Six tips for making business travel easier and more efficient

Work trips aren’t always glamorous, but you can still bring your A game

Traveling for work can be both exhausting and exhilarating. Our series Work on the Fly explores ways to make the most out of your business trip.

It’s a global business world out there, and traveling for work is more of a given than ever before. In fact, business travel makes up a huge part of the travel industry, with U.S. residents logging 463.6 million trips for business purposes in 2018. 

But anyone who’s actually taken a business trip knows how exhausting it can be—between the air travel, living out of a suitcase, and having to be on 24-7 as you meet with potential partners, clients, or customers. When WeWork teamed up with member company American Express to offer new American Express Business Platinum Card holders a one-year membership to WeWork, worth $2,700, the goal was to make weary business travelers feel just a little more at home on the road. 

“It’s a natural partnership,” says Putney Cloos, the vice president of partnerships at American Express. “Through WeWork, we’re allowing our card members to work productively wherever they are, whenever they need to.”

That’s especially beneficial to entrepreneurs, who don’t have the safety net of big global offices to fall back on. Since this benefit was introduced in February, WeWork has seen 24,000 workspace bookings from new card members in 400 buildings, in 100 cities, on five continents, according to Marcy Shinder, the global head of partnerships at WeWork.  

So who better to share their advice on business travel than the people who make a living doing it? WeWork members and business leaders divulge the travel habits that make their work trips easier and more efficient:

1. Consolidate your packing

Frequent business travelers don’t have time to waste on packing huge suitcases or checking luggage. “I don’t know where I’m going or how long it’s for, I’m going to figure out how to pack in the little tiniest suitcase and that’s it,” says Karen Young, CEO and founder of Oui Shave, a direct-to-consumer women’s shaving gear company and a member at Brooklyn’s WeWork Dumbo Heights. In doing so, she adds, you avoid the risk of landing in another country sans luggage—and engaging in a frantic race to get everything from underwear to face wash in the minutes before a big meeting (a situation she found herself in while heading to a meeting in Germany). 

Packing light is easier said than done, though, so “I have a checklist that I keep on my mobile phone for all the things I need on a business trip,” says Dar Vyas, cofounder and CEO of JukeBaux, an app for crowdsourcing playlists. He travels for several days every two weeks, so he’s got his needs down pat now. “I’ll add to it if I know there’s something special on my itinerary, but it covers the basics so I don’t have to think about it,” he says.

2. Sleep on the plane

Sure, it’s tough to catch zzz’s in a cramped airplane seat, but it’s the best thing you can do to avoid the drag of jet lag and hit the ground running when you land, says Alan Lau, founder of a shoe startup called Gliss. He regularly travels between Toronto, where he’s based; New York, where his company is; and China, where the factory is. “I’m always working on multiple time zones, so I really catch up on sleep on planes,” he says. “I always wear comfortable, loose clothing and bring a pillow with me—a neck pillow,” he says. “When you’re traveling so much, you definitely want to be comfortable when you do sleep.”

3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

What’s more dehydrating than sitting in what’s essentially a can of stale air for literally any amount of time? “I always make sure that I carry water with me when I’m traveling,” says Vyas. Even mild dehydration can give you headaches, make you feel dizzy or light-headed, and tire you out—none of which are great if you’re trying to bring your A game in a meeting on the other end of the flight. “I drink a lot when I travel, and I think that keeps me from feeling sluggish,” Vyas adds.

4. Find your zen

Any place of mass transit is pretty much the opposite of nirvana, but if you can put yourself in a chill state pre-travel, it might not be quite as uncomfortable. “Before I travel, I’ve started making sure I fit in a yoga class,” says Young. “Think about it: You’re literally in that seat for ages. You’d just be surprised how differently you come off of a flight if you’ve done it. I think your body just handles it a little bit better to have had a nice stretch before.” The mental benefits of being blissed-out in the TSA line are pretty great, too.

5. Be consistent

One of the hardest parts of business travel is having to operate at your best while in a place that lacks some of the comforts of home. “I’m not someone who tries to explore different hotels every time I travel,” says Cloos. “I find a lot of value in knowing where I’m going to be staying at the end of a busy workday, knowing where the gym is, how late the restaurant’s open, and so on.” Those are important things when it comes to maintaining your regular routines—like exercise and diet—but not necessarily things you want to put a lot of thought into. “On a business trip, I like to use my brain power on my work, not sorting out my personal needs at the end of a busy workday,” says Cloos

6. Practice your icebreakers

Traveling for business means almost every interaction is a potential networking opportunity; at the very least, you’re out in the world representing your company, so it’s important to be engaging. But if small talk isn’t your thing, practicing icebreakers everywhere from the train to the hotel lobby can help you feel ready to put your best foot forward in a meeting. “I find that a compliment really goes far,” says Young. “There’s that thing when you’re meeting people, the awkward “What do you want from me?” sensation, so I honestly find that a compliment just does wonders.”

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