5 Travel Secrets That will Impress your Friends

Travel Secrets That will Impress your Friends

Part of the deal about contracting is that there is an element of travel as part of your job. These next few posts will be a series of gems that I have compiled for travellers, whether it be for business or pleasure. The other reason why I chose to write about travel and working away from home is week, is that recently I discovered that a few guys on my team, new to independent contracting made some pretty appalling accommodation choices. Had they spoken to me first, I would have directed to better alternatives that didn’t involve committing to a 6-month lease of an unfurnished apartment from the 70’s… and having to furnish it with a bed and a desk. (Shaking head in disbelief) Rookies.

Photo Credit: http://storylineblog.com/2014/09/18/you-dont-have-to-make-your-bed-to-write-a-book/

 

There are various options when you travel for work. It all depends on what you have negotiated. When I was with Oracle, and Allstream before that, I was paid my salary and simply reimbursed for my expenses. This is usually the case for employees. When you become an independent contractor, though, the better deal for the client is often an ‘All in’ rate, where your expenses are factored into the bill rate. This way, the client can have a predictable number as expenses on the project for forecasting. On your end, you would need to convert your expected living expenses into a $$ / hour rate, in order to tack on top of your final bill rate. Which would I rather? It depends on the contract length, the geographic location, and how often the commute would occur.

If you do have that ‘All in’ rate, the motivation is, of course, that you will want to keep your expenses to a minimum in order to save as much money as possible. (or at least the Asian in me wants to do so) This too is a rookie mistake and is one that I made as well. What I have learnt is that although you can likely deal with discomfort in your living conditions for a while, eventually, it’ll make you hate your job. As per the wisdom of Frederick Herzberg, factors that create job satisfaction have to do with the actual tasks that are performed as part of the job. On the other hand, factors that cause job dissatisfaction relate to the context or environment in which she or he performs the job.

Photo Credit: http://www.inquisitr.com/1291368/pit-bulls-can-be-cute-too-here-are-15-adorable-pit-bull-pics-that-will-brighten-your-day/

 

Really. I remember when I was pregnant, in order to save money, and since I was showing up at my client site only part of the time, I chose to stay with a friend, in order to save a few bucks. What I didn’t expect, though, was that I was “preg-llergic” to her dog. If you’ve ever known anyone who has been pregnant before, you’ll know that our olfactory sense (sense of smell) goes through the roof! Where I would have been otherwise fine with living with her and her dog, I was now hyper-sensitive to the scents of her dog, the pleather sofa, and the pine-sol that was used in cleaning the house. It got to the point where during the evenings, I just didn’t want to go home until I absolutely had to. Eventually, I abhorred driving into the client site every Monday because I knew that I had to smell those awful smells.

Photo Credit: https://lygsbtd.wordpress.com/tag/truck-stop/

 

I survived only a month at her place. After that, I apologized profusely and then found my own accommodations. Now, obviously, you will be different than me, and likely not pregnant as a travelling consultant. However, please don’t underestimate the importance of taking care of yourself while you’re on the road. You’re the only one who will do this for you.

Photo Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat_Bastard_(character)

 

Way too many of my colleagues let themselves go health-wise, in order to get the job done. While I commend their dedication to their careers, my respect for the quality of their lives goes downhill. It tells me that their own well-being isn’t a priority for them. Clients pick up on this and have no qualms about asking them to work the long hours in the evening, or stay on site on the weekend to keep a deadline. They know they’re going to put the work before their own well-being. Hey, if you’re ok with that, great. For me, even though my self-worth is ashamedly tied to the amount of money I make, I work because I want a good life. I choose to live by this saying: ‘Happily ever after is lived one moment at a time.”

happily ever after

 

Currently, I’m contracting in my own city, for the first time in 12 years. But I got inspired from my rookie travelling teammates to see what the world had to offer to make travel easier. In an effort to help them, I found some awesome apps, and companies I would totally use if  I were travelling again.

Oh.. one other thing. this will be the first in a series of a few posts so that I don’t inundate you with a ton of info. (Plus, I can’t mentally focus for that long anyhow.) Also, if you  don’t habitually travel for business, you still might find these tools helpful. They could be very much applied to leisure travel, and not just for business. There now. Onwards with the festivities.

