Posts Tagged ‘Business Travel’

Women in Tech–10 Tips for balancing family and business travel

ViewFromAPlaneAfter twenty years of working in high tech and just about every one of those years involving business travel, I won’t even pretend to have perfected the family/work balance but, if you are about to embark on a job that involves travel, I have a few tips that might help.

1 – Accept you may catch some moments in reruns

First steps, losing a tooth, scoring a goal at the hockey game, as a parent you will get to witness many amazing moments in your child’s life. If you travel for work, you are going to miss some of those moments.  It’s not the end of the world, find pleasure in listening to your spouse or child tell you all about that awesome moment. They will be thrilled to have an opportunity to relive it with you when you call or get home.

2 – Find a farewell routine

Life is easier when you have a routine. It helps to have a routine when you leave on a trip. My routine is fairly simple, when I leave town I give the kids (and my husband) a bedtime kiss and hug for each night I will be gone (a little tougher now the boys are teenagers). This is my way of letting them know that even though I am not home, I am still thinking of them. It also gives them a sense of how long I will be gone. A 3 year old doesnt really understand the difference between a 2 day and a 5 day trip. But, kids figure out quickly that only one extra hug meant a short trip. I still remember the night before a two week trip, my 7 year old son stepped back and looked at me and said ‘that’s a lot of extra hugs mom.’  Some people count sleeps until mom or dad gets home. You could make a countdown with post it notes or tear out pages from a day by day calendar and leave them behind one per day. Whatever works for you. Just make sure it doesn’t require too much work beforehand, if you are travelling regularly, you won’t always have the time and energy for complicated rituals.

3 – Do what you can to make your time away easier for your spouse

Leaving for a week? maybe you should call a cleaning service to come and clean the house while you are away, or arrange for someone to mow the lawn. Maybe, the best way to help is by getting someone to help get the kids to and from their various activities. I try to make arrangements for someone to drive my son to his hockey practices so my husband has doesn’t have to manage supper, dishes and driving to and from the arena. Sometimes I can make his life easier by doing something as simple as baking the kids favorite cookies before I leave, so there are peanut free snacks to put in the kids lunches. When I had a two week trip I made arrangements for a friend to come to the house and take the kids to dinner and a movie over the weekend, so dad could have a night off. (We don’t have the luxury of grandparents in town to help out, but if you do, they could also be a great resource to give your spouse a break when you are away)

4 – Set expectations on when you will call home

In this world of text messages and Skype, there are lots of ways to stay in touch when you are on the road. But, it’s still a good idea to just have a quick chat with your spouse to manage expectations. Will you be available during the work day to exchange a text message or an email? A call may take some planning. What nights will your spouse be busy with kids activities?  When will they be busy with bath time?  When will you have privacy for a voice call? a video chat? Are there nights when you have evening commitments on your trip? Are you going to talk every night? Are you caliing to talk to your spouse at one time and your kids at a different time? In my early days of business travel (pre cell phones) my husband used to call my hotel room in the evening, on my first couple of trips I missed the calls and came back to my hotel room to a blinking light and it was too late to call back (don’t forget to factor in time changes as part of your planning). You may be busy on your trip, but your spouse is still at home dealing with all the day to day activities and may be craving some adult conversation, or a chance to unload after a bad day. Sometimes you can just call on the spur of the moment, but it’s good to have a couple of pre-planned times just in case!

5 – Don’t buy everyone presents on every business trip

If travel is going to be a regular occurence, you don’t want the kids to expect a gift every time you go away. Don’t hesitate to bring home a little something from time to time, but you don’t need to be rushing around the airport gift shop every time you have a flight. Like everything else you need to find a balance. My approach was to pick up a gift when I am visiting somewhere new or out of the ordinary. Of course, sometimes you stumble across something you just can’t get at home, a favorite brand of chocolate bar, an interesting bottle of wine, a cool pair of socks (no seriously, my son loves wearing funky socks, and I never know when I will find a cool pair). When it’s unexpected it’s a bigger treat.

6 – Share your travel perks and points with your family

If you have status on the airline, make a point of going to the airport with enough time to visit the lounge with the family (assuming your kids are old enough to get a kick out of the free cookies and drinks). Can you cash in some air miles to get free admission to the zoo? How about using your hotel points to stay at a fancy hotel for one night, cash in your upgrade coupons on a family trip and give your spouse a turn in first class. If your kids are older and are well behaved travellers, consider giving them a turn in first class as well. Please remember that smaller children should not be sent up to first class on their own, I have a friend who when upgraded ended up sitting next to a 3 year old (not sure of the age, but he got my friend to cut his meat up for him so we are going to guess the 3 year old range) this boy was providing his own loud commentary as he watched the in flight tv, was rude to the staff, kicked the seat in front of him, and was generally loud and disruptive. Meanwhile his father was somewhere in economy oblivious to the whole thing. My friend was getting the dirty looks because they thought he was the parent. So while I applaud taking kids on trips and giving them the opportunity to experience first class, with younger kids that should only be done supervised by mom or dad. But I digress, the main point here is your family is affected by your business travel, it’s stressful for them, so if you get a few perks try to share the benefits with them.

