Top 5: Travel Tips

Hello from my Okla”home”a! It’s great to be done traveling, but what a spectacular fall I’ve had.

It’s the end of fall travel season in the college admissions world. This annual work-season is one that I get excited for every year. Despite my recent move out here to OK, I was thrilled to still continue my recruitment outreach back East for the world’s best culinary college. Even though it required numerous nights in hotels, navigating D.C. traffic again, and often breathing in that glorious recirculated air on flights, it really jazzed up my presentation skills (…post coming soon on that, btw!) and fueled more confidence that I needed as a quiet little work-from-home lady. It was a great series of trips.

Prior to any travel season I go through the check list: schedule my recruitment visits, book my flights + hotels + rental cars, and pack my bags for the annual mixture of both familiarity and new adventures. Though I’ve done this a lot, I’m certainly no expert. I kind of enjoy that though. Where would the thrill of travel mastery be without learning from my own mistakes? As the holidays approach and new travel plans spike for so many of us, I’ve thrown together some suggestions that I hope will benefit you.

1) Pack Strategically

This dude knows wassup. He’s totally the ultimate travel expert. He’s even got that backwards walk down perfectly to remove his shoes in security. I’m not there yet. Not even close, actually. But I do continue to learn a lot on packing lightly, like him. You see, I’m an over-packer. Secret’s out!! I like to have 2 to 5 of everything “just in case.” Unfortunately, this causes me to go a little crazy while traveling. I’ve even embarrassed myself from time to time. I’m serious. Wanna hear the most recent “Kath moment” to illustrate this?

So I had a quick layover in Dallas earlier this month and had juuuust enough time to get to my next gate, sit down, and look at my friends’ pretty instagram pictures. Pretty fabulous little break, right? Right…until I decided to make this break even better by treating myself to a chocolate milkshake at the store right next to my gate. They were about to start boarding Southwest “A” group and I was in B.

“Ohhh, I can TOTALLY do this.”  I thought to myself.

So I wobbled over with my two over stuffed bags, got my delicious chocolate milkshake and tried to bust out a third arm to hold everything…didn’t happen…but ultimately made it out of the store and back to my gate with time to spare.

“Sweet!” I thought. “Okay…now I just have get out my boarding pa…AHHHH!!!!”

“Ohhhhhh nooooooo!!!! Ohhh dear!!! OOhhhhhhhh I’m SO sorry!” I belted.

Chocolate milkshake….everywhere. Chocolate milkshake over people’s shoes. Chocolate milkshake on people’s luggage. Chocolate milkshake all over the floor.

Good job, Kath! I was so embarrassed. One girl gave me the one napkin she had. One overly stressed mother didn’t even look me in the eye she was so mad. An older man walked right into the mushy puddle on the ground, completely oblivious to what had just happened. After five attempts at trying to alert him of where he was standing by saying “…SIR?” I gave up and started running around the gate looking for napkins like an idiot. Luckily the man behind me said what I had hoped someone would say “Meh…they’ll get over it. It happens.” 5 minutes later I carefully stepped onto the plane (without a chocolate milkshake), with sheepish rosy cheeks proclaiming my embarrassment, and tried not to look anyone in the eye. These poor people have to spend hours with me now in a confined space. Am I there yet?

You can avoid this.

There are a million reasons to pack both lightly and strategically. I recommend checking whatever necessary so that you’re left with one, small, easy to maneuver bag/rollable suitcase around the airport as your carry-on. Be strategic for that travel day and think about how you can ultimately be hands-free at times.

Also, keep this in mind when packing your checked bags. This may seem obvious. I’m sure many of you know all about how to pack strategically, but if any of you out there are like me, you need to be reminded of this. Pack first. Then walk away for a moment and return to review what you packed. This is where the editing process of packing needs to happen. Take out those unnecessary items that you KNOW you won’t need. And if you need to…repeat the editing process one or two more times.

