I just went on a vacation. I really dislike the airport stuff- security, high priced food, etc. Also they changed my flights and both times we ended up in the dead last row of the plane.
If you travel by air full time for work or even a lot how do you deal with all that airport/travel crap? Are you really well paid? I might travel some for work if I got a giant pay raise - maybe 2x or 3x.
Is it worth it to be away from home so much? Guess it matters if you are single or have a family. Know a guy who traveled 100% but he was single at the time.
One of the faces of sexism is that in many companies, women (specially if married) are assumed to not want to travel, whereas men are expected to be willing to do any amount of traveling (regardless of family status). This does no favors either to women who are willing to travel or to men who would much rather not.
I’m one of those Airport Warriors; I’m a freelance IT consultant, my work is project-based and generally takes place in my end-client’s place of business, as part of a team managed by a consulting firm. 50yo, unmarried, no kids.
One big divide among us AWs is how much we like hotels: some people love them, others would rather be able to cook our own meals and not have some stranger making our bed daily. Generally, in Europe “hotels” do not have kitchens: if a kitchen is available and you get the usual services of a hotel (daily maid etc), it’s called an “aparthotel”. So, people like me generally try to get a rental (shared or individual) or an aparthotel, whereas those who like hotels stay in one.
My home of record is about 4h from the nearest airport: not very comfy for weekly travel! I own a flat close to a large airport (BCN, in fact I can get there on the subway) which I call my “logistic base”: both if I’m working in the Barcelona area and when I’m traveling a lot, it’s a place where I can keep my clean clothes, do laundry, and where the pillow is exactly per my specs. If I’m working in Barcelona, I still like it better than a hotel and it is partially deductible, under the logic of “a 5-star hotel would be deductible, would you rather I do that?”. I’ve known companies of many different sizes who use that same argument; Hacienda pouts but accepts it so long as you can show your math (I can’t deduce the flat if it’s sitting empty or if I’m there on vacation).
Another big divide is how we look at the places we travel to. Some of us say “hey, since I’m here, I’ll see the sights”: we spend weekends, our SOs and/or other relatives may join us for their own vacation or over a weekend. Others don’t: I had a coworker who spent 3 years working in Seville and never so much as went for a walk along the river. He didn’t even know his hotel was about 300m from Torre del Oro, one of the most famous sights in town. To me that’s inconceivable, to him what’s amazing is that anybody would care about some dusty old tower.
I spent four years traveling in Europe for work and enjoyed it. You get to know the airports, how to pack properly, where the best locations are for hotel stays, the local public transit systems, etc. It didn’t hurt that the destinations were pretty much great places to visit.
It can be worth it financially, for sure. Employees that take on large travel duties typically get identified for promotion and are highly valued (read: not likely to ever be laid off or given duties they don’t want). At least that’s true at companies I’ve worked at. It’s a pretty well known career path to take a temporary relocation (especially a foreign one) with an agreement that when it’s over you are in line for an executive-type position.
Also, the road warrior knows how to deal with the hassles involved and has lots of perqs to help with that (airline status, hotel status, TSA precheck, etc). It takes away a lot of the pain when you get automatic first-class upgrades pretty often, get to hang out in the airline lounge, and don’t have to deal with security in any meaningful way.
As far as how travelers function when on the road, I’ve seen both types - ones that always go out and see the sights wherever they are and ones that literally eat every meal in the hotel restaurant/bar.
Another job I had was traveling to remote airfields in Alaska. Definitely wasn’t Rome, although one of them was named Cape Romanzof (most all of those photos are quite old, taken back when there was an AF contingent there. Now it’s only three structures and four people). Even though they were very remote and there was almost nothing to do other than work, eat and sleep once I got there, seeing those parts of Alaska was very interesting to me.
I’ve never been a constant traveler but at one point I was taking three to five trips a month (basically once a week most weeks) and typically for three or more days at a time, and sometimes multiple week/location jaunts. The worst part is food; it can be fun to sample the local flavor if you are going to good locations but I often ended up in crappy backwaters where the best options were unappetizing chain restaurants. I never went so low as to eat at a Denny’s or Applebee’s (I’d rather get a sandwich at the gas station) but there are only so many times you can order at a ClaimJumper before asking yourself, “Dodn’t I have this last week? Or was it the other sandwich? And was I in Tempe or Huntsville?” I actually started staying in suites just so I could cook for myself if I had time.
