8 Tips from Roamin’ Roman to Help You Travel Like a Boss
I’m writing this post at a Starbucks in McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. I had a fun time on this trip, seeing shows and eating steaks and playing poker, but the time has come depart. I’m getting on a flight to LA, and after a few days there I’ll head to San Francisco, and then finally back to NYC.
This is not atypical for me. Between visiting friends, speaking at conferences, and going on more business-but-pleasure trips than I can count, I travel several times per month. In 2012 alone I took 43 flights, averaging to just over 3.5 per month. And that was a slow year—2013 seems on pace to be even crazier.
It seems crazy to say this, but prior to launching my online business in 2009, I didn’t travel much. I went on vacation once every few years, but that was really. Needless to say, when my life changed and I went from being a homebody to a road warrior in short order, I was thrown for a loop, and it took me a while to get my bearings.
Which is to say, I sucked at traveling. Badly. I was just not good at it.
Over the past four years, I’ve gotten so much better and really hit my stride as a traveler.
And so today, I wanted to share my top 8 tips for traveling to make your life and fitness a lot more manageable while on the road. These are 8 lessons I’ve learned from four year on the road with more to come. Follow these. Trust me. You’ll thank me later.
Here we go:
I’m listing this one first because it’s the one that it not only made the most difference in the way I travel, but also took me the longest to get through my thick head.
Most people dread flying and dread airports even more. Having spent a lot of time in airports over the past two years, I sympathize completely; for much of that time, I thought I hated airports and flying and everything related to it. However, over the last six months, I’ve come to realize that I really hated to do was rush and wait.
Three years into a travel-heavy lifestyle, I decided to conduct an experiment: what if I could eliminate the rushing, and turn the waiting into something else?
For my next 10 flights, I went to the airport early. First two hours, then three. Now, I don’t mean two or three hours before my flight—I mean two or three hours before I would normally get there, which is about 50 minutes. Meaning, if my flight was at 5pm, I’d get to the airport at maybe 1pm.
This has changed my life in ways I can’t even begin to describe.
Here’s the thing: what I’ve noticed from taking more flights than I care to remember is that the last 3-4 hours before you leave the house is lost time. You’re too busy running around and making sure you have everything that you simply can’t be productive.
As a writer and entrepreneur, I need to be protective of my time, and losing several hours is unacceptable.
When I started showing up early, those hours were reclaimed. I just find a table, pull out my laptop, and start working. Those extra three hours at the airport are when I have gotten work done without even breaking a sweat—including this article.
In addition to that, I never, ever have to feel rushed.
I highly recommend this for any entrepreneur. It will make travel so much more awesome.
For a long while, I was very hesitant to sign up for some sort of portable internet service, because paying 50 bucks per month, every month, seemed silly, when I might need it only once every few weeks. Instead, I would pay for Internet at airports with boingo, or pay for the daily Internet service at hotels I was staying at.
Eventually I realized that I was being absolutely moronic. Not only was I spending about the same amount, but I was sacrificing quality of connection. Not smart, Romaniello.
About six months back, I made one of the smartest decisions of my life and turned my iPhone into a mobile hotspot. All I need to do is plug the phone into the computer, and I have a fast, high quality connection. And, rather than add another new bill every month, it simply increased an existing monthly bill by about $20. Pretty awesome.
Now, I can work anywhere. While I initially thought that the benefits of having done this would really be limited to long travel, it’s been pretty helpful in other spots; for example, my favorite coffee shop in NYC has notoriously slow Wi-Fi…which no longer bothers me.
By having Internet in my pocket, I can get more work done, pretty much whenever I want.
You are a chronic over-packer. You are. Admit it. Go to the mirror right now and say, “I’m an over-packer. I have a problem and I’m ready to deal with it.”
This is not a judgment, it’s a simple truth—99% of people are over-packers, and for most of my life, I was no different.
Currently, I might be an under-packer. Twice in two years—last year’s trip to India and this trip to Thailand—I’ve traveled internationally for at least 12 days with nothing more than a J. Crew weekender bag. Yeah, that’s the actual name.
And while it seems at this point completely NBD to travel for two weeks with a bag designed to accommodate a three day trek, please believe me when I say that this was not always so. In fact, I remember one time specifically when I went to visit Joel Marion in Tampa for a weekend and used a bigger bag than the one pictured above.
Think about that—I now take less for a two-week trip than I used to when I was traveling for 48 hours.
When I think about it now, the most ridiculous thing is how much garbage I used to bring with me on a trip. Did I really need thee pairs of shoes? Where the hell was I going? What happened on that trip—and others like it—was that I’d wear 30% of what I packed. It was stupid.
The truth is, you do not need to bring that much stuff. That includes you, ladies. I understand the desire to bring two outfits for every day (trust me, I do), but the fact is that you can make do with less clothing than you can really imagine.
If you’re traveling for business, your office clothes will also do for a night out.
On a given vacation, you do NOT need three pairs of dress shoes. Even if you fancy, huh?
If you want to get a bit Zen, it’s also true that carrying less baggage makes you feel less stressed.
Pack less and your travel and life will get less complicated.