2) Stay Charged

So I recently started adding this little life saver to my list of “MUST PACK” items: PermaCharger

While traveling for work I carry a work laptop, a personal cell, a work cell, and sometimes even an iPad mini; each with their own unique cord for charging. It’s such a luxury to have a job that provides this regional web-based support, but it can be a challenge to keep all of these little luxuries fully charged during my travels. I’ve found that most car chargers don’t charge at the lightening speed I want/need it to.  It’s imperative for my cell’s GPS to tell me where the heck I’m going, for me to answer incoming work calls and emails, etc. So, when it’s not charged I find myself telling friends/family to call me on my work cell if my personal’s about to die. Or telling colleagues from work to call me on my personal cell if that’s about to die.

PermaCharger has been a HUGE lifesaver during my travels, and pretty much solved all of the above problems. It has multiple adapters and USB ports allowing me to charge BOTH my work and personal cell phones at the same time with ease while waiting in line, sitting in an airport, working away at a coffee shop w/ no available outlet in sight, etc. It’s about the width of a Galaxy Samsung or the new iPhone 6, so I’ve actually charged them both while stacked on top of each other and let them sit in my purse while I’m out and about. Amazing. Knowing that they’re charging while standing in line…Love it!

It’s also incredibly helpful to “stay charged” to provide friends and family a little “I’m alive!” or “Let’s me up! I’m in town for like, 5 minutes!” text/call. Traveling for work can be all consuming. You’re constantly thinking of your next move while answering an incoming call…text…email. Unpacking, packing, searching for food, searching for a Starbucks (hello…I’m addicted), searching for a gas station, staying on top of scheduled work events, planning a fun night out with friends while you’re in town – it all soaks up your poor little cell phone’s battery like a sponge. It’s been a huge relief knowing that I can be on top of my game without running around like a crazy person looking for an outlet. You know you’ve all been there. I highly recommend investing in this – it’s awesome! Here’s what it comes with: PermaCharger & Adapters

With the holidays coming up, it’s also an awesome gift to consider for friends or family who travel a ton. They’ll probably love you forever for a gift like this.

You’re welcome! 😉

3) Time Sensitive

Trying to strategize your time while traveling can feel you’re at the starting line of the olympic games and all you see are hurdles down your narrow lane. People are depending on you to be on-point as the pressure increases. Your morning alarm goes off like the starting gun fired by a race official, annnnnd you’re off…flooded with an ambitious agenda to keep track of. Am I right? It can be a little daunting.

With this daily dose of duties (…hehe) challenging your life’s balance by the minute, it’s important to channel your inner secretary with a sense of urgency. Here are a few suggestions in remaining sensitive to time:

  • To Do Lists
    • Write ’em out the night before. Not the morning of when you have to shower, iron, grab breakfast and coffee…then a 2nd or 3rd cup of coffee, etc. I’ve tried writing lists the moment I wake up and I’m WAY too overwhelmed. Write it out the night before and I promise you’ll sleep more peacefully. It’s as if you’re redistributing your thoughts from your tired brain to a blank piece of paper, and look at that – your brain can rest a bit because those thoughts have gone to a better, more organized place.
    • Delegate each item on that list for when and where you want to get it done. If you’re a supervisor – can you delegate it to someone else? Done! Can you get this done via a quick text or email while sitting in your car in the parking lot before your next appointment? Yes? Sweeeet! Assign it to that 10 minute block of time. What about those calls to clients? Don’t leave it to your 2 hours in a coffee shop with the espresso machine screaming out steam in the background – no one likes to hear that. Best to assign those types of calls to a quiet space like when you’re unpacked in your hotel room and you’re sitting comfortably at the room’s desk. So much nicer!
  • Know Your Next Move
    • …then add 30 minutes. Not even kidding – traffic tends to play jokes on us all, thinking it’s quiet the little comedian. Well we’re not amused, are we? So why not tell that little jokester who’s boss by adding 30 minutes to an hour to every drive in between visits. It’s AMAZING how fast 1 hour goes when you’re on the move and have lots to do. This step is a life saver!
  • Be Present
    • When you’re in a meeting or giving a presentation…be present. You may have thoughts flooding your mind like: where to be next, did you confirm that appointment in 2 months, did you ever get that reply back that you needed. Block them out so that you can be as clear and precise as you want to be. Leaving an appointment after you’ve presented yourself beautifully is often the dose of confidence that you need to continue on to the next item on the agenda with peace.
    • When you’re catching up with an old friend or a family member…be present. This travel has given you the gift of seeing your favorite people after work hours, so be present for them. Remove your work agenda from your clouded thoughts and focus on your time together.

