How can I make business travel suck less?
January 17, 2015 3:12 PM   Subscribe

My work has me traveling regularly for the first time-- 2-3 day trips every few weeks. I travel with a small team, including the company president. We operate as a pack, and so I'm sort of at the mercy of the president/team in terms of mealtimes, etc. I really dislike the lack of control over food, sleep, exercise, and general life while I'm on the road. . What can I do to make the trips less onerous for me?

These are some of the problems I run into with business travel:

*I'm trying to be conscious of health and fitness, and it's REALLY HARD hard to eat healthy on the road. Sometimes clients will order lunch and it'll be pizza.
*I am generally a poor sleeper and being at the mercy of a hotel room (the last Aloft I stayed in had a smoke detector whose lights flashed at odd intervals all night) is anxiety-inducing.
*I like having a regular schedule, and being in control of when I eat, go to sleep, wake up, etc, and on these trips, I'm totally at the mercy of my company president's schedule (last-minute presentation changes late at night! Long dinners that have us getting to the hotel at 10pm!)
*I, shockingly, don't like spending lots of time in airports and standing in security lines. (I am thinking of getting pre-check.)

Thoughts on how to "hack" these issues? If I can't hack them, are there other things I can do to make them suck less?
posted by airguitar2 to Work & Money (32 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I too hate all those glaring flashing lights in hotel rooms, so I carry a roll of cheap masking tape with me just for this: put an inch or so on each one (just enough to cover the light, not enough to effect operation) and remove it when you leave.
posted by easily confused at 3:20 PM on January 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

I used to travel a lot for work.

Try to buy whole foods at at grocery store if there is one. Bring fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts with you in your suitcase. Get exercise by walking to a grocery store.

When eating restaurant food, always eat salads. Never eat entrees.

Avoid alcohol consumption.

Don't snack in your hotel room.

Drink lots of water.

Don't watch the tv when you are trying to decompress. Read a book instead.
posted by Nevin at 3:27 PM on January 17, 2015 [7 favorites]

Packing food does wonders for me. If there isn't space to pack actual lunches, just having almonds and dried fruit in my briefcase makes me feel less at the mercy of other people's whims.

Sleeping pills don't agree with me, but you could see if a prescription for Ambien makes your nights better.

This depends on your company culture, but at places I have worked, it would be acceptable to tell the president that I want to go to the hotel gym before bed so need to leave dinner early.
posted by metasarah at 3:33 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sounds like you could also get HR on board, as there are mental health issues at play here.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:40 PM on January 17, 2015

2-3 days every few weeks is a light travel schedule. You won't bulk up to John Candy size on that. But yeah, on the road stress can be unpleasant until you are used to it.

The long meals and weird schedules are all part of being in a (sales?) team. Duck out of a long dinner, and you'll miss your instructions for the next day. When travelling, you will travel together as a pack, or risk being "that weird one". Only get pre-check if a couple of the other team members have it too. Your schedule on the road is secondary to the needs of the team. Sorry.

Develop a packing list, and refer to it as you pack before you leave. That way, if you know you've packed everything on the list, you don't need to fret about missing something. Travel as light as you're comfortable doing. Maybe not quite as minimalist as George Clooney in Up in the Air, but along those lines.

If you're travelling internationally, the fruit and nuts are a no-no.

Seconding tape for those %*^%*^^%**&ing flashing lights in the hotel rooms. A decent sized binder clip thrown in your luggage will keep the curtains closed so you get some dark. Charge your devices out of sight so the evil eyes don't get ya.

Hotel rooms are nearly always impossibly dry. A glass of water on the bedside table won't humidify the place, but at least you can grab a gulp of it when you wake up with sinuses of fire. It's a little known fact, but hotel tissues are in fact a very fine grade of sandpaper, so bring a small pouch of your own if you want to keep your snout abrasion-free.

