Avoiding Jetlag and Beyond – Travel Tips for the Mature Global Sourcing Globetrotter

As this gets published, I should be coming into land at Heathrow. So I thought we'd share a post Jason wrote recently - he's a much more experienced business traveller than me, so I certainly found it interesting and useful  (Peter Smith).

When I got out of consulting as my primary profession, I was actually more excited to give up my top tier status on airlines than I was to earn it in the first place. For those of us who have spent at least part of our career in jobs where we're more out of the office than in, we've learned that despite the appeal of staying in swanky hotels and having a per diem which is more than many people make per week is most parts of the developing world, work travel gets old. Fast. And now with the rise of bed bugs and such -- watch out if you're in NYC or Chicago -- you can also bring back the worst elements of your trip, if you're not careful.

Still, despite the fact I'm traveling less these days, I feel like the past year or so has been a period of punctuated equilibrium for me when it comes to packing up and implementing tips to stay awake, minimize jet lag and be in tip-top shape for meetings, conferences and social outings. In fact, I just looked down at my United EQM for the year and it shocked me to see that despite only spending less than a month on the road so far (in some far-flung places, I might add), I could actually regain top status on an airline once again. But this time, I don't feel or look the part of a road warrior (and my family is not kicking me out for being on the road nonstop). That being said, here are some of the tips I've picked up recently and put into practice anyway:

  1. Workouts and breakfast count in a major way. Whenever I fly to Europe or further, I always head straight for a gym from the airport (I take earlier flights or schedule meetings later to make sure I have the time for a quick gym visit). Even a 30-minute hard workout followed by a cold shower (and a steam/sauna if available beforehand) can do wonders to reset the clock prior to a day of meetings. Incidentally, the cold shower is perhaps the biggest key, I've found. By doing this, I can stay awake all day and totally crash later at night, actually sleeping normally the first night of travel heading East (something I could never do before). And don't forget to eat a good meal after your workout.
  2. Skip the sleep prescriptions (I've tried many of them) and drink smart. In my own experience and through talking to numerous colleagues, I've concluded that prescription or OTC sleeping pills do more harm than good. Low-dose melatonin seems to work quite well when combined with exercise, enough liquids and a glass or two of red wine at a late dinner or before bed (I'm not encouraging this behavior, but observing how it can work, mind you). Regardless, tank up on water, Gatorade, etc. if you're going to do the wine -- or not. Another tip I've heard that I believe has some positive impact for getting on the right clock is getting 20/30 minutes of direct mid-day sunlight if possible at the destination you've arrived at.
  3. The airplane does matter. From personal experience, I can say that the Airbus new A380 is much quieter than a 777 and I can actually sleep on it (sleeping on other planes is always a challenge for me, even riding up top or in front). But the A380 really does improve the whole sleep experience without question. A couple of weeks ago, I did two back-to-back red eyes in a row, one on a 747, the second on an A380. It was the same seat on both flights at the same time of evening. There was no comparison when it came to the quality of sleep.
  4. Skip the lounge and bar and find a gym and a shower between long flight legs. If you have a layover, it pays to get a quick workout in (even a brisk walk) followed by a shower, if you can find a facility. This seems to work especially well headed west with a layover, especially with two substantial connecting flights.
  5. Be extremely vigilant about what you eat when you travel (even to highly civilized places). I used to be the person who would eat anything (including, one time, undercooked chicken feet that had been sitting out since the last emperor of China) -- especially when visiting suppliers and wanting to be the dutiful "entertained." Now, I smile and politely decline anything that might be circumspect. When you're on the road, you can't afford to increase the probability of getting sick. Even flying back from halfway across the world with stomach issues in business class is no fun. I've been there. Don't risk it.
  6. Have a good travel agent (a real person) you can call when things go wrong, and make sure they have easy and full access to your entire electronic booking record, even if they did not book the entire trip. For example, delayed or cancelled flights abroad can quickly cascade into missing hotel stays or needing a rebooking at a different locale.

Are there any tips here that you recommend to survive the global sourcing travel lifestyle? Drop a line or post a comment.

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