White Collar Travel: Stupid things business travelers have done

Sometimes you lose your mind when you’re on the road. You either develop a highly inappropriate sense of entitlement (this is my seat on my plane) or decide that nothing matters, giving you a blank check to behave like an asshole. The combination of professional pressures – in my day, it was the collapse of the dotcom bubble … a bump in the road compared to the 2008 financial crisis – personal travails and frustration of being perpetually in transit sometimes make you snap.

Nobody is impervious to the factors that drive business travelers to idiocy, and those who think they are tend to be the worst afflicted. I remember running into my boss at LaGuardia‘s Marine Air Terminal – I was on a Boston-to-New York run for a few months and flew the Delta Shuttle several times a week . We were delayed, not an unusual occurrence at the time. He spotted me in the lone dining facility in the terminal, walked over and sat down, took a call on his cell and proceeded to help himself to my fries without even giving it a second thought.

But, that’s mild.I encountered plenty of business traveler stupidity when I flew with the white collar set … some of it I saw in the mirror. When you find yourself behaving in this manner, it’s usually time to get a new gig. Some of what I saw remains unshakably glue to my memory.

I’ll never forget one run down south.

One of the joys of extended-stay hotels was the so-called “General Manager’s Reception.” At least, I was told it was. Since I was on a project that closely resembled hell, I could never get back to the hotel (which was across the parking lot) in time to down some free beer.

How did I learn of this phenomenon? I ran into my boss’s boss in the hallway, just outside our client’s offices. He was in town for a meeting and was not a part of our weekly grind. In his hand, he held a plastic cup with piss-colored liquid, the cheap beer that even a hotel can see isn’t worth marking up.

Me: “Uh, maybe you’ll want to throw that out before going inside?”

Him, chuckling: “Yeah, probably not a bad idea.”

In another part of the country, I saw first-hand what poor mixological decision-making can do. If you’re unsure of whether to have alcohol, always err on the side of caution. Always. Your client will understand … especially if medicine is involved. I will never forget being on one project where my boss mused aloud about her boss’s insecurities and the reasons for them. Apparently, mixing her cold medicine with red wine had two side effects: (1) saying really stupid stuff about her boss and (2) doing it loudly.

Moral of the story: If you’re on meds, exhausted or inches from not giving a damn about your career, drink club soda. It looks like alcohol and is often mixed with alcohol … but it won’t lead to the same results.

So, I’ve kicked in two, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’ seen idiocy on the road. Any other white collar travelers want to chime in? I’d love to hear what you’ve seen (or done!).

Click here for more White Collar Travel

White Collar Travel: Five step to healthier road warrior diets

Sometimes, it seems like the road warrior‘s diet is relegated to the extremes. When a company executive is in town for a meeting – you’re taking your clients out – it’s hefty steaks, heavy cabernets and always more appetizers than a third-world country could consume in a lifetime. When there’s no occasion to shape the meal, on the other hand, you’re looking at suburban Chinese food illuminated by the glow of your dashboard.

It’s tough to strike a balance while you’re traveling … a problem that’s multiplied when you do it all the time. Fast food factors into at least one meal a day, and often, it will be your only meal. Caffeine (and, in my case, nicotine) replaced countless breakfasts, lunches and dinners back in my consulting days. Weight fluctuations were obvious. I’d usually drop 20 pounds in a month and a half when switching from a travel-intensive project to a local one.

Though the pressures of the job and the claims on time can impede proper nutrition, it isn’t impossible to eat well when you live the life of a wandering white collar warrior. You just have to be smart, plan ahead and commit to keeping yourself healthy.

Here are five ways you can avoid the fast food pits and fattening side-effects of client dinners when living the life of a road warrior:1. Choose an extended-stay hotel when possible
Now, what does this have to do with nutrition? Everything! These hotels have small kitchens, and you can stock the fridge with fruits, vegetables and other healthy snacks. When you get back to your room after 14 hours of meetings and deadlines, reach for an apple instead of a snickers bar (or a mini-bottle of bourbon).

2. Don’t always go for the steak
I know this sounds insane, but steakhouses carry other dead animals … not just cows. Would it kill you to opt for the salmon every now and then? While you’re at it, a salad can be savored; it isn’t something you have to endure.

3. Watch what you drink
Hey, I still enjoy a glass of wine or two with a nice dinner. But, you don’t have to kick off the evening with two martinis and close it with a cognac. At some point, switch to club soda or water. You can drink socially without going overboard.