Write down a list of things you need to attend to for the next day before you go to bed. Those are all your worries. The paper will remember them so you don't need to.
posted by scruss at 3:46 PM on January 17, 2015 [9 favorites]

Sleeping: Get a white noise app on your phone. Bring a bluetooth rechargeable speaker and put it right next to your head. That should take care of ambient noise. The masking tape idea above is good, but if you can get used to using a sleeping mask, that could help, also.

Exercise: If the hotels you are staying in have gyms, get a little time at least walking on the treadmill.

Food in general: Everything Nevin said.

Meeting lunches: Eat one slice of the pizza. Then use your packed snacks for later in the day.

Demanding boss is demanding: Good luck, there!
posted by clone boulevard at 3:46 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I bring a lot of protein bars. I try to bring a glass water bottle with me that I can refill. I bring a lot of chargers and an extra laptop battery so I can sit and work in the airport as much as I need to.

A sleep mask might also be helpful for blinkenlights that are disturbing.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 3:47 PM on January 17, 2015

Get in the habit of working out first thing in the morning. On business travel you don't have control over when you get "home" at night, but you almost always know what time you need to be ready to start in the morning and you can squeeze in your workout before that.

A mental hack that made me appreciate business travel a lot more was seeing hotel rooms as relaxing spaces where there are no chores and no clutter. Maybe this means I'm just living my life the wrong way (or traveling really, really well) but most hotels I stayed in for work had nicer linens and a nicer bathtub than my apartment, so I tried to always take a relaxing bath when I had a spare 20 minutes at the end of the day.
posted by telegraph at 3:52 PM on January 17, 2015 [10 favorites]

Maybe you can research restaurants ahead of time and suggest a couple of options to the team. Whether this would be appropriate in the context of your work situation and president I can't judge; it's either going to be seen as helpful pre-planning or annoying meddling in the president's job, but it would be a way to get a little more control over where you're going if you think it would be appreciated.
posted by zachlipton at 3:56 PM on January 17, 2015

Absolutely get Pre Check. It's easy and totally worth it. Personally I'd recommend spending the few dollars extra to get Global Entry so if you ever travel internationally, you'll be able to go through customs more quickly too. It's a bit more work to get, but worth the trouble.

Make sure you're doing whatever you can to get status on your preferred airline and hotel chain. That will also help minimize time in lines, give opportunities for upgrades, etc. Business travel still sucks with those things, but it sucks slightly less.

If your airports make it work out, I also think it's worth having an airline lounge membership. It's a nicer place to wait, and if you are a member of the lounge affiliated with your primary airline, it gives you access to better (and less inundated) agents when/if something goes wrong and you need help. I've found it to be a great investment. I typically get the membership via a credit card that provides it along with other benefits for an annual fee that's in the same ballpark as the membership would be on its own.
posted by primethyme at 4:02 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I hate dealing with strangers first thing in the morning. So, Instant oatmeal packets and a spoon. You can make hot water in the in-room coffee maker. My colleagues don't care if I miss breakfast but evening dinner/drinks are basically mandatory. I push myself to order a dinner salad or something healthy but boring.
Lightweight travel slippers or flip-flops for in the room.
Download a yoga video or podcast if there's no gym.
posted by chocotaco at 4:06 PM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm a frequent business traveler with food issues and I tend to carry fruit, nuts, various things in the snackbar family, small packs of carrots, a yogurt, and instant oatmeal. Sometimes I will get granola, vegan sushi or tamales from the grab & go, or bring a bag of popcorn. I always carry a nalgene liter bottle and a set of bamboo eating utensils. I often carry an electric teakettle and a small bowl for the oatmeal.

Precheck is fabulous for cutting lines.
posted by bile and syntax at 4:06 PM on January 17, 2015

I travel A LOT and usually in the same pack mentality and have done for years (but these days I am on the more 'dictating the schedule' side than following it) and a lot of it is to do with re-education and expectations of the team leader and the travel culture. For my own sanity during travel , I made a list of what bothers me and what can be ignored - I found that if I just got my head around being ok with things I can't affect (consciously deciding that they are 'Not My Problem') and filing things accordingly allowed me to focus on 'what matters' and it felt like more of a tangible improvement to address those issue.

