Traveling for business sounds glamorous. Until you have to do it.
During the last four weeks, I've traveled to California twice and made trips to New Jersey, New York and Bermuda.
I wasn't sunning myself on a beach or taking in Broadway shows. I was working.
I love my job. I do keynotes and consulting projects for sales organizations. The working part is great, but the travel can be challenging.
After many years of less than optimal experiences, I came up with six best practices to make business travel more enjoyable.
1. Make decisions in advance
One of the unrecognized, yet major, stressors of business travel are all the little decisions: airline, hotel, wardrobe, etc. Decide what your preferences are, and stick to them. They won't be available every single time, but when they are, you've eliminated a whole series of details. I even wear the same three outfits on every trip. Boring, yes. But nothing beats a fab grey suit and I can pack in five minutes flat.
2. Eliminate responsibilities
I avoid driving myself whenever possible. Not because I'm morally opposed to rental cars -- I don't want to be responsible for navigation. I'll take a $100 car ride any day. I sit in the back and make calls with no distractions or fine-tune my client questions. I used to feel guiltily extravagant, but then I realized how much better I perform when I arrived unhassled. I even use a car service to and from the airport. Instead of a late night trek to the parking lot, I'm greeted by a friendly face who carries my bag.
3. Be your own fabulous assistant
A highly competent assistant who provides white glove treatment may be an executive luxury. But you can give yourself the same treatment. I use an app called Trip It (www.TripIt.com). All my flights, hotels, meetings and addresses are entered online. Their website syncs up to my phone and computer and we print the trip details before I leave so everything I need is at my fingertips.
4. Smile at people
You would be shocked at what a difference this makes. Most people in the airport are frazzled and stressed. When you smile at your fellow travelers, and the waitresses, cab drivers and hotel clerks you encounter, you get an immediate energy buzz. People smile back and they're more likely to give you good service. As hokey as it sounds, by just smiling you can literally create a parallel universe where almost everyone is nice.
5. Buy duplicate personal items
It seems like a small thing, but when you have a duplicate set of shampoo, razors, contact lens solution, already packed, you save time and you don't forget stuff. Any money you spend up front is recouped because your total usage stays the same. Buy yourself a clear zippered bag, put everything in small bottles, and you'll never find yourself without cream rinse again.
6. Call or text home first thing every morning
A nice hotel or care service doesn't bring you closer to the people you love. But you can let them know you're thinking about them. No matter what my time zone, when I'm not home, my daughter wakes up to a text from mom. I call often, but I also send the text, so that every day starts with a little love. It's not as good as being there. But being away doesn't have to be awful.
Lisa Earle McLeod is the author of three books, including the best-seller, "The Triangle of Truth: The Surprisingly Simple Secret to Resolving Conflicts Large and Small," A Washington Post Top 5 Book for Leaders.