Travel Tips from a Road Warrior


July 24, 2009

by Marshall Goldsmith

Over the years, I have flown millions of miles for my work. I have logged more than 10 million frequent flyer miles on American Airlines alone! Already this year, I have visited Abu Dhabi, Amsterdam, Athens, Dubai, Edinburgh, Helsinki, Johannesburg, London (three times), Stavanger, and many cities in the U.S. and Canada.

A lot of people find traveling for business difficult. Some people don’t like leaving home and family. Others find the logistics hard to handle. People who know how much I travel often ask me, “How do you do it?”

Here are some of my suggestions for making business travel easier:

1. Pack light. (This is easier for me than most humans, since I wear a green polo shirt and khaki pants almost every day.) Take what you need. Don’t give yourself options. Make a decision on what you are going to wear—and just wear that. Use the hotel laundry. If you are staying for more than one day, they can clean your clothes. You probably won’t have to have a unique outfit every day.

2. Don’t book the latest possible flight. Things happen. Whenever you can, give yourself a back-up option or build in room for things to go wrong.

3. Get to the airport with time to spare. Given today’s security precautions, last-minute arrivals can be a disaster. I have seen many late passengers trying to jump ahead of everyone in line and get angry with security people who are doing their jobs. Life is short. Don’t do this to yourself and other people at the airport.

4. If at all possible, don’t check your bags. If I checked my bags on every trip, hundreds of hours of my life would be spent standing by conveyor belts. This doesn’t even factor in the extreme hassle and aggravation that comes when your bags are lost or misplaced.

5. Eat before you get on the plane. I have heard hundreds of fellow passengers grumble about how bad airplane food is. You don’t have to eat it! While some components of air travel have gotten worse, others have improved. The quality of food and quantity of options at major airports is exponentially better today than it was 30 years ago, when I started flying.

6. Don’t drink alcohol on the plane. The only time that I ever drink when flying is when I have two glasses of wine before an overnight flight. I am able to do that because I am going to sleep immediately, and all I have to do after I walk on to the plane is find my seat. If I am not going to sleep immediately, I find that drinking does more harm than good.

7. Learn to sleep on the plane. I have a unique approach, which works for me. I put on a blindfold, put the blanket over my head—then go to sleep. I often speak in front of large groups. I have to think about my voice. Having the blanket over my head holds in my body moisture and helps prevent the dry throat problem that occurs when we sleep on a long flight. Another benefit: When you have a blanket over your head, no one talks to you.

8. To help conquer jet lag, forget about where you have been—and where you are. As soon as you board the plane, set your watch to the time zone where you are headed. Never say, “Do you realize what time it is where I began this journey?” This type of thinking just screws up your mind and makes things worse. If you are headed to Bangalore, and it is 10 p.m. there when you board the plane, say to yourself, “I am in Bangalore, and it is 10 p.m.”

9. As much as we complain about air transportation, I am amazed at how well the system works. In my 30 years of being a “road warrior,” I have only missed one client meeting because of travel issues (a blizzard in Chicago).