Thursday, February 9, 2012

Traveling Weekly for Work ~ What is it REALLY like?

Over the past 8+ years I have spoken to hundreds of EMR Professionals that want to enter the world of the traveling consultant.  Most consultants in our industry will travel weekly on a Mon-Thurs or Sun-Thurs schedule with exceptions for longer stays on a client site or variable remote work. 
When discussing the nature of weekly travel to a "newbie" I have learned to play devil's advocate.  The first person I ever interviewed when I entered into this Industry had never traveled before.  He assured me that he "LOVED" to travel and was totally "psyched" about the opportunity.  Six months into his engagement he called me to resign, said he couldn't take the weekly travel any longer.

Recently I discussed the rigors of weekly travel with some seasoned road warriors.  Below are results of the Q & A from those discussions:
What made you decide to start traveling for work? Most Frequent Responses:  Higher Income.  New Surroundings and co-workers with each new engagement. Enjoy travel & seeing new locations.

What was the hardest adjustment you had to make when you transitioned into traveling weekly for work? Most Frequent Responses: Being away from family(pets). Missing out on family or other functions (weekly bowling or child's plays etc) and having to leave spouse to do all the work. Navigating the airports, luggage, flight delays, airport security etc.

What do you wish all consulting/staffing firms offered that would make your travel life easier for you?
This question received the most diverse answers, some of the most frequent responses were:  Corporate Credit Card for travel, better discounts on hotel, car, flights etc.  Occasionally paying for spouse to travel, like over the holiday work weeks etc., better assistance for new travelers, even something simple like a handbook with traveling suggestions.

What did you have to give up when you started traveling weekly?  The number one answer was time with family and friends, some other responses were: freedom to join sports leagues or meet friends for dinner once a week during the week, and for single folks: having a pet, being home during bad weather (someone had a water-main break in sub zero temps and didn't realize until they got home days later) and being in one place so it's easier to start a romantic relationship.

What did you gain from becoming a traveling consultant?  Some of the top answers for this question were:  better income, seeing out of town family & relatives more, greater independence, being able to travel to new places, less stress, meeting new people, and quiet time at the hotel in the evenings.

Here are a list of tips from the road warriors:
1.  Pack Light!  Learn to pack everything you need for the week into a carry-on bag.
2.  When traveling coast to coast, find extended stay hotels and if you travel home, leave most of your belongings at the hotel during your absence.
3.  You can bring your pet, just check for local pet friendly hotels.
4.  Always have an extra charger (computer, phone, iPod etc) handy.
5.  Make sure your ID, discount cards, credit cards etc are kept in the same place, are always handy and are in a front pocket for safe keeping.
6.  Keep a folder or file or zippered pouch for all your travel receipts so they're easy to locate at the end of the week for the purpose of scanning and emailing or mailing to your employer. (if you're 1099, for tax purposes)
7.  Set up a calendar alert to remind you to log your time & file your expense receipts each week.
8.  Know the name and number to your employers IT Helpdesk in case you have problems with your company issued lap top.
9. Whenever possible do not wear a belt, difficult to remove shoes, hair pins, excessive jewelry, etc so that you can move through airport security quickly.  Make sure your laptop is housed in a safe but easy to manipulate bag, keep your pockets empty etc.
10. If you are single and live alone, make sure you have a neighbor or relative that can check on your place of residence in your absence.
11.  Provide neighbors and relatives the name and number of your hotel, along with your cell phone so they can easily contact you in case of an emergency.
12.  Have the number of your direct boss, a company co-worker and your direct report at the client hospital programmed into your cell phone, that way if your flight is delayed you will be able to alert people of your delay.

If you're a seasoned traveler and you have other important tips I've missed, please feel free to add a comment below!

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  1. Buy an airline club membership. A club provides free Wi-Fi and snacks, and can provide assistance if you need to rebook a flight. It gives you a place to sit down and relax before your flights, and get a few emails done before you get on the plane.

  2. In addition to these great points, I always have the local taxi number added to my contact list. Since I travel to sites alone (and am a woman), having a taxi to call in case of an emergency can save time and avoid potential problems.

  3. Something I might considering the near future. Great information for making a decision!

  4. An additional tip is to obtain a credit card that will give you points or mileage when you use it - then dedicate that card to work related expenses only. That way your work expenses are easy to track and manage and you will earn rewards you can use toward flights or hotels etc.

  5. Looks like we forgot one very important point: Patience Patience Patience! From Dan Thomas via LinkedIn: "This article is right on the money....I have been a "road warrior" for the past five years and it is not for the faint of heart. You must be tolerant to flight delays and other travel obstacles to not have the life style drive you goofy. Try smiling more"

  6. Jan Taylor RN/Clinical Analyst via Linkedin
    Getting a TSA precheck number has been an absolute Blessing. The fee for five years is Worth it!!!!. We don't have to deal with removing the computers (both personal and work) from our carryons and we can leave the shoes and jackets on as well. It's so wonderful and saves time and stress levels. :)

  7. Diane Wallington via LinkedIn:
    Great article. I would like to add one of the perks are the frequent flier and hotel reward programs. I was able to take my family on vacation and only spent money on taxes . It makes up for not being home.

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  9. From Kirk Halgren via LinkedIn: Good post. I personally love travel because it's so educational. Everywhere I go people think they are "normal" but there is usually at least one trait unique to the area (e.g. in Erie, PA many motorists routinely run stop signs and even red lights, in Cincinnati, most people never say 'What?' or 'Pardon?' but instead say 'Please?' as in please repeat, or 'Bitte?' which is the German idiom (there are many people of that heritage in that geography)).

    You spelled the word 'rigors' as 'riggers'

    1. My deepest appreciation for the info and the spelling correction!