4. Give up fast food
Or, at least cut back on it. When you have to dine and dash, your options do become limited, and not every city has an array of healthy quick-service dining options. When possible, find an alternative to fast food fare. It may take some work, but you should be able to come up with something.

5. Multitask for an extra meal
Breakfast is the first casualty of life on the road. Whether you’re up early to work or you’re trying to squeeze in a few extra minutes of sleep, the morning meal soon becomes a fantasy. Make time for breakfast. Bring some work down with you, and turn it into productive time. Hell, take your laptop to the table – it’s not like anyone’s eating with you.

Click here for more White Collar Travel

[photo by Steve Zak]

White Collar Travel: Four ways a Kindle can improve your productivity

I’ve known several white collar folks who have spent their last hours in the office before a business trip printing off material to read on the plane. Laptop battery lives are never long enough, and nobody wants to waste it on reading. So, killing a few trees can buy a bit more in-flight productivity. This means filling a bag until it’s almost to the point of bursting, though, as well as having to lug around a few extra pounds. Once on the plane, paper is strewn across the tray table and become sdifficult to manage. It’s a colossal pain in the ass, but absent a better alternative, trafficking in paper is the best available alternative.

It doesn’t have to be this way any more – not with the Kindle.

For travelers, an e-reader like the Kindle (or similar products from Sony or Barnes & Noble) already eases the travel load by taking the books out of your bag and sparing you some space and weight. These devices can also alleviate the paper problem. The Kindle can handle PDF files, so you can catch up on the reports, white papers and other industry information you usually put off reading until the wheels go up. You recapture time lost to printing (for you or for your assistant), and you obviate the need to carry and sift through all that paper.

There are several other advantages as well:1. Getting through security
Nobody associates paper with inefficiency at an airport security checkpoint. It doesn’t set off any alarms and won’t get you a pat-down. But, when you’re extracting your laptop out of your bag, you could wind up pulling a stack of paper out with it, which you’ll have to shove back in there while people are waiting in line behind you … impatiently.

2. Waiting at the gate
The dynamic here is similar to the one on the plane, though not as drastic because you can spread out a bit. Even with more space, you’ll still have to find the paper you want and get it back into your bag, which isn’t life-changing, but it’s a headache you don’t need when you’re traveling.

3. You get more done during the flight
You lose time sifting and sorting paper when you’re on the plane – shuffling, stuffing, trying to make it all fit again. The e-reader is a single device that’s slim and easy to fold and slide. And, you won’t have to reorganize your documents when you get to the office or your hotel room.

4. Packing to go home
Doubtless, you’ll be able to jettison much of the stuff you printed for your first flight before you return home. But, you’ll probably print out a new stack for the new flight. The last hours of a business trip tend to be packed already, so you may not have time to do all the printing you want. Even if you do, it’s still another item on the checklist that you’d probably prefer to skip. With the e-reader, your to do list gets a little bit shorter.

Read more White Collar Travel here.

White Collar Travel: Five reasons to book your hotel stays in blocks

Cost-conscious businesses are always looking for ways to reduce travel expenses. So, if you can find a way to cut yours a bit, you’ll get some credit for budgetary discipline, which is always a plus when times are tough. Take the right approach, and you may be able to improve your travel experience, too. If you plan to stay at the same hotel for several months, it may make more sense to make a long-term reservation than to book a week at a time. In addition to saving some money, you’ll be able to cut the amount of stuff you tote with you on the plane and have the same room every week, which means fewer trips to the wrong door when you’ve been at the hotel for sixteen weeks in a row (or longer).

If your project is both long-term and unlikely to change, contact the hotel and ask what they can do for you. Explain the situation – it won’t take long; most of them are incredibly familiar with the business travel dynamic – and ask if they can work something out with you. You’ll have to commit to paying for weekend days as well, but if the overall cost works out in your favor, it’s still a savings, and that makes it inherently valuable.

This won’t work all the time. But, even if the long-term rate works out to a breakeven proposition, it still may be worth accepting. Here are five reasons why:1. No more check-in lines
Checking in is a pain in the ass. Even if you have super-duper-elite status, the short line still takes time. You have to step up to the desk, leave your credit card and get the rundown on the hotel. Some of the introductory remarks may be curtailed when the front desk staff recognizes you, but it still takes time that you don’t want to spend – especially when you’ve just gotten off a plane or left the office. Book for the long run, and you’ll be able to go straight to your room.

