I have a love-hate relationship with business travel. I love the travel; I hate being away from my family.
My introduction to business travel came shortly after starting my first job straight out of college. I have been traveling, at various frequencies, ever since. Recently I have established my own “Personal Travel Policy.” This policy helps me make stronger decisions about my travel and ensures that I am making them in a way that honors both my family and professional commitments.
- Limit business travel to instances where it’s required by a specific purpose – I don’t travel for the sake of traveling. If the job requires travel, I’m the first to go. If I can send someone else, then that’s the most prudent thing to do. If I can take care of business by conference call, then it’s a waste of my time and company dollars if I don’t. Sticking to this policy optimizes my resources and gives my wife comfort that when I say I need to travel, I really do need to go.
- Limit trips to the minimum duration needed to get the job done – Some people think I’m crazy for spending a day and a half flying to India only to turn around after only 3 days. My goal in travel is not to adjust to the new time zone or spend time in a new city. My goal is to get a job done and get back home as quickly as possible.
- Limit traveling alone with females to instances where it’s absolutely unavoidable – It’s simply not wise to travel alone with the opposite sex without deliberately wrestling with the decision. I don’t question my marital fidelity but adhering to this policy reaffirms my wife, takes away any perception problems, and proactively removes any possible temptation. When it is unavoidable, I speak openly with my wife about it, discuss it with my accountability partners, and seek to find at least one other person at the destination who knows both of us.
- Maximize productivity by using flight and hotel hours diligently – Watching an in-flight movie, for example, is a waste of time. If I’m not sleeping in order to be fresh and rested, I use plane and hotel time to catch up and get ahead. These times provide uninterrupted time that is highly productive. Wasting these moments away is irresponsible. Leveraging them ensures that I am not neglecting my responsibilities while I’m on the road and that I have time to catch up with my family upon my return.
- Build airline and hotel loyalty points – Earning airline miles and hotel points significantly increases my productivity and helps make travel more predictable. When I stay at Courtyard by Marriott I know exactly what their checkout policies are, how to access the free wifi, and what time I can go down for my complimentary breakfast. My elite status with American Airlines ensures that I’m not the first to get bumped from an oversold flight and the upgrades I get make for a more productive and comfortable flight. When you’re on the road a lot, these things add up and save quite a bit of time. Of course, every once in a while I also get to treat my family to a trip with all the points I’ve racked up (though, I must admit that it takes a while with a family of 8!). This helps them feel as though they get a little something out of all my time away.
If you travel frequently and don’t have a Personal Travel Policy, you may want to consider crafting one. This is a good way to make sure that you’re making wise decisions and optimizing your travel. If you have one already, what does it consist of? What policies have you found to be useful?