7 – Listen and ask questions

When you come home from a trip or you call home during a trip, chances are your spouse or kids will have news to share. Even if you had an exciting day/trip listen before you tell your story. Ask about the science test, the doctor’s appointment, recess, bath time.

8 – Try to be home before bedtime

I’ve discovered that if my kids see me before bed, they don’t consider that a day away. So sacrifice a little sleep in the hotel bed to catch that early morning flight so you can be home by suppertime. When going on your trip, try to avoid those early morning flights so you at least have breakfast with the family before you take off. 

9 – Set limits on your travel

How much travel is too much? Best to discuss that with your spouse before it happens. You should also ask yourself which family events should not be missed. Sometimes the answer when the boss says ‘can you do this trip’ is no. I call it my domestic air miles balance. When I take a trip I am cashing in domestic air miles, and when I get home I need to earn them back. Occasionally, if I am travelling somewhere really interesting or in a city where I have friends or family to visit, I cash in a few extra domestic air miles and spend an extra day in the city to explore. If I have had a few trips back to back and another one comes up I might tell my boss that I have cashed in all my domestic air miles and need some time to earn them back before I travel again (If you do turn down a trip, tell your spouse you did it, I’ve discovered letting them know I said no to a trip helps me earn back a few more of those domestic air miles). Saying no from time to time is not going to hurt your career. If you have accepted a job with very heavy travel, then it’s important to stop from time to time and discuss with your family if the job is worth that much time apart. 

10 – Give your spouse a chance to be an awesome parent

When you are away, the household routine may vary. maybe the kids get ice cream as a bedtime snack instead of fruit. Maybe they get to watch a tv show you normally don’t let them watch, or they get more video game time than you would normally allow. A little rule stretching can actually help the kids feel a little closer to dad. Maybe there is a restaurant, tv show, or movie that you don’t like but they do, what better time to do it then when you are out of town! They will still want to spend time with mom, and tell you about their days and adventures when you get home. If the kids get a little quality time with dad and bond doing something you wouldn’t normally do, even some minor rule breaking, maybe that’s okay. I honestly believe that my kids are a little closer to their dad because I am occasionally out of town.

Jobs which require business travel can be exciting and great opportunities, but they will absolutely impact your life at home. A little foresight and planning will make it easier on everyone! Safe travels and share your tips as well!

Tales from the Road: Why I love the Dash-8

I’m sitting on a Dash-8, that’s one of those noisy slow propeller planes, where anyone over 6 foot has to bend over to get in, and there are only 10 rows (but it is big enough to have window & aisle seats!) . As I sit here mid-flight, I am quite content. Strange for a semi-frequent traveller, you would think I would want my Airbus or Boeing with the built in entertainment system but somehow this feels just right. But why?

The Dash-8 is like the school bus of airplanes, it’s loud, it’s bumpy, it’s slow, but it will take you where you are going. I went through a period where I had a horrible fear of flying, during that time I was taking a Dash-8 every week. In discussions with the staff I discovered the Dash-8

  • has one of the best glide ratios of all commercial planes (meaning if the engine dies it won’t immediately just fall to the ground, it’ll do it a little more gradually so I can kid myself that we might even be able to land safely, please no-one tell me that’s wrong, I am still slightly nervous about flying Winking smile)
  • can land in a football field (I have been at the airport and seen jets stranded on the ground unable to take off due to the weather while the Dash-8 planes took off, they are real workhorses!)
  • Can handle huge drops in elevation (one of the attendants told me the pilots take them up and do a few big drops so they can learn exactly what the plane can handle, that way when they are on windy landings into St Johns, which is notorious for bumpy, windy landings, they understand, it may be bumpy, but everything will be fine. They told me stories of passengers screaming during landings at St Johns, mental note, take the ferry to Newfoundland.

So for a slightly nervous flier, the Dash-8 is strangely comforting.

I think another aspect is my sheer familiarity with the plane, having spent over a year working in Fredericton ages ago and flying back and forth from Ottawa every week in a Dash-8.

