When I’m at home, I think about traveling. When I’m traveling, I think about work. Huh?!
When you work remotely and then tack on traveling on top of that, there are obvious logistical, productivity and motivational hurdles to get over when you’ve just landed in an exciting new place but also have deadlines and meetings looming.
After traveling and working for the last year, I’ve learned a thing or two. Here’s what’s worked for me when I travel.
1. Schedule blocks of work time
I schedule blocks of time for work in my Google calendar, and actively work according to my clients’ time zone. Depending on where I am in the world, it may work out better than others, but generally, I like being ahead of Pacific time because I get up so early, rather than behind (i.e. Hawaii).
I leave my calendar so the time zone is still San Francisco time. I always like to know what time it is back at home. Then I use TimeandDate.com to calculate the difference if I get confused, which is a lot, unfortunately.
I’m not a big fan of checking emails all day on my phone, but when I travel, I make sure to check in from time to time so I’m not missing anything.
Here’s an article I wrote about how to get more done at work. I generally apply most of these principles to get as much done, during the day.
2. Get up early no matter what time zone you’re in
I’m an early riser, so even if it’s a struggle, I try to wake up at 4:45am, 5:30am at the latest, no matter where I am in the world.
The first few days will be rough because of jet lag, but a hack to help quickly solve this problem is to eat your meals in the local time — even if you’re not all that hungry.
This will help reset your body’s circadian rhythm and get you adjusted faster. (Sleep tip: read “The Power of When” by Dr. Michael Breus, it’s the best book I’ve read about sleep.)
When I went to Ireland, and I adjusted to the time in about three days, which wasn’t ideal. But I adjusted immediately when I was in Australia and New Zealand — probably because I was almost a full day ahead, which meant my morning was my clients’ morning.
It was pretty convenient because I’d be up, working early, as I normally do, except I was a day ahead!
When I was in Spain, I was nine hours ahead so my normal work schedule was flipped and I worked mostly in the evenings. I started at around 5:30pm Spain time, which was 8:30am/pst in the U.S.
While this wasn’t ideal, I learned that I can work well at night too. The downside was, I was exhausted by 11pm because I was getting up so early and sightseeing during the day.
3. Stack meetings
I try to schedule meetings back to back, if possible. This helps me with the flow of work.
Depending on the time zone of where I’m visiting, I’ll take off to see the nearest park, museum, etc.
If I have a meeting in between, I’ll pop over to a coffee shop and take it there, or if it’s a meeting I’m not leading and don’t have to take notes, I’ll just take the call while I’m walking somewhere.
Of course, if I’m international, I usually try to take calls while I’m connected to WiFi, otherwise I get charged 20 cents per minute. It’s not a tragedy, but I’d rather not have to pay for calls if I don’t have to.
Tip: the best way to call internationally is through Skype. Hands down it has the best quality and least amount of dropped calls, in my experience.
4. Plan ahead and have an itinerary ready
A big time saver is to have my list of things to do and see done, ahead of time. I usually do it on the plane, during layovers and during pockets of time I have when I’m standing in line.
I use Evernote and sync it with my phone/computer. I’m not a crazy trip planner, but I do need to have a list of things ready (with addresses and a general plan for transportation of how to get there) in order to not waste time since my time sightseeing will be limited.
Mini-hack #1: Text yourself the directions
Whenever I find directions somewhere on the map, I text it to my phone so I have it ready to go upon departure.
Mini-hack #2: Ask your friends and family if they’ve traveled to where you’re going
Sometimes I get burnt out from being in front of the computer for too long, researching this activity, the cost, directions… it can be a lot of work.
Every now and then I’ll tap into my network of friends and family and ask if they have any recommendations for the place I’m visiting. I find that most people love reliving their past adventures, so why not have them reminisce it for you in a detailed email, with yummy places to eat and fun things to do?
A client of mine lived in Australia for years and was happy to share a giant list of what to do, see and eat, so I saved that list and used it as a guide to plan the bulk of my trip. (Thanks, Shannon!)
Another friend of mine lived in New Orleans for college, so she also sent me an extensive list of what to do and see. (Shout out to Sarah!)
Mini-hack #3: Only use TripAdvisor for the top 10 lists they have
I used to rely heavily on TripAdvisor, but I’ve realized it’s hit or miss. Crowd-sourced review platforms usually are, in my opinion (Yelp, I’m glaring at you).
I still use TripAdvisor, but I only use it for finding out where the hot spots/high-traffic touristy areas are. I always check their top 10 things to do in X city.
Mini-hack #4: Find out how public transportation works at the airport info desk
I love public transportation. Call me a nut, but I find this is one of the most authentic ways to immerse yourself in a new place and see how the locals live and get familiar with the lay of the land.
Plus, you can’t hide in the back of an Uber all the time. It gets expensive, and some cities like Vancouver don’t even have Ubers. Part of the fun of being in a new place is getting lost and learning how to get around.
When I exit an airport, I always go to the airport info desk and ask the following:
- How to get from the airport to the city
- What kind of ticket system the city uses. Is it a tap on, tap off card that you need to purchase? Is it a ticket? Does it work for both buses and trains?
- Do they accept cash upon boarding?
These things are all good to know because it saves you time and money.
Usually, Google Maps is awesome at directing me to the area to board a bus or train to exit out of the airport, but sometimes it’s not as clear.
5. Get an international phone plan
I use Sprint and they have a robust international data plan that’s inclusive of many big cities, worldwide. I’ve never had to worry about using up too much data or texting.
This has been my saving grace me when I traveled to Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Spain.
Depending on where you are, WiFi isn’t readily offered in cafes and the normal places it usually is, in the U.S.
In Australia, I noticed that if you want to access free WiFi (i.e. the airport), they spam the shit out of you and make you sign up for all kinds of marketing offers and newsletters you don’t want. SO not cool.
If you travel a lot internationally, this is a must. I can’t emphasize this enough. I’d be completely lost without my phone while I’m out and about.
To see where else I’ve traveled, visit my other blog, ClairesHoliday.com.