Rick's Tech Talk

All Tech Talk, Most of the Time

Travel Tips for Consultants And Other Road Warriors

I am headed "on the road" soon. Part of my job involves doing "onsite client work". This means I do installations, configurations, development, even training. It's part of the typical technical consultant's life: visiting the corporate back offices and IT departments across the nation (and for some, around the globe).

I don't travel frequently. As the economy sputtered, my travel became greatly reduced. There's a lot that clients and consultants can achieve by sharing technologies (WebEx, Adobe Connect), VPN, and file transfers (SFTP). I have been involved in multiple-hour "requirements gathering" sessions and "knowledge transfers" all without leaving my desk. I'm lucky in this regard: in my travels I've met many consultants that live for weeks on end at the client site.

Over the years, I've accumulated a handful of travel tips (for within the continental United States). These help me stay sane on the road.

  • Ear-plugs. An old friend told me about this in my very early working days, and it's the easiest way to make any plane trip a little more pleasant (besides sitting in first class). It is very noisy on an airplane, and it's not rock concert noisy either. It's the steady high-pitched drone of those engines that can make it difficult to sleep or relax or concentrate. When you're "plugged in", it's easier to get into your own space. This is easily the first thing I recommend for anyone doing any sort of regular traveling.
  • Ready Kit. I can't remember where I first encountered the term "ready bag", but I like it. It's a bag that's always "ready." I can pack clothes quick enough, but I do have a separate toiletry kit, which is already in my suitcase, filled with the usual items (toothbrush, shaver, comb, deodorant). Everything is "the right size" too. It's a time saver when you're packing for that trip.
  • Know Where to Gas. Every road-weary traveller knows that it's difficult to find a gas station near the airport. So of late, I try to gas up near the hotel or the client's office. Usually there's a gas station close by, and even though it might be a ways to the airport, at least you've gassed up.
  • Know How to Gas. When you get into your rental car, note which side has the gas cap. Is it on the driver side, or the passenger side? Where's the latch to open it? On the floor? In the door handle? Under the dash? When you're trying to make time to catch a flight, this saves you an extra hassle.
  • Pack Your Headache Relief. Inevitable. You're on the road, and your head just explodes. My wife carries Tylenol in her hand bag, and I've taken to carrying this too (in my ready kit).
  • Organize Your Receipts. Use an envelope. Use a folded piece of paper. Use a pocket in your laptop luggage. Use "something". This way when you're back at the home office, temporarily broke from all your on-the-road expenses, you can quickly fill in your expense report. (And if you use an online expense form, try filling out your expenses every evening at the hotel.)

Let me know if you've got others! And good luck next time you're on the road.