How To Escape The Marriott Archipelago – Making Business Travel Tolerable.
By: Dappered Tech Correspondent Paul Olson, who on occasion travels for business, and has never been accused of failing to make the most of a situation. Read his other work for Dappered here. Top photo credit.
“Fine,” I said.
“What’d you do?” she prodded, forgetting how boring business travel can be.
“Well, I got off the plane, took a cab to the Marriott, checked in, went to the meeting across the street, had dinner in the Marriott and flew out in the morning.”
“What did you think of the city?” she asked in disbelief.
“Well, the conference room was a little small, but the Marriott was nice.”
Business travel is all about standardization. Standardization of food, drink, and lodging. It’s dead-boring if you spend your trips eating burgers at Applebee’s, drinking Budweiser at the hotel bar, and sleeping in your sanitized room. I call it visiting the Marriott Archipelago – you can easily travel the world and never see anything outside the corporate pockets of business uniformity. If you do it wrong, it can be just terrible. Luckily, it’s easy to do it right. You just have to understand the island and know how to escape it.
Pack Light to Pack Right
Your goal is a computer bag and a carry-on (like this great duffel bag). That’s it. Bring as little as necessary, because the airport is part of the island and you don’t want to spend extra time there. Going to go for a run in the morning? Wear your sneakers on the plane. Better yet – switch to swimming. Swimming means less to bring (just a swimsuit) and no funky workout clothing in your bag. If you’re honestly not going to exercise while away, don’t fool yourself, and skip packing the workout clothes. At the end of every trip, look at what you didn’t wear – next time don’t bring anything you didn’t bring home dirty.
You don’t need to be prepared for every contingency. This is business travel, not boy scouts. If you truly need something that you failed to anticipate, buy it while on the road.
Lastly, don’t over-do the casual clothes. If you’re going to be in a suit all day, what’s another couple hours during dinner? Enjoy the formality. Embrace your business attire – you look good in it if you read this site. Casual attire is extra weight and overhead – limit it.
One of the first orders of business after arriving in a new city is finding a convenience store. Buy a couple bottles of water, a few breakfast bars, and maybe a small bottle of bourbon. Whiskey is the only drink that works in a hotel room – there will be whiskey-appropriate glasses in your room, ice down the hall, and whiskey doesn’t need a mixer. Again, minimalism wins. Makers Mark, Jim Beam, Jack Daniels – grab a small bottle. You may not get through it, but you’ll be glad it’s there. Without whiskey, nothing in your hotel room is yours outside your suitcase – the pictures on the walls, the furniture – not yours. With whiskey, your room has your drink.
With water, a colleague once referred to the Fiji water in his room as “the water of last resort.” The current price for the in-room delivery was $6, nearly a $5 premium over the convenience store price. You’re going to need more than just one bottle, and I draw the line of wasteful business travel spending on this side of the water-line. Don’t drink the Fiji … unless it’s your last resort.
Being in a different city means being cut off from your normal communication venues. You don’t have your phone lines, your home WiFi, your office broadband. You need a smartphone if you want to stay connected to your home life. Get the LG Optimus V or the Samsung Intercept on Virgin Mobile. Both offer nation-wide coverage on Sprint’s network, but go with the Optimus V if your office uses Microsoft Exchange.
If you don’t have a company-provided laptop, consider buying a netbook for travel. They’re small, cheap, and easy on the batteries. They’re perfect for travel. Don’t bring your $2,000 MacBook Air. Get a $300 netbook (with a built-in camera for Skype). And if you want internet on the go, consider Virgin Mobile’s Broadband2Go. For a few bucks ($10, 10 days, 100 MB), you can get internet service through their 3G network almost anywhere in the country.
Thanks to poor sleep, too much drink, and no commute, you’re probably going to have some time in the morning. Avoid the temptation to spend it at the hotel buffet and don’t waste it watching the Today Show – get outside. Pick a direction and walk. This is your only chance to see the city you’re in. Take a look around, stop for a coffee, scope dinner spots. You’ll see the city’s personality, find a few hidden corners, and maybe figure out a plan for the evening.
At the very least, this gives you something to talk about. And your clients and co-workers will be impressed when you tell them about the great streets you found and cool spots you walked by. They’re proud of their city … and it’s not because of the Marriott. Get outside and figure out why.
Traveling through the Marriott Archipelago should be fun, but without the right mindset it can feel like a prison sentence, just with nicer cells. If you’ve got your own business travel tips to share, please post them in the comments.