Long-Distance Business Travel

One of the side effects of successfully finding a remote job and working from home is that you may find yourself having to travel internationally for work. In comparison to traveling for your own pleasure there’s a few attributes that may differ:

  1. You might not need to pick the cheapest possible hotel, airline and flights
  2. You need to be productive the day of or day after travelling
  3. You aren’t going to have known company in your flight or hotel

With these in mind: let’s optimise your travel starting with organising it:

  1. Loyalty is slightly more expensive but, if you’re travelling long distances regularly, really pays off. Pick the airline/hotel/car hire chains you like, sign up for their reward programs and stick with them. When you’re able to pick seats before anyone else, use airline lounges and receive preferential treatment when flights are cancelled you will be glad you did.
  2. Read reviews. TripAdvisor, Yelp, whatever. Use them to make sure you eat good food and stay at good hotels. Yes, they can be gamed but if you’re eating at or staying at a top-rated place: it might not be incredible but it’s likely to be good.
  3. Buy things to make repeat travel easier. Packing cubes (a bag for inside your bag), duplicate chargers and other repeated items mean you can pick up a bag and head out the door with less packing.
  4. Buy things to make the actual travel more pleasant. A decent eye mask, some noise cancelling headphones (Bose QuietComfort 25 are the current gold standard) will help your travel be more restful.
  5. Don’t pay extortionate roaming charges. Download offline maps (and TripAdvisor) for your destination. If you visit the same places often: consider getting a SIM card for that country or moving to a mobile phone network which gives you free data there (e.g. Three’s Feel At Home).
  6. Get or prioritise cards that won’t charge you too much for using them abroad. This saves you dealing with cash.
  7. Can you pack everything just in hand luggage? This will get you out the airport quicker which you’ll be grateful for after a long flight.
  8. Check sites like SeatGuru to pick good seats on your flight (e.g. with more leg room). Sadly airlines are increasingly charging for good seats but it’s still worth checking out.

You booked your travel and now it’s arrived and you have to actually do it. The main thing that causes people pain with long-distance travel is jet-lag. I have a personal, completely baseless system which works for me and might for you too:

  1. Try not to have over or under-slept before you depart. This will make it harder for the system to work. Sleep a usual amount at the usual time the night before.
  2. On the day of your travel work out how long your day will be if you go to bed at the usual time in your destination timezone. For example, if I travel to San Francisco with an 8 hour time difference from the UK my 24 hour day becomes a 32 hour day (and 16 hour day on my return). As humans are meant to sleep around 8 hours a night for a 24 hour day this means I want to sleep 8 + 2.66 (2h40m) = 10h40m when travelling from the UK to San Francisco (and 5h20m on my return). This means you should aim to sleep that length of time for an overnight flight and just the added portion for a day flight. I usually travel to San Francisco during the day so aim to sleep for 2h40m after a usual night’s sleep and then stay up when I arrive.
  3. Can’t sleep? Drink free airplane alcohol until you can (and wear your eye mask). Can’t stay awake? Drink free airplane caffeinated drinks until you can.
  4. Don’t allow yourself to sleep more than 9.5 hours a night, regardless of how tired you are. Don’t get out of bed for less than 6 hours a night, regardless of how awake you are (and don’t look at your phone when you wake up). It will wreck your sleeping patterns.
  5. Do some heavy exercise (I like free weights, others like running), try to get sunlight and eat decent meals the day before and after your flights. It will help you adjust.

The above tips will hopefully make long-distance travel a more pleasant experience for you. Happy travelling!