Business-Travel

Please fire me. When I agreed to spend two weeks travelling with a “high-power businessman” as his “personal interpreter” during “global strategy meetings about environmental issues” (he seems like he should be in advertising), I did not know that would include going to dinners with him and him alone and spending 35 minutes reading and translating his entire menu every single night. Good thing I went to school for 22 years and got my PhD.

Great question from X230

After 20+ years of business travel I think I’ve mastered the art of staying fit on the road.  

  1. Plan to train.  My running shoes are the first thing I pack and I bring gear for every night I’m going to be gone.  I’m disappointed if I get back home with clean clothes.
  2. Set the expectation with your coworkers that you’re going to train every day.  My colleagues know that I’m always training for a race, I’m going to go to the gym every night and they no longer have any expectation that I will be joining them in the bar.  They know that I’m not happy about client dinners that take longer than 2 hours. 
  3. Don’t work out, train.  Everyone tells themselves they’re going to work out, but few actually do.  Working out sounds optional. Training for a race on the other hand, commands respect.  Colleagues will try to talk you into skipping a work out but are more likely to encourage and compliment you for sticking with a race training plan.
  4. Have a non-negotiable goal before you go to the gym.  Before you step into the gym you should know what you’re going to accomplish.  My non-negotiable goal is always to train at least an hour and to sweat.
  5. Alcohol is the enemy of training.  Drinks are a great social lubricant for get togethers with clients and employees, but they eliminate motivation.  Stick with club soda and a twist of lime - most people will assume it’s a gin and tonic and not hassle you about not drinking.
  6. No excuses.  Don’t stay at hotels with crappy gyms or else be willing to pay a few bucks for a day pass to a real gym.   Yes, you can work out after eating, just don’t stuff yourself.  Yes, you can sleep after working out, just take a shower and give yourself 30 minutes to relax first.  These are habits just like anything else - I now have a hard time sleeping if I haven’t worked out in the evening.
  7. Try not to eat like shit. I’m good, not great at this one.  Fortunately I travel enough that eating out on an expense report isn’t a big deal any more.  I’d much prefer to get something quick for dinner at Subway than order a giant steak, etc.   And I usually bring plenty of protein bars so I’m not tempted by the mini-fridge in the middle of the night.

It’s absolutely possible to train and race effectively for marathons (I’ve run 25) and triathlons (including Iron distance - I’ve done 6) while traveling for business 3-4 days every week.   Speaking of which, tonight I ran 6.5 miles in an hour at the LifeTime Fitness in Allen, TX. and it was the best part of my day.

Winding Down

It’s almost midnight here in AZ.  I’m about ready to go to bed, but thought I’d share my evening with y’all.  

It was a nice flight :)  And for the record, Phoenix sure is beautiful at night as you can see from the photo below, no beige in sight.

I enjoyed a delicious dinner with my HR friend.  She makes me laugh a lot - we get along very well.  She says the same thing about me and this makes me feel good because I love laughter - it’s my favorite.

That would be the bed in my hotel room.  It’s awfully big for just one person, huh?  So where are you then?  

Sometimes Being the Stay-Behind-Parent Really Sucks

So, I’ve been the solo parent for the past 12 days, working on birthday party planning for the twins, doing all the scut work required for the day-to-day maintenance of kids (cooking meals, making snacks for them to take to school for recess, getting them to school, picking them up from school, etc.), and dealing with OlderTwin’s recent illness. 

DynaPapa breezes back from his trip bearing gifts, so, of course, the kids see him as the exciting parent. 

To his credit, DynaPapa makes a point of telling the kids what an awesome thing I did by being the stay-behind-parent and handling everything in his absence. So, for those of you who travel, be sure to remember to do likewise. It’s up to you to help your kids understand and acknowledge what the stay-behind-parent did in your absence. It’s not nearly as glamorous as returning with gifts but it’s equally as important as the work you did on your business trip. 

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Let’s Play ‘Door to Door’

Even though it’s a miserable game, let’s try to guess whether I will spend more time traveling TO/FROM Bangalore this week than I actually spend IN Bangalore. I’m counting the time it takes to get from my house to the hotel and back.

I’m starting in Minneapolis and connecting through Paris. That’s four flights, each averaging approx 9.5 hours plus layovers, etc. I’m predicting 55 hours of travel time.

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2 Days in Beijing

This week I made a short trip to Beijing to attend the International Airline Symposium. I left Tuesday morning and got back home Saturday afternoon.

