7 Tips to save time when you travel for business

With customers, suppliers and staff scattered across the country or planet, business travel is an unavoidable use of time. There is of course the travel time component, standing in queues, waiting in airports, hopping from taxi to taxi, checking in and out of hotels, finding new places to eat, and of course the opportunity cost of not working on other tasks. business travel time This article outlines some tips that may help you save time with business travel:

1. Reduce trips using technology

The big question to first ask is – do I really need to travel in the first place? Is a face-to-face meeting necessary? Is it the best use of my time? According to Denise DiRamio, “Eliminating one trip between New York City and Tokyo, for example, save more than 40 hours of travel time” as well the cost of an airfare and “3,600 pounds of CO2 emissions”.
Many business travel trips can be eliminated using technology such as web conferencing, video-conferencing or teleconferencing. A survey of European managers indicated that “less than three out of every ten meetings need face-to-face communications, and that technology could be utilized instead to gain lost travel time while improving productivity and the quality of business level decision making” (British Journal of Administration and management, June/July 2006).
Tools such as on-line web meetings can reduce (but not eliminate) the need for on-site demonstrations, on-site support, and face-to-face meetings.

2. Pick the best time to travel

If the trip is necessary then consider the following:
  • If driving, avoid meetings during peak traffic time. For example, when driving I can reduce my travel time by nearly 50% by having a meeting at (say) 10:30am (after peak hour) instead of 9am (during peak hour).
  • Will the right people be at the destination? For example, will the key decision makers be there? If not, it may be better to schedule another time to travel.
  • Can the trip be combined with other purposes? For example, see other clients, meet a supplier or potential employee, attend an event, etc.
  • Will key staff (at your office) be away at the same time? Will the timing of your trip put an unnecessary strain on your fellow staff? For example, I am flying to Manila (Philippines) next week instead of this week to avoid putting extra strain on fellow staff.
  • Are events happening at the destination location making it a bad time to travel? Public holidays, festivals or major events may make it an impractical time for business travel. For example, Easter in Manila (Philippines) is a very busy time, and not a good time for business travel.

3. On-line bookings

Making travel and accommodation arrangements have never been easier with the influx of on-line booking services. Items to consider:
  • Booking the accommodation near the client and/or required amenities. It may be a good idea to ask the client for any recommended hotels.
  • Allow plenty of time for connections. Consider travelling down a day earlier so that you are fresh for an important meeting the next morning.
  • If flying by air it is sometimes best to buy a flexibility return ticket. For example, if you need to spend more time with clients, or have finished early and want to avoid the hassle of waiting at airport for a fix flight. Also, if feasible, avoid booking the last flight of the day in case it is cancelled (and you then need to stay an extra night).

4. Pack well

Good packing can both save time. For more information refer to the CraveTime article – Save Time Packing for Travel.

5. Making the most of commute time and waiting time

Often on business trips ‘spare’ time is created by commute times (planes, taxi), waiting times (e.g. - waiting in airports or for meetings to start), and after hours ‘free’ time without your normal family or social commitments. To make the most of your business travel time you need to prepare for this, perhaps by taking some work to catch up on, a book to read, or perhaps a movie to catch up on. (CraveTime.com article coming soon on this topic).

6. Maintain energy levels

Business trips can be very demanding and hence the added importance of maintaining your energy levels. Items to consider:
  • Eat sensibly - The temptation to overeat often occurs when the company is paying for your meals. However, poor eating leads to lack of energy. When eating in a foreign country be careful not to eat food that will make you sick. For example, ‘careless’ eating in Pakistan put me in bed (and away from work) for one week.
  • Sleep well - Learn how to sleep well when you are away. (Cravetime.com article coming soon on this topic)
  • Adopt techniques to reduce the effects of jet lag - Jet lag can sap you of energy and effectiveness. Common techniques to reduce the impact of jet lag include – sleeping well before the flight, drinking lots of water to prevent dehydration, avoiding alcohol and avoid eating too much. After the flight, try and adjust quickly by getting into your normal routine (e.g. eat and sleep at regular times), and spend time in the sun to help your body adjust to the changes.
  • Take steps to avoid illness – When travelling your immune system can get run done a little. Therefore, be extra careful about washing hands, keeping your hands away from your mouth and eyes, and what you eat and drink.
  • Travel business class on long trips - The main advantage of business class is that you should arrive more relax than if you travel economy class. Personally, I can actually sleep for a few hours in a business class 'bed', but struggle to obtain minutes sleep in economy class. Business class also provides a lounge where you can relax and use the facilities prior to your flight.
7. Know about your destination To make the most of your business travel time – try and learn a bit about where you are going. For example, before I land in Manila next week I will know the basics such as the currency rates, approximate cost of taxi’s, whether tipping is expected, the distance from my hotel to business meetings, interesting places in walking distance from my hotel, and a good place to buy my daughter a present.
References DiRamio, D. “A cheaper, greener meeting”, Communication News, Dec 2008, pg 36
Anonymous, “Is your journey really necessary?”, The British Journal of Administration Management, June/July 2006, p 6.

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Comments

Good article! Jet lag can be a killer even several days after a long trip. I always set my time to the destination time-zone as soon as I get on the flight. It can be hard-work doing this (staying awake during your normal sleep time and vice versa) but it always pays off at the destination.

I've heard jetlag is worse when you cross time-zones going east (I think?). Have you heard something similar?

Being a seasoned long haul traveller - a few times I've effectively long-haul weekly commuted for weeks on end I disagree with the jet lag advice.

I find that all the rules about trying to adjust / resetting watches etc is bollocks.

There are two Circadian rhythms that no amount of attempting to circumvent will succeed in.

One is driven by the daylight. It takes about four days to adjust to this one. My preferred option is to sleep during the night only - when tired. Usually that means two hours 10pm-midnight and then 4am-6am - that gives you 4 sometimes 5-6 hours which is more than enough. Getting stressed through the night because you can't sleep is pointless.

The other recently discovered Circadian rhythm is based on your food cycle. If you avoid eating for 18 hours straight your body resets. Haven't tried it myself and it would be a tough one to do on a long flight.

Jet-lag is less severe when flying east. The explanation I've been given is that it is easier to stay up an hour (or more) later than it is to wake up an hour (or more) earlier.

I saved about 2 hours a day by moving closer to my work. Appreciated that many people want to choose where they live regardless of where they work, but there are places that are good to both work and live. The added bonus for me is that I can get exercise walking to work and avoiding the traffic.

Gil.

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