  • the rattle of the chassis during flight that you can sometimes stop if you put your hand up against the rattling bit of the interior.
  • The bumpiness and change of pitch coming from the propeller when you fly through the clouds
  • Row 7-10 the quiet rows in the back
  • Row 3&4 to be avoided because you have a propeller buzzing in your ear
  • Seat 1B to be avoided because you end up playing footsie with the flight attendant
  • Seat 1D excellent if you are a regular because the snacks are stored in the little cupboard in front of you, however sneaking your own snacks is not recommended until the attendants know you by name Smile
  • Seat 10E for those who need extra leg room, its the last row in the plane and you can stick your legs down the aisle

Or maybe it’s because I don’t have enough status for special treatment from the airlines, and the Dash-8 is a great equalizer.

  • I don’t have to worry about all those status folk boarding before me taking up all the overhead room. They have skycheck, I just throw my suitcase on the rack before I walk up the stairs onto the plane, knowing it will be waiting for me when I deplane.
  • No executive class seats full of fliers with more status than me looking smug to walk past as I go to my assigned cattle class seat

Yup, the school bus of airplanes, without the gum on the seats, it’s good to be back. Am I the only one who actually enjoys flying in an old beater of a plane?

Cheers,

Susan

Trains, Planes, and Automobiles–Tales from the Road

This week I travel from Ottawa to Montreal. I could drive, it’s about 2 hours. I could fly, but then I land about 30 mins out of downtown and have to deal with all the usual overhead of air travel not to mention Montreal drivers (although at least they are predictable, they always cut you off Smile)  or I can take the train. If you live in the Montreal/Ottawa/Toronto corridor, you know the answer to this. YOU TAKE THE TRAIN! Via First! I don’t have status on airlines (well I have enough status to get a different card and a polite smile on check-in but that’s about it). So for me travelling first class on the train which is still cheaper than flying and about the same cost as charging in mileage, rocks!

Via One, is not the same as travelling economy on the train, there is no standing in line to get a good seat. Seats are assigned, you can request window or aisle. You can show up 10 minutes before the train leaves and just walk onto the train when it arrives, so you don’t have the ‘hurry up and wait’ syndrome that is so common during travel. You sit on the train and grab one of the lap desks for your laptop as you walk to your assigned seat. The lap desk gives you room for a mouse, and your drink while preventing premature infertility due to overheating of your lap.

Once you have settled into your seat and plugged in your laptop, you connect to the free wi-fi. Then someone comes by with the menu and you select your main course and something to drink and you are not limited to tea, coffee, and juice Smile how about a nice glass of wine in an actual glass! or Metal cutlery to cut through your quiche or lasagna. I guess they aren’t worried about anyone hijacking a train (I’m hijacking the train go…uhh..that way down those train tracks…and don’t stop in Alexandria or else bwa ha ha!), you can probably bring nail clippers on a train if you want to, and bottles of shampoo that contain more than 50 mL of liquid.

The seats recline more than 6.5  degrees so if you feel like a snooze after having your chocolate truffle to finish off your meal you are all set (of course it helps if the train isn’t full, because the person behind you may not appreciate having your head in their lap).

Only a two hour train ride, so you would think not much time to get work done. But of course this is not a plane, you don’t have to wait until the seat belt sign has been extinguished to open your laptop. If you want you can talk on your cell phone from the moment you board the train until you walk off the platform at your destination (this may cause fellow passengers to want to pelt you with their chocolate truffles, but it is an option)

If train travel was like this in more places, the airlines would be in big trouble! I even debate whether to take the train to Toronto a 4 hour train ride vs a 1 hr flight.

The other thing I love about trains is that the stations are often right downtown. In Montreal I step off the train, walk into the station and across the hall to the hotel elevator. This is the way to travel!

So Thursday when I go home to Ottawa, my toughest decision will be which breakfast pastry to have with my hot breakfast and whether to take a conference call enroute or just sit back and watch a movie on my laptop. Sometimes travel isn’t so bad after all.

On the Road Again– Tipping with Loons and Bears oh my!

LooniesToday I parked at a Park and Fly lot. As I climbed into the shuttle van I glanced at the cup in the front of the van obviously intended for tips and paused. I can afford to give someone a tip, and I believe in tipping someone for good service. If only I good figure out a reasonable measure of who I should tip and how much.

Obviously you tip a waiter or bartender unless the service is downright abysmal. In general I’ll tip 15-20% most of the time in restaurants. There is nothing awkward about tipping a waiter, they hand you the bill, quietly walk away so you can choose how much to give them as a tip. I find it a bit more awkward with a doorman when you have to politely place a dollar bill or two into his hand.