The supposed benefits you get from constant travel aren’t actually all that great now. Your best option is to get an airline credit card and rack up the miles for credit. Southwest still does have their Companion pass which is good if you want to bring someone along with you but I have nomuse for it and besides, it’s on Southwest, which may be the least worst of budget airlines but it’s still jammed full of the people who won’t pay for a seat upgrade. Hotel loyalty programs are full of exceptions and I’ve found if they get busy they won’t hesitate to bump a room paid for with reward credits in favor of a paying customer, which got me stuck in Carmel without a room at 10 pm.
Between security, customs, and just the fucking people who should stay home and keep their crying babies and yappy dogs with them, air travel has become my notion of pure hell. I’m nearly at a point of refusing to travel for work unless I can drive, and I’m not driving cross country to Florida or Virginia just to look at some piece of handling equipment someone dropped and say, “Yep, you can’t use that; get another or go home.”
When I travel for work it’s usually for production, meaning steady 12-hour days. Not a lot of time for sightseeing. And after a 12-hour day it is very difficult to resist the temptation to eat the convenient, shitty food near the hotel.
I recently spent three months on location. We stayed in a residence hotel with a small kitchen in the room and I made a concerted effort to cook for myself and eat healthy foods, and I actually lost weight…but I was away from my family for three months. Never again.
Someone’s mundane is someone else’s exotic. I’ll give you one guess as to how many of my Spanish friends have ever been to Carbondale (Illinois) and how many of my American friends to Arguedas (Navarre) The two places would need to work at it purposefully in order to look any more different.
Yep, this is the key. It’s a night and day experience between traveling as an “elite” traveler vs. a regular Joe. I traveled every week for years, and enjoyed it for the most part. Now that I don’t have elite status/miles/hotel points I hate it.
I fly planes for a living, so I’m always on the road.
The TSA / airport annoyance part is mitigated for me somewhat as a crew member, but not entirely. We still have a lot of stupidity in the system and even flight crew get hassled needlessly and thoughtlessly at times.
I have a lot of hotel and rental car reward points, which allows for better treatment. But even so, I’m not really a fan of that stuff. I dislike the paradigm that seems to be developing in which every damn business, down to buying a soda with cash at a drugstore, wants you to join their reward program. One could imagine a future in which a person can’t conduct a basic transaction without joining some sort of loyalty program.
I’m good at packing, and don’t need much to keep myself entertained in a hotel room for a few days. So I’m a good fit for this life. But that being said, once I’m done flying I doubt I’ll ever step on an airliner again. The whole travel experience has become too annoying and demoralizing. I hate seeing how people are treated at airports, and I can’t believe we haven’t figured out something better.
I’ve spent most of my career as a management consultant, so I’ve had a lot of stretches where I’ve travelled extensively for work (4 days a week for months at a time is typical).
Pays is pretty good (six figures), with the theoretical potential to make a whole lot more.
Travel costs, hotel, meals are expensed back to the client. so “high priced food” really isn’t a problem.
Aside from getting through airport security and flight delays, I actually enjoy the travel part. I get to see a different office of some client. In the past, I’ve enjoyed spending time in places like Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, Philly, Nashville, Dallas, Amsterdam, London or Krakow. But I’ve also spent a fair amount of time in nondescript suburbs of Chicago (and Atlanta, Detroit, San Francisco, New Haven, as well as Amsterdam).
A lot of times, I’ve traveled with a small team. It actually makes it a bit more fun. We find restaurants and bars to hang out in. Bringing a client out with us lets us take it up a notch.
Which actually brings up a potentially problem. Often frequent business travel can lead to excessive eating and drinking. A couple years ago, I was travelling to Boston for work every week for six months. I usually stayed in the Seaport District near the client’s offices. Pretty much every night I’d be eating at a fancy restaurant and drinking in the bars. I did try to work out and run along the waterfront whenever I could, so that helped keep the weight off. Also I took the Acela instead of flying, so that was a lot more convenient.
I spent a few years doing about 15-20 trips a year for work and I enjoyed the hell out of it. I got to go to amazing places (Zurich! Sydney! Austin! Miami!) and some, err, less amazing (Hello again, Cleveland in January.)
You learn very quickly how to navigate the typical doldrums of air travel with the minimum of travel.
Pack light. If you have to check a bag you are doing it wrong. You know those absurd rates that hotels charge to do your laundry? Those are for you, the business traveler with an expense account.
