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It seems like periodically in my career, I turn into a temporary and intermittent Road Warrior.  There are certain times when lots of travel is necessary.  Given my line of work, with every trip I try to notice what I can do to wring a little more productivity out of the process.  These productive traveling tips are some of the most useful things I’ve learned so far.

Productive Traveling Tips, Photography by Shawn P. Thomas

Traveling Tip #1: Tell Them You’re Gone

Be sure to put an out-of-office message on your voicemail and email, even if you are only out for a day or two.  It will relieve the pressure you will probably feel to stay on top of messages while you’re gone.  If you know that you have alerted people to your absence, you’re more likely to allow yourself some breathing room and actually take a break from your work communication.  This is critical if you’re out for vacation, even if it’s only one day.  If you still feel compelled to check in on your messages, you won’t be able to truly unplug and recharge, and then what’s the point of taking a day off?

Traveling Tip #2: Create a Cushion

If you’re going to be out for more than a day, I suggest that you change your voicemail and email out-of-office messages to say that you’ll be gone one day before you actually leave, and that you get back one day after you actually return.  Everyone is always rushing around, trying to complete a million things before they are going to be out of the office, so this will give you a little “cushion,” perhaps a few extra undisturbed hours on the day before you leave to tie up loose ends.  And often the pressure of “catching up” after we get back from a trip can ruin the last day or two, and the journey home.  If you know you have one day upon your return to get “back to zero,” before people expect to hear from you, it will make your return quite a bit less chaotic.  Remember, it’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver:  people may hear back from you before they expected, which is a better position than not getting back to them until days after they know you returned, simply because there was to much to respond to in just one day.  This is not about deceiving people, it’s just about setting appropriate expectations with others.

Traveling Tip #3: Get the Best Seats!

One other great travel tip I’ve learned:  check in early online & print your boarding passes, but leave a little extra time to check in at the kiosk at the airport as well, because by that time, the airline may have released seats and you can often get a better one than when you originally booked, and even better than when you checked in online.  What makes a better seat?  I love the Exit Row.  Advantages of the exit row:

  • tons more legroom
  • easier to slip by the person beside you to stretch your legs or use the restroom
  • often among the first to board, which means plenty of space in the overhead bins if you need it

Disadvantages of the Exit Row:

  • usually the arms don’t go up
  • sometimes the seats don’t recline (especially true in the first exit row of two)
  • colder – grab a blanket as you board or be sure to bring something with you if you tend to get chilly.
  • often can’t use the tray table in front of you, have to use the one in the seat arm instead.

To me, the extra space far outweighs all these disadvantages, but you’ll have to decide for yourself.  For more advice on good seats, take a look at SeatGuru.

I hope these productive traveling tips make your next trip a little less stressful and a little more enjoyable.  If you have learned some travel secrets along the way that save you time or make your trips easier, please share them in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

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