4) Stay Social

Traveling on you own for multiple weeks at a time can be lonely, so fill your time with outreach to your loves! Call home, email or message friends to let them know you’re thinking of them, or use your “newlie” planted location to catch up with friends if you’re in their neck of the woods.

Like my old college roomie, Charlene! We hadn’t seen each other in WAY too long and when she reached out to meet up we found the best night to meet halfway between us: Easton, MD. It was the perfect little town to catch up with her again. We had an amazing dinner then wandered over to one of those “paint your own pottery” places and painted away as we brought each other up to speed on our lives. I’m so grateful for that time. Another evening I got to spend time with another former roomie – this time an old housemate from the house I lived at in Arlington (yay, Kassie!). We caught up over beers and dinner at one of our favorite spots in Alexandria, “Murphy’s.”

Another night I got to see some of my dearest friends (Kaitlin, Chop, and Kendall) in downtown Annapolis. I brought them each something from Oklahoma (a handmade ear warmer/head wrap thing…no clue what I should call it…but they’re cute) and we all decided to wear them around town telling everyone we were apart of a knitting club. We were a total hit. I love those ladies! Laughing over drinks at “Level” and sushi at “Joss” was the perfect break from the monotony of visits and long drives.

On a Tuesday night…I even went to the Opera!!! Shout out to Jeanne, Jackie, Tai, and Allison! We saw La Boheme at The Kennedy Center, and it was AMAZING!!! I had to leave at the intermission (womp womp) because I had a 45 min+ drive that night and had to get up around 5am for my next event. But still, it was amazing.

Another week night I met up with my friend Stephanie for drinks at a wine bar in a Whole Foods….whaaaaaaat?! Whole Foods? Yes. That’s correct. Y’all HAVE TO GO if you like wine. There’s this incredible 2nd floor wine bar at the Whole Foods in Fair Lakes, VA where you can try out all these different wines via a tasting, or by the glass. And you KNOW Whole Foods has some delicious food, so they put together a great spread of food for you if you’re in the mood for more than just wine. Highly recommended.

One weekend we saw Sean’s side of the family (hi Mason fam!) and some great friends all in 48 hours! Sean flew to see me mid-travels in October. We stayed with my sister and brother in law (hey hey Mandy & Shane!) – saw family & friends thanks to their housewarming party, then drove up to Frederick, MD and saw his awesome college friends for dinner (hey hey Tony, Aly, Chris, & Shelley!). The weekend before I even got to see my precious parents in my old college town! They were just traveling through the Eastern Shore when I happened to be nearby and I will never forget that perfect evening with them.

You all get the point. Keeping your life filled with friends and family, even in the midst of a busy travel season will keep your spirits up. It’s much needed.

5) Breathe

This sounds silly, I know. But maybe you can relate: when I have too much on my mind (places to be, people to meet, events to manage, reports to submit, etc.) I forget to breathe sometimes when my mind is flooded with “to do’s.” Can anyone else relate to this? My breathing pattern gets all off kilter and I’m short of breath too often. I’ve noticed this happens when I’m stressed. I was a hot mess trying to manage my work load on top of planning a wedding and a long commute back in the fall of 2012 because I wasn’t breathing well enough and I was constantly dizzy. I notice this bad habit often surfaces during travel season.

Let’s discuss avoiding this, shall we?

There’s a reason that yoga and general exercise are so popular: you’re taught to fully concentrate on breathing in…breathing out…in…out. Hmmm. So much better! Your brain needs oxygen to keep you moving efficiently, so why practice this only when you’re “on” for exercise? Get in the habit of taking a minute before a presentation, a meeting, or especially sitting in your car as you’re trapped by traffic. Your heart, lungs, brain, and general well being will thank you!

If you’ve read the entire thing, thank you. I’m not even sorry for the long post because too many of us know what stress feels like. We know, for the most part, how to control it. We know these tips already, but do we need reminders of them? Yes. We do. I do! I love and adore this blog of mine because it’s a chance for me to remember how to live the way I want to live. To hold myself accountable by writing it all down. So, most of these tips are really for myself in addition to any of you who can benefit from them.

Hope it’s helpful.

Safe travels, friends!