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I’m in week five of one of my busiest travel quarters in over a decade. I’m starting to feel the strain of the push/pull of several small trips running together (tomorrow will start my fourth weekend in a row to be gone) that are intermixed with lots of short weekday trips. All of these have been punctuated by late nights, bad weather, and periods of limited internet accessibility. Later in the quarter, the pattern will switch up – I’ll get my weekends at home (mostly), but will be running four to six day long stretches gone. All of this leaves me looking for things to do while traveling to keep my travel life in balance.
While this is by no means an inclusive list, here are a few of the things I do on the road (besides work) when I can. These help me maximize the utility of my away time while finding a way to carve out more time for when I am home.
1. Get beauty treatments. While there are certain things I prefer to do at home with the same technician always (manicures, hair cuts/color, waxing), there are other things I am happy to do when away (pedicures, massages, facials). I will use Yelp or other online reviews to check out reviews for salons and then go after work at my client site. If I know my schedule in advance I’ll even book ahead somewhere like Massage Envy (where I have a membership). And if I’m in the airport on a delay, I’ll hit an airport spa for service.
2. Catch up on correspondence. I always carry note cards and stamps with me. I’ll write thank you notes for work or I’ll drop personal notes to friends or family.
3. Take a bubble bath. Despite having a nice soaking tub at home, I rarely use it. But if I get a hotel with a nice tub, I am definitely going to take advantage of it. And if I get the opportunity to book a hotel with a Jacuzzi, it’s an excuse for a night in with room service!
4. Handle other personal grooming. I find that the light in the airport or from a bright hotel window is great for tweezing my eyebrows. If I need a facial mask, what better place to do it than in my hotel room.
5. Catch up on movies. In room movies are fun but sometimes I’ll sneak out to a theatre on a weeknight too.
6. Volunteer work. Some organizations have great opportunities for volunteers that don’t require an onsite presence. I’ve given many hours of service to my sorority over the years helping with matters I can advise on via phone, email, or Skype. And I’m currently writing a volunteer development plan for a board I sit on.
7. Chat on the phone. I’m not a big telephone person, but when I have a long drive or extended time on the road, it’s perfect for calls – whether they are conference calls for volunteer work or a long catch up with an old friend.
8. Run errands. I’ve often used an extra 30-60 minutes to get a prescription refilled at Walgreens, check on a bill at the AT&T Store, or pick up a couple of items at Target. I keep a running to-do list of things I need to do and try to knock out as much as I can on the road so that I have more free time when I get home.
9. Catch up on expense reports. I hate doing them, but love having them done. The bonus to keeping up with them daily is that receipts don’t get lost!
10. Book future travel. I use spare time to research flight options, book hotels, and check for gaps in upcoming itineraries.
11. Read. I always have plenty of books on my Kindle as well as all my favorite magazines on my Next Issue app.
12. Plan for my home time. I make lists and figure out how get maximum utility of my time at home. If I want to cook while I’m home, I’ll plan my shopping list so I can hit the grocery store when I land. If going out is on the agenda, I’ll make reservations and work on plans with my friends.
At the end of the day, my key to keeping the crazy at bay when travel is nuts is to use my time wisely. If I juggle a few key pleasure items with things that require a time commitment, I keep things in balance and also have more time to myself when I’m not on the road.