you through a 9 hour stay.
One thing remains constant for me is the need for a good airport lounge, even for 20 mins, it can be a haven from the madness of the main terminal.
If you have to stay in the airport for more than about an hour it is usually worth the money, if you have to pay, simply in the ability to have free tea and coffee or alcohol and a comfy seat.
As your time increases, so does the requirement for more facilities for example showers and/or a changing area are important for lay overs on travel that carries you overnight.
One thing I find exceptionally important is, do not rush especially in unfamiliar surroundings – rushing leads to impatience, mistakes and a general lack of politeness that can stop people helping you.
I get to the airport at least 1 hour before take off for domestic flights, and 2.5 hours for international, this means I am not rushing around, can deal with any hold ups and when I get air-side I can enjoy a leisurely drink of something.
5. Onward travel
I do my homework to see what the best method of onward travel is, after all I refuse to take the mickey with my expenses – if I would not spend my own money on it, why should I spend the company’s/client’s.
So for me, public transport, taxi’s or hire vehicles are valid forms of onward travel and each destination is different, I ask my colleagues who might have been there first what they did.
I ask the client what their recommendation would be, and I check out websites for the area I will be in for more information.
For example – Tripadvisor has a section on transportation for each city
London Public Transport, the most comprehensive site for getting around
Lonely Planet Guide to New York transport, useful advice and some good links
6. Having fun on ‘company time’
I am not all that rock and roll, my de-stressing is not like a war movie – I know people much worse than I am. That said I have had occasions where my judgement was definitely faulty and I got away with things by being lucky.
Companies, mostly, provide their employees with travel insurance and have a duty of care to their staff – this is a double edged sword though, remember you are travelling at their expense and so you should expect to be considered ‘on company time’ the whole time you are away.
For example, if you were indulging in an activity, which while legal in the country you are staying in is not legal in your home country and you were injured or required treatment – how would that look to your employers. Also would your employer’s medical insurance cover you, how would it be dealt with by HR during your annual review process?
A frequent example of this in the UK, is the use of cannabis when in Amsterdam on business, I have no idea of the frequency of hospitalisation due to cannabis use – although I can image the career fallout if you were.
1. HR would be involved as the Medical insurance would have to notify them of your condition – do you know all the HR processes of your company and whether this is a disciplinary offence as it might count as bringing the company into disrepute
2. HR would have to inform your line management of your condition – depending on your track record this can be either embarrassing, devastating or worse – the final nail in the coffin
3. Since you were indulging in something which is illegal in your country of origin, are you covered by the company insurance?
This is not an exhaustive list of the things I have learnt in my years of travelling, and this really only covers the last 5 years of travel through airports – I have another 5 years of travelling in a car to draw upon for more lessons.
Hopefully this has given you some insight into how I travel and perhaps given you some hints.