The biggest thing that helped me was routine:
- As much as possible, my 'away bag' remains packed. Usually this means everything I need (chargers and adaptors) is in my day bag all the time anyway and I have an entirely redundant travel/toiletry kit so I don't have to worry about anything other than x clothes and throw the toilet bag in. I always make sure I have enough clean clothes for my next trip when I come back from the last one.

- Make a hotel routine - with routine comes comfort, for me. When I get into a hotel I put everything out and lay it out the same in each hotel. Then each hotel room becomes 'mine' very quickly. I work out what I need access to and where I want it and over time have a relatively simple and adaptable idea of what and where things are. This is not complicated (and it almost sounds stupid now I try and explain it) but it takes me maybe 90 seconds to unpack, maybe 90 to pack up (ALWAYS the night before I leave) and I never every feel rushed packing, nor do I ever lose anything in hotel rooms or leave anything behind. It helps to make all hotel rooms feel essentially the same and it's the little things that help.

- In terms of getting rid of stuff that you can't help: I always used to stress about remembering the room number because all hotels kind of blend into each other, so I just decided that I'd be more secure with my key and just leave the slip with the room number on it. It's terrible practice if you lose the key (anyone can go straight to your room and loot it) but it's MUCH easier for me and I've never lost a key/keycard. It's the little things like that where you can remove a slight level of background anxiety/mental load that makes it more tolerable.

- Slowly you need to introduce your requirements to the rest of the team. Some teams I work with want to set a time to meet for breakfast and then eat and leave together. I HATE this, as some people take 30 minutes just to eat and in my profession an extra 15 minutes in bed is precious (we do long hours). It meant regularly losing sleep to me, so I make it politely clear very early on with each team that I want a 'tail lights' time that is when we are genuinely leaving and I work back from there. I often get up 20 minutes from 'tail lights' and am never late.

- Individuality - you need to gently press, and then stamp, your own requirements into this. The pack mentality means that people drift into doing EVERYTHING together, which generally means most people are unhappy. Allow yourself some distance - like the breakfast thing that I do - to gently separate yourself from the team when you can. Once you work out what it is you really hate, gently pull away from it, you may find people allowing and adjusting for it (and even appreciating it). if you need to speak to HR about this (as explained by someone else earlier) then you do so, but feeling at least partially in charge of your destiny for some of the day may well help the somewhat helpless 'cog in a gear set' feeling you seem to have.

*I am generally a poor sleeper and being at the mercy of a hotel room (the last Aloft I stayed in had a smoke detector whose lights flashed at odd intervals all night) is anxiety-inducing.

This is likely the most important one, as bad sleep is terrible for work trips. It seems to me you need to establish your own sleeping routine and (possibly over time) develop your own procedure/equipment to make sure you get it. Sleep masks, ear plugs, white noise, freezer-cold air conditioning, shower before bed, reading, whatever it is you need to generate a routine for 'travel sleep'. As I (OMG KEEP GOING ON ABOUT!) routine here will save you. Reduce the annoyances and make sure you have what you need for sleep and trigger your routine when you get in the room and eventually it will take care of itself.
posted by Brockles at 4:11 PM on January 17, 2015 [16 favorites]

As alluded to above, make the early morning your own.

I often get up early and go out for breakfast outside the hotel to claim some time and decisions for myself, and get in a bit of a walk at the same time. I enjoy having a quiet breakfast to myself - maybe with some better food than the hotel offers or with a bit more local color, perhaps reading the paper, a stroll through a park.

