Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Business travel - how to save money, your sanity and your health

I just returned from a week in Toronto on business. Although I was reimbursed for my travel and hotel costs by the company that hired me to conduct a corporate training piece for them, there were still a number of out of pocket costs that I incurred, along with the challenge of staying healthy and sane on the road.

Sounds simple, but with the H1N1 scare and a hectic schedule, it's not always an easy task.

Business travel is rarely glamorous, filled with deadlines and when flying in the winter, presents even greater stress. Couple the fact that I'm a solo female road warrior, safety is certainly a concern (for men too - I just think a little more for women.)

So, here's some of my simple tips on surviving a business trip for the novice to seasoned business traveller:

  • Always bring snacks on the plane. Purchase snacks at the grocery store in advance of boarding a plane. First, it's good common sense that will save you money. Second, I can't tell you how many flights I've either had to sit on the tarmac for an hour or two before we took off, barely made a connection or arrived at 2am to the hotel only to find out that room service closed at 10pm (or there was none at all.)

  • Buy a bottle of water or two right after you go through security. It's a sad fact that we still can't take liquids through past security, but don't skimp on the high priced airport water. Again, you might be sitting in the plane for a while before beverage service starts (especially if you're at the back of the plane) and with the dry air, you'll want to remain hydrated for many obvious reasons.

  • Have an emergency kit in your carry-on! Factor that you may be stuck in an airport or plane for several to many, many hours with your luggage already checked. Always have an emergency pack in your carry-on with some items such as: your cell/pda charger, comfortable shoes, a travel blanket and pillow, cold/flu medication, tissues, energy bars, prescription medicine and contact lens solution/glasses if you wear them. I once got an almost instant cold and flu of sorts 30 minutes before boarding a very long flight. The airport convenience store didn't have an decongestants, limited products and no tissues (and the plane was out of tissue as well). Needless to say, by the time we descended, with a stuffed and plugged nose, a miserable flight, the excruciating pain of not having a decongestant is a lesson I'll not soon forget!

  • Go to the restroom before you pick up your baggage. Sounds simple, but the first time I travelled on my own, I rushed to get my luggage, had a full cart and then headed to the ladies room only to realize that of course, my cart wouldn't fit in the stall.

  • Never take a shuttle at night. Might I add, at all. Especially if you're a female traveller, are in a new city or are carrying lots of luggage. Even if your company is only footing the bill for a shuttle, buck up and take a cab. It's well worth your safety for the extra dollars spent.

  • Eat warm food. This one took me years to realize it. I would always make what I thought were sensible food choices such as eating a large chicken caesar salad or Subway sandwich for dinner. And every time, I'd come home ill with a cold or flu. I can't prove that eating warm food on the road will stave off a virus, but it's worked for me thus far. I'll often order mash potatoes and two sides of grilled vegetables. It's relatively expensive and yummy comfort food.

  • Take your vitamins. I'm not espousing any medical advice, but in my own experience, I have been taking echinacea and goldenseal (both immune supports) along with extra vitamin C, and colloidal silver and oil of oregano (the latter two just when needed - the first three daily) and I can report that I haven't had a cold or flu in over two years.

  • Take advantage of points. Whether it's on your credit card, an airline or hotel. And consider staying with the same hotel chain as often as possible. As you build up points, you'll be treated to lots of perks and goodies, such as club floor access where you'll find continental breakfast included, coffee, tea and water all day along with snacks during cocktail hour.

Happy travelling!