Sign up for airline credit cards and stick to one major airline where possible. Do whatever it takes to achieve elite status as fast as possible. Having access to airport lounges removes about 90% of the stressors when waiting in the terminal, and you get free booze.
Learn which airports you like and which you will try to avoid (Newark, LGA.) After a while you begin to become familiar with each airport’s quirks and if you have time you can find quiet places to relax. You’ll be less stressed about finding your way to your gate because you know exactly where it is.
Always have reading material with you.
Free upgrades! The discount carriers may be all the rage these days but the biz travelers will always book on traditional carriers for a chance to sit up front. Flying first class on a coach fare is like wiping your ass with hundred dollar bills.
Sign up for trusted traveler programs like TSA Pre-check and Global Entry. That removes about 50% of the hassles at security and customs.
If possible, schedule your flights for midday during the week. There’s less crowding and fewer families during those times.
Take the time to go down the rabbit hole of frequent flyer sites like FlyerTalk and really learn how your rewards program works to take the best advantage of it. I was able to take a first-class, international vacation for free every year with my rewards.
Sign up for a hotel chain credit card and try to stick to one program (like Starwood) where you can. Hotel points add up fast. Those free first class vacation tickets? The lodging was free too.
Air travel does suck, but my government employer gives nice per diem and covers basically all expenses. I spend modestly and usually come in under budget, so I often end up with a nice chunk of leftover cash to spend on presents and fun stuff. It’s a definite incentive to travel.
I travel every week - out on Sunday, home on Thursday night. I have done this for over 20 years. The airports are no big deal once you get Clear and TSA Pre-Check, the line is minimal. Once at the airport, you park in the lounge and have a snack and maybe a drink. It’s not altogether unpleasant. Really, it’s just a commute like driving to work every day, after all.
The negatives for me are that you can’t really have a normal life during the week while you are away. You cram all of your life activities into the weekend when you are home. But it still doesn’t add up, your social life shrinks.
Eating on the road is a challenge. Not every destination has good eating options. Even if they do you still have to go out and get food. Some times you miss being home and having the option of eating whatever is in the house. Having an apartment type accommodation vs. a standard hotel room helps. You can keep groceries on hand.
Some travel for me involves a client that is 2 hours drive from the airport. That drive back and forth to the airport is an additional pain.
As others have stated, once you step foot out your front door of your home you are able to expense any costs, so “high priced food” isn’t a consideration. If you can get a per diem arrangement for your expenses you can definitely pocket the difference between the standard rate you are reimbursed and what you actually spend. I can make a monthly car payment on the difference.
I was single when I started this lifestyle, and got married later so my spouse is used to it. I have tried my darnedest to get a job at home and get off the road but no can do! Pity that.
A good friend of mine had this kind of job / lifestyle for about fifteen years, in the late 80s and throughout the 90s. He and his wife lived in suburban Chicago, and he worked in IT consulting for a Chicago-based company, but they had few clients in Chicago, so he lived out of a suitcase. Flew out on Monday mornings, flew home on Friday afternoons. He had an assignment in Cincinnati which was supposed to last for four months, and wound up going for three years, so his employer rented a studio apartment for him during that assignment. The United staff at the Cincinnati airport got to know him by name. It was in the days before 9/11, and airline travel wasn’t quite the hassle that it is now.
Even with being home every weekend, it was a lonely lifestyle. He knew few people in the cities he was working in, and had little social life during the week. It might not have been quite so bad if he had today’s internet capabilities (video chat, social media, etc.), but, back then, he was limited to AOL chat rooms. He and his wife always claimed that the separation didn’t hurt their marriage, but it was also always clear to me that they lived separate lives anyway.
He finally quit that job when they were expecting a child, and he decided that he would have to be home for that.
I’ve never had that sort of job, but I used to travel 2-4 times a month for business, and I came to hate it. I’ve been to a lot of places in the U.S., but for many of them, the only things I ever saw were the airport, the client’s offices (or the focus group facility), and the airport hotel.
Currently, I only have to travel once every 3 months or so (though that’s usually for 3-4 days at a time), and if I could get away with never having to travel for work again, I’d do it.
Being constantly on the road does take its toll. I always knew my situation would be somewhat temporary. Though I enjoyed it immensely overall, I can’t imagine doing that sort of thing for 15 or 20 years. Especially not if I was married. There were weeks when I was beyond exhausted.
I think I did just about the right amount for me. I got to visit 11 countries on the company dime, and take free vacations to four more. At the end of it I was happy to have the experience but pretty burnt out.