I’ve been traveling a lot this month for my business. So far in February, I’ve been in Modesto, Miami and Biloxi. When you hear me say I’m going anywhere in the United States, it is usually for a speaking engagement. Right now, professional speaking is where the bulk of my income comes from. Companies and organizations pay me a fee to present keynote speeches or workshops at their conferences and events. I charge my clients per engagement and they are also responsible for paying for my travel and expenses to get from where I am to where they are – and back.
Because of my business, I’ve visited about 30 different cities (many of them multiple times, like Denver, San Diego and Atlanta) in the past four years. Having a business that provides speaking and training services for organizations allows me to go to places I never would have thought to go on my own. I love the process of traveling, though I’ve only just recently (in the past year) begun feeling like a frequent flyer. I now know the layouts of most major U.S. airports, down to the food options that are available for someone who does not eat meat.
By following the same routine for every trip, I have figured out how to save time and stress even when I end up being out of town three-four times in one month (which is a lot for me). In this way, I am able to enjoy the process of traveling and seeing new people and places much more.
This is how I travel.
Before the Trip
I work with the event organizer to schedule my trip, including hotel and flight arrangements. Sometimes I pay for everything and then get reimbursed after the engagement. Sometimes the organization pays all the costs up front on their end. When I pay, I have more flexbility on which airlines I fly, which is helpful. I prefer to fly American Airlines when I can, so that I can maximize my frequent flyer miles with them toward my international trip later this year.
The day before I travel, I print out (or write down) all the confirmation numbers for my flight, hotel, rental car and shuttle, if applicable. I check-in online via the airline website the morning of my flight. I print out my boarding pass and itinerary at home so the only thing I have to do when I get to the airport is go straight to security. This saves a LOT of time.
UPDATE: I now use a fantastic iPhone app called TripIt (it’s free!) to organize all of my flight information. Also, wherever possible (like on United), I have my boarding pass sent to my iPhone and it just gets scanned by TSA and the flight attendants at the gate. Mobile boarding passes have changed my life and saved a lot of time looking for a printer at my hotel or having to stand in line at the airport. I just walk on through!
What I Wear On the Plane
I dress to be comfortable, not cute on the plane. I also get cold easily, so I make sure to layer my clothing and bring a coat, sweater or heavy sweatshirt with me.
- A tank top
- Yoga pants or light, tight fitting sweat pants
- A yoga jacket or light sports jacket
- A thick sweater or sweatshirt (I layer the sweater/sweatshirt on top of the sports jacket)
- Thick white socks
- Asics or Nike running shoes
After testing other clothing combinations, I’ve found that this is my favorite, no-fail outfit for traveling comfortably and staying warm on the airplane.
This outfit also saves me time going through security, as my running shoes are easy to slip off and then back on. The socks help a lot because then I don’t have to put my bare feet on the dirty airport floor. All I have to do is take off my outer jacket and it’s smooth sailing with TSA.
What Luggage I Use
For the past two years, I’ve been packing light. No checked bags. Checked bags can get lost (though this has only happened to me twice in four years). Checked bags also take longer (often MUCH longer) to retrieve because you have to go down to baggage claim and wait for the sucker to start rolling out your stuff. And to add insult to injury, on most airlines, it costs at least $25 for the privilege of having them check your bag. So I rely on one carry-on bag and a small backpack to take on the plane.
I use a Heys USA carry-on bag in black and gray. I love it because it fits everything I need inside. It also looks elegant and more expensive than it really is. (I got mine for $90 at Target.) I don’t use the expandable option of the bag, however, as it will not fit unto most airline overhead bins if you stuff any bag to the hilt that way.
In my Heys carry-on is where I put all of my clothing, shoes and toiletries. I can fit a month’s worth of clothing into my carry-on, provided I have access to a washing machine and dryer where I’m going.
In my backpack is where I put my laptop, computer accessories, wallet, iPod/earphones, cell phone and snacks. I also slip in a book to read as well as my notebook and journal.
What I Pack
Since I travel mostly for business, I’ll share what I pack for a 1-3 day trip for a speaking engagement. It’s important to note though, that I needed only to multiply most of these items by three to have enough clothes for almost a month in Hawaii.
Two full outfits. This usually consists of:
- The outfit to wear for my speech – a blazer, tank top, black slacks or dark-colored jeans
- An outfit to wear to dinner (my hosts often arrange a special dinner for speakers/guests) – a skirt or jeans and a top
- Two pair of shoes – black flats and a pair of heels
- 2 bras, 2 pair of panties, 2 pair of socks
In addition to my travel outfit, this makes at least three total outfits I have available, but up to six if I mix and match the tops and bottoms.
- Contact lens case and solution (small 4 oz bottle, TSA allows it for medical reasons)
- Deodorant, baby powder, tampons/pads if needed
- Travel sized bottles of lotion, facial scrub and scented body spray
- Small makeup bag: liquid foundation, lipstick/gloss, eyeliner, mascara (I don’t wear very much makeup anymore)
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, comb
- Travel-sized spray bottle filled 1/4 with coconut oil (wrapped tightly in a plastic grocery bag to prevent leaks)
- Small jewelry bag: two pair of earrings, a necklace and a ring or two
What I Do with My Natural Hair
As you already know, I take a very minimalist approach to my natural hair care. Right now, I like to wear it in its short, afro state or in finger twists. When I’m traveling, I just use the hotel shampoo and conditioner to wash my natural hair. I keep it moisturized by adding water to the coconut oil in my travel bottle, spraying my hair with the oil/water combination after my shower, then picking out my afro or twists. Turns out great every time.
What I Eat
Although most airports will have a place to purchase snacks and meals, I try to carry snacks with me in case there’s nothing I want available, which is frequently the case in tiny airports like the one I encountered in Springfield, Illinois. It also saves money. Lately I’ve been carrying pretzels, popcorn and/or crackers with me in my backpack. As for drinks, I rely on the free beverage service on the airplane to quench my thirst.
What I eat in the airport:
- Green/fruit smoothies from places like Jamba Juice
- Muffins and bagels from places like Starbucks
- Pretzels from places like Auntie Anne’s
- Tuna sandwiches (I can’t stand the all-veggie ones with just cheese and tomato and bread. Don’t know why. But you’ll never see me eating a tomato-mozzarella sandwich.)
- Pizza or pasta from places like Sbarro (cheese or veggie)
If I get really hungry on the flight or don’t have enough time to buy a real meal in the airport, I buy the fruit and cheese plate that is often offered on the plane. (United Airlines has the best one, in my opinion.)
How do you travel, for business or otherwise? What else would you like to know about traveling?