If you travel on business, you quickly learn that there are some tricks to making life on the road easier and less stressful. In the days before social media most people learned through trial and error. These days, you can find expert advice on the web whether you’re traveling to Toledo, Tokyo, or Timbuktu.
A recent issue of CASE Currents offered some terrific, big picture ideas for making advancement travel successful. But you need time-tested, proven, hands-on tactics to take your travel from good to great. Here are my favorite strategies for optimizing travel time, gleaned from 20+ years of schlepping around the country.
When you’re scheduling visits, make appointments for more than one trip at a time. It’s hard work to get someone on the phone. With two (or more) trips scheduled, if the person you want to visit is unable to meet you during your next trip you can ask them about their availability during a future visit. “Can’t see me when I’m in town next month? OK, I’ll be back six weeks after that. How about then?”
Keep good notes about your efforts to schedule appointments so you’ll know whether a telephone call, e-mail, or text message was the most effective way to make contact. It’s useful to know if someone is entirely unresponsive, too. Sometimes your “outreach record” can be maintained in your donor database but if not, keep it on a spreadsheet that can be easily referenced as you work to schedule visits in the future.
Never stop for coffee until you have arrived at the location of your next appointment. If you stop earlier, before getting to the location of your next appointment, you’re gambling on the travel time required. You can always find a place to get coffee but you can never be certain how long you’ll be in transit.
Your trip will be a waste of time and money if the details get lost. You might not have time to write an entire trip report but always make some notes immediately after an appointment. Use your smart phone, dictate them to your voicemail, scribble them on a napkin … use whatever’s at hand to capture the highlights as well as the details you don’t want to forget before your next visit. Having just a few notes can make writing the complete report much easier.
Learn to use the local public transportation system like a native. It’s often the fastest and least expensive way to get around town, particularly during rush hour, and especially from the airport to downtown. Need to get out of taxi range for an appointment or three? Cars you rent by the hour are easy to reserve and inexpensive, a great way to conserve your travel budget.
If you’re going to be in a particular locale regularly, find a hotel you like and stay there every time you visit. You’ll get to know the neighborhood and its amenities, the hotel staff will get to know you, and though it might not be home, you will feel more comfortable in a familiar environment.
My 6th grade teacher, Don Matheson, taught us never to say “no” to a bathroom stop. You never know when the next possibility will appear. ‘Nuff said. A contemporary update: charge your cell phone whenever the opportunity arises. There’s nothing worse than the “low battery” warning appearing when you were counting on quality time with your device. It’s always crowded around airport charging stations. No seats left near the charging station in the airport? Check out the sling created by the clever use of the power cord allowing this phone’s owner to stand some distance away but still charge the device.
Limit the tonnage of your carry-on luggage by diminishing the amount of paper that you carry. Make sure the materials you plan to leave behind with prospective donors and friends are available in digital form, and leave time in your schedule to stop at the copy shop or FedEx Kinko’s to print what you plan to deliver on your visits. Fancy printed brochures can and should be sent ahead.
Never buy a roll-aboard suitcase that has only one connection between the handle and the bag. Why must you have two poles? Because it’s impossible to balance your briefcase on top of your suitcase if the bag only has a single pole.
Take advantage of all the information that is now available on the web to travel smarter, which is especially easy if you carry a smart phone. Text updates from your airline regarding the status of your flight, information from the local public transit system about delays and how the system is operating, guidance on great places to meet and interesting happenings in the community you are visiting – it’s all on the web. Make it work for you when you’re traveling.
These tricks have served me well on many trips. What are your best travel tips? Share them in the comments section or send me an email at email@example.com.
Note-This post includes links to some travel tools I find useful. No compensation has been requested or received from these businesses.
- Top Ten Travel Apps – research study released by HotelsCheap.org (prweb.com)
- Get the Best Business Travel Bang for Your Buck (openforum.com)