Having introvert tendencies, I really need this time to just recharge and cope with the rest of the day where there are no opportunities to be alone and quiet.
posted by AnnaRat at 4:11 PM on January 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Just to add to the idea of supplemental snacks, they sell shelf-stable packets of hummus now, for a little variety from nut butters. Carrots and sugar snap-peas are fairly stable for a few days. A whole bell pepper will also keep for a few days if you have room for a more bulky food item. I have been teased (gently) by my family about my "big bag of everything," but it makes our trips much more pleasant to have some fruits and vegetables available when you're traveling. I also carry bottles (empty through security) so that I have water when I want it.
posted by dawg-proud at 4:14 PM on January 17, 2015

I travel about one overnight a week and agree with most the ideas above-I especially like having a bunch of healthy food available to me (bags of chopped veggies, etc). One new thing I jut added last week, though, was an Amazon Gmfire stick so I can watch my netflix shows on the tv on the road. I have little kids, so a night away with good food and being able to choose the show is a treat-I try to think about it like that, rather than focusing on the sucky parts.
posted by purenitrous at 4:23 PM on January 17, 2015

I can help with this.

1. If they're catering in pizza, tell them you're on a food plan that negates eating pizza. If nothing else, the restaurant will have a crappy tossed salad. Ask for one of those. If you're in luck, they do other things, like pasta and veggies, or they have specialty salads. Make sure you let whoever is ordering lunch know this before the order goes in. Have those small cans of tuna with the pull rings for protein. If that's an issue, chances are there's a little deli in the building where you can get more appropriate noms, and again, no one will cavil. You'll spend your own money, but to my mind, it's totes worth it. If nothing else a yogurt, a banana and a bag of nuts should suffice. If you're concerned, you can pick these up at the hotel in the morning before you head out. As for dinner, everywhere will help you pick simple, healthy items from the menu. Opt out of alcohol. I'm not a drinker and no one cares.

2. Bring things to your hotel that add to your comfort. I bring lavender oil to help with sleep. I also bring my Soba Pillow. If actually sleeping is a problem, Benedryl is now sold for use as a sleep aid. Pop one, it helps a lot. Tape for lights. Also, what's up with the lack of clocks in hotel rooms these days? Get a travel alarm that you can see in the dark.

3. Working out. Generally guys I travel with are BIG into working out, so mention it to others in your party, usually its done after work, before dinner, or before work. If you tell folks, "Hey, I'm thinking of hitting the treadmill before we head out to dinner, anyone else in?" You've announced your intentions and at least no one will be surprised if you ask to meet them at the restaurant after. In most cases, they'll elect to join you.

4. I have boundaries for when I'm to be back in the room. "Guys, you know I'll be a basket case if I don't get my eight hours. See you in the AM!" Then I bounce. This works if they're just hanging in the bar. If you're working, suck it up. I feel you on that. I HATE it. As a woman, I never took comp time. I always took the earliest flights in, the last flights out, and checked my email and worked from home once I arrived. Screw that. Take more comp time. Leave earlier on non-travel days. Roll in later the next morning.

5. Upgrade your seats to Economy Comfort, buy the seat on the exit row, whatever makes it better to be in the air. Buy Go-Go for the computer. Read books on the flight, don't do work.

6. Finally, order the Filet or the Lobster. They honestly don't care, and frankly, you're earning it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:26 PM on January 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

Yes, get PreCheck, it alleviates at least a tiny bit of the unpleasantness of air travel and makes you look like a travel pro. Ditto working whatever system of credit card air miles and hotel loyalty plans are available in order to get free or low-cost upgrades for your seat and the room -- small pleasures matter when you are stuck in shitty work travel. Spend the money to have good connectivity with your family -- pay for wifi when it isn't free, upgrade to devices and data plans that allow video calls, or whatever it takes.

Brockles' suggestion to just keep your travel bag mostly packed is key. I keep my toiletry bag always packed and ready, as well as a spare phone charger, for example, since missing one of those items results in a crappy trip. Your packing list can then be shortened to just the things you need to actually gather up each time; it's less stressful and there's less chance of forgetting something important.

At least in the work situations I am in, someone saying they are "eating paleo" or requesting a salad when the "what kind of pizza shall we order?" question gets asked doesn't raise any eyebrows. Your situation may be different, but there are usually ways to have some control of your food without breaking the "we are a team!" dynamic. Drinking in the evening can be harder to avoid, though, since in my experience that's when a lot of the decisions happen, but even then there's not a requirement to get trashed.

