Business travel: Mitigating a necessary evil

Make travel easier, more efficient, and more relaxing


Smith is the department chair of the Curriculum, Language, and Literacy program at Concordia University Chicago. She has more than 12 years of experience in adult teaching and training, and is a presenter at the 2013 Career Smart Engineers Conference.I just completed a multi-month binge of business travel—the first time in my career when a lot of trips occurred over a short time. In moderation, business travel is OK. But a lot of travel over a short amount of time, with the frequent flight delays and cancellations, cramped conditions, loud airports and hotel rooms, rude people, and increasing competition for increasingly rare electrical outlets eventually becomes quite a strain. So, midway through my travel binge, I put some time into making things simpler, more efficient, and more relaxing. Here’s a rundown of some of these techniques, which I hope you find useful. 

Electronica: Having a cell phone, computer, and broadband Internet contraption have become essential for working on the road, and all of these things have separate chargers. Throw in a set of headphones or earbuds, and you’ve just built a backpack full of spaghetti. Except for the computer and cell phone, I keep everything else together in a large, resealable plastic bag. I also throw in an extension cord so I can connect everything at one time when in a conference room or airport, and it makes it easier to reach seats so I don’t have to sit on the airport floor.

Medications: I keep a handy assortment of painkillers, sleep aids, and stomach relief all in one pill bottle. A few packets of instant spot cleaners, eyeglass cleaner, and a small sewing kit are like spare tires and jumper cables—you’re so glad you have them when the occasional need arises.

Food: After going hungry a few times on airplanes and in hotel rooms, I now travel with trail mix and power bars stuffed into my briefcase. And after I land, I buy water at the airport so can rehydrate in the cab, because 9 times out of 10, I don’t make it to my hotel room until late. 

Movie pack: I have a CD/DVD case that has room for a dozen discs. Having a few favorite movies and music CDs helps pass the time in an airport during inevitable flight delays; rental cars have CD players and a lot of hotels have DVD and/or CD players in the rooms. While most of us have music and video on our cell phones or computers, having a few discs handy sometimes is just the right thing at the right time. 

Lose the hotel clutter: When I’m going to be in a hotel room for more than a day or two, I put all the signs, booklets, and cluttery stuff in a drawer. It makes it a lot easier to relax without all the suggestions and reminders of what I should be doing or buying. 

Disposable ear plugs: The next time you see foamy disposable ear plugs, buy a couple and throw them in your travel bag. They can really help you get through crying babies on airplanes, and hotel rooms with loud HVAC systems or an ice machine, elevator, or traffic noise outside your room.

Boxed shirts/blouses from the dry cleaner: I don’t know why it took me this long in my life to learn about “boxed” shirts and blouses. Instead of putting these articles of clothing on hangers, dry cleaners will fold them flat, bag them, and stack them in a cardboard box. When you pack, you deal the ones you want into your suitcase like cards, and they remain “good enough” wrinkle-free most of the time. And hey—no more wire hangers! 

One last tip: Always have a good book or magazine. Reading reduces stress, there’s no electronica requiring batteries, chargers, headsets, and annoying flight attendants demanding you turn it all off a half-hour before the plane lands. And if you leave one on the plane or in the hotel room, it’s not a big deal. 

I hope you’ve found one or more of these tips to be new and useful. Feel free to share your own travel tips at Consulting-Specifying Engineer’s LinkedIn Group at Those of you who travel internationally undoubtedly have much to share!

Amy Smith is an associate professor at Concordia University Chicago. She has more than 20 years of experience in management and leadership. She was a presenter at the 2012 Career Smart Engineers Conference.

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