For my whole life, I’ve never been sent on a business trip. So when I volunteered to go on one, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew it would be a week-long assignment but I didn’t know that meant I’d be working all day, every day, for the entire trip. Including my travel days, I’d be away from home for nine days. That’s the longest time Sharon and I would be apart since before we were married.
I didn’t know the best way to do things, like packing a week’s worth of work clothes or where could I eat if I wouldn’t be getting out of work until 10PM. Not to mention, work on the blog doesn’t stop when I’m away so on top of everything, I’d have to find time to write some articles along the way.
So now that I’m home, what do I know now that I didn’t know before?
Now I Understand Why People Value Free Breakfast (and Hotel Status)
The whole appeal of getting a free breakfast and chasing status was a mystery to me. When I travel for leisure, I usually don’t have much of a schedule. If we leave 15-20 min late, it’s not a big deal. When I have to be at work at 9AM and it’s a 20 min drive, having a hotel restaurant where I can get freshly prepared eggs with bacon and sausage and a side of potatoes or grits for free since I’m a Hilton Gold member was a huge benefit. I never knew what time I’d be able to eat lunch, so a filling breakfast was a great way to start the day. Of my eight night stay, I ate breakfast at the hotel for six of the days. The other two, I grabbed breakfast from Starbucks across the street.
This is definitely a Your Mileage May Vary issue, as I can’t see myself wanting a hotel breakfast every time I travel but after this trip, I totally get it now.
Hotel Irons and Ironing Boards Are Terrible
After having to press a week’s worth of clothes, I’ve determined that irons in hotel rooms are the most ineffective things ever. I’ll never get back the time spent sitting there, waiting for the iron to heat up so I could steam the wrinkles out of my clothes. At least the ironing board at this hotel was clean and functioned properly, unlike the one at our last hotel.
After Three Days, I Need To Eat Some Vegetables
Needing to eat out every day was a new experience for me, since when I’m at home, we’ll normally go out to eat about two times a week. MAYBE three. On this trip, because I was eating so late, the main things on the menus at the places I found were pizza (or flatbreads as they’re now called) or hamburgers with fries. On the third day, I found a nearby restaurant where I could order some real food. I know a wedge salad isn’t the most nutrient filled vegetable but I needed something that wasn’t meat or starch.
Keeping Receipts For Expense Reports Is A Major Pain
This wan’t as hard for me as it might be for others as I typically keep all my receipts anyway. But needing to make sure I had the receipt for EVERYTHING I charged to my card was tedious, at best. Normally I wouldn’t wait in line at the sketchy gas station near the airport because the pump didn’t print a receipt. The same for making sure I had the itemized copy of my restaurant receipts along with the credit slip. I can be an organized person if I want to be, but as someone who has never done this before, it took a decent amount of brain power to keep remembering, “Get A Receipt!”
I Have A Whole New Respect For People Who Do This For A Living
For someone who loves to travel, there was always an appeal about getting a job that allowed you to fly all over the place. What’s not to like? You get to see different places and your job pays for it. Even better if it’s some overseas location, right?
For my week away, the things I saw the most was my hotel and my work site. I managed to meet up with some friends and co-workers during the trip, which is something I love to do while traveling and that I never would have been able to do otherwise, so there is some upside to the whole thing.
I know there are people who do this week after week. It’s normal for them, but not for me. I was asked if I wanted to volunteer for another assignment and I said I might be but it would be several months before I’d be willing to do this all over again. There’s also the chance Sharon would kill me if I did this again right away. (Note from Sharon: True story!)
Going into the trip, I was missing my wife and my dog and my bed before I left the house and boarded the plane. Sure, I was able to talk to Sharon when I got back to the hotel at night but we didn’t FaceTime because we’re luddites (Note from Sharon: speak for yourself! I’ve Facetimed with my friends in the U.K.!) and we both know what each other looks like, anyway. While we toyed with the idea of her joining me for the week(end), once I knew the details of the assignment, we agreed to have her sit in a hotel all day just to be together for a few hours at night seemed foolish. That leads into the one additional thing I learned from this trip:
Sharon Can Be Very Sneaky When She Wants To Be
When I discovered that Sharon was able to plan a whole trip including airfare, transportation, parking, kennel and purchasing new luggage without me noticing, I was proud she was able to pull it off and surprise me like that. It’s a monumental feat that she thought of everything that would have set off a red flag and ruined the surprise. But is that a good thing or not? What else is she planning that I don’t know about? (Note from Sharon: you forgot to mention that I am also pretty awesome at keeping secrets. Which is why I won’t tell you what may or may not be up my sleeve next. BWUHAHAHAhahaha!)
The biggest thing I learned being away from home for work is that while I still enjoy traveling, being home with the ones that I love is better than any trip I could ever take.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary
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Tip — Hang all your business clothes as soon as you arrive. Steam your shirts, pants, sportcoat, etc in the shower on a hanger each day. The iron is a freaking disaster.
My problem is since I’m not used to this, my clothes were wrinkled when I packed them. No amount of steam from a shower would help. At least the sprayer on the iron worked to press the pants.
Having literally worked on a contract in the Middle East for 9 months and living in a total of 6 hotels during that time , I am a master of all things hotel and bringing your own iron or purchasing a high quality one is super important… currently i travel no less than 100 days a year, and I typically live on hotel breakfast and protein shakes for lunch and dinner… road travel is hard and international travel is even harder …. I have an assignment for 12 months in Hawaii and I’m packing my wife and son up and taking them with me , so I’m excited about this contract coming up
If you have to be somewhere for 12 months, Hawaii isn’t a bad place. Easy to explore the other islands with only a short flight.
Ha! I laughed out loud at the “OMG I need a salad”!
Take a picture of your receipt while still at the restaurant. This ensures you get the itemized receipt and not the credit card transaction that never flies with accounting when you do your expense report. Keep receipts in ONE place in your bag/wallet/carry on and in the morning put yesterdays there.
Another tip I like is to roll your used clothes. Take your used shirt, place it on the bed with the collar near you and bottom away, then take your used socks and undergarments and place at the top by the collar and armpits, fold the sides of the shirt to about half way between the centerline of the shirt and the armpit on both sides with the top slightly narrower than the bottom. Then roll the clothes with the sox and undergarments from collar to waist. Tuck the extra from the wait into the sides of the roll. This contains anything odorous well wrapped and doesn’t mingle with the clean clothes. This also solves the ‘did I wear this already’ question that will inevitably come up.
I had a Ziplock bag with me so all my receipts went right into that when I was back in the hotel room. I rolled my clothes to put them in the suitcase to get home but for several days I had a “Pile-O-Clothes” in the corner of the room. Not the most elegant way to live but since I brought enough clothes for the week, I had no need to keep them organized, or live like a civilized human being 🙂