Monday, August 18, 2014

Tips and Trends: Business Travel #4 - Five Tips for Overnight Business Trips

So, you have successfully chosen a piece of luggage, packed your business travel bag, survived the plane flight and made it to your destination. Now you have to spend at least one night, if not more, in a standard-issue business hotel. The company or client may be paying for your room and board, but how do you make sure you stay looking and feeling your best before the big meeting? Here are some tips to have a peaceful and relaxing business overnight stay:

1. Breakfast

Remember how your mother always told you that breakfast was the most important meal of the day? Well, that is definitely  true if you have to step into a major client meeting right afterwards! While some clients or customers might offer a bit of breakfast food at an early morning meeting, others will not. So, to start the morning off properly, make a plan for breakfast the night before. This is REALLY important, because you don't want to wake up in the morning, realize that the hotel hairdryer will take twice as long as your GHD hairdryer at home, end up running late, not know what to do about breakfast and then not eat at all. Think about the kind of breakfast you want to eat: carb-heavy, protein-heavy, very light, very filling etc. Then scout out the hotel and the surrounding area to find your best options. If your hotel has room service, check out the breakfast menu and see if any of the selections appeal to you. If not, find the local coffee place and see if they make breakfast sandwiches. Do NOT simply rely on the hotel's breakfast buffet - always ask at the restaurant or front desk for what that includes. If you need protein at your breakfast, you don't want to come down and find that "breakfast buffet" means nothing more than coffee and croissants. Personally, I always opt for room service, and order oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins, but made without milk, a side order of 2 breakfast sausages and hot tea (unless it is summertime, and then I'll order orange juice). Unless I've been lucky enough to be put up at the Ritz, that almost always comes in under my company's breakfast allowance for business travelers. One of my friends always finds the local coffee shop and orders some variation of a breakfast sandwich with ham, cheese, and egg, plus a small coffee and a bottle of water. Figure out what works best for you, but the most important thing is to have a plan, so you aren't reduced to eating Altoids to try and stop your tummy from grumbling throughout the meeting!

2. Hang, Wash and Iron 

The first thing to do when you get into your hotel room is the 3-step "hang, wash and iron" program, so as to ensure that your clothing for tomorrow's meeting is neat and clean. First, pull everything out of your suitcase that you will be wearing the next day and hang it up. If the room has multiple closets, I recommend hanging all your clothing together, so that you don't accidentally forget your jacket in the closet behind the door when making sure you have the suit that you hung in the closet by the bed. Second, wash anything that you wore during the day that needs to be washed. For me, that is usually pantyhose. While I always have a second pair of hose in case of a rip, I prefer to wear one pair at a time and wash them out at night. Other things that might need washing are undergarments, under-arm pads worn in suits to prevent sweating, or perhaps you spilled something on your blouse or skirt and it needs a bit of clean-up. Washing should be the second thing you do after hanging up your clothes so as to give your garments the maximum amount of time to dry. Third, pull out the iron and ironing board that are (most likely) in the closet and start getting all the wrinkles out of your jacket, skirt and/or trousers. Whether you have worn your suit on the plane or carried it in your suitcase, it will almost certainly need to be ironed. While you may not like ironing (I don't!), this is the task you should do last, because it is the least time-consuming. Once you are done with all of the above, double check to see if your shoes need a quick polish touch-up, and make sure you have set out all the pieces of your outfit where you can easily reach them.

3. Work out

Courtesy of Summer Girl Fitness

Just because you are away from home for the night doesn't mean you should allow your work-out routine to lapse. Depending on where you are traveling, some business hotels have very well-equipped workout rooms, and will sometimes even provide you with a yoga mat and an exercise ball. Some hotels now also have a fitness channel on the in-room TV, or offer fitness videos as part of their video-on-demand services. If your hotel doesn't have any of these amenities, search YouTube for quick 20-30 minute workout videos that you can easily do on the floor of your hotel room. One of my favorites is Summer Girl Fitness's 20 Minute Total Body Workout. Just be mindful of your neighbors - this is the time to do some strength training, pilates or yoga workouts that do not involve a lot of jumping or loud music in the background. You don't want to have a noise complaint made to the front desk. If you want to do pilates or yoga but don't have a mat, put a towel down on the floor instead.

4. Limit the clutter (and remember to bring it home)

 You are only going to live in this hotel room for, at most, a few nights and will spend most of the days in meetings. While you may enjoy having all the space to yourself, don't go too crazy about spreading your stuff everywhere. You will undoubtedly be traveling with important work documents, numerous tech items and a huge collection of chargers, adapters and cable. Whenever I get into a hotel room, I always have to restrain myself from scattering my belongings over every possible hard surface, but that is definitely how you lose things. Try your best to group things together: papers and documents on the desk, your jewelry, phone and bluetooth on the nightstand, all your clothes together in the same closet. Sometimes it is unavoidable, however, particularly when outlets are few and far between: while your phone can be plugged in next to your bed, your computer has to be plugged in behind the TV set in a far-off corner. In that case, use the hotel-issued notepad to jot down a quick list of what you have plugged in, and put lines next to each item to represent how many pieces it has. For example, when I plug in my computer in Germany, I would write: computer | | |. The three lines are for the computer, charging cord and European outlet adapter, all of which I need to make sure to bring home when I leave. Try to save a few minutes on the morning of checkout to do a quick sweep of the room and make sure you aren't leaving anything. Open the drawers, check quickly under the bed and scan the wall outlets.

5. Stick to your evening routine

If you don't travel for business on a regular basis, business trips can be very exciting. You get to go to a new place, meet and interact with clients and stay in a (usually pretty decent) hotel, all on your company's dime. All that excitement can sometimes go to your head and tempt you to do things like: order several desserts off of the room service menu instead of getting a regular dinner, stay up late to enjoy having a TV directly across from your bed, or decide to take a 2 hour bubble bath at midnight to reward yourself for all your hard work during the day. While all of these things are completely appropriate in other situations, you really need to feel your best when going into those business meetings the following day. Therefore, although it may be tempting to have some fun, try to stick to your normal evening routine. If you normally have a light, healthy dinner, order a salmon salad, not the steak and chocolate cake. If you normally try to get to bed by 10pm and wind down by reading a book, don't stay up until midnight watching late night TV. And unless you are in the minority of people who don't need more than 4-6 hours of sleep, don't decide to take a bath, order a second dinner or watch all of Titanic at midnight. If you want a bath, start it a bit earlier or don't stay in the tub for a full two hours. Once the clock hits your normal bedtime, call home or a friend to say goodnight to someone, curl up in bed, close your eyes, and if you have to, download a relaxation app for your phone that will play soothing sounds to lull you to sleep.

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