The Americans may have a reputation for being less polite than Canadians, but they also have a reputation for being better tippers. When I travel in the US, by virtue of hanging around with my American friends, I have adopted the habit of keeping a few $1 bills in my wallet to hand as needed to a doorman who hails me a cab, or for a maid who stops by my room to clean up the glass deodorant container I knocked over that broke on the bathroom floor. I would happily do the same when I return home in Canada. But here’s my problem: loonies and toonies. It’s one thing to hand the doorman a dollar bill, but somehow a coin, even a coin worth a dollar or two dollars feels cheap. Our smallest bill is $5 but am I really going to give a $5 bill to a guy for blowing a whistle and asking a taxi to pull up to the curb or for picking up my suitcase putting it in a van and driving me in his shuttle bus to the terminal.

With maid service I can always leave a larger bill at the end of my stay. That doesn’t work so well with my Park and Fly driver who is different every time I have a flight, or the doorman who calls me a cab.

I love loonies and toonies. When I think I am broke, I can find enough change in my purse to buy lunch or pay for parking. But is handing a doorman a loonie or toonie a thank you or an insult? Maybe I should keep the cool Olympic loonies on hand so I can help them complete their Olympic coin collection, or make sure I hand out the anniversary Montreal Canadians loonie when I travel in Quebec. Or maybe I should just take advantage of the countries that still have bills for lower denominations, anyone know the exchange rate for a Kenyan dollar?

To finish up, my top 5 odd or awkward tipping situations, maybe I really am a scrooge.

  1. The hairdresser when the machine where I swipe my credit card doesn’t give me the option of adding the tip myself.  What am I supposed to do when I have no cash and they’ve already entered the amount?
  2. The person who washes your hair at the salon, I once had one blatantly hinting at tips, do I really have to tip the shampoo person as well as the stylist? Doesn’t the stylist share tips with the hair washer?
  3. Bag check at hotels, do I tip the guy who takes my bag or the guy who brings it back, or both?
  4. Sometimes I wish I could tip certain airline staff, there are some who really do go above and beyond with a smile, those people make a difference in my day!
  5. The food court tip jar beside the cashier, especially when you pick up the food and drinks yourself and just walk to the cash to pay.  I am really expected to tip you for taking a slice of pizza and putting it into a cardboard box for me?

Racing around town – tales from the road

racetattooIt’s amazing how often you visit a town for a business trip and never see anything other than the hotel and whatever you manage to glimpse during the taxi ride between the airport and the hotel. I’ve always been a big believer in trying to get out of my hotel room from time to time. This week in Seattle, I got to enjoy sights and views that even the locals never get to see when I ran in the SeaFair Torchlight 8km race with my running partner Christopher Harrison.

Running races in different cities is fun to begin with, Fort Langley BC with a view of the coastal mountains, Atlanta with and endless up and down course around the zoo. This week Seattle. The start is by the Space Needle where all the participants for the Seafair parade were gathering and preparing. It was weird going for a warm up run and having to swerve to avoid Boeing workers, tuba players, and Mrs. “insert town name here”  wandering down the street nibbling on cotton candy. Between the 5km and 8km (which started together) there were nearly 4000 runners. Seafair has a pirate theme, so there were many runners in eyepatches, hats, or carrying cutlasses into the corrals. I settled for a pirate tattoo on my calf.

The news helicopter hovered overhead filming the start. We started on a steep downhill and turned a corner, about 500 meters into the course we entered the parade route. Almost 250,000 spectators watch the Torchlight parade, and they had nothing to do while waiting except cheer on the runners. Moms, dads in lawnchairs, or actual couches! lined the streets. Groups of kids came out and held out their hands to give the runners high fives. Downhill, lots of cheering, kids reaching out to give you high fives…let’s just say the pace for that first kilometer was impressive! In fact the whole first 3kms was nice and quick. Hmmmm….maybe we should have foreseen what was coming. At the 4km mark they had the first water stop.  We went around the corner and found ourselves running up an on-ramp to a raised highway that runs along the waterfront in Seattle. On-ramps seem wayyyyyy longer when you are running up them, than driving up them. I swear that was 500m non-stop of steep uphill. Once on the highway, the view was spectacular! An unobstructed view of the harbour and the Space Needle (our finish line) in the distance. I was feeling tired but okay at 6 km and had planned to pick up my pace for the last km. But another hill shortly after 6km drained my energy, then another hill, then another! we finally reached the second water stop at the 7 km mark but at that point finishing held more appeal than water. A short flat stretch gave me hope that I could pick up the pace a bit and then we turned the corner and discovered the last 400 M of the race was pretty much all uphill, and a steep climb! That was just cruel! I did manage a small burst of speed on the 30 m flat stretch at the very end but that was all I could manage. (it was enough to beat Christopher though, so for those of you who care the standings are: Susan 2, Christopher 1 and one tie, I savour every win because he is getting faster!)

