(Originally posted on LinkedIn)
One of the great benefits of being in the travel industry is, well, traveling. I log 200 plus nights a year on the road and still have a sense of excitement whenever I arrive at my destination – whether it’s a place I’ve been a dozen times before or one I’m seeing for the first time. This week, it’s Milan, Rome, and London; next month, it’s Buenos Aires, Atlanta, and Mumbai. It sounds glamorous… and on some level it is.
But let’s face it, traveling can also be grueling. That’s why I follow a few personal travel practices to make it as easy and comfortable as possible.
Avoid needless aggravation. Whenever possible, I don’t check bags. I like the freedom of arriving at my destination, walking off the plane, and hitting the ground running.
And while everyone on a plane these days is wired into their mobile devices, I still prefer to bring paper. I’m as much of a gadget person as anyone else. But whether it’s books, magazines, newspaper, or materials I need to review, I take comfort these items will never run out of batteries, never need to be plugged in, and never crash. And I don’t need to turn them off for takeoffs and landings.
Sleep. On international flights, sleep is critical. It’s one of the key ways to reset your internal clock for a new time zone. Traveling to Italy, for example, I will take an overnight flight and try to immediately go to sleep. When I wake up, it’s morning. If I’m traveling to Asia, I’ll try to stay awake the entire flight, so when I arrive in the evening local time, I’m ready to go to bed.
Two other thoughts on sleep: once you’re on the ground, live on local time. Daylight and an active schedule will help keep you awake during the day. Napping during the day will keep you up at night. And during the night, stay in bed with your eyes closed even if you feel like you can’t sleep. You’re probably getting more sleep than you think. If you get out of bed during the night, you’re simply intensifying your exhaustion and dooming whatever chance you have of adjusting to local time.
Exercise. If I can’t run outside, I will work out in the hotel’s gym, but I prefer to run outside. Running is one of the best ways to beat jet lag. For one thing, you are outside, absorbing natural light, which helps your body adjust to the new time zone. It’s also about getting the blood pumping.
Even if that weren’t the case, I’d still run. There is simply no better way, in my opinion, to experience a city than to get up early in the morning, when its quiet and peaceful, and run through its streets. The air is undoubtedly cooler. You have the chance to get an up-close look at large sections of a city in a way that you just can’t when traveling in a car.
I never run with earbuds because I want to take everything in. Hearing the rumblings of early-morning city life is, to me, a far better soundtrack for my run. Besides, earbuds make me feel disconnected from my environment, as though I were seeing it on a screen rather than actually being there.
I also make it a habit of trying to run with locals – usually associates who work in our hotels. I like seeing the city through their eyes, picking up some local knowledge, and getting to know our talented team members in a more fun, relaxed setting. It also pushes me a bit, particularly when I’m tired, to go a little farther and run a little faster.
One of the benefits of running, by the way, is its simplicity. It requires the least amount of gear, which is important for my no-checked-baggage practice.
But whatever exercise routine you enjoy, get up early on the first day and do it. You’ll find the boost it gives you will sustain you through the jet lag that will inevitably set in sometime that afternoon.
Whether you travel 2 days a year or 200, finding the time to take care of yourself while on the road couldn’t be more important.