I see people going to use the workout rooms at the hotel, but the expectation seems to be that this gets fitted into the interstitial spaces -- before the group breakfast, between getting back to the hotel and heading out to dinner, etc, rather than cutting into any of the group time. This (like drinking) is something that is going to depend strongly on the group culture, so reading the room matters more than what anyone is saying here.

Difficulty falling asleep in hotel rooms is common (and more so if it goes along with stress about a presentation the next day). It might be worth chatting to your doctor -- there are both prescription and non-prescription aids for both sleep and anxiety, and there's no need to tough it out when help is available.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:44 PM on January 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

Sleep masks can be comfortable if you get the ones that dome over your eyes and don't press on your eyelids.
posted by quince at 4:51 PM on January 17, 2015

I am so looking into that Amazon Fire Stick.

Most of what I'd say has already been said, but a few thoughts from someone who travels a fair bit for work:

Take a look at apps or books for bodyweight workouts you can do in your room. Sworkit is an Android app with videos and examples of bodyweight apps.

Seconding the part about making time for a workout of some type, and bringing along healthy snacks. If wherever you spend during the day has bottled water, take some back to the hotel for the evening. Avoid sodas and sugary snacks that will have you crashing.
posted by canine epigram at 4:56 PM on January 17, 2015

If you are traveling as a group, frequently, then the company may be willing to foot the bill for some of these perks that will make the travel easier: Pre-check, airport lounge membership, even memberships to a chain of gyms that are in all of your destinations.

Invest in a really high quality rolling suitcase. It makes a big difference to comfort getting through the airport.
posted by bq at 5:40 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I travel a lot for work too, and face similar challenges, though I do have some choice about my hotel rooms.

A few thoughts, in no particular order:

When it comes to food, I try to either bring or purchase food that I would eat at home. For instance, I'll bring almonds and even hardboiled eggs with me to get me through that first day. I'll also try to make a Trader Joe's or Whole Foods run and pick up things that I eat.

I'm genuinely lactose intolerant, so I can't eat much of those heavy meals. For everything else, I eat mostly vegetables, with some meat and fat. I try to not eat too much carbs as they get me quite tired.

Since I'm from California, I can't take baths here. So I always take baths when I'm in hotels. I spa out. I'll have bath salts, a mud/sheet mask, relaxing music, the works.

Global Entry/Pre-check is absolutely key. It's 100, but it's worth it.

Ambien is great for those nights I can't sleep, and I always pop one in the night I arrive so that I'm guaranteed a good night's sleep. It makes a huge difference for the rest of the week. Even just having it with me makes it less anxiety inducing. I'll usually use melantonin for the rest of the week.

I also request a quiet room when I'm checking into the hotel. This has resulted, for instance, in rooms that have not had any street noise whatsoever in New York City. It will also keep you away from the elevator.

Getting exercise is key. As others have said, make early mornings yours and get up for a good workout before breakfast/work.
posted by so much modern time at 6:06 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Nthing the good suitcase, think about cost per use. I have a very expensive carry on case that I can wheel with one finger on most surfaces other than carpet (that'd be hotel corridors) and gravel. I also have its bigger brother, that I struggle to lift when full, and I can wheel that with one finger as well.

Think carefully about what toiletries you really need to bring. Keep your toiletry bag packed and replenished at all times, it lives in the expensive suitcase. As do the spare chargers and such, unless you carry them around in your computer bag every day anyway.

Challenge content of any other bags you lug around with you and how you organise this content for ease of access in the middle of an airport. Personally I try to avoid carrying separate computer and handbags when I travel. My travel documents have a specific place as do laptops and liquids. If I travel internationally as do passport and ziplock bags with currency. The less stuff you have to carry and keep track of the better.

Your travel wardrobe. On the day of travel some things work a lot better for walking a lot and clearing security. Whilst away, some things travel a lot better than others (creasing, space requirements in cases, versatility to transition from work to evening etc).

