On the road: Surviving long days, early starts and travel

How do you maintain your energy levels (and sanity) when you travel? How do you make sure you arrive fresh, on the ball and raring to go for a full day’s work, training or meetings when you’re getting up before the crack of dawn and stumbling back in late at night?

I’ve been travelling a lot recently. Officially, I’m the Productivity Ninja for the Midlands, but lately the Midlands has stretched to include London, Edinburgh and Geneva!

On the whole it’s a lot of fun, but I have to admit, those early starts and long days can be a bit of a killer, especially when I have a few stacked up.

So I asked some of my friends who have been doing this travel malarky longer than I have, for some collective wisdom. Here are their top ten tips to surviving long days, early nights and travel for work:

1. Plan ahead, get everything ready

“Prep all the logistics stuff so you don’t have to worry about any of that: bag pre-packed, all electronics charged, chargers & spare batteries, route planned, tickets saved to your phone (or printed if you’re a Luddite ;), fallbacks & alternatives ready.” Dominic Wellington

“Making sure everything is to hand in a rush is important – I keep both paper and electronic copies of my itinerary so I can pull up details in a rush. Planning your travel (even between meetings) ahead of time is important too – it all goes into my calendar.” Richard Tubb

2. Have a kit bag that stays packed

“Checklists, naps, energy bars, and a kit bag you don’t need to pack and unpack every time (extra chargers, toothbrushes, etc etc that stay in the bag)” Graham Allcott

“I’m also at places where there might not be lunch options, so a big bottle of water, bags of whole nuts and seeds and granola bars always, always should be classed as part of your kit bag.” Jenny Flintoft

3. Know your stuff

“Preparation is key: know your material well enough that you can fall back on autopilot if your brain is running a bit hot. If possible, try to break a long day into manageable chunks: your attention span is the first thing to go, especially in semi-interactive situations.” Dominic Wellington

4. Eat

“Proper meals whenever you can (especially on an all-nighter, but I’ve managed two or three breakfasts before after early starts)” Alice Waltham

“Eat/drink as healthy as possible” Carrie Wilkerson

“On the day I always left early enough to arrive in plenty of time for a good breakfast before the start of business, At the end of the day I would always have a decent meal during the early part of the trip home. In this way the day had discrete parts and seemed easier to deal with.” Alan Wyatt

“Nuts..i try to have nuts to eat. Other than that I just get exhausted. Sometimes drinking too much beer or wine helps” Amanda Alexander

5. Sleep

“Nap anywhere (I have learned to sleep on the most bumpy road in Africa)” Alice Waltham

“Keep your sleep bank full. 4 hours sleep when you’ve been getting 7-8 hours for the past week is fine, but when it follows 5-6 hours for the past week it always leads to feeling rubbish all day and much higher chances of being ill.” Iain Wyatt

“Squeeze in power naps/meditation/relaxation as you can too – the Paul McKenna App I use can give you anything from a 2 to 30 min session which helps keep energy levels up.” Richard Tubb

6. Relax on the road

“Try to make travel time a buffer: favourite music, a film you’ve been meaning to watch, a TV series to binge on, a new book. Podcasts or audiobooks if you’re driving. Planning helps to keep travel a buffer instead of an additional source of stress.” Dominic Wellington

“If I’ve got a long and busy day when I’m travelling then in meetings I try not to work in travel time but read a book or similar to chill out – not much use if you’re driving but singing loudly along to music in the car is almost as beneficial!” Katharine Matthews

7. Build in recovery time:

“Making sure you leave time to recover afterwards is key – I don’t book any meetings at all for a day of return from travel, and allocate 1 hour per day away just to catch up on paperwork and emails. A week away = 1 full day in office of catching up.” Richard Tubb

“Try to leave office stuff AT the office and create some margin for yourself so you are not always feeling behind. Plan like a pessimist, not an optimist…less likely to over obligate yourself.” Carrie Wilkerson

8. Be kind to yourself:

“I plan very well. Today my day (all at home) is 0800 to 2100 and so it has to be early to bed the night before plus extreme self-care throughout today and being kind to myself tomorrow and Friday, i.e. not too many of those days stacked up. And if I work weekends I have some or all of Friday and Monday off etc. Buffers. Put something in the tank before and don’t rush straight on to the next.” Judith Morgan

9. When you’re have several trips in a row

“I make sure that I have planned everything for the days either side, particularly the ones after the ‘event’. This is everything down to having bags packed with the right tools, books, etc and putting out all the clothes I’m going to wear including underwear and of course, the all important shoes!! This means I have nothing to think about when I get home late other than getting a shower and getting in to bed. Some weeks I have the whole week’s clothes and a row of bags lined up for each day of the week!” Dawn Owen

“If you’ve got a week where you’re out for long days, home, then back out again the next morning, have somewhere where you can pile each day’s materials at the start of the week. When you come home, take out old materials, put in pile in place of tomorrow’s materials and put tomorrow’s materials in your bag.” Jenny Flintoft

10. Attitude

”Don’t collapse in public” Carrie Wilkerson

“When in doubt, fake energy and enthusiasm – you’ll surprisingly often convince yourself!” Alice Waltham

“Main thing is – you HAVE to think positive. The minute you start thinking “OMG I’m so tired/I’ve got to get up at 5am/I’ve got a 15 hour day ahead of me, oh woe” you will feel tired, crabby and resentful.” Jenny Flintoft

Over to you

What are your favourite tips or rules for the road when travelling for work? Or which of these tips are you going to take forward? Leave a comment and let us know.

  • Really useful blog post Grace – i especially like Jenny’s advice on thinking positive. I try to adopt the attitude that I *get to* watch a movie on a flight/read a book on a train/meet with interesting people rather than I *have to* make a long flight/catch a train/go to a Conference. It helps to reframe your perspective!

    • Ah, love the reframe Richard, and thank you for your contribution!

      • I’m almost positive it’s something I’d have learned from you Grace. 🙂

  • Jenny Kowalczuk

    fab article, thanks so much grace. I agree with all and like Richard think the positive attitude is key. I’ll also be taking my nuts with me where ever I go now 🙂

    • Me too Jenny, Amanda’s comment made me laugh out loud, so the bonus is, every time I pack or eat nuts, it’s going to make me smile!

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