Thinking about taking a job that involves traveling? Traveling for work seems glamorous. Days spent flying first class and nights hanging out in clubs and drinking champagne. But business travel is tough. Here is the cold hard truth about traveling for work.
I’ve been traveling for work for five years. And I’m always saying that travel is the best and worst part of my job. I generally travel a couple of times a month with most trips being just a day or two. But there are times I travel four times a month and am away from home four or five nights. That inconsistency is one of the things I struggle with. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want to travel every week all week like many people in my field do.
Let’s get into the good, the bad, and the ugly about corporate travel shall we?
Business Travel – The Good
You Get to Travel!
I love to travel and my job takes me throughout the United States. This means that I have been able to visit places I probably wouldn’t have visited otherwise. And I get to visit some of my favorite places more often (I’m looking at you NYC). Sometimes I’m even able to squeeze in some sightseeing or even extend a trip by a day. That’s when traveling for work is great!
You May Get to Keep Points & Miles
When I was transitioning from my old career to my new one, someone told me that my colleagues and I would talk about airline miles and loyalty programs. I thought it sounded silly at the time but it’s totally true! When you travel for work, your status and points with airlines and hotels are a big deal.
If you’re lucky one of the perks of your job will be that you get to keep any airline, rental car, and hotel miles/points you earn for personal use. I do and this is without a doubt one of the best parts of my job. The status that I have earned on my preferred airline is available to me when I travel for pleasure and I get to use those points for fun travel. I recently used my airline lines to travel to Naples, Italy saving me about $3,000.
An Expense Account
Expense accounts vary greatly from company to company. But a generous one is a great benefit. I have a public sector background and am not a big spender by nature to getting used to not having to worry about how much a meal cost took a while. But now I love that I get to eat in restaurants that I normally wouldn’t because the prices are too high for my personal pocketbook. Eating in nice restaurants is one of my favorite things about traveling for work.
Corporate Travel – The Bad
Eating Bad Food
Most of the time the food I eat on the road is of my choosing. Since I spend a lot of time in airports this means eating a lot of airport food. This isn’t a problem if I’m traveling through the Atlanta Airport but I often find myself in tiny airports where I’m lucky to find anything more than a sad sandwich. And then there are the times due to being with a customer or travel delays where I may miss a meal. This is why I always carry snacks in my laptop bag.
It Can be Tough to Stay Healthy
Keeping diet and fitness goals are hard enough at home. Throw in the erratic schedule that comes with traveling for work and it’s even harder. Business travel also makes you more susceptible to illness. The Centers for Disease Control even has a section on their website with tips on how business travelers can stay healthy and avoid getting sick.
There are certain things I do to try and stay fit while traveling, but it can be difficult when some days I work fifteen-hours on the road.
Traveling is exhausting. Whether your driving or spending hours on a plane or train, it takes a toll on your body and can be exhausting. Most of my travel days look like this: fly to the customer’s city, go to the hotel, eat dinner, work in the room and go to bed, get up early the next day, go to the customer’s site, do a presentation, and then fly home. Long days like that can be physically draining.
Different time zones, catching early or late flights, and travel delays are part of being a frequent traveler. While I have found ways to help me sleep better when traveling, being tired is just part of work travel. And when you’re home you’ll always feel like you’re running behind.
Business Travel – The Ugly
Lack of Schedule
People often tell me they don’t know how I manage business travel. Honestly, you get used to it but one of the things I struggle with is the lack of schedule. I may travel every week for one month and the next month have a couple of weeks at home. And I don’t regularly travel on the same day of the week. This erratic schedule means that I can’t regularly participate in activities. For example, I can’t always attend the same class at my gym or join clubs that meet during the week.
Frequent and irregular travel also makes it difficult to schedule personal appointments. I regularly have to reschedule appointments. And rescheduling a medical appointment often means you have to wait weeks or longer to get a new appointment. I broke a tooth recently while traveling for work and had to wait four days before I could get it looked at because it took that long to find a date that worked with my schedule and my dentist.
Interferes With Personal Life
My friends and family think I travel all the time. I really don’t, it just seems that way because my schedule is so erratic. But again, the unpredictability of my schedule means I often miss personal events.
Managing your personal life can be difficult when traveling for work. I can’t tell you how many personal situations I’ve tried to manage from airports and hotels. It’s hard to be away from your loved ones when they really need you.
Being away can also place a burden on your personal relationships. Many of my co-workers use Facetime and apps such as Words With Friends as a way to stay in contact with their friends and family.
It Can Be Lonely
I love working remotely and don’t think I could go back to a full-time office job. But working alone combined with traveling for a job makes for a lot of alone time which inevitably means some loneliness.
Being a bit of an introvert, I don’t mind being alone. But there are times that I need human interaction and it can be tough to find in corporate travel. I have found ways to combat feeling lonely when working from home like breaking the day up with errands and regularly talking to co-workers on the phone. On the road, I engage in conversations with people I meet and try and eat with co-workers to help combat loneliness.
Delays are part of traveling. Weather, mechanical issues, and a hundred other reasons lead to flights and schedules getting sidetracked. My home airport is small and I have limited direct flights which mean connections which lead to even more delays. Hands down, one of the worst parts of traveling for work is delays. Sitting in an airport at midnight after several delays are just plain awful. But if you are interested in a career that involves traveling it’s an inconvenience you have to expect.
Is Traveling for Work Worth It?
Absolutely! Traveling is one of my favorite parts of my work. You just have to be prepared for the good, the bad, and the ugly. To that end, here are some fun tips on how to be a better business traveler.