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Business trips and the working mom

Impossible to arrange?  Or a much needed, occasional escape from reality...

I do love travelling, both business and pleasure.  I am a B & B fan, and I try and stay in the same ones as often as I can. I have built up great relationships, and am really well looked after.  I am also a bit of a security freak, so need to feel safe, years of living behind gates and burglar bars have had their impact.

Regular business travel started between having my daughter and my son.   Up till then, it was my husband who got away a lot and his trips were always very well timed.

My personal favourite was when we were doing an owner/builder alteration and he landed up going to the States for three weeks, leaving me with 2 kids under 5, a very unreliable builder (we had to bail him out of jail for drinking) as well as my own full time job.

Somehow, though, we managed for around ten years, with our trips not coinciding.   We were lucky enough to have some lovely friends who helped out on the two occasions where we did clash, but travel can add real pressure in a two career marriage.

What have I learned?
  • Packing well is important, so I have become quite organised for business trips, (holidays I always take too much) my folding technique has improved to the point where my clothes come out of my suitcase uncreased, on their hangers
  • Toiletries and cosmetics are packed as I use them the night before and in the morning, and I very rarely need to rush to the local pharmacy,
  • Most importantly, I always take my own pillow, it has the advantage of comfort as well as keeping the case contents stable.
  • An agenda which has some flexibility, but is well planned is essential.   My Eastern Cape Sales Manager, Brian Emmerich,  uses the expression "suck all the juice" out of any trip.   Once you are spending the money to go somewhere, it makes sense to use every minute wisely.   We get some of our best ideas on these trips because of this.
  • Longer trips might require buying presents, both for family and colleagues.  Plan time for this or accept that duty free is not going to save you much money.
  • Research distances and travelling times as late arrivals at meetings can be very badly received
    • On a trip to London, a colleague and I were told that we could catch a train to Paddington Station from Heathrow and walk to the hotel.
    • We made the mistake of purchasing special tickets at 3 times the normal price to ensure that we got seats, only to find that the train was empty.
    • At Paddington we started our walk, lugging suitcases, laptops and overnight bags.  Fortunately, Daleen is a great map reader, and was able to find the right way.  It took just under an hour. Quite something with luggage.....   
  • While "sucking the juice" is important, a few days away from home are also a great opportunity for some quality alone time - pack stuff you love to do, but don't get a chance at home any more as a working mom.
    • A book you have been dying to read (paper or digital)
    • Some magazines
    • Bubble bath and candles, if you like to lie in the bath and have a hot chill
    • Note that hotels and B & Bs tend to have TV packages that they believe cater to the business traveller ie not women
  • While tablets, phones and laptops are wonderful, I still print my itinerary, any meeting agendas and a project plan of any "dog and pony shows", another of Brian's favourite expressions, including details like:
    • Who to speak to at the venue
    • What costs are agreed on, and what are extra
    • When the venue is available for set up and so on
  • Leave a copy of the agenda at home with your care giver, as well as alternative numbers, it is sometimes just not possible to answer your phone
  • Nurture a network of family / friends who know your children and can take over in a crisis
  • Put up a list of emergency numbers on your notice board, somehow its always mom who has them
  • Make sure that there is enough stock of any regular medication with usage instructions on the notice board, too
  • If the care giver is not your spouse, put up a list of house rules, TV viewing restrictions and allowed treats so that he/she doesn't have to argue with your kids (it could help your husband too)
 and, a real nice to have
  • Access to Business Class Lounges - I catch up at the airport, and never work on planes, unless it is a document that needs to be read.  My laptop stays firmly in the overhead locker.  
While security and airport companies have drained a lot of the fun out of travelling, arriving early, getting rid of my luggage, (why do people insist on taking their huge overnight bags onto the plane, or using the drop on the tarmac option, it literally saves them 10 minutes), heading for the Business Class Lounge, having a light snack and responding to emails is much more relaxing than screaming in at the last minute.  

I would love to hear any great tips that you might have to make business travel more effective.


Links, References and Notes

Accsys

email:      tschroenn@accsys.co.za
twitter:   @TerylSchroenn



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