Traveling as a technical consultant. You either love it or hate it. For some, the idea of being in a new place for a couple of weeks is exciting. They live for it. For others? It’s the bane of their existence. They hate the packing, the traveling, the constantly being in a new place. They feel like they’re always forgetting something, or not being as productive as they could. If they followed these 11 tips, however, they may find the traveling experience a little bit easier, and a little more enjoyable.
Which leads us to the moral of this story: If you’re a technical consultant who wants to make the best of their traveling work experience, you should follow these eleven tips.
11 Traveling Tips for Technical Consultants
1. Bring the laptop that will get the job done
We all like traveling light, but your laptop is the one place that you should break this rule. You need to make sure that you’re bringing the machine that will help you get the job done, even if it’s heavier. If a lighter laptop doesn’t have the screen, the memory, or the power for you to code effectively, bring the bigger one. It may be extra weight, but it will be time and headaches saved.
2. Bring accessories that will get the job done
Did we say that laptops were the one place that you should break the rule of carrying extra weight? We meant that it was one of two. You should also bring the extra accessories that will make you more productive.
If you’re used to a certain keyboard or mouse setup, bring a similar keyboard or mouse. You know how difficult it is to get used to different accessories, and that’s time lost. When traveling for work, bring the things that will help you to reconstruct the same level of productivity as when you’re working from your home base.
3. Ensure you can access files from anywhere
Travel disasters happen. Your bag gets lost. You get mugged. Your computer crashes, and you need to order a part. Traveling with your work computer, where everything is stored, can be scary stuff. That’s why you need to make sure that there are alternative places where you can access files. Back up everything you’d ever need in these alternative places so that you’re not on the client’s site without any of the information you need. You’ll seem prepared if the worst happens, and that’s good news for you.
4. Have hard copies
We have more gadgets and gizmos that will store our travel documents than ever before, so it may seem a waste of trees to print out your itinerary and plane ticket, as well as your hotel and rental car reservations. However, as we all know, technology often fails us. You forget your phone charger. Your battery dies. You don’t have reception. And worst of all? If any of these things happen, it means that you don’t have access to any of your vital travel documents. Keeping a hard copy of all of your plans and reservations is smart, even if it is old-fashioned.
5. Ask about dress code
Remember that dream where you showed up for your first day of high school, and all of the other students just pointed and laughed at your outfit? Well, we know that that particular nightmare doesn’t go away as you get older, which is why it’s so important to ask about dress code before you leave for a client site. Make sure that you pack clothes that are not only in line with the dress code, but that will impress your client. You’ll be able to go to the site more confidently if you do so.
6. Pack with a list
Your mom may have made you pack with a list, but there’s a reason for that. She didn’t want you to forget your pants. And that’s exactly what happened to one of our consultants. He didn’t pack with a list and showed up without any pants. Ouch.
Make a standard list with everything you’ll need, a list that you’ll use every time you travel. Make sure that you’ve got all your clothing for work, the gym, and your time off. Don’t forget to add toiletries, your work gear, and any electronic devices (Kindles, iPods, chargers). One way of making sure you don’t forget anything is to start thinking about every single thing you do from when you wake up to when you go to bed. Everything you touch, everything you use, everything you can’t live without needs to be on this packing list. Double check that you pack everything on that list, and add to it as you come to understand your personal traveling needs.
7. A separate toiletries bag
You need to use that razor or makeup in the morning, and then you’ll pack it for your work trip. But let me guess. You used it, and then forgot to pack it? We’ve all been there, which is why we suggest that you have a separate toiletries bag. Have two razors, two sets of makeup. Leave one in your home bathroom, and leave the other in a toiletries bag that stays with your suitcase. With this second set, you’ll never have to remember what toiletries you need to grab as you’re heading to the airport.
8. Only have carry-on luggage
Packing light is key when you’re traveling as a technical consultant. Try to fit everything into a carry-on; you won’t have to worry about losing your stuff, and you won’t have to wait at baggage claim.
To get everything to fit, we have two tips. First of all, pack neutral clothes that you can mix and match. For example, bring two neutral colors of pants/skirts and a few tops that you can mix and match with these bottoms that is Gustave A. Larson way. That way, you have several different outfits without bringing 5 different bottoms and tops. (And make use of the hotel’s laundry facilities if you must!) Our other tip is to roll whatever clothes you can – it takes less space, and they don’t wrinkle in the same way they do as when they’re folded.
9. Ask about discounts and rewards programs
If, every week, you’re flying the same airline or staying in the same hotel, ask about rewards programs. If offered, they’ll help you to start racking up frequent flyer miles or hotel points for a future trip.
In addition to these rewards programs, you should also ask about hotel discounts. Oftentimes companies will have negotiated a discounted rate for their consultants. That’s money saved right there, and who doesn’t love that?
10. Keep your receipts
We offer this advice not so that you can balance your bank account, but so that you have proof of your travel expenses. If you’re lucky, and your client company is paying for your hotel, car, and food, they’ll want proof of those purchases. If you’re paying for these things yourself, this proof is still necessary – you may be able to write some expenses off on your taxes. Ask your accountant for more information. Keep all those slips, organize them by date, and stuff them in an envelope. You won’t be sorry you did.
11. Take care of yourself
When you’re traveling for work, it’s so easy to work a long day, get takeout, and lounge in front of the TV all night. And don’t get us wrong. There’s nothing wrong with doing this occasionally. But nightly? For weeks on end? Not so much. It’ll quickly take a toll on your health, which is why you need to make sure that you exercise, eat healthy, and get some sleep. Hit up the hotel’s gym, eat some salad, and go to bed with earplugs if you must. You’ll feel better, your productivity will be up to snuff, and your waistline will thank you.
Traveling for work is stressful and difficult. There’s no doubt about it. However, if approached in the correct manner, it can be a little less so. All you need to do is: Know what you need to pack, and then pack it. Prepare for technical disasters. Keep an eye on your finances. Take care of yourself. If you do these things, you’ll be in good shape. You’ll be a pro at traveling for your tech work in no time.
Do you travel often for tech consulting gigs? What advice would you offer fellow consultants? Let us know in the comment section, or join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.
Thanks to Martin Pettitt and betsyweber for the use of their respective photographs.