2. Lighter load
Since you’ll have the same room every week, you can leave a lot of your stuff there. Run the numbers and see if it’s cheaper to use the hotel’s cleaning service because of the money you’re saving. You can have your clothes picked up the night before you leave and find them waiting for you when you arrive. If you’re working in a major city, you can always drop your clothes off at a wash-dry-fold service and pick them up when you’re back in town. You’ll only have to carry your laptop and books Kindle.

3. Predictability
Peak periods can sneak up on you, especially if you’re staying in the same location for months at a time. Rates can spike with little warning, putting you in a position to have to explain the increased cost to your boss or client. You can avoid this with a long-term reservation, which makes budgeting and forecasting much easier for those who have to do it.

4. No more wrong door
It happens to the best of us. You get to your hotel room, swipe your key and push – nothing happens. You try it again … with the same result. The third, fourth and fifth times, you get angry and finally march down to the front desk ready to raise hell. The polite, professional employee then reminds you of your room number, which isn’t the same as the one you just tried to enter. Embarrassed, you go to your room – the right room – to find that there’s nothing wrong with your key. If you have the same room every week, you won’t have a sheepish look on your face the next time you walk by the front desk.

5. Informal perks
The hotel staff will be told that you’re going to be around for a while. Everyone will know who you are and how valuable your business is to the property. Occasionally, you’ll get your bar tab comp’ed or find a bottle of wine in your room. From time to time, the general manager will keep an eye out for you and ask how your stay is (which the staff will notice). You can’t always quantify this, but you’ll definitely feel the difference.

Read more White Collar Travel here.

Guilt-free vacation, part I: free your inner workaholic

If you haven’t read about how to screw-off and look good while you’re on vacation, check out yesterday’s article. This is what you’re up against. The workaholic invests even vacation time in career success, and to look like that white-collar stud, you need to deliver beyond the appearances of your lazy, poseur coworkers.

But, you will.

When you get to the office, you see opportunities rather than work. You feel high when you pull the proverbial bunny from a hat. You love this shit. You live by it. You need it.

Your family, on the other hand, has no interest in your latest corporate conquest while you’re supposed to be playing water volleyball with them. They get angry because you can’t get away from your Blackberry. They love you, and they want to spend time with you.

So, you need a plan.

The next two days are for you. The Gadling team has come up with some amazing ways to work your ass off while you’re supposed to be relaxing without incurring wrath from spouse or child. As always, leave a comment and share your ideas. There’s got to be some great stuff out there.


1. Use the plane wisely
This one’s obvious but important. While you are en route to your destination, you have a rare chance to get away with working when there are no competing priorities. Use it.

2. Build layovers into your travel plans
This is free work time! Pick up a wireless connection, and plug into a power outlet while the kids find an ancient Pac-Man machine. Bring plenty of quarters with you.

3. Get up early; go to bed late
When nobody else is awake, you aren’t depriving them of your time. Block of an hour or so at the beginning and end of every day. You’ll be able to crank out some great stuff for the office, and nobody in the room with you will care.

4. Piss frequently
When you dash into the bathroom, you have a few minutes to pluck away at your Blackberry. Drink a lot of water to add credibility. The easiest lies to maintain are actually truths.

5. Smoker, non-smoking room
Not only do they smell better, non-smoking rooms give you a chance to step outside for a bit. Bring your laptop. To get the most from this approach, also bring a cigar … a big one.

6. Waiting in line
Need to kill 45 minutes at Disney World? Take a call; work your Blackberry; review a document. There’s nothing else to do anyway. Bonus points: time your arrival at a long line to coincide with a conference call.

7. Set expectations up front
If there are some pressing issues at the office that you just can’t avoid, prepare the family. Let your spouse know that you may have to duck out for a bit. Be as specific as possible (e.g., provide conference call times). Don’t get greedy, though. Keep the calls to a minimum.

8. Look like you’re relaxing
Print documents you’ll need and bring them to the pool or beach. Tuck them in a magazine. Vanity Fair is thick enough that you can “lose” almost anything in it.

9. Forward your e-mail
If you can’t access your corporate e-mail account from the road, have it forwarded to your personal account. Let your colleagues know that they can reach you this way and to expect to hear from you using a different address.

10. Make all day “think time”
Take notes on your projects before you leave. Review them in the morning, and take the entire day to mull them over. You can be productive without looking like you’re working.

If you need more than this, fear not. Tomorrow, we’ll bring a few more tips to you. Before you know it, your family will think you can cut your ties to the office, and none of your coworkers will realize you aren’t at your desk.

Have you seen yesterday’s post yet?