At the finish line the parade was about to get underway so we got to watch bands lined up and ready to go, cheerleaders warming up and Chinese dragon dancers practicing their craft. Not my fastest race but certainly a fun one (well except for all those “insert expletive here” hills.) And a race shirt makes for a great souvenir. So if I am coming to a town near you let me know if there are any good races coming up Smile

Cheers,

Susan

To Check or Not To Check – tales from the road

DSCN0114I don’t quite qualify as a road warrior (I have to pay for drinks in airports), but I do spend a fair bit of time flying hither and yon (I have sufficient cachet with my airline that I can call a different number for reservations so I don’t wait on hold with the general public).

Further evidence of my non-supermegaflyer status is the mere fact that I considered checking a bag for a 3 day trip. Checking a bag is simple, just toss everything in a medium sized suitcase and don’t worry too much about space, or how big a tube of toothpaste you pack. Truth be told, I feel strangely superior when I line up to board with nothing but my little backpack and see those obnoxious business travellers with laptop bags and a suitcase that “clearly” would not fit in the little wire rack on display prominently beside the gate. I feel downright smug when they get on the plane only to find that all the overhead compartments are full knowing that that *I* took a bit of extra time and checked my suitcase. *I* am not holding up other passengers and taking up entire overhead bins with my suitcase, laptop bag and coat. But the more I travel, the more the dark side beckons…when you land on Friday and leave on Sunday, with the magic of online check-in, you can go straight to security! That means an extra 15-20 minutes on the patio sipping a glass of wine. We’ve all had that moment, standing at the luggage carousel wondering just how long it can possibly take to unload the bags, where we find ourselves thinking, if only I hadn’t checked a bag, I would already be on my way.

DSCN0111With the new job, and the increased number of trips, I took the first step, I went shopping for a suitcase specifically to use as a carry on. It has a zip up pouch in the front that is perfect for holding a ziploc bag of liquids and gels, Heck, it even came with its own ziploc bag! This week there is a possible strike by Air Canada customer service, so Air Canada is actually recommending that you avoid checked bags. So the time has finally come. Packing took longer than usual as I carefully rolled up each shirt (Yes I am roller not a folder!) and patted myself on the back for wearing sandals so I didn’t need to pack socks. Then I had to pack my running gear, wow running shoes take up a lot of space! Luckily you can jam running shorts and a pair of running socks into each shoe. Now time to pack up my bathroom bag. I had no idea how many things I usually pack that exceed 100mL! Toothpaste, facial cleanser, shampoo and conditioner, and I usually use a leave-in conditioner as well (have you seen my hair? and that is with the conditioner to keep it getting out of control, trust me you don’t want to see it without), even my deodorant is a gel! Digging through the bathroom drawers and cabinets, I managed to find a toothpaste sample the dentist gave me last year, a deodorant that is a solid instead of a gel, and travel bottles for my hair products. Now I just have to put this in the handy dandy little ziploc bag that came with my suitcase. Hold on a second! This bag is one of those little sandwich size ziplocs! There is no way my moisturizers, hair products, make-up (I have a liquid foundation and concealer), will fit in this tiny bag! I am convinced the person who made up the rule about the tiny little ziploc bag was a guy! They can get away with packing a mini shaving cream and toothpaste and use all the free goodies provided by the hotel. I suppose I can use the hotel shampoo, as long as I have my own conditioner, and I suppose I can skip the leave in conditioner for 2 days (so no making fun of my hair at Prairie Dev Con this week if I look like the wicked witch of the west after walking through a wind tunnel). Now if I put the big things in first, then I can just make it all fit! DSCN0113

I glide expertly through security, casually putting my laptop and clear plastic bag of liquids and gels into the tray, and efficiently putting it all away again on the other side. Looking like a pro! George Clooney would be proud. But now I sit at the gate, glancing surreptitiously at the little display that says “Your carry-on must fit in this bin”, and my flight originated in Montreal, so it’s possible that when I board there won’t be any room left in the overhead compartments.

But on the other hand my first flight was delayed which would have caused me to miss my original connection. Because I hadn’t checked a bag, I was able to just rebook on a later direct flight. Now my direct flight is delayed, but I know when I land I can just walk out the door as soon as the plane lands and grab a cab to my hotel. Apologies to my fellow passengers, but I think I am converted.

Safe travels!
Susan