Lexi Burke, the heroine of Hard Hats and Doormats, is a human resources manager at Gulf America. Her job requires her to make field visits to employees working in refineries and oil platforms along the Gulf Coast. Because she spends so much of her time in transit, she's had more than her share of experience driving and flying long distances. Samantha Stroh Bailey was kind enough to invite Lexi and I onto her blog to share some of the lessons she's learned as a professional traveler. I hope you enjoy.
Greetings, fellow travelers. My name is Lexi Burke, and I'm here to share a few of my best practices for making business travel a tolerable - if not enjoyable - experience.
First, when you travel - especially by air - it's important to accept that you are not in control. Flights get delayed. Babies cry. The guy sitting next to you will take the whole armrest. There's not a whole lot you can do about it. Why stress? Between trying to get a promotion at work and wondering if this guy I kind of like was flirting with me, I have enough to worry about.
Second, know where you're going. Review the terminal maps for airports, the location of the rental car facility and how to get from the airport to your first destination. It's always important to know your next step, whether it's getting to a crew room or making sure you have enough copies of the employee policy manual to pass around at new hire training. Plus, I always like to know where I can pick-up a cinnamon roll or margarita during my layover on my return trip home.
Third - and this is the most important step - never check any luggage if you're going on a trip that lasts less than a week. I don't even care about the fees, which are outrageous. I care more about the potential for disaster. The surest way to start your work week or weekend off on the wrong foot is to lose your baggage somewhere in transit. It might seem impossible to pack everything you need in carry-on luggage, but it's totally doable. I'll even show you.
Finding the right suitcase is the most crucial component of successfully carrying on your luggage. The Transportation Safety Administration requires carry-on luggage to fit the the x-ray machine, but every airline has their own rules. You should be fine if your bag's total dimensions (length + width + depth) comes in under 45 inches and weighs fewer than 40 pounds. My suitcase might look a little beat up after our years together, but she passes the test and fits into most overhead compartments.
This suitcase has the ability to expand a little larger, which comes in handy if you decide to do a little souvenir shopping during your travels.
I usually go to the same handful of places over and over, so I don't usually need it, but it's nice to know I have the option.
To be in compliance with TSA guidelines, do not - and I mean DO NOT - try carrying on regular-sized toiletries and beauty products. Instead, have a set of everything you need - from toothpaste and body wash to deodorant and skin care products - in 3-ounce containers or less.
I travel often enough that I always have a set of my liquids, gels and aerosol containers packed and ready to go at all times. Most motels will have these supplies in stock available as a courtesy item, but I like to use the same shampoo no matter where I am. All of your containers have to fit into a quart-sized bag. My plastic bag came with the suitcase, and it's durable, which is super awesome.
If you have room, I suggest investing in an extra nail file and nail clippers. You'd be surprised how often one of these has come in hand on the road. I also suggest having a cap or container for your toothbrush. When you're traveling, you often have to toss your toothbrush in a suitcase before it dries, which is gross.
Now, for a Monday-Friday business trip, here's everything I'm going to pack in my suitcase: Two pairs of pants, two pajama/work-out tops, two pajama/work-out bottoms, five shirts, one thin sweater (that matches my shirts and slacks for easy layering), five pairs of underwear, four pairs of socks, an extra bra, a hard hat, a pair of steel-toed boots, a pair of ballet flats, a comb, brush, toiletries and an empty purse.
That looks something like this:
It's tempting to want to take along several clothing options, but it's unnecessary. My dad always told me you should only ever pack an extra pair of underwear in case you fall into a swimming pool. I assume you have that extra pair to wear while your wet clothes dry, so using that logic, I pack an extra shirt and bra for that reason. You can wear a pair of pants more than one day, and when you're working, you really only need one or two pairs of shoes. My best friend, Kara, also works for GA, and she wears her steel-toed boots on the airplane to save room in her suitcase. She may be on to something with that, but I only wear my boots when I'm on a job site, because they're too heavy.
And I pack my purse, because most airlines allow you one carry-on suitcase and a "personal item," which can be a laptop bag or purse. A laptop bag is bigger than most purses, and on a business trip, I'm going to need my laptop, so... There you go. I suppose you could forgo having a purse at all, but I like carrying it around once I'm off the plane.
To save room in your suitcase, roll your clothing:
And use every space available. I find my hard hat is excellent at holding my undergarments.
Here's how my suitcase looks after I get the boots, hard hat and clothing in it:
Then you place the empty purse on top...
And slip your ballet flats into the extra interior pouch...
And you still have plenty of room for a couple of souvenirs, maps and extra paper work. I put my brush, comb and toothbrush in the top exterior pouch...
And my makeup bag and liquids/gels bag in the lower pouch:
This gives you easy access to these items when you have to take the liquids/gels bag out at the security checkpoint, and in case you want to freshen up when you arrive at your final destination.
Now, remember, you're also going to be wearing some of your clothing with you when you get to the airport. I go for easy layers like a light sweater/jacket and scarf to wear over my main clothes, because they're easy to take off at security, and they are useful items to have once you reach your destination. If the weather calls for it, wear a winter coat, hat and gloves, even if its 70 degrees at your origination spot. You don't want to waste valuable luggage space with that.
I also choose to wear tennis shoes when I fly. They're easy enough to take off and put on at security, and they are good to have in case you plan to exercise while you're traveling. I seldom ever make it to a workout facility on the road, because I'm too tired, but it's nice to have the option. I've also heard that it's good to have shoes that won't slip off on your feet in case your plane has to make an emergency landing. I've never had to test that fact - thank goodness - but who am I to question that advice?
In your laptop bag, you'll obviously pack your laptop and paperwork, but this is also a good place to put your wallet, power cord and cell phone charger. Do NOT leave home without your cell phone charger, unless you want to shell out too much money for a replacement while you're on the road.
I also slip a pair of flip-flops into my laptop bag, because I like to wear them on long stretches of driving. Most of my travels keep me on the Gulf Coast, and you can wear flip-flops about 10 months of the year.
I hope these tips help you the next time you make a trip. Thanks for letting me share them with you.
You can follow more of Lexi's adventures on Twitter @theLexiBurke.
About the Book
Lexi Burke has always been a stickler for following rules and procedures. As a human resources manager for a leading Gulf Coast chemical company, it’s her job to make sure everyone else falls in line, too.
But after losing out on a big promotion–-because her boss sees her as too much of a yes-woman––Lexi adopts a new policy of following her heart instead of the fine print. And her heart knows what it wants: Jason Beaumont, a workplace crush who is off limits based on her previous protocol.
While navigating a new romance and interoffice politics, Lexi must find the confidence to stand on her own or face a lifetime of following someone else’s orders.
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About the Author
Laura Chapman mixes her love of romance and humor as a women’s fiction blogger and author. Born and raised in Nebraska – in a city, not on a farm – she is a devoted fan of football, British period drama, writing in bars and her cats, Jane and Bingley. Hard Hats and Doormats is her debut novel.
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