Business travel certainly has its share of perks. Driving through New England on a beautiful fall day; spending an evening with relatives who live a short distance from your destination; having breakfast with a friend who lives in the city where you have a long layover.
Then there's the frequent-flier miles that allow you to fly first-class on your next vacation, the chance to eat at new restaurants, and if nothing else, explore new cities and make new friends.
But business travel also has its downside. To me, the most frustrating dilemma is spending the night in an airport. Having said that, however, I can think of more than one hotel that I hope I never see again. At some properties the amenities are so bad that airports seem luxurious by comparison.
Hotels in general are probably the biggest trouble spot in business travel. In addition to uncomfortable beds and faucets that drip, showers can be too cold and walls are often too thin. Listening to the television blaring in the next room or your neighbors discussing what they're going to have for dinner isn't exactly relaxing.
Also challenging is when you get the last available room – and it is directly above the bar on karaoke night. Or when you make a reservation months in advance specifically requesting a king-sized bed but upon your arrival only full-size are available.
Another stressor in business travel is flight delays. It's frustrating to be at the mercy of weather, mechanical difficulties, and pilots who oversleep. Especially when you miss a connecting flight.
Also stressful can be trying to get around in an unfamiliar city. While some places do a great job with their signs and make it easy for visitors to get around, other towns seem to think that anyone driving their streets must have grown up there and should know where things are.
Combining all this with jet lag, endless airport announcements, and people yelling into their cell phones, and you have the perfect conditions for excessive stress.
Believing that if we're not part of the solution we're part of the problem, I'd like to offer up a few stress reducing tips. Perhaps if more people followed these, travel would be better for everyone.
By the way, because noise is a large contributor to stress, most of these fall under the umbrella rule of "Turn up the quiet."
1. Cell Phone Use. It's a good idea to finish all calls before getting on the plane. Granted, sometimes those business calls have to be squeezed in, so if you must use your phone on the plane, talk in softer tones. Your stress level will be surprisingly lower if you do, plus it will be appreciated by those around you. It's a respectful approach that sets the tone for a more cooperative, relaxed atmosphere the remainder of your flight.
2. Work Out the Snags. It's always better to keeps one's composure if there's a ticketing or reservation problem. Getting visibly upset does nothing but raise tension, and an airline gate agent or a hotel clerk isn't going to be impressed that you can raise your voice. In fact, quite the opposite is probably true.
Talking with an agent instead of at an agent is similar to the concept that you'll get more flies with honey than with vinegar. Not only are you more likely to get an acceptable resolution to your problem, but your stress levels and blood pressure stay low at the same time.
3. Hotel Etiquette. Be considerate in and around your hotel room. Paper-thin walls don't do much to contain loud televisions or loud conversations. Besides, if a neighboring guest decides to become passive-aggressive, a "volume war" can add stress to everyone's nerves.
Also, as a personal favor to me, if the door to your hotel room closes by itself, try not to let it slam shut as you leave at 5:30 in the morning. Just because it can doesn't mean it should. Your thoughtfulness will by appreciated by those who don't have to be awake at that hour.
4. MP3 Players. Finally, those of us with MP3 players tend to forget that others close by can hear our music if it's cranked up too loud. It's rather selfish to escape into an 80-decible private concert while contributing to the stress levels of everyone around us. Remember, tension begets more tension, so we actually do our own stress levels some good if we practice a bit of restraint.
Bottom line: Business travel can be stressful enough. By exercising common courtesies, we can make life more enjoyable for others, which in turn makes the travel more enjoyable for us, too.