Adventures in Engineering

Travel Tips From an Evangelist

Three states in three days – or more!

Life on the road can be fun and exhilarating but equally exhausting at the same time. Earlier this month I bounced between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in 48 hours!

Here’s a few handy tips and tricks I use to manage life on the road and make it as bearable (and enjoyable) as possible!

Use travel time wisely

It might seem obvious but travel time can and should still be work time. You can cram so many extra hours of work into what would otherwise be half-relaxed ‘me’ time.

If you travel by taxi to or from the airport type up notes or clear your inbox ready for meetings. It might seem like just 20 minutes but you can clear a lot of dangling bits n bobs from your todo list.

On the flight set aside one objective/goal. For me it’s often a blog post or sometimes strategy planning. It’s a great opportunity to prevent notifications and interruptions – when traveling the east coast of Australia I get an hour or so of uninterrupted thinking time. I use Evernote quite heavily for this and it syncs automatically at the other end; I barely know I’m offline.

I travel with a pen and paper and plan out blog posts, content, strategy and emails etc. during take off and landing. Of course you could use tablet too. I find it’s quite nice to force yourself away from the laptop and actually plan out work!

Most importantly is set aside time for yourself. I work on flights so that when I get to the hotel (often late) I’m able to enjoy a drink and kick my feet up to some music without stressing about emails. Of course flights can make equally good me time (invest in good headphones!) but don’t forget that email still needs to be sent when you get to the hotel!

Power-up proactively

When you’re on the road for a week power becomes a particularly important commodity (that and internet). When you’re sitting in meetings find a powerpoint and proactively charge (even if you’re at 80%). Doing so means you’re much less likely to run low at the end of the day. If I’m hot-desking at our offices or between meeting rooms I’ll find a corner to charge over lunch or coffee breaks.

Plan your power usage. If you’re in a meeting with your laptop leave the phone on charge elsewhere. Alternatively if you’re on a conference call, charge the laptop. At the end of the day I frequently leave with 90% or more charge on all devices despite using them on the go all day.

Portable power

Of course it’s not always possible to charge everything – or perhaps you’re on the go for longer than you’re stationary. I always carry a spare battery pack for my phones. This particular one cost around $50 and gives my phone at least a full charge spare. Having multiple USB ports is also handy if you need to share.

I find mine particularly convenient when attending conferences; it’s a great conversation starter for attendees who weren’t as forward thinking!

Optimise your cables and chargers. Once I’ve packed my phones, tablet, sphero (for demos) and other electronics I’m frequently left with 5 or 6 chargers. Instead, get a single power bank that can charge multiple devices so you don’t need to pack as much gear. If possible, match up your mAh charging needs too. I’ve a handy dual-charger that works perfectly for my two phones and charges them nice and fast too at ~2mAh.

Snack healthily!

Life on the road sounds luxurious but eating big portions of steak n chips in hotels quickly adds up – and by that I mean the calories go straight to my waistline! Add this to the three or four coffees a day you might have during meetings and your diet quickly becomes unwieldy.

Firstly – drink water! Simply put water is one hell of a lot healthier than constant soft drinks and sugary juices. I carry two water bottles with me at conferences and I make sure to refill them. I’m less snack-prone and it helps stay hydrated while flying.

If I’m in town for more than a day I’ll seek out a local supermarket and stock up on fresh fruit, nuts and less-fatty snacks. Not only is it a great way to have affordable food handy but it means you’ll not be snacking on chocolate and everything else thats more convenient to bite into.

If you’re attending an evening event that has catering, grab something like a banana en route. Not only is it a healthy snack but you’ll feel less hungry on arrival and be less likely to snack on that conveniently located 5th slice of meat-lovers pizza!

I accidentally put on a few unwanted kilo’s last year doing tech events and I’m slowly working on getting rid of it (I’ve entirely cut added sugar and chocolate out of my diet). Diet is one of the biggest influences of weight loss/gain and so easy to skip on doing properly when you’re travelling!

Plan ahead!

This sounds like an obvious one, but it makes an absolute world of difference. I use apps like TripIt to manage my travel. Setting up an itinerary is a breeze with their email forwarding feature and the phone notifications are handy reminders of when checkin etc. is available.

If you’ve a day of meetings – block out your own time ahead of schedule. I calendar lunches and other times to ensure I can actually eat (and find something healthy instead of quick take away). Mostly make time for yourself; travel is exhausting enough without skipping meals and early or late meetings.

What about yourself?

At the end of the day you’ll discover your own tips and tricks that match your schedule, work and travel. Make sure you prioritise yourself even when traveling for work. Doing so means you’ll enjoy the job just that little bit more and be slightly less likely to burn out in the process.