Helping road warriors take stress out of travel

When Dorothy hit the Yellow Brick Road in Munchkin Land, she had one goal: Get home. Happily, she had those ruby slippers that took her there.

If you’re a frequent business traveler, you’ve probably wished you had those ruby slippers yourself. Getting home can be stressful enough, at times, but you can’t forget about that twister that took you to Oz in the first place.

For many of us, business travel is a necessary part of our jobs. Despite all the advances in technology, there are many instances when you must have face-to-face communication. So we drive, fly, take trains and do whatever it takes to get where we need to be, when we need to be there.

The “road warriors” in business are those dedicated professionals who must travel constantly as a major component of the job: CEOs, executives, sales and service personnel, consultants, even golf professionals.

Business travelers almost always put in long days. Consider the typical itinerary: Up before the sun to catch a flight out of town. You arrive at your destination and often have to hit the pavement running to make your meeting or conference schedule. Following a late business dinner you’re ready to collapse. The next morning it starts all over again.

It’s never easy, but there are ways to make life on the road less stressful and exhausting.

What follows are some helpful hints and suggestions to help you ease on down the road.

u “Before arriving at the airport, print your boarding pass in advance, from the Internet, even if you plan to check bags,” advises Candy Hannemann, LPGA professional golfer originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This will guarantee that you have a seat and afford you the opportunity to change your seat later.

u Pack your clothes in plastic bags, the kind you get from the cleaners”, suggests Mike Hansen, a consultant and executive coach from Maryland. “This helps the clothes resist creasing and look fresh when unpacked and hung up.”

u Julius Marcus, a retired corporate vice president at Xerox, notes that a small plastic shoehorn can come in mighty handy. “It makes the shoe routine at the security check point easier on you,” he said.

u Tamar Elkeles, the chief learning officer for Qualcomm, from San Diego suggests having a travel itinerary will all the complete details – driver, confirmation numbers, accommodations, key contacts, etc. “There’s NO such thing as too much detail when you’re on a business trip.”

u Jeff Black, CEO of Teleflex Corp., says to bring your own alarm clock. “You should never depend solely on the hotel clock,” he says.

u Make sure that your cell phone (blackberry and other technologies, too) is set up to work abroad, says Suresh Subramanian, group senior vice president, Telcordia Technologies. “Your U.S. cell phone does not work in Japan, so make alternate arrangements in advance.”

u “Never, never attack the person behind the airport desk about a delay or cancellation,” warns Dr. Allan Cohen, interim graduate dean at Babson College in Massachusetts. “It’s not that person’s fault and they need some sympathy amidst all the shouting and rudeness. Sometimes, a kind word will actually get you extra service.”

u Cas Skrzypczak, a board member of JDS Uniphase and RF Micro Devices, recommends that you always keep a couple of packs of Shout Wipes in your brief case. “It’s amazing how they remove spills, spots, and stains.”

u Pete Cataldo, an investment banker from North Carolina adds, “If your flight is canceled, and is near the last flight of the day, call your travel agent or the airline to hold a seat on the next flight out in the morning. That way, by the time you get to the front of the line at the gate or special services, you’ll already have a seat.”

As a business traveler myself, I suggest you carry a roll of reinforced nylon tape with you. If anything breaks, or you need to provide a handle to carry a package, that tape will come in handy. I also suggest that you organize your receipts and finances each evening, placing them in a dated envelope. This is helpful when it’s time to account for things, especially cash incidentals such as tips.

Whether you’re a road warrior or not, what travel tips work for you? We’d love to hear how you cope with business travel. Please share your suggestions on our blog, “Thinking Ahead in Business.”

Join us there for a discussion of the trials and tribulations of life on the road. It will be fun and informative, and I’m sure it’ll help make your next trip a little easier.

Patrick Cataldo is associate dean for executive education at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business. Write to him at