A large part of my work as a business author is speaking and conducting workshops all over the world, which of course entails a good bit of travel. Like most author/speaker/consultant types, I step on a plane several times a month.
Still, I’m a relative newbie, having just under four years of experience. While I’ve collected a few do’s, don’ts and lessons learned along the way, the best list of travel tips I know of is the one by Dan Pink, author of four bestselling books, including his latest hit Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.
Dan’s been collecting and posting video tips for almost two years, and he recently added the tenth tip. Here they are, in chronological order.
Tip #1: Stop the germs.
Airplanes are cauldrons of bacteria and viruses, but with an ounce of prevention you can stop the germs cold (pardon the pun). You’ll need a small bottle of hand sanitizer and tube of Bacitracin. Sanitize your hands, then put a dab of Bacitracin on your finger tip and use it to coat the inside of one nostril. Repeat for the other nostril. Doctor-recommended, this wards off all the evil sick-makers.
Tip #2: Bring down the noise.
Forget the expensive, noise-canceling, bulky headphones. Get some E-A-R soft foam disposable earplugs. There are five good reasons why these trump other solutions: they’re far cheaper, far less bulky (thus easier to pack), easy to replace, takeoff- and landing-friendly (non electronic), and you can actually sleep comfortably wearing them because you don't have to wrangle big earmuffs.
Tip #3: Eat smart.
Dan has four road rules for eating in airports. First, look for where the airline personnel—pilots, attendendnats, etc.—are eating, and follow their lead. Second, go for protein over carbs, because it takes longer to digest and burn, and therefore lasts longer. Third, always choose bottled water as your preferred beverage (never soda, it messes with your tummy). Fourth, if you’re at a loss for what to eat, go with the always-safe chicken quesadilla.
Tip #4: The rule of HAHU.
Every once in awhile I, like Dan, bring a family member, or members, along if it’s someplace cool, or I have multiple international dates spread too far apart for return trips home. Family travel is made easier by the acronym HAHU. H is for hustle. A is for anticipate. HU is for “heads up.”
Tip #5: Sanitize the tray!
The folding tray table is rarely, if ever, cleaned. So it’s rife with unsavory artifacts of human presence and food debris. Carry some antibacterial wipes with you and wipe that tray before you use it for anything. Then wipe it again. (Warning: be prepared to be unpleasantly surprised at the amount of dirt on your wipe after using.)
Tip #6: Stay connected.
For frequent travelers and heavy laptop workers, Dan recommends a wireless broadband USB modem, such as those made by Sierra Wireless. It’s a potentially better solution for several reasons. More and more it’s easy to find WiFi spots, but they generally require accounts. There are a number of different providers, which means you need to remember all your accounts and passwords, and you’ll be paying several different fees. The wireless USB modem uses any cell signal, so you can use it anywhere, and you pay one monthly fee. It may be more expensive, but the tradeoff is convenience.
Tip #7: Zip through security.
First, if you have any reasonable claim to a premier status, get in a premier line, it’s worth a shot. Second, when you show your ID and boarding pass, ask the agent which line they think will move the fastest. Third, get in any line with more male solo business travelers. Men have fewer accessories to discard and are hyper-competitive, which means they tend to view the security line as a race. Finally, avoid any line with married couples traveling alone on leisure... you’ll miss your plane.
Tip #8: Avoid the TV.
Unless there’s show you can't possibly live without seeing, the one thing you should never do upon entering your hotel room is turn on the television. Before you know it you’ve wasted 90 minutes. So step away from the remote. Just say no. Instead, Dan suggests trying one or all of these activities for “more enduring satisfaction”: call a loved one, get some exercise, or read a book.
Tip #9: Beat jet lag.
To battle the fatigue of long-range travel through multiple time zones, focus on three key things: time, food and light. Time: trick your body into thinking it’s in the time zone of your destination by resetting your watch to that time as soon as you’re on the plane, and try to only sleep if it’s night at your destination. Food: eat less—if you’re offered food, eat no more than half what’s offered. It’s better to eat an appropriate meal when you arrive at your destination. Light: even if you’re dog-tired when you land, never ever sleep unless it’s dark outside. If it’s light out, stay up. And if it’s dark, go to sleep even if you’re not tired. To fall asleep, Dan has a foolproof remedy. Step 1: take one Benadryl. Step 2: Read The Economist.
Tip #10: Buy a local paper.
One of the first things you should do as you venture out when you’re in a new country is pick up the local paper. Carrying a paper makes you look a bit more like a local, which if you’re in a big city can be a good thing by making you less conspicuous and thus less of a target for any unsavory characters that may be lurking about. Also, you might actually learn something from the paper, even if you can’t read it, just from looking at the pictures. Finally, it will make great wrapping paper for any gifts you might pick up.
Dan has short videos filmed on location for each tip. These are great tips, and I never would have thought of most of them. I have a whirlwind trip to Scandavia coming up, and I plan on using all of them.
Matthew E. May is a design and innovation strategist. You can follow him on Twitter @matthewemay.