Work Trips - Getting In and Out with Minimal Pain
My mission in life is to cut out the crap - to either be working on something I’m passionate about or enjoying my life. Travel scratches the inch in both regards. I love traveling (if you’ve noticed from other posts) and I do it a lot. BUT with traveling comes all this other crap. Packing and unpacking (see this post!). Waiting at airports. Booking hotels, cars, lodging, meetings, etc. Add on canceling/rescheduling kids plans, work commitments, dog sitters – notifying your credit card companies. I always feel like the list is never ending and I’m always forgetting something important.
So, in an attempt not to let the admin overtake me, and not to let the process of travel interfere with my productivity, I’ve put in a place some new processes that I thought I would share.
Conference/Event Organization. First, the basics of the reason for my travel. I have a separate post on preparing an event guide, so on my travel checklist I just include to send the event guide, mark the event on my calendar, and check that my name, affiliation, and bio are correct on any materials and websites once they are up. I also have a new of grants that require me to keep track of activities concerning a variety of topics, so I make sure to add to ongoing documents whether this new activity checks any of those boxes.
Pro tip #1: seriously, create an event guide. It’ll help you avoid the numerous follow-on emails since you’ll provide the organizers everything they could possibly need from the get-go!
Travel bookings. Second, the trip planning. When I book flights, I make sure everything is good to go – seats selected, mileage account added, TSA-pre etc. I take too many flights to try to remember which ones I need to adjust too. This includes calling partner airlines to get seats if I can’t do it online. I do the same for the hotel – book it, make sure it is linked to any loyalty account, and make any requests that I need to, like early or late checkouts. I also check COVID and visa requirements and do whatever I can asap and set a reminder for things that must wait until right before the flight (usually the case with COVID requirements). I also make sure I have a plan for the trips to/from airports. Also, if you work in government, you may have additional reporting requirements which I take care of at this time as well.
Pro tip #2: If you have someone helping you book travel, send them all your account numbers and preferences for companies, seats etc. in one foul swoop. My assistant also has my COVID vaccination card to upload and send when necessary.
Pro tip #3: I can’t check in early or late as I need to, and I need a place to shower before/after flights, this is when I arrange any spa time. You may not be into massages and hot tea like me, but this is a good time then to check on locker room facilities at the gym, for example. Some business class lounges also have showers (and even massages!)
Pro tip #4: For me it's 30 minutes to/from airport. I always arrange calls during that time unless traveling with the kids (another thing an assistant can do if you have one!)
The week before the trip. I confirm that the event staff has received any presentation materials and I add the interaction (if relevant) to any professional websites and CVs, including potentially crafting tweets about it. I ask my assistant to confirm any appointments and send me the agenda, along with any news stories the night before my presentation that might come up. Obviously, what you need to be prepared the day off will depend on what type of work you do.
After the trip. I’ve posted before about all the personal admin required to reenter from a long trip. But in addition to that, if it is a work trip, I prepare any reimbursement requests right away. This is not only so I can get my money back, but also because I'm more likely to remember all my related expenses right after the trip. I also make sure I got all the mileage, hotel points etc. associated with the trip.
Pro tip #5: use an expense software like expensify that auto populates from emails and pictures of receipts you take. This is useful not only to reduce the amount of time you spend on putting together your reimbursements, but I then don’t have to keep a separate list of the reimbursements I’m waiting for since the software tells me their status. It also makes sure I never mistakenly ask for something to be reimbursed twice because it warns of any duplicate expenses (useful for me as I may have several sponsors that are willing to reimburse different aspect of my trip).
Pro tip #6: If you are lucky enough to have a cleaning service or housekeeper, have the come the day you get home. The house is usually a bit messy if one parent was left behind to solo parent, and I usually have clothes to wash, dry cleaning to take in, purses to clean out, or what have you after a trip.
Here is the checklist I provide to my assistant that captures these various tasks. I hope these resources help you feel better prepared for your work trips. See my checklist below!