Meals - skip breakfast with the group, as others have said. Plenty of acceptable excuses - I don't eat breakfast, I exercise in the morning and grab a protein bar on the way out etc. Not that you should need an excuse. When I travel for work the rules are generally, breakfast from X time (if you want to), departure at X+30/45min sharp. As long as nobody has to wait for you to leave the hotel nobody cares. For me this makes a huge difference to how much sleep I get.

Lunch - bring along snacks - nuts, fruit. Order/pick up a salad/soup.

Dinner - lots of vegetables and protein. If drinking alcohol is part of the group dynamic nurse that one drink all evening. And absolutely, make your excuses and go to bed at a reasonable hr.

Some people do manage to occasionally skip dinner without ill effects on team cohesion. They are generally well liked by everybody, well established and appreciated by the person in charge and judicious about what evenings to skip dinner. People who do skip dinner every day generally turn out to do a lot less well. I mean, I've been on trips where we were working until 10/11pm most nights. In that scenario nobody cares if you go to bed when you get to the hotel instead of having a nightcap in the hotel bar. But if you work normal hrs, people have time to exercise before going to dinner and you skip dinner every day you're basically rejecting your colleagues, all of whom would prefer to spend the evening doing something else some other place. So don't do that.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:04 AM on January 18, 2015

On the point about the lights and noise, a former friend gifted me a sleeping mask as a semi-joke gift at one point(it was neon pink and had fake fancy eyes on it, etc). I started using it in earnest in situations like this. I have similar problems with lights/noise when i'm trying to sleep.

With the mask, and the hotel room AC set to full blast fan, not heat or cool, i basically fall asleep the instant i try to. The pitch blackness and loud background drone is like a sleeping pill in and of itself.

i have yet to not sleep like a baby with this setup. it's like, smartphone must be on bed so the alarm can actually wake me up good.
posted by emptythought at 4:28 AM on January 18, 2015

It's hard to skip out regularly without being seem as not a team player, unfortunately. Choose your day to skip out on dinner wisely (maybe you fly in later so you can't meet the night before for dinner). I eat almost exclusively catering and have no control over what's offered to me (and my trips are 5+ nights!) so I fill most of my plate with salad, leaving only room for protein. Skip breakfast/bring your own if the only option is continental (carb-city). When ordering a meal divide it and only eat half, order a soup and salad, or order off the kids menu (smaller portions but you may take some slack from your colleagues).

A travel humidifier (random link, not a specific recommendation) next to your bed will make you feel better in the morning. Establish a hotel room routine—hang/set out your clothes in order for the week when you arrive and pack your clothes as you take them off each night. Carry a stuff sack/ditty bag to put dirty socks and underwear in. Bring your own toiletries if that sort of thing makes you happy (I never know if I'm going to be allergic to the hotel shampoo).

If you're in a location where you can walk to things get out of the hotel, walk to a grocery store or just walk around the block. I'm always in a soulless hotel next to an expressway and have no car. If that's the case, offer to be the driver and you can always head out to run errands after dropping people off (if it doesn't take you away from team dinners). The driver always has a bit more freedom, but also more responsibility.

Stick with one airline, hotel chain, and car rental if at all possible. If one of these companies serves the locations you visit most go with them and build loyalty. Being a preferred guest makes business travel so much nicer (upgrades, free wifi, better airline seats, etc.). Business travel can gain you lots of personal benefits. Those points will eventually add up to a free vacation for you—that thought helps a tiny bit.

Unfortunately there's no way to control your life on the road but making small changes can help to make it more tolerable.
posted by Bunglegirl at 7:11 AM on January 18, 2015

I feel you. I hated this so much as a junior consultant; it made me resent the hell out of my otherwise-likable boss. Ultimately I looked for different work. But I also developed as much of a zenlike attitude towards travel annoyances as I possibility could - no mean feat for my personality type, let me tell you. I still treat airports as a realm of Possible Inconvenience Entirely Out Of My Control. It's... oddly relaxing.

