Need some tips for traveling on business? We chatted with Louis Altman; with close to 19 years working at GlobaFone, he has spent over 1 million miles in the air. Here are some of his top tips for business travel.
What are 3 essentials, besides your phone and laptop, that you bring on every trip?
My ‘sleep kit’: Bose headphones, eye shades, ear plugs, valerian root and pajama pants. Crucial on overnight or super long haul flights. When we arrive, I’m rested, refreshed, and my clothes aren’t wrinkled because I didn’t sleep in them. Also, I sleep according to my destination time zone. On a 8:00 pm flight from Boston to London, I go to sleep immediately; on a 2:30 am departure from Delhi, I stay awake for 6 hours. This makes re-entry easier. I use valerian root as a sleep aid since it oxidizes quickly and doesn’t make you feel like you drank too much when trying to wake up like some pharmaceuticals do.
Vitamins and supplements: Travel doesn’t mean I stop taking the good stuff. Vitamins are especially important because I may not stick to my normal, healthy diet.
Gym clothes: One of my favorite jetlag cures is exercise; and traveling is no excuse to not exercise. You can do pushups, sit-ups, burpees, and squats in a hotel room. I once did a full workout on the roof deck of the Virgin Clubhouse in London using my suitcase as a ‘weight’ for curls, overhead presses and goblet squats. Be creative!
Do you prefer hotels or Airbnbs (or other vacation rentals) for business travel? Why?
Hotels: amenities and reward status; a known entity with room service and a gym. I often work odd hours so being able to eat at 2:00am is helpful.
Where has been your favorite place you have stayed?
Hard to say – on strict business, the Oberoi in Mumbai. Super luxurious and a beautiful space. The Shangri-La in Delhi is also a favorite as they knew me when I was there five or six times a year. When my wife Amy joins me the dynamic changes – the Gloucester Millennium London. It’s a nice hotel, not over-priced, easy tube access and helpful staff. We did have lunch with Sir Richard Branson on his island once but didn’t stay there – that’s another story.
Do you manage to find time to enjoy the destination “off the clock”?
Sometimes, it depends how I book my time. I prefer to spend time with Amy so most trips are as short as possible.
We have a running joke,
‘Sweetie I changed my flight to come home early”.
Her: “Of course you did.”
Sometimes there is no choice and I do get to wander around cities. Two of my favorites are Hong Kong and Seoul and I have walked quite a bit of Beijing (through a Hutong where I got quite a few looks). Although, when we travel together we prefer to look for local stuff. We were in Brazil for the World Cup and we asked our tour guide Amanda to introduce us to her mom. So we took us to ‘the neighborhood’. Rustic, no street lights, dusty roads, strangers greeting us as friends. That’s the very cool part about traveling. Amanda said we’d be the talk of the town for weeks.
What’s your most memorable “off the clock” travel moment?
Either standing on the Great Wall, in the Taj Mahal, or riding the hop-on/hop-off bus with Amy in London in the rain. The Temple of Heaven in Beijing was pretty cool as well. Forum Seafood in Singapore where you point to the fish you want and they cook it, or bring you giant Sri Lankan chilli crab. Or, drinking glacier water from the Mead Glacier in Alaska. It’s hard to choose just one since they are all so different and wonderful.
What frustrates you the most about constant travel?
Inconsistencies; we were coming out of Brazil and flew Recife to Sao Paulo with a bottle of coconut liquor in my bag. We made it through security in Recife but in Sao Paulo they weren’t going to let it go. So Amy, my two kids, and I stood at the security line and passed the bottle back and forth until it was gone. A nice buzz at 7:00 am courtesy of security. I also get frustrated with airline policies that are written by management with no real thought to the actual implementation or repercussion when the front line folks have to explain.
How do you make this easier for yourself?
Simple – I go with the flow and look for the positive outcome. I was on a plane, scheduled to leave at 7:00 am that had its maintenance certificate expire at midnight. The crew doing the inspection inspected the wrong plane so we weren’t going anywhere for a couple of hours. That was going to make me miss my connection and therefore the entire afternoon of meetings. Instead of getting grumpy and terse at the flight crew (how was this there fault?), I asked to speak to the gate agent who let me leave the plane, refunded my ticket in full and I went home. Which is where I prefer to be with Amy anyway. Other people’s blood pressure rise and I’m calm and cool because I know there is a reason these things happen. As one fellow passenger said, “Better to be on the ground wishing to be in the air than the other way around”. There are too many ‘me first’ self-important people who get crazy over the littlest things. Relax folks, sometimes things go wrong.
When you retire and no longer have to travel for business, which destinations are at the top of your bucket list?
Oh there are so many: Antarctica, back to Alaska, Fiji, Machu Pichu, a lot of Asia, more of India, an ice hotel, Iceland, Galactic Tours (Branson’s space flight). Our plan is to have a small house in the west of Ireland so we have a launch point for many places in Europe that are only a couple hours flight away. The list includes Spain, Prague, Budapest, and more. There are so many cool places in the US to see and we’ve talked about a six-month motorcycle trip across the US northern tier in the summer, southern tier in the winter.
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