 

 

The Consultant’s Commute

Photo Credit: http://www.moneycrashers.com

I cringe when I think back to my travel routine. I would fly out on Sunday night, work the week in LA. Then I would leave the client site Friday mid-afternoon, to catch a flight back across the border. I’d arrive home by midnight. I’d have Saturday to catch up with family and select friends that made the short list. Sunday, I would need to do laundry and prepare for the week again. I’d fly out Sunday afternoon.

There was one time I was on my way to Virginia on business for 9 days, stopping back to Ottawa to visit a girlfriend, before heading home. By this time, I had travelled so much that I had gotten the timing perfect. I could leave the house, get to the airport, park my car, head to security and customs, and waltz directly onto the plane before it takes off 15 minutes later. This particular Sunday, my flight was at 11am. So I left my house at 9.30, drove to the airport. I parked the car, got out and opened the trunk. No luggage. Executing my perfect commute protocol, I hardly time to make a phone call, let alone circle back to the house.

Photo Credit: http://www.motortrend.com/cars/bmw/activehybrid-5/2012/2012-bmw-activehybrid-5-first-drive/

 

After recovering from my initial ‘Oh F*** !’ moment, I took a mental inventory of what I had on me, and whether or not I could proceed with my travel plan. I had my laptop, phone, wallet, and passport. Good to go. The alternative was expensive. So I went ahead and boarded the plane. I texted my husband and asked him where the nearest Target was to Dulles, and of course, what time it closed. Thankfully the Leesberg Premium Outlets were close by. And, of course, Target never disappoints. If only Dufl had existed back then, it would have been like any other day.

Photo Credit: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Thanksgiving-s-main-course-shopping-4060672.php

 

Dufl

Photo Credit: http://uncrate.com/stuff/dufl/

 

I discovered this company when flipping through the Lexus magazine if I remember correctly. In a snack-size, here’s how they work. The first time, they send you a large suitcase so you can pack your  wardrobe. You then schedule a pick-up using their app. They pick it up, photograph your entire wardrobe, and store it until you go on your trip. They photograph your articles so that you can select the ones you want to include in your luggage the next time you travel. When the time comes, schedule them to ship your bag to your hotel, perfectly timed when you arrive, wherever it may be. Everything is done through their handy-dandy app! Currently, they operate in all global business hubs in Canada, Europe, US, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne.. likely more. You go about conducting business as usual. At the end of the trip, you simply pack it all up, dirty clothes and all. Leave your bag at the hotel desk, and schedule a pickup.

You go about conducting business as usual. At the end of the trip, you simply pack it all up, dirty clothes and all. Leave your bag at the hotel desk, and schedule a pickup. Dufl then picks it up, do all the laundry, dry-cleaning, ironing for you. They store it until your next trip (which for most consultants would likely be the following week.  Brilliance! Of course, they charge a healthy fee for this, but for me and my Virginia predicament, this would have been a godsend. What’s more awesome, is that they will also ship / store your sports equipment too (like golf clubs, snowboards, et al) All for $10/mo. for storage. They could probably even store your pillow too, now that I think about it. Being able to sleep on your own pillow begets a quality sleep abroad. Each trip costs $99. Looking back, I definitely spent in excess of $100 trying to replace my wardrobe and necessities for a 9-day trip. Comparing that fee to the $25 baggage fee that many airlines now charge, having Dufl manage your virtual closet isn’t too far-fetched.

 

Nexus

Photo Credit: http://usa.immigrationvisaforms.com/travel/global-entry-participating-airports

If you don’t have Nexus, you should probably think about getting it. Actually, scratch that. Don’t get it. It’s just going to make it more crowded for the rest of us. But now that the secret is out, let me share the glory of Nexus. Nexus didn’t come to fruition until the last year that I was travelling. It is, of course, a trusted traveller program, allowing you to cross the Canada / US border without having to stop to talk to the customs officers. You simply scan your retina, passport, answer your questions, print out the receipt, and go. After I stopped travelling, I resisted applying for Nexus for the longest time. Lawrence urged me to get it, and so the boy and I finally both went to get it done. Everyone in your travel party needs to have Nexus, or you still have to stop at the customs folk. Here’s what I discovered, though. Nexus not only has expedited methods of crossing the border.  In every airport  even if you’re flying domestic, you can go through the special Nexus line for security as long as you carry your Nexus card. Often people who go through the Nexus line are business travellers, and therefore are mostly single, and don’t have much luggage on them. (Probably also because they’re using Dufl!)

