ON THE WAY UP: Why fly by the seat of your pants? - Scraping onto the plane with seconds to spare makes you look important, but it's no way to prepare for an overseas business date

ON THE WAY UP: Why fly by the seat of your pants? - Scraping onto the plane with seconds to spare makes you look important, but it's no way to prepare for an overseas business date - The first business trip you made to a foreign country was probably fabul

by WINSTON FLETCHER, FCB Europe's communications director
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The first business trip you made to a foreign country was probably fabulously exciting. Having your flight paid by the company, perhaps flying business class, staying at a much grander hotel than you could personally afford - and the underlying knowledge that your boss thought you were worth sending, all combined to make you feel 10 feet tall (may-be even 10 metres tall, as you were abroad).

Sadly, the excitement of taking business trips soon wears thin. Travelling is great in moderation but a pain in the butt if carried to excess (and that's despite the much-vaunted comfort of modern airline seats).

You quickly discover that there is rarely time to enjoy the tourist delights of the places you visit. Often you have to whoosh straight from the airport to your meeting and back to the airport again. If you stay overnight you'll frequently find yourself alone, with nobody but the hotel barman for company.

Worst of all, travel inherently involves stress. So many things can go wrong, and do go wrong, that stress is unavoidable. But it can be minimised - or exacerbated by dumb behaviour.

Some people, for example, invariably catch planes (and trains) by the skin of their teeth. They cut things so fine that they end up rushing and scurrying, pushing past other travellers, cursing and swearing at all and sundry as they go - blaming everyone but themselves. The writer Michael Frayn believes they do it to convince themselves they are frightfully busy people. Scraping onto the flight with seconds to spare proves to their own subconscious that they are so important they never have a moment to waste.

Well, maybe it's good for their subconscious, but it's terrible for their health. It's a fast track to the great passport controller in the sky.

I know, or rather knew, a top businessman who always arrived late for trains, and a couple of years ago had a heart attack chasing an outgoing express at Paddington. He was one of the cleverest businessmen I ever met - except in that one foolish way.

If you travel a lot, there will inevitably be occasions when you cannot avoid rushing and scurrying.

But if you do it perpetually neither your fellow passengers nor your blood pressure will thank you. Here are a few tips to help you travel sensibly, and arrive in better shape.

Keep a trip list: make a check-list of the things you always need to take and do before each journey. Keep it in your diary or laptop, where you can find it easily. (If you file it away, it will never be to hand when you need it).

Build in bungle margins: this is particularly crucial in winter, when flight times regularly go awry. Whenever you can, resist the pressure to fix meetings within an hour of a flight's scheduled landing time. An extra hour's grace will enable you to freshen up and calm down - or to be on time if the flight isn't.

Avoid rush hours: the time taken to travel to and from the airport of any major city in the world is approximately doubled between 7am and 10am and between 4pm and 7.30pm local time. If you cannot avoid the rush hours, make sure you allow for them. (Having failed to leave sufficient time and consequently missed the flight on my honeymoon, which left Heathrow at 6.15pm, I speak from painful experience.)

Carry small change: have some small foreign currency ready to pay off the taxi from the airport and tip the hotel porter. If you often travel to the same places, store any remaining change after each trip for the next one and the prob-lem will more or less solve itself.

Check time shifts and feast days: everybody gets time changes wrong - from time to time - but that is no help when it happens to you. Always double-check. And you might imagine that travel agents would warn you of foreign feast days and holidays but they rarely do. Either get an international calendar with feast days marked, or remember to ask specifically beforehand. It will take a minute and can save a day.

Make friends with the concierge: many people are intimidated by hotel concierges. Maybe it's the officious-looking uniforms they wear. In any event, it's daft. Concierges are always extremely helpful: that's their job. They will get you into restaurants that are full and shows that are sold out; they will get your flights changed and find taxis in the pouring rain. They are worth befriend-ing immediately you arrive at the hotel; a little financial lubrication will never go amiss.

All experienced travellers accumulate an idiosyncratic collection of mascot-like items without which they never like to set forth. They might always carry a Swiss penknife, or a corkscrew, or - as a woman traveller I know recommends - photographs of spouse and infants with which to dampen the ardour of lecherous males. Nowadays I never travel anywhere without spare laptop batteries. If I can't pick up my e-mails, my stress levels rise to fever pitch: not to be recommended.

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