By Tiffany Waddell Tate (’07, MA ‘11), Associate Director for National Engagement in the Alumni Engagement Office at Wake Forest University
Tiffany Waddell Tate is also a career coach & professional development consultant, passionate about helping others develop themselves while adding value to organizations and the world. Stay connected on Twitter @tiffanyiwaddell or at www.tiffanywaddell.com to continue the conversation.
I have always maintained my own personal travel hacks, but now that travel is a significant percentage of my professional
life, I’ve made a few tweaks to how I plan ahead in order to maximize my time when I’m on the go for work. Not only does it make life easier between trips, but I have more mental space to focus on what matters: building relationships and getting the work done. Here are a few of the things I do to minimize stress when I’m on the go for work:
Keep Calm & Carry on – The Essentials
In my carry-on bag, I travel with a few essential items that ensure no matter what happens (delays, lost luggage, impromptu meeting schedule change, etc), I’m prepared to roll with the punches. What you consider essential may be a tad different than my list, but I typically keep: one outfit, a garmet steamer, my laptop & charger, a pen, my nametag, a portable battery pack & charging cord for my phone and Apple Watch, a small stack of business cards, a pair of socks, a light scarf (that can double as a blanket), and a neck pillow. I also keep a pouch of travel size toiletries in my travel bag (and restock as needed when I return home) so I don’t have to worry about it. In that pouch, I typically have face wash, moisturizer, moist wipes, pain medicine, a rollerball of my favorite perfume, antiperspirant, Q-tips, contact solution, hand sanitizer, toothpaste, toothbrush, and floss. These items are designated for travel only, and live in my carry-on bag year round. I even keep a pair of headphones and purchased charging cables that are only for travel, so I can cut out the likelihood of forgetting, or leaving behind something I really need.
Bring a Water Bottle
Although it’s typically in my hand wherever I go (I drink a lot of water!) I always, always, always travel with an empty water bottle. Traveling disrupts your daily routine, so while it’s easy to fill up your water bottle when you are in a traditional office environment to stay hydrated throughout the day – when you’re traveling (especially across time zones) you have to be really intentional about staying hydrated and keeping up with your normal self-care habits. Water is a huge one for me – and it’s much better on your wallet to travel with a bottle that keeps your water nice and cool for hours at a time, and refill it at the water fountain in your hotel or before you leave a restaurant or coffee shop. Just make sure you empty it before you hit the security checkpoint at the airport!
Select a Primary Color Scheme
For most trips, unless I’m headed to two totally different climates in one week, I typically pack using one base neutral color as my guide (black, brown, or gray), layer a couple of pops of color on top of that and build my suitcase with the events on my schedule in mind, including interchangeable pieces I can mix and match as needed. Creating outfits (kind of) keeps me from over-packing or being unprepared. This includes shoes, too – I typically travel with one pair of heels, one (or two) pairs of flats, and one pair of sneakers.
Pocket of Petty Cash
I can’t take full credit for this tip. My partner regularly reminds me to keep a little bit of cash on hand in case of an emergency. It finally stuck after one too many times of visiting a gas station or local eatery and the card reader didn’t work, for me to get hip to the program. I created my own personal “petty cash” policy to do a cash run before any trip, in case I need money to tip service providers, pay a toll, or pay for anything that might require cash. It’s just a good practice to employ in general (even if you are just bopping around your hometown) in case there’s a mild inconvenience – or emergency – and you need cash on hand.
Set an Alarm
Remember when I said that keeping routines when you are on the go is just as important as when you are at home? Well, when I’m at home – I don’t set an alarm clock most days, because as a parent, I have a built in alarm that goes off like clockwork (at latest) when our tiny human wakes up. When I’m traveling for work though, I don’t have the luxury of familiar sounds and family rituals to get me going. I set an alarm for many different things when I’m away from home. One for the time I need to wake up in the morning to work out or get to my first meeting. One to call home before my family starts winding down for bedtime (time zones are trippy. Sometimes I have to set an alarm for our daily video chat!). One to remind me when to leave to make it to the airport with time to spare – especially for early morning flights. I use my phone as a traditional alarm – and sometimes a timer for tasks – when I’m on the go.
There are many different things you can do to maximize your time when you travel for work. Packing the essentials, and leveraging technology to create new systems or routines when I land in a new place are just a few of the things I do to make travel a breeze.
What travel hacks do you employ to maximize your time on the go?