Anyhow, two things I haven't seen mentioned:
- Use your spare pillows to sound-insulate the bottom of the hotel room door frame
- Be the person who sips one, maybe two drinks (or none!). My otherwise nice boss had developed a bit of an alcohol problem from this type of travel, but I didn't realize at first that I really, really didn't need to participate in drinking-as-teambuilding. I later realized Boss very much took his cues on how many rounds to keep ordering from other people's enthusiasm, so my yes-manning was really shooting myself in the foot, there.

Finally, if there's any way to invent socially or work-friendly reasons for you to Go Do Something Else for the occasional early morning or evening, do it. Do you have any involvement in business development? Great, you now have an excuse to try to reach out to your network on trips (and get your own car, maybe). Whatever it is, float it in advance and make it sound good, but personal - someone you've met tenuously and want to catch up with, but don't know if there's any real opportunity for $yourco there yet...

Good luck.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:19 AM on January 18, 2015

For hotels: (1) use ear plugs for sleeping; (2) always have a wake up call set, even if you don't need it, so you can stop worrying about whether your phone alarm will work; (3) never turn on the TV, at all, period--it will keep you up at night; (4) bring a kindle or a book for bed--not an Ipad--so you don't mess around on the web until late.

For food: (1) pack nutrition bars (I like the Kind bars they usually have at Starbucks) so you can skip or eat half of the group lunch; (2) get up earlier than everyone else and eat a healthy breakfast (Starbucks oatmeal is my go-to.)
posted by Mid at 9:59 AM on January 18, 2015

Great tips, everyone. Thanks!
posted by airguitar2 at 12:48 PM on January 18, 2015

I'm freshly off the road-warrior circuit. A few other things:

Load up your phone (or ipod is even better, the old ones have great battery lives) with a white noise or pink noise file -- you can usually find a 60 minute loop somewhere. Use it for noisy hotel rooms. As mentioned above, you can also ask for a quiet room, and once you have a bit of status with a hotel chain those requests will almost always be honored.

Echoing recommendations for good luggage. Colorful luggage is also helpful -- don't get a black suitcase. My orange bag was easy to pick out in a big rack of gate-checked luggage.

It took me awhile to realize that I could use my Netflix watch it now subscription on the road. It saved me from a lot of crappy reality TV when I wanted to turn my brain off for a while. Instead, I could go back to mainlining Breaking Bad.

Bring a water bottle wherever you go (and remember to empty it when going through airport security). Everyone gets dehydrated when traveling, which gave me headaches and made me crabby. Having water on-hand all the time helped a ton.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:41 PM on January 18, 2015

I have an HDMI cable in my bag of chargers and other cables, so I can plug my laptop into the hotel TV and watch DVDs and downloaded stuff. It also makes you into some sort of superstar if you're all crowded into someone's room working on a document and you can put it up on the TV rather than all trying to look at a laptop screen.

This maybe a British thing, but I have a selection of teabags in all bag (acquired from various meeting venues over time) so I'm only ever a kettle away from a decent cuppa :-)
posted by Helga-woo at 8:58 AM on January 19, 2015

I, too, am a light sleeper. Sometimes I sleep fine in hotels, and sometimes I don't. Earplugs and a face mask are a revelation - just knowing that they are available makes me sleep more soundly. Get the wax earplugs, though - they are SO MUCH BETTER than the foam ones. Any CVS or whatever should have them.

I don't travel for work very often (maybe every couple of months), and the vast majority of my work travel is solo, so I have some control over things like where I stay, and, to some degree, the schedule. But, as an introverted person who values alone time and can get some anxiety about sleeping, I feel your pain.
posted by breakin' the law at 10:13 AM on January 19, 2015

A few other suggestions that just occurred to me....

-The Do Not Distburb sign is your friend. I always hang it up the minute I get to my room, and leave it there until I leave to check out. For some reason, I find it comforting to come back to my room the way I left it, rather than the way the maid left it, even if means the bed's not made.

-If you ever have to do any solo work, find a local cafe with wi-fi and do it there, rather than holing up in your room.

-This may not be so helpful for group travel, but if you are traveling to a place where a car is necessary to get around and you can come up with a reason to rent a car, rent the car.
posted by breakin' the law at 10:46 AM on January 19, 2015

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