The Practical Guide to Achieving Work-Travel Balance
So much has been written about the magical work-life balance, and how to achieve this seemingly impossible equilibrium, but what about “work-travel” balance? Have you ever looked at someone’s life and wondered how they manage to fit in so many awe-inspiring vacations each year while keeping their careers and personal lives in tact? Do you wish you could leave it all behind and jet set more often, but don’t know how your business or job would survive without you? I struggle with these questions myself, so I tapped into three of my favorite travel mavens to give us three tips each on finding a healthy balance between work and travel. Take notes, pack a bag, and see the world!
Evita Robinson: Founder, Nomadness Travel Tribe
- I have a team that keeps extra close attention on Nomadness when I’m on the road, either facilitating our trips or on my own. I’m the queen of an email “away” message, and I always add two to three extra days so I allow myself time for jet lag, and to catch up on things that may have slipped through the cracks while traveling.
- I’ve become really good at ignoring. Many people feel that whatever deals with them is a priority. If we are honest with ourselves, 90% of our inboxes are other people asking us to do something they feel is a priority. That may, or may not, be the truth in regards to our schedule and priorities. Ignoring certain messages until it’s the proper time is an art, and a survival tactic.
- I prioritize. I remember poaching the brain of my friend Pharoah Monch one afternoon, and having him drop this cool story on me, with the takeaway being that even when it looks like everything is coming at you at the same time, there is a slower order to things. See the priority, and knock them down, one by one. I also make time for things and people that are important to me. Other aspects of my life (including travel) get itemized around that. A few of my favorite travel hack sites are theflightdeal.com, secretflying.com, and skyscanner.com.
Evita Robinson is the founder of Nomadness Travel Tribe, an online social community for travelers all around the world, who have the similarity of an urban background and were looking for likeminded travelers to connect with around the world. Nomadness was the first of it’s kind targeting diverse millennial travelers, in the newly coined ‘urban travel movement’. The group now currently surpasses 12,000 international members, with over 50,000 passport stamps. In 2015, Nomadness launched the travel web docuseries, The NOMADNESS Project, Co- Executive Produced by Issa Rae and Evita, housed on her YouTube channel with over 200,000 subscribers.
Shannon Washington-Haynes: Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Parlour Magazine
- When it comes to flights, know that not all deals are for everybody. If you are working full time and also looking to keep an active travel life, the first thing is to realize what an actual DEAL is for you, your lifestyle and travel preferences. There was a flight deal that dropped recently that folks and popular blogs, etc. were hot for. But after reading the fine print, I realized that I wasn’t going to accrue 80-100% mileage for it, even though it was in my preferred airline’s network. The flight window clashed with my schedule and my status also couldn’t secure an upgrade due to the booking class. I’ve flown all over the world and there is no way I’m flying over seven hours without at least some extra legroom! Comfort is really important to me because I’m often checking-in and sometimes jumping on a call shortly after I land (even if it’s a personal trip) due to the nature of my business. Read all the fine print and in short, don’t feel pressured to take a deal because it’s there. It’s only a deal if it works for you.
- Treat both your PTO days and miles like money. Real, actual money that you can spend, trade, etc – because you can. A lot of people think that airmiles can be used for just trips..like to pay for a ticket. But you can also apply them to things like upgrades, gifts etc. Generally, when you fly on a mileage ticket—you don’t those earn miles flown back on your frequent flier account, so they should be used very wisely. I treat my mileage bank, like a bank. I have a certain amount of miles I keep for tickets, and another amount for applying to upgrades. So that way, unless I buy a biz/first class seat, I know I have “money” in the bank to snag a mileage upgrade on a coach priced ticket if I really want a certain level seat. Or (if it’s worth it) I book a mileage ticket. Same thing goes for PTO days. Maximize them before you even use them, and treat them like money. Just remember to conserve a few for actual sick/personal days as anything can happen. For me, I plan my travel schedule at least four to six months in advance. Figure out where you are going later! Just know your schedule. Also, bookmark your PTO days around three day weekends, holidays, etc…that way you can work a five day trip while only taking two PTO days. You can get the full breakdown on how I do this over on Parlour.
- Travel agents are everything. Especially for hotel ideas and deals. Do NOT forget about hotel deals! They can be harder to find and travel agents still tend to get the first wind of them, so don’t discount their role in helping you get what you want. Agents are also extremely convenient for busy women like myself. I even like the new Lola app as it combines a real agent experience on an instant digital platform. When it comes to a hotel deal, the same goes for everything I just mentioned about flights, but if you see a really good hotel deal, a regular price flight may be worth the experience. I would fly around the world if I could experience some of the Auberge, Thompson and One & Only type properties at a discount. There are more hotels than airlines, thus more competition to get those rooms filled. And though your agent is getting paid via a commission from the property or operator, being specific with your travel style to include preferred brands and amenities will ensure that the deals that come your way actually work for you.
Shannon Washington is a busy, working Creative Director in New York City and the Founder of Parlour, a digital travel lifestyle destination for Black Women aka the home of #TravelFly. Get a dose via Instagram or read the stories behind the posts on the site!
Tracey Coleman: Founder, BrooklynTravelAddict.com
- Lean on your village. Whether it’s family who can watch the kids or interns to help run your business while you’re away, learn to let people help you! I think Black women especially have trouble asking for help. The Superwoman syndrome is real. But traveling can really refresh you and give you the energy you need to be great. So ask your inner circle for help as early as possible so they can plan accordingly. Then relax while abroad, knowing that your needs are being handled by people who’ve got your back.
- Start at travel fund. Whether it’s $10 a week or $100 per check, deposit money into a separate savings account consistently through the year. That way when you need a large sum of money for a fight deal or last-minute opportunity, you won’t have to go on the peanut butter & jelly diet to book it! Even better if its one of those faraway somewhere-in-the-cloud accounts that take 3 days and 47 passwords to transfer funds. The harder it is to get to that money, the more you’ll have when its time to book!
- Stop feeling guilty about taking vacation time. America has somehow managed to glorify hard workers so much that we aspire to have less free time. What kinda life is that? Retirees never look back and wish they had worked more. And trust, nobody will die if that business report is delayed or your class has a substitute teacher for a week. The show will go on. So if your company is paying you to skip work for 2-3 weeks out of the year, for the love of Oprah take those days and RUN!
Tracey Coleman is a witty storyteller from Brooklyn with an unhealthy obsession with food and an even bigger appetite for travel. Nominated in 2011 for Best Travel Blog, her writing has been featured on Ebony, Travel Noire, Parlour, and Clutch Magazine.