How to Survive Extreme Global Business Trips (Part 2)

Learn more tips from someone who survived a nine-day loop around the world to make your own business trips a little easier.

Terry Wohlers

"Viewpoint" is a column authored by Terry Wohlers for Time-Compression Technologies
This column was published in the September/October 2007 issue.

The May/June Viewpoint column addressed travel planning, packing, visas and time at the airport. In this issue, I will discuss overnight flights, hotels, free time and buying gifts.

While in Flight

A long flight is a time when one can knock out major chunks of work. I do my best to get a seat where I have some space and can leave without bothering others. Years ago, I purchased an electrical adaptor that lets me plug my laptop into the low voltage jack on all long-haul United aircraft. The slim and lightweight adaptor from Targus works great. It gives me an endless supply of power, and my battery is fully charged when I arrive.

I take more than enough reading material to keep me occupied. I maintain a file folder of articles that I remove from magazines and print from Web sites. The magazines themselves are too bulky and heavy to lug around. The time goes much faster when you want to finish a number of articles and technical papers.

The trip around the world involved three full nights on planes. With any overnight flight, I come prepared to sleep. I carry an inflatable neck pillow, silicone rubber earplugs, an eye cover and chewing gum to freshen the mouth before catching some shuteye. When flying to Europe from the East Coast, I will often skip the meal so that I can get another hour or so of sleep. Elbow space and comfort is a must, so I try to snag an extra pillow or two and place them under the arms. You’d be surprised at how much they help.

Sleeping on a plane is easy for a few lucky souls and challenging for most others. Some frequent travelers use sleep medication such as Ambien or Lunesta. They require a doctor’s prescription and can be addictive, so be careful. Also, some users of it have been known to sleep walk and talk and have no recollection of it hours later when they are awake. If you are unable to sleep on a plane, my philosophy is to start with something mild, such as Tylenol PM. If it does not help, try something else. Most importantly, seek the advice of your doctor before experimenting.

I’ve found that it also helps to drink plenty of water and rest as much as you can when taking long trips. Your body appreciates a lot of both. I work, read and take in an occasional movie, but rest is king when traveling abroad.

Arriving

When arriving at your destination, I recommend public transportation if someone is not meeting you at the airport. Travel can be stressful enough without having to navigate unfamiliar roads and traffic. In Frankfurt, I took the train from the airport to the central train station in the city center. It’s much less expensive than a cab and it’s faster. From there, I walked to my hotel. In Singapore, a friend met me at the airport. And in Kuala Lumpur, a friend and I were attending the same conference, so we shared a taxi.

Accommodations

I enjoy nice hotels. With the weak U.S. dollar, however, it is sometimes difficult to justify the high-end properties. High-speed Internet access is typically complimentary in the lower-cost hotels in the U.S., such as the Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express and the Residence Inn by Marriott. At most hotels in Europe, regardless of price, an Internet hookup is an optional fee. E-mail tends to pile up, especially when traveling abroad, so having a good connection is very important when I check into a hotel. I am hoping that someday, all hotels will provide free-of-charge wireless Internet.

I maintain a $6 per month dialup network client account with AT&T Global so that I can send and receive e-mail in remote places that do not have a high-speed option. It offers local or nationwide phone numbers for most countries around the world. I’m using it less and less, but it’s still worth having it when there’s no other option.

Pack a set of electrical plug adapters when traveling outside the U.S. Many countries in mainland Europe have standardized on a single type of plug, so that helps. If you’re traveling to the UK, South Africa or some other regions, you’ll need a special adapter. The type of electrical current is also a consideration. Most laptop computers accept both 110V and 220V electricity, but some appliances may not. So, you may need to also carry a voltage converter.

Other Cultures

I really enjoy conducting business internationally. I learn so much about the history and culture of the people, companies and cities that I visit. I’ve found that people almost anywhere in the world are friendly if you are friendly to them. If you smile and make a friendly comment, they will usually reciprocate. I’ve heard stories of people being unpleasant in certain parts of the world, but the stories usually come from people that are not terribly pleasant themselves.

Free Time

Many frequent business travelers that have a spouse and/or kids at home often want to get in, take care of business and return home as soon as possible. I fall into that category, but it’s also nice to take in a few sights whenever possible, especially when traveling outside the U.S. It can make it more enjoyable and give added meaning to the trip years later. I always carry a small camera to capture some of the special moments of trips outside the U.S. Consider one that will fit inside the pocket your slacks or shirt. (I like the small Canon PowerShot series.) You’ll use it more and capture images that you’d otherwise miss. With this trip, I was visiting a couple locations in Asia that were unfamiliar to me, so I took a couple days to see and experience something new and was glad I did.

I believe most men would agree that shopping malls are not at the top of their list of destinations. I’ve tried to convince my wife that shopping gives me a headache and makes my eyes burn. Buying gifts in other countries is an entirely different experience and I actually enjoy it. I especially like handcrafted wood products. The challenge is often to find space in my two bags to fit in the gifts, but I usually do. Time is often tight, so I frequently pick up gifts at the airport. You often pay a premium, but the selection is usually very good. Don’t bother buying liquids, such as wine, that are in containers larger than three ounces, unless you are willing to pack it in a bag and check it. I recently spoke with a friend that packed two bottles of red wine. Both broke and ruined some clothes. He said he wrapped them with plastic in case they broke, but the broken glass cut through the plastic.

Summary

I like to travel for business and pleasure. I look forward to most trips and do as much advance planning as possible. I try to leave little to chance. This reduces the odds of experiencing problems. There’s not much one can do about flight delays and missed connections. If something goes wrong, take a deep breath or two and think through the problem before reacting hastily. Tell yourself that there’s little that you could have done to change the situation. Stressing out over it solves nothing and worsens an already challenging situation. Maintain an upbeat attitude when traveling, and chances are very good that you’ll survive and enjoy even the most extreme global business trips. TCT

Industry consultant and analyst Terry Wohlers, is principal consultant and president of Wohlers Associates, Inc. (Fort Collins, CO). Visit http://wohlersassociates.com for more information.