I’ve been traveling more with my job over the last three years. This is not a complaint. In fact, I love to travel. And, with the increased travel, I have become more savvy about HOW I travel, which has certainly helped me avoid transforming what has always been something I look forward to into a tedious chore. For me, what it all comes down to is finding balance. When does “routine” make sense, and when should it be avoided like the plague?
It’s been said that the worst part about travel is actually getting there. This can certainly be true, so this is where I employ routine. Driving to the airport I typically take the same route. I try to park in the same area, fly the same airline, rent my car from the same rental agency, and even stay in the same hotel in familiar destination cities. Doing these things helps. You’re building reward points, know how to easily find the rental car drop off spot, and know you’re staying in comfort. After a while, you start to meet people and if you treat them right, they’ll do the same for you. It’s nice knowing that the guy making your omelette at the hotel breakfast buffet is going to put a little extra care into preparing your eggs!
Generally, I try to use routine to help make the mundane parts of the travel experience a little easier to digest, and that’s where it stops. There is one more tip on the routine side that I’ll save until the end, yet the rest of my spare time when I need to make decisions on what to do, I try like heck to get out and experience the city where I am. Here are a handful of tips that have worked for me in keeping the excitement of travel alive:
• Visit trip advisor, Yelp, or other travel sites and do some research before you leave your house. Find out what the city is known for, identify the top tourist attractions and things to do in town, or find the restaurants that suit your taste buds. Then make a list of what looks to be the best to you.
• Ask the people you’re going to meet what THEY recommend and see how that jives with your research. Ask the people who work at your hotel for their thoughts, too. Nothing beats local knowledge, so use these thoughts to help hone your list.
• Don’t be shy about including pop culture on your list. On a recent trip to San Diego, my co-workers and I made a much needed stop at the home they used for MTV’s “Real World San Diego” show and it was a highlight of the trip.
• If you love music, download the “Bands in Town” app or check the marquee at some of the local hot spots and consider an evening of good live music. On my first trip to San Antonio, I made a point of driving up into the Texas Hill Country to visit Luckenbach, Texas. It was a pilgrimage of sorts, based on years of being absorbed by the music of Jerry Jeff Walker as well as Waylon, Willie, and the boys.
• Do what you need to do for work first (that IS why you’re in the town you’re in) … but then get out and go tackle your list!
• Try not to go to the same restaurants over and over … unless it is out of this world good … and try to avoid restaurants that you can go to “back home.” I’ve probably spent 30 nights in San Antonio over the past three years and have probably eaten at 25 different dinner spots, and I’ll keep looking for 25 more … and not one could I go to back in Pennsylvania.
Last, but certainly not least, the final tip I offer on the “routine” side is to call home first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. In addition to my loving and supportive wife, I’ve got two beautiful children at home who are currently six and two. Hearing them each morning brightens my day and kicks things off right. Likewise, wishing them a good night helps me rest more easily in my comfy yet lonely king-sized hotel bed. Only two more nights until I get to see them all again.