When someone wakes up unsure of where they are, one would typically assume it’s the result of a few too many gin and tonics the night before. For professional speakers, it’s a common work industry hazard.
During back-to-back trips, Nora Burns says this feeling wasn’t uncommon. After a quick inventory of her surroundings, she’d start to put together the pieces, “Ok, so I’m in a Marriott…” Now she writes relevant info on a notecard that she leaves on the nightstand before going to bed: “You’re in Tulsa for XYZ company”. Problem solved.
Women often ask about how to deal with life on the road. Here are five other pro tips I learned from my female colleagues at the National Speaker Association Winter Conference. (They’re great advice for guys too!)
Bring your creature comforts
For Burns, scents and sounds are key, so she brings a lavender lotion that helps her sleep along with a portable speaker. While she could listen on her cell phone and save a couple pounds packing, the high quality speaker lets her become immersed in jazz in her hotel room the same way she does at home.
Similarly, Crystal Washington travels with essential oils. “Typically one is citrus-based and another is menthol-based,” she tells me, “I can rub them my temples or splash a couple dashes on the hotel shower floor for a nice steamy aromatherapy shower.”
Feed yourself well, and believe in snacking
Hotel food isn’t known for being either nutritious or delicious, but it can become a default when you’re exhausted from travel, extroversion, and decision fatigue.
Not so for Tamsen Webster, who says, “How I eat on the road is really a part of who I am and what I do.” Webster spent 13 years moonlighting as a Weight Watchers representative, so rather than defaulting to eating garbage on the road because it’s easy, she eats more carefully on the road than anywhere else. (I interviewed her while she ate grilled salmon and a salad at the conference lunch.)
Eating healthy by herself when she’s traveling prevents her from stressing to find the healthiest restaurants when she’s out with a client or friends.
She stays healthy by “Fueling well and consistently through the day.” She tells me “I have a strong belief in snacks.” Pro-tip: Webster keeps dark chocolate and meal size snacks in her bag at all times.
Don’t get sick
“Doesn’t the idea of getting sick before a speech panic you?!?!” Courtney Clark asked via text. (My answer: a resounding yes.)
She warned me that her go-to tip was kinda gross, “It’s basically to keep your sinuses wet. The drier your sinuses are, the more likely you are to feel the effects of allergies or colds.”
Clark uses an aerosolized nasal spray – which come in 3 oz versions you can keep in your carry-on – before and after her flight. She also packs a very small travel humidifier for her hotel room, which uses a regular plastic water bottle as the base.
She used all her tricks for a speech in London when she wasn’t feeling 100% – kept her sinuses wet, rested, and drank throat coat tea. She tells me, “I get up there and the first sentence out of my mouth sounds like Kathleen Turner and a bullfrog had a baby. I sounded naaaaaasty.” But, true to form, she got through it.
Keep your travel organized
Clark’s other key strategy is to consolidate travel information. That way your hotel, rental car, and flight information are together.
“I don’t have to go combing through paper or emails when something goes wrong (and with travel, it inevitably will),” Clark says, “I joke with my manager that I literally speak on how to not freak out when life doesn’t go according to your plan, so I better practice what I preach.”
Clark uses TripIt but says a simple folder on your phone or laptop will do. Regardless, she says, “I don’t want to rely on having internet service to pull up some 8 week old email.”
Stay connected with the people (and pets!) you love.
Tami Evans told me, “The person who invented FaceTime deserves a Nobel Prize.” She summed up a widely held sentiment: being far from loved ones – and kids in particular – is the most significant a pain point for many travelers, but tech helps. Most of the mothers I spoke with regularly use video technology to stay connected with their kiddos.
Webster has a date with her kids every night at 6:30pm. If, for some reason, it’s not going to happen, she records a video for them, but generally she makes the routine work. “I can count on one hand the number of times I haven’t talked to them.”
Video conferencing isn’t just for the kiddos, though. Burns regularly schedules virtual dinners with friends. She’ll order room service and hang out via Zoom. When people ask whether it’s awkward to have someone watch her eat, she asks if it’s awkward sharing a meal in real life. (It’s basically the same.) She’s even watched movies with friends remotely.
Finally, Burns has cameras around her house so she can check in on her dog and get a little virtual love and motivation from her pup.
Work travel can be exhausting, but take it from the pros, these tips can help.
A version of this piece was originally published by Forbes