Business often involves a lot of travelling, for better or worse. While I find travel incredibly stimulating (I’ve come up with many of my best ideas at 30,000 feet), I know that leaving town can be problematic for some people. Everything from packing to getting a good seat to fighting jet lag can turn into a hassle.
But there are ways to make business travel go more smoothly. Here are eight of my top tips:
1. Make a plan: As soon as you board the plane, train or automobile, decide whether or not you’re going to get some work done while in transit. If so, set out a clear plan for what you intend to achieve. Make a list of small goals that can be accomplished before you reach your destination, or polish your rough notes into clearer, more refined ideas. But if you’d rather switch off completely, that’s fine, too. On many occasions, I just sit back, relax and watch a good documentary while travelling.
2. Get some sleep: Some people struggle to sleep on planes; thankfully, I am not one of them (I find it easy to nap on our Virgin flights). Falling asleep on a plane is easier when you have cleared your mind of any pressing concerns. Remember that the plane should be going hundreds of miles an hour, but your mind should not. If you decide you’re going to sleep on a flight, empty your inbox before boarding, then switch off the laptop and use the time to unwind.
3. Don’t fret over jet lag: This can be an issue for many business travellers, and I have found that the best way to deal with jet lag is to simply live in the moment. Try not to worry too much about being in a different time zone. On a few occasions this year, I’ve ended up going to five countries in three days, facing a packed schedule in each. I’ve concentrated on having plenty of fun in each destination, and time has flown by.
4. Stay hydrated: Most people enjoy a glass of something bubbly while they are on a flight, and I’m no exception. However, make sure that you are ready to get down to business the moment you land by drinking enough water while en-route. It might not be the most rock ‘n’ roll thing to do, but alternating alcoholic beverages with glasses of water will help you to reach your destination with a clearer head. Of course, the really strong business travellers just stick to water (and save the airline owner some money!).
5. Try to snag an upgrade: Virgin’s economy options for passengers are excellent, if I do say so myself. Still, plenty of people try to tell stories to get free flight upgrades. Over the years, some of the funnier attempts have become legendary at Virgin Atlantic. My favourite: “Manchester United lost today. I am really upset, and need the extra space to get over it.” That particular request didn’t work, but if you don’t ask for what you want, you will never get it!
Another good attempt happened while I was standing in a queue waiting to be checked in. A man in front of me was at the counter demanding an upgrade because he was supposedly my best friend. He went a little white when the check-in agent suggested that he turn around and say hello.
6. Talk to everyone you meet: You never know who will be on the flight with you. In fact, conversations with strangers have sparked many ideas for me. If you’re going to spend several hours of your life in a confined space with a group of people, why not try to get to know a few? I know of a band that wrote a No. 1 single while collaborating on board a Virgin flight, and I’m sure there are many more stories like this. There are few more inspiring environments for creativity than up in the clouds.
7. Arrive early: Arriving at the airport early has its benefits. For one, you don’t get flustered rushing to the departure gate. Plus you have some time to pick out a good spot to sit on the plane. Whether you are on the lookout for an aisle seat, extra leg room, or a prime spot next to a gorgeous fellow passenger, getting there early improves your chances.
8. Don’t forget your passport: While this one should be fairly obvious, it’s amazing how often people forget their passports at home. Earlier this year, I left my passport behind when I was on my way to Spain. A few weeks later my son, Sam, did the same thing. Without your passport, the rest of these tips aren’t really applicable.
Safe and happy travels, everyone!
By NYT Syndicate
Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active. He maintains a blog at www.virgin.com/richard-branson/blog. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/richardbranson