A few observations/details in bullet form:

  1. You need a visa to go to China and it’s not a sure thing that you’ll get one.  My first application was denied because my flight itin wasn’t official enough.  Plan ahead.
  2. I really screwed up by trying to update my iPhone to IOS8 20 minutes before leaving for the airport.  Incredibly stupid.  After waiting fruitlessly for 1:45 I unplugged and corrupted my phone and had to take a later flight to Chicago.  It was very unnerving to travel internationally without a phone.
  3. I flew a 787 Dreamliner on Hainan airlines.  This is a great plane; fly it if you can.
  4. The picture from the airport is at 3:30 in the afternoon.  The air pollution is unbelievable; you can see it again in the picture from the treadmill.  It made my eyes burn.  There’s no way you could run outside.  On Saturday morning though the air was much improved.
  5. I stayed at the Tangla hotel and it was very nice, though the gym was only open from 7-11 - not very friendly for jet-lagged business travelers.
  6. The main thoroughfares had bike lanes bigger than car lanes and they were used by thousands of bikes and scooters (most scooters were battery powered).  There were no helmets and no chains/locks on parked bikes.  The car lanes were filled with late model cars, many of them luxury brands.
  7. I didn’t see any fat people.  Beijing was very unlike the US where we are literally surrounded food and food advertising.  I saw US restaurant chains (KFC, TGI Fridays, McDonalds, etc.) but there weren’t any cola or candy vending machines.  As a diet coke addict it was distressing not to find any carbonated caffeine during the afternoon.
  8. I am convinced there is no ice in all of China.  Don’t bother asking.
  9. I always try to read the local/national paper when I travel internationally.  It was interesting to read the English language China Daily newspaper - you can definitely see the influence of the media control.  Everything has an upbeat, ‘Go Team" spin, kind of like reading a high school newspaper.
  10. Beijing was orderly, quiet and spotless - more so than any other large city I have ever visited.  It is also, of course, very tightly controlled.  The newspaper featured a small article celebrating the fact that the Family Planning Commission had loosened their rules such that now couples may apply to have a second child if one of the parents was an only child.  Previously, both parents must have been only children.  That’s difficult to imagine anywhere else.
  11. I didn’t have time to see any of Beijing’s national treasures, like the Forbidden City, Tienanmen Square or the Great Wall - I definitely want to return so I can do the tourist thing. 
Hilton Is Making The Invisible Traveler -- Like Me -- Happy

Hilton is about to earn my loyalty again. I had a Hilton Gold for a few years back in the ‘90s when I was traveling quite a lot, and had a corporate expense account to lean on. But now, Hilton is catching my attention for another reason than frequent stay rewards: the company is investing huge in a ne mobile tech infrastructure:

Craig Karmin, Hilton Books Upgraded Technology

Guests already can check in and check out with a few punches on a smartphone or tablet-computer screen at all of Hilton’s hotels in the U.S., the company said. By the end of summer, travelers will be able to see the location of and select their own rooms by mobile phone at six brands, from the midscale Hilton Garden Inn to the luxury Waldorf Astoria.

Next year, Hilton says, arriving guests can begin using their smartphones to unlock the doors to their rooms, rather than waiting on any lines clogging the front desk to pick up a key. That feature will be available at most of the company’s hotels world-wide by the end of 2016.

To make this real, Hilton is dropping $550 million in an arms race with other chains, like Starwood, Marriott, and Intercontinental Hotel Group.

I am the quintessential example of the silent or invisible traveler. I’d rather channel all interaction with a hotel via smartphone app – to the extent possible – without waiting in a line at reception. 

I really want to be able to choose my room, to make sure it’s quiet and has a desk, and to simply walk to the room and open the door. All without the smiling faces in the cheesy uniforms. No offense.

But the big breakthrough is yet to happen, which is unbundling the hotel. Instead of a monolithically controlled experience, an interesting future hotel would be more like a city, with shops and cafes, coworking and cohabitation working areas, and a diverse range of spaces to hang, eat, talk, and work. This is something like the unbundling of work spaces (see yesterday's  Beyond The Office: Workplace As A Service). 

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Rock Star Airport Parking - A post that frequent travelers will appreciate

Although my 2003 Infiniti is rapidly approaching POS status, I park next to Teslas, Mercedes and BMWs at the airport.  MSP recently started an ePark Elite program which guarantees a parking spot.  The lot is covered and is next to short term parking, super close to the terminal.  (That’s my car and the terminal entrance 20 feet behind me in the top picture.)

This may not seem like a big deal, but about 15-20% of the time the main terminal long term parking is full.  This happens mostly in the winter and easily adds an extra 30 minutes to the time required to get to the gate, thus ensuring panic whenever it occurs.

With ePark I pay normal long term parking rates plus an extra $65/month.  For someone who travels almost every week like me, it’s a bargain.  All the billing is electronic and automated, so I don’t even have to roll down the window to pay when I leave (that will be great in the winter).The only downside is that the location of the parking will make it impossible to remote start my car from the plane as I’m landing.