“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road
As a recent graduate with present and future work experiences that require high amounts of travel, I’ve learned a thing or two about traveling in the business world post-graduation. In my current position as an admission counselor for a liberal arts college, I travel seasonally for recruitment activities in the spring and fall. In my new job as a consultant, which begins in June, I’ll travel up to 50% of the time to meet with clients. I’ve gone ahead and made as many mistakes as possible so that you can learn what not to do the easier way!
Don’t Leave Your Luggage Unattended
Airlines constantly post this and say this, but I have found that these guidelines are rarely enforced at major airports (which likely is not a good thing…). However, contrary to my assumptions, smaller airports are more likely to take TSA guidelines more seriously. I discovered this last week at a smaller Midwestern airport, when I left to use the restroom without my suitcase. It was 5:30am, my valuables were with me, and the restroom was directly across from the gate, so I thought I would be fine.
When I returned, TSA agents were paging a “Mr. Patel”, whom I did not initially believe referred to me, as I am female and my name is pronounced PAUL-tell. I approached the podium, where they informed me they would be incinerating my luggage as it was left unattended, per TSA guidelines. I told them this was fine, as all they would be destroying would be some dirty laundry and a lot of college publications.
Bottom line: don’t leave your luggage unattended. They mean it.
Travel With Medication
For extended travel, always, always travel with cold and flu medication. It’s practically a guarantee you will get sick at some point, and will likely still need to perform your job duties (some clients and employers are less understanding of illness than professors…). Ibuprofen, Imodium, Excedrin, the works—per Murphy’s Law, the stomach flu or a migraine will strike at the worst possible time. Be prepared and make your life easier by staying ahead of the game.
Have a Contingency Plan
Often, airlines are delayed due to weather, human error, and any other plethora of imaginable reasons. Sometimes, missing a flight is inevitable and catching a new one can be difficult. Over the holiday season, I missed a connecting flight to Denver and was stranded in Atlanta, Georgia, for three days as all other flights were over capacity. While this ended up being fun—I saw some friends and celebrated 2016 in a great city—it’s a good idea to take precautions. Carry an emergency credit card or cash for hotel or meal expenses (airlines will not always cover lodging), carry-on your bag when you can so you know you will have a change of clothes, and pack your prescriptions/toothbrush/comb within easy reach.
Bring Extra Clothes
Sometimes weather gets weird—case in point, my latest trip from Denver to St. Louis. While it was snowing in Denver when I left, it was 80 degrees in St. Louis. I hadn’t packed appropriate clothes given the climate I was traveling from, and given the sudden change of weather in St. Louis. I ended up stopping at Target to buy shorts and a t-shirt—no big deal, but when you’re on a new-grad budget, it’s more cost effective to cover your bases and travel with some backups to save the cash.
Download Airline Apps
Nothing is better than being able to check your gate and connecting flight status on your phone when you’re faced with a tight connection.
Bring Food and Water
For delays on the runway that drag on forever, it’s always a great plan to have food and a drink in case you’re stuck for longer than expected. Plus, airline in-air food and drink service is not always guaranteed. On a recent United flight, all in-air food and drink service was canceled due to turbulence—cover your bases and make sure you’ve brought provisions. And this way, if your plane crashes in the wilderness, you don’t have to make difficult ethical decisions—you’ve got the supplies to survive.
Embrace the Chaos
Airports are crazy, TSA can be unpredictable, and time zones are hard. But all that aside, getting to travel on someone else’s dime is one of the best parts of a travel-based career. Getting to see so many places I would never go on my own has given me a whole new perspective on the world, and has allowed me to see outside the 200-mile radius I have spent the majority of my life within. You’ll get to meet so many people, eat out on an expense account, and rack up airline miles and hotel points for your personal use. Just don’t be me—cover your bases and avoid some of these more frustrating mistakes!