Top tips for founders on how to survive frequent work travel

Travelling can be exciting but when you’re abroad to meet investors or attending a conference, juggling tasks and time can be a true challenge. Besides jet lag, you need to consider flights, accommodation, meetings scheduling, emailing, etc…Here are some tips to survive during those hectic days between airports, hotels and conference rooms!

Pack smart

Before you go, organizing your belongings in proper travel gear is one of the tasks you should invest time in. So often when left to the last minute, you’ll end up packing unnecessary stuff, carry more weight than you should and missing some items you’ll really need during the trip.

Start by choosing an adequate bag. If you’re travelling for just a few days, choose a strong cabin size suitcase or a rugged backpack. A good suitcase is a necessary investment not a fashion statement, so choose it by its practicality (look for storage pockets), lightweight and durability. Even if you’re not a tidiness freak, folding and some space saving techniques will help you fit more items in your bag and save a lot of time when arriving at the hotel/final destination. Choose versatile clothing and shoes, that are easy to clean and comfortable. Look online and practice how to fold your jacket, or organize your socks!

Be prepared 

Although in many countries you can navigate in an unknown city just by speaking English, be aware that in many situations you may find yourself trying to communicate with locals and be stuck with simple things such as asking for directions or ordering dinner. Online translation tools can be life savers, specially the one with voice recognition! Install a good app as SayHi or WAYGO, and try to learn the basics like “Good morning”, “please”, “hello” or “I need directions to…”. This small effort will take you a long way when engaging and trying to get an empathic response.

Electrical plugs and socket types are a modern world dilemma. No standard is in place and as not all your electric gadgets will recharge via USB, so take a second to check what adapter is needed. And don’t forget to also pack and charge an emergency power bank.

Keep a backup of your important documents, just by taking a photo of the documents and storing them in a secure cloud location or password manager, so if you lose your bag at least you can access it on the phone/computer.

Internet, banking and other (hidden) costs

Online bookings and transactions allow for less hassle, but as a traveller you can still fall prey to many hidden costs and pitfalls. Besides your credit card, always carry some extra money in cash bills, just in case your credit card isn’t accepted. When travelling outside Europe, remember to check your operator roaming and internet costs, as you may be headed for a surprise in your monthly bill. In some cases, it might be better to change your plan or just buy a local pre-paid card for your stay. Some tricks can help you limit the use of internet, e.g. print the address and map of your hotel/meeting place instead of waiting 5 minutes for it to show up on google maps. Printing a couple of sheets of paper will save you some money, avoid showing off your shiny new smartphone in crowded streets and make it easier to explain yourself to taxi drivers or locals.

Conferences and trade show venues can also be a pitfall. Check ahead for the price list of extra items as catering, transfers, parking or internet access. Prepaying the essentials will save you time, avoid queues and allow you to take full advantage of networking and business opportunities.

Keeping track of time, appointments and presentations

When travelling to a city in a different timezone, it is common to mix up the time of your appointments and without noticing suddenly you’re late and it’s impossible to make up for a one or two hour delay. Limit the number of appointments/meetings in each day, so you have enough rest time to recover from travel fatigue or jet lag. Be aware of distances and travel times even within city locations, as some cities suffer from constant road traffic congestion and public transport can limit your options to move around. Keep your wrist watch on local time and avoid booking calls at early or late hours.

When meeting with investors it’s crucial to prepare ahead. Confirm venue and meeting times beforehand, and understand how the projection works. Avoid delays due to a missing cable or missing fonts in a PC. Aside from your business cards, always carry a PDF backup on a USB pen and a set of HDMI and VGA converter cables!

Save some personal time and get some exercise

It’s common to find yourself so busy on a business trip that it’s almost impossible to make time to find healthy food, so you end up using hotel room service or fast food. To offset this and give you some extra drive, pack your running shoes and seek out any opportunity for exercise: a yoga class or evening run to get a boost of energy when you need it the most.

If possible, limit your trips to a maximum of two weeks, as otherwise you start feel really disconnected from home, exhausted from work and sick of hotels. It is important to make time for yourself as a business trip usually means an opportunity to really focus on work by dedicating intense days to customers/investors, followed by evenings catching up on the work back at the office. You need some time to “turn-off”, so dedicate the evenings to sleep, reading, exercising or just walking and sightseeing.

Getting away from the office can be exhausting, but it’s also an opportunity to see and learn new things. Try to be at your best by staying in comfortable hotels and flying with reliable airlines, so that besides making new deals you can make the most out of each business trip!

Finally, travel apps are there to help you, so take a closer look at my personal selection:

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