Great Tips for Road Warriors!

TorontoPlanning a wedding when you’re out of town for work most days of the week isn’t what most brides-to-be would envision.

But Theresa Donnelly, 28, a manager for Deloitte Financial Advisory Services, has figured out how to deal with it while she also handles her work at a hotel in Toronto, where she lives four or five days a week.

She communicates with caterers, vendors, bridesmaids, her mother and future mother-in-law through e-mail. She makes sure to talk each day to her fiance through Skype or FaceTime. She also tries to have daily contact with other friends and family.

Her work, which involves advising clients on how to comply with financial regulations, leaves her little time for breaks. So she has to depend on electronic communications.

“If a vendor doesn’t use e-mail, I don’t use them, since I don’t have time to take calls during the day,” she says.

Although she’s been living on the road for work for only five years, Donnelly is a pro at it. She’s adept at using electronic media to keep her house in order even when she’s not in her house in Philadelphia. She traverses airline, airport and hotel schedules and rates for the best travel times and prices. She’s learned to pack all she needs within minutes.

And perhaps most important, she’s learned how to balance everything without going crazy.

Yes, she says of life on the road as a young person, “It’s tough. Obviously, you don’t want to have to be away from your loved ones.”

But it’s a sacrifice Donnelly is willing to make for her career. As a student at Drexel University in Philadelphia, she interned with Deloitte. So she knew what she was getting herself into.

“Even though the travel can be difficult at times,” she says, “I find the job rewarding, and I don’t mind the travel as much.”

To make the travel less difficult, she’s developed some strategies. Among them:


“I’ve become ridiculously efficient at packing,” Donnelly says.

She only does a carry-on bag. She advises those who decide to check their bags to make sure they have one set of clothing in their carry-on in the off-chance a bag is lost or delayed.

Her other must-have carry-on items? Granola bars, so she can avoid buying unhealthy snacks at airports, an iPod to drown out the noise on the airplane, her Kindle or a book for inevitable delays, her running shoes, phone charger, laptop and travel-size toiletries.

The consummate professional, she also always has business cards ready to hand out. “You never know who you will meet on a plane or waiting at the airport,” she says.

Choosing flights

Donnelly is picky about scheduling flights. She tries to choose ones that won’t require her to get to the airport during rush hour. She tries to avoid busy ones, such as those departing on Monday mornings. If she can’t avoid the busy ones, she prepares herself for having a seatmate and for waiting in a long line.

That’s why she leaves for the airport way ahead of time.

“The worst thing you can do is be running and sweating to get to your gate,” she says. “Then you’re agitated and uncomfortable for the whole flight.”

If she has to travel overseas, she tries to take an overnight flight so she can sleep.

Normally, she chooses an aisle seat, but on overnight flights, she chooses a window seat so she won’t be disturbed while sleeping. “To have people climbing over you, it can be a little uncomfortable,” she says.

She never leaves home without her headphones to drown out the noise of people around her when she tries to sleep.

Choosing a hotel

Donnelly used to bounce around different hotels, depending on price and availability. Now that she goes to the same city all the time, she’s found that she can get better deals by being loyal to one hotel.

If she knows she’s going to stay at a hotel several days, she’ll call and ask to speak to the corporate sales representative. She’s been able to negotiate better rates and accommodations.

Even when the hotel has had no availability or blackouts online, she’s been able to finagle a room.

“If you make them aware that you are there, they treat you well,” she says. “It’s really in their best interest … to have someone like me, a long-term business traveler, rather than have 20 different people for a couple of days and have a room empty here or there.”

Staying healthy

Donnelly tries to maintain the routines she keeps at home. That means going to the gym regularly.

She usually picks hotels with 24-hour access to gyms so she can hit it at any time.

Trying to eat in a healthy manner is her biggest challenge on the road. “You’re really eating out three meals a day, and it becomes difficult to know what you’re putting in your body,” she says.

To maintain some consistency, she sometimes asks the hotel for an empty fridge to keep some healthy food in her room.

She also looks for salad bars or chains that she knows use fresh ingredients.

“I do online research to find places that are nearby and get the lay of the land ahead of time so I’m not settling for whatever I find,” she says.

Enjoying the travel

Donnelly thinks it’s a mistake to never see the city you’re visiting. So during her downtime, she tries to get out and explore.

Before she lands in a new place, she reads up on its landmarks. Once there, she walks or takes public transportation to them.

“I think it’s good to get familiar and comfortable with a city so you can feel safe,” she says. “It’s silly to go to a new different city and not learn anything about it.”

And she doesn’t keep to herself just because she’s a solo traveler.

Some hotels, she says, will have social hours so that long-term guests can meet each other. She also tries to get together with co-workers for coffee or dinner so she’s not always eating alone.

“You spend a lot of time together on the road,” she says. “You tend to become quite friendly with each other.”

She also gets to enjoy some perks thanks to her frequent travel.

She’s accumulated so many airline frequent-flier miles and hotel loyalty points that her vacations are often paid for. “The frequent travel comes with some side benefits,” she says.

Her wedding is scheduled for September. Her honeymoon will be in Hawaii. The airfare and hotel all came courtesy of her miles and points.

Top tips

1. Leave for the airport early, even if it means having to sit around the airport reading or doing work.

2. Try to avoid flights that you know are going to be too crowded or that require you to travel to the airport during rush hour.

3. Try to have only your carry-on bag. If you do check a bag, pack an extra outfit in your carry-on in case your checked luggage gets delayed.

4. If you know you’re going to spend several days at a hotel, call the hotel ahead of time and try to negotiate a better rate or better accommodations.

5. Get out of the immediate area surrounding your hotel or office. Take advantage of the fact that you’re in a new place and try to schedule some sightseeing.




Source: Nancy Trejos, USA Today