Based in Hong Kong, I am now on a plane at least once a week which means living out of a tiny carry-on and strapped into headphones. Eating tiny boxes of re-heated food.
My travel schedule this week (from Hong Kong): Tokyo, Singapore, and Shanghai; home for 12 hours then straight to Geneva before onto London. Looking ahead I know I might have one week back at home before I’m heading back to the Philippines, Singapore and then to Sydney before November 10.
And there will be more. Definitely to China and Singapore. Just waiting for the calls. Business travel for me is about reduces every possible stress factor so I hope this is valuable for anyone in the same kind of gig.
1. Keep fit, eat well
Start packing your work out gear and don’t over commit. You’re going to be tired yes, and probably rushing. Stick to nailing 30 minutes of heavy lifting in the hotel gym. Squats, deadlifts, bench press – super-set with lunges, curls or ab workout. Your metabolism will be firing and you’re not going to waste time with low-intensity-watching-the-news-treadmill-running-BS.
Eat well – avoid white carbs, stop drinking on every flight and every hotel, stick to protein and high quality fats. If you know you’re going to get stuck with no good eating options (or a big client dinner), make sure you stick to your workout and avoid having to buy two plane seats in the future.
Keeping fit and eating well reduces stress by keeping your body full of endorphins, oxygen and feeling focused.
Pro-tip: drink as much water as possible: make sure you include a little sodium or vitamin mix. I aim for about 300ml every hour. 500ml when I’m off the plane.
2. Read Monocle
Stay up to date with trends, not just the news, around the world with Monocle. Does what it says on the can: a global briefing of current events, business, design, government and more. Monocle is also thick enough to keep you reading one magazine for many trips over the month.
Reading will reduce your stress, especially during take off and landing. Monocle will keep you from over-thinking about work, or about how awful Changi airport’s carpet is.
3. Download TripIt
E-tickets are probably the worst case of information design. At least the ones I get are anyway. This could be an easy opportunity for an airline or travel agency to differentiate. Qantas send a page full of Courier New(that ugly email text) in huge bulk paragraphs in monochrome and expect you to decipher that rubbish.
TripIt makes your journey stress free. You simply forward the email you receive from your agency or airline to a generic email and your phone will automatically update with all the information – including gates, seats, and baggage claim terminal.
Pay about $50 USD and you can get automatic update information on points tracking, delays and scheduling. Great for managing multiple stop trips.
4. Know and request the best seats
Flying economy is no problem as long as you know where you’re sitting (and maybe what you’re eating). Grab exit row seats wherever possible. Negotiate with your company get any additional charge covered – once you’ve reached the first tier of a mileage program it is generally free anyway.
You get the legroom and easy-access chair that really can make the difference between and enjoyable flight or a nightmare. At all costs avoid middle seats, or seats down the back. Bring your own food to economy, it’s pretty ordinary on some airlines, and you want to stay healthy and fit.
If you’re in business class, avoid the first row of seats which actually can feel more claustrophobic than normal. You – or your company – are paying the dollars, so make sure you get your value.
Food here will make all the difference, in addition to being treated like a real person. For those employers out there considering what policy to put around business class travel: you’re not putting your staff in hostels, or making them catch buses to meetings – so work it out with your clients and finance team on how to make it work for your team.
Seat choices can really determine stress levels. Too bad you can’t lose the spluttering, snoring and demanding creative-type next to you demanding to know why his wine isn’t from whatever region.
5. Buy some noise cancelling headphones
I just bought my first pair of Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones and I felt betrayed for having never used these before. Honestly, they are so good that I will LEND YOU MY PAIR just so you can experience it. Light weight, compact and beautifully designed. They even plug into the airplane system.
Whether you’re watching a movie, listening to music or just reading with no music, these headphones actively (battery powered) cancel out the back ground noise. I’m sitting in an airport lounge now of probably 100 people and listening to some very light EDM at 33% volume and it is clear, crisp serenity. For the plane ride, you may have never noticed just how loud an airplane is.
For around $300 USD it’s an investment in your sanity that you can’t get with any other product. The quality of Bose is only second to Sennheiser for me – but the noise cancelling product from Sennhesier is twice the price (and the size) not to mention as ugly as hell.
Reduces noise stress, which is a real unknown for most people until you take it away.