Notes on my business travel routine

Notes on my business travel routine

In addition to my personal travel and fun blog-related trips: I’ve been doing a lot of business travel over the past few months: as part of my job in sales, I visit companies and agencies based in San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.Seattle from the Space Needle

Although the early mornings, packed schedules and general airport chaos have taken a toll on me (especially my skin—so dehydrated!), I’ve started to get a biz travel routine down pat. Here are a few of the things that have made the process more efficient and less stressful for me–especially when it’s on short notice.

Choose a rewards program, and stick to it

If you’re flying a lot for work, sign up for a mileage program immediately with your preferred airline. It can be an opportune time to sign up for the airline’s credit card, too! Take advantage of those miles you’re logging for work, and use them to gain status and points that you can put toward personal travel. If your company has a complicated expense process, it can also be helpful to put all of your work travel costs onto that one airline credit card—easier to track! You’ll also often earn double or triple points on work flights or other travel costs (Uber, taxis, rental cars) that you put on the card.

Similarly: choose a hotel rewards program! I signed up for the Hilton rewards program on an uneducated whim, and I honestly don’t recommend it: it’s tough to get enough points for it to mean anything, and I’m not a huge fan of the properties.  For example: my next big perk is a free bottle of water when I check in! Based on quite a few recommendations, I’m likely switching over to the SPG rewards program in 2018.

Personally: I fly Southwest Airlines for West Coast business meetings (aka 95% of my business travel), and have recently opened a Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card. For a limited time, California residents can get a Companion Pass after the first purchase on the card: I can’t wait until David can easily tag along on my work trips next year (I think we’ll shift the scheduling a bit so that we can turn more of them into long weekends!). I also have the JetBlue Barclaycard (mostly as a holdover from when I mostly flew JetBlue on the East Coast) and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, which is especially fantastic when it comes to travel rewards.

Acai bowl at Kure In Portland, Oregon

 Keep your bag packed with the right snacks

Whenever I’m traveling for work, I’m always trying to pack my days with as many in-person meetings as possible. Although sometimes that includes coffee dates or chats over lunch, I often end up presenting over the lunch hour or just have meetings straight through the day. So! I always keep a few healthy snacks in my bag, like whole almonds or apple slices. I especially like RXBAR: they’re nutritious, filling and I can easily read all of the ingredients (this is my favorite flavor).

I also always keep packets of Emergen-C and Natural Calm in my bag. If I’m feeling low on energy or on the cusp of being under the weather, I’ll pop some Emergen-C into my water at the hotel breakfast buffet or on the plane. Natural Calm helps ease me to sleep in an unfamiliar hotel room, and it’s also key to keep my stress under control during difficult travel days.

I always believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but it’s especially key when I’m traveling. I usually try to find a spot with acai bowls or freshly-squeezed juice so that I can get a dose of fruits, vegetables and natural vitamins before a busy day. And I keep myself to my one coffee a day limit, even on long days! Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon

Figure out ways to stay connected

I have a wireless internet USB stick that is an absolute lifesaver when I’m on the road: I can catch up emails and Slack messages when I’m in a car, and I don’t have to constantly ask for wifi passwords at coffeeshops. I also seek out reliable spots to sit and work in between meetings when I’m on the road, like libraries or fancy hotel lobbies (aka places that are free, quiet and often have plugs). I especially love Seattle Public Library, the lobby at the Ace Hotel in Portland or the atrium at Palace Hotel in San Francisco.

Christine Amorose Merrill in San Francisco

Decide on a uniform…

Having a go-to meeting outfit makes packing for work travel a breeze. Depending on the weather, I go between a simple, hard-to-wrinkle black dress (my current fave is from Everlane, and has pockets!) or a simple top, skinny jeans and flats. And I always have a cardigan on hand, especially if I’m flying. Basically: I have stopped trying to reinvent the wheel, and have come to the conclusion that I’m rarely meeting with the same people twice. Thus: I can wear the same thing just about all of the time and no one notices (and I don’t have to spend any mental energy worrying about it).

Loeffler Randall boots in fall foliage in Portland

…and make sure comfortable shoes are part of it

The most important part of the uniform: shoes that I can spend all day in, and that still look professional. I rotate between these nude flats, black open-toed clogs and chunky heeled blue suede boots.

Christine Amorose Merrill

Pare down your luggage

The biggest thing that I’m committed to when I’m traveling on short work trips: taking as little luggage as possible! I’ve mastered the art of the one-night business trip in one tote. In addition to my requisite laptop, chargers, notebook and pen: I also pack my pared-down makeup bag, a toothbrush, a change of underwear, either an extra shirt or dress (something that doesn’t wrinkle easily!) and a makeup wipe. Just the essentials! I hate having to drag an extra bag to meetings with me, and I often go straight to meetings from the airport and vice versa. That photo above is all that I took with me on a Tuesday morning to Wednesday night business trip last week (and was taken at 5am, ha!): the total lack of luggage always throws my airport Uber drivers off!

What are your best tips and tricks for business travel?

  • Caitlin

    Yes to the uniform! It’s funny how as I’ve gotten a little older I’d rather have fewer clothes with an outfit “formula” than just a ton of clothes in my closet – it really does make life so much easier! Would you mind sharing where you got your jeans and where you got that fabulous rug from? I’m always on the lookout for new jeans and that rug is exactly what I’ve been looking for!

  • Brandy

    Great ideas Christine, thanks for sharing! I definitely need to buy more pieces that don’t wrinkle. I also really need to master the art of eating better when I travel for work – I work in a field where people go out to eat and drink (sometimes a lot) almost every night, and it is so difficult to say no! One glass of wine turns into three so easily, and I end up forgoing the salad for truffle fries and a burger or something.

    In keeping with your one tote idea – I have a toiletries bag that holds all my travel sized goodies that just stays packed for traveling. I used to take the things I used every day and just pack them for travel but I’ve been traveling so much lately that it’s just a hassle. Having something that’s already packed makes life easier. I also like packing cubes if I’ve got to take a suitcase and I’m going to be gone more than a few days.

    I would also recommend TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry if you don’t already have it! You probably do, since you travel so much, but it’s definitely worth it. Global Entry is only $15 more so it’s the better deal.

    Another thing I like to take is some kind of portable charger for my phone, be it a Mophie or something that plugs in and gives me some extra juice. I generally have access to an outlet, but not always, and if I’m on the move and my phone is my main device for the day, the battery drains quickly.

  • Gillian @ That’s G

    Love these ideas. I have a work trip to NYC and Houston coming up in a couple of weeks – and the portable wifi USB is the best idea. Looking into that for sure.

  • camorose

    Yes! Totally have precheck and Global Entry, and it makes a big difference. Great point when it comes to the portable charger! I have a USB/wall charger and I try to always charge my phone when I’m using my computer but a portable charger would probably be so helpful. And also agree with the pre-packed toiletries bag — I have one too!

  • camorose

    Yes! It makes it SO much easier to work on the road. I can usually catch up on emails in the Uber from the airport to meetings, and it makes me feel like I’m never falling behind.