A couple years ago, I was in Montreal on business. I accidentally carried my very full water bottle through security on my way home. The lady told me that I had to go out and dump it out again. Looking back behind me, there was a queue of 5 – 6 people. No problem. I continued through security. She let me out the other side. I dumped out my water and looped back through the Nexus line again. Not even 5 minutes went by.

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 8.43.45 PM

 

Food on the Fly

There’s a general consensus about airplane food, or even airport food, for that matter. It’s both expensive and not that fantastic. When I was travelling back to Canada from the US every Friday, I would take advantage of the amazing restaurants that LA had to offer and bring my own take-out onboard. I would frequently take out a delicious sashimi dinner from my fav place in LA, or Chinese dumplings from Din Tai Fung (Arcadia, CA). It happened to be close to my client site, so I would simply place the order from my office, pick up my take out, and head to the airport. Let me tell you, I was quite the envy of the flight what with my fresh steamed crab dumplings and dan-dan noodles.

Photo Credit: http://www.thatfoodcray.com/taipei-cray-the-og-din-tai-fung-鼎泰豐/

 

B4 You Board

Photo Credit: http://www.johnnyjet.com/travel-app-of-the-week-b4-you-board/

B4 You Board is an app where you can order your food, and have it magically show up at your gate. The drawback to this is that the food choices are only from those within the airport itself, as it seems with the case. However, if you were somehow running late, this could perhaps save you from hours of starvation on a peasant class flight.. and you could potentially get to choose from restaurants like Chili’s Too!, French Meadow Bakery & Café, Stanley’s Blackhawks Lounge, and Stefani’s Tuscany Café. They currently operate out of only select airports in the US such as Chicago O’Hare, JFK, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Sacramento, Salt Lake City and Phoenix Sky Harbor. Despite the limited food choices, I could still that it could add a lot of value if you’re travelling solo with a couple kids.

 

DeliSky

Photo Credit: http://www.emeraldmedia.co.uk/5/news/995/delisky-launches-ipad-app-to-maximise-inflight-catering-ordering-efficiency/

DeliSky is more impressive. Already operating out of more than 200 airports worldwide (sadly not Canada, Iceland, or Orly, France… which is what I would care about in the near future), you can order a wide variety some seemingly yummy options like:

  • Cinnamon-Pecan French toast
  • House-Cured Salmon with Sprouts, Cucumber, and Lemon Zest with a touch of Wasabi Creme Fraiche wrapped in a Crepe
  • an assortment of Canapes

Having just downloaded their BUR (Burbank Airport) menu, it is almost 500 lines long. Hence, no shortage of selection.

Here is a sampling of their global menus from their site, if you’re interested.

 

In-flight Wifi

Photo Credit: http://www.placestogoforluxury.com/new-luxuries-of-travel/

My friends, I’m happy to report we are now in the age where w-fi is officially everywhere, including 10,000 miles above the earth. Actually, this has been the case for a couple years now. Earlier this year, the fam and I boarded a brand-new plane on our way back from Orlando where they no longer have monitors in the backs of the seats.  Everyone seemingly brings their own device anyway. The airlines took this advantage to create another mini revenue stream: renting out portable devices and providing wi-fi. Hardly free, I did a little digging and found a list of airlines that provide wi-fi, for your information when next you fly. I compiled a handy-dandy chart (at the bottom). It’s not a comprehensive list, as I’m sure by now there are a few more inductees to this prestigious list.

 

Final Words

When people hear that you frequent far off, exotic places on business, they think it’s so glamorous. Don’t get me wrong. It’s totally fun for the first few months. But what they don’t realize is the time wasted in commute, sitting in airports on Christmas Eve, waiting for the next flight out. They don’t think of the one-day weekend you now have because you need still do laundry and pack for the next week. They don’t know of the moments of your kid’s first steps or pre-school recital that you missed. They don’t know that you now plan your social calendar months in advance because you only have 4 days out of the month to do stuff with your spouse. It’s no wonder that so many consultants are either single, divorced, or they don’t last long in the travel department. I was one of those casualties. It’s not an easy life. Tools can help ease the pain, which is what this series is about. Eventually, you gotta figure out what’s good for you.

Ok, I leave you with that infographic I made for you. Enjoy!

airlines with wifi

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