5 Ways to Bust Business Travel Stress

by: Mireille Guiliano

It's prime business travel season. My fall includes trips from New York to San Francisco, Monterey, Paris, Houston, Cleveland, Chicago, Milwaukee and Washington, D.C. And I gave up my corporate job a few years ago! Oh, how I love to have traveled; that is, I have enjoyed the many places I have been for business and pleasure, just not the travel to get there and back. Travel is stressful, and while you cannot control the plane delays and the missed appointments, there is a lot in your control you can do to lower your stress meter. Here are five tips.

1. Give yourself extra time to get to the airport.
What's the value of an extra 20 minutes at home or in the office compared with the worry of making it to your flight? Stuff happens - like traffic jams or big lines at security points - that are mega-anxiety boosters if you are on a tight schedule. You don't need that; enjoy reading a magazine or listening to music at the airport if you arrive early and count the "free time" as a personal pleasure and reward. And plan on an arrival that gives you sufficient time before your first engagement.

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2. Don't check luggage if you can live with carry-ons … and you can.
I have traveled millions of miles without checking luggage and thus have not lost my luggage or worried when a conveyer belt went around and around and my bags were not yet on it. If you arrive at the airport late and check your bags late and/or have a connecting flight, your odds for lost luggage go up significantly. Who needs that stress?

3. Pack early and efficiently.
Ever panic trying to find your ticket or passport or business report? Ever forget your business cards? Toothbrush? Develop a packing system where you put things in exactly the same place every time. Perhaps in special compartments, so you can find them in a jiff. Put them back there as soon as you use them. And do not, I repeat, do not pack too much clothes. Plan ahead, pack ahead to avoid last-minute left-behinds or throwing in extras in haste. Make your clothes do double duty, create mix-and-matches, change accessories, perhaps wash what you can yourself or use the hotel laundry service, especially if you have an expense account that covers it. If you absolutely cannot fit everything in your carry-ons, FedEx some things ahead of time. Really, who needs to carry corporate gifts or multiple copies of reports or even extra shoes that don't weigh much, but take up suitcase space? Works wonders, and you can call before you depart and be assured they have arrived at your destination and are waiting for you.

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4. Watch what and when you eat. Overeating increases stress (and guilt) and dulls performance. You don't need four major meals a day or a glass of wine at 11 AM. Take care of your body. Set your mental clock on your destination time as soon as you board or even as soon as you arrive at the airport. Think about what and when you'd be eating if you were already at your destination. Unless you are on a long flight, you don't need to eat on a plane. Bring along a healthy snack and avoid plane food - it's the worst and often loaded with salt, which increases your blood pressure. And forget those salted (and stale) nuts. Drink lots and lots of water. Not only will it keep you hydrated but not hungry. Lots of people think they are hungry when they really are simply thirsty … or are simply eating on auto-pilot.

5. Get enough sleep. Operating on sleep-empty leads to a host of problems, including stress and poor performance. Being well rested means being relaxed means reduced stress. If you can sleep on a plane, great, do so. Be sure to get a full night's sleep before you depart - staying up extra late to get everything done and packed and then getting a poor night's sleep is a negative. Stick to your tested routine, which includes a calm-down period and other rituals that help you get to sleep. And something I learned the hard way is to avoid the red-eye flights to the office or meeting. You won't be at your best. And no one will give you a medal for going without sleep. If need be, take an earlier flight or add a day. That is under your control as you can confirm by just looking back on trips taken. In our quest to do it all, we can fall on our faces. And who needs the stress of having to add makeup?

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