I’ve always been of the mind that checking bags is a waste of time and energy. In the first place, hanging on to your bags pretty much guarantees that you arrive with them; airlines can sometimes lose your luggage, which I assume is a pain in the ass.
While the fear of potentially lost luggage is always at least a partial factor, I believe that most people avoid checking bags simply because it adds time to the trip—waiting at the baggage claim for the conveyor belt of doom for what can sometimes take close to an hour is a nightmare for some people, and they’d rather avoid it altogether. I certainly used to fall into that category.
These days, however, I have taken to checking baggage, and I’ve learned that I don’t mind the wait. In fact, I actually enjoy it. Firstly, what I’ve realized over the past three years is that there’s really no reason to rush—those 30 minutes aren’t adding to my trip.
When I’m on vacation, I don’t need to foster a mindset of urgency; I should be aiming for the opposite. Checking bags helps me do that—changes my pace and lets me slow down. When the trip is for business, I’m never rushing from a plane to a meeting; I arrive the night before and the meeting is the next morning. Getting to a hotel with an extra 30 minutes to spare certainly isn’t going to make a difference in my experience.
Moreover, when I deplane, I generally have a few things to catch up on, and I need some time to do it. Having 20-30 minutes to kill while I wait for my bags is an opportune time to do this. Keep in mind, as I mentioned in my second point, I carry my internet with me at all times, so I can have a seat near the carousel and log in to check email, if I need.
Business stuff notwithstanding, I have an infinite number of other ways I can productively spend a half hour—and I bet you do, too. Even if it’s as simple as calling your loved ones to let them know you landed safely and then catching up on social media (both, in my world, important), you can kill time and teach yourself to relax.
All of that said, I do realize that checking baggage slows you down, which can put a crimp in travel plans—especially if you’ve got connecting flights with a short layover—even if your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination, if your first plane is late, you might make your second plane but your bags might not.
Rather than court disaster, I use the following rule: check you’re direct, protect when you connect.
Okay, I just made that up now, but what the hell do you want from me? I’ve been sitting an airport writing for three hours—cut me some slack. Jeeze.
Anyway, I’m not trying to convince you to check bags—I’m just saying you need to decide your stance on checking bags, and stick to it.
I can’t take even 1% of the credit for this particular rule—all of it goes to my boy Tim Ferriss, who gave this tip in a New York Times article on travel tips from Silicon Valley peeps. (Note: in that same article, Tim says adamantly that he doesn’t check baggage, but, again, it’s all about picking your stance.)
This rule is pretty simple—keep an extra charger for your phone, laptop, iPad, or any other gadget you travel with in your travel bag at all times. When you travel, use those cords, and when you get off the plane to go home, leave them in your suitcase.
I’m sure I don’t have to explain this, but if you’ve ever found yourself in India without a cord to power your laptop, you’d quickly agree that this simple step can save you a lot of headache.
As an aside, I actually leave my Kindle in my travel bag at all times, along with the charger. I don’t really like reading on a tablet, and when I’m home I only read actual books, but I find having a few dozen books in your pocket when you’re traveling is pretty handy—nothing is worse than being limited to the reading selection at an airport bookstore.
This is fitness related, so pretty much everyone can use this advice.
My theory is simple: airport food and last minute meals are just not going to help you hit your goals. They just aren’t any good, and it’s impossible to stick to your dietary restrictions, count macros, etc. And even if you could, it’s a pain in the ass.
About a year ago, when traveling back and forth to between LA and NYC three times a month with my co-author Adam, we noticed that the days where we were physically traveling just went to dietary hell. We tried to be healthy and would buy mixed nuts or jerky at the airport, but it just wasn’t working. Drastic measures needed to be taken, so we came up with this feast or famine approach.
It’s as simple as it sounds: any day that you are physically traveling, you will either eat whatever you want and not have to worry about limiting yourself at the airport, or when you land late at night and just need a quick nosh.
Alternatively, you can simply choose to fast all day. This is what Adam usually does. Not only do you get to ignore airport and airplane food, but fasting is pretty easy when you have a six hour flight. Most of the time will be spent napping or working.
So, if you’re looking for a way to get your diet under control with constant travel, follow this rule.
Anyone who has ever stayed at a hotel knows that the gym situation is always an issue. Usually, I try to find a real gym close to the hotel, but that generally means renting a car to get there and paying guest fees. That can add up. Plus, you just may not find a good one. For that reason, I sometimes settle for training at the hotel.
Now, while some hotels do have pretty decent facilities, most of the time you’re going to wind up with a few treadmills, a universal machines, and a usually incomplete set of dumbbells going up to 50 pounds. Now, you can get a good workout with all of that, but you need to have a plan. Think about it: when was the last time you went to a hotel gym and just “did whatever”? Probably not too long ago. Was that a great workout? Probably not.
When you’re limited in terms of equipment, it can sometimes sap your energy and creativity, and you get a lackluster training session. Personally, I want to avoid this at all costs.
To that end, I always carry 3-5 pre-written metabolic circuits with me in my pocket notebook; these are fast paced circuits that will help me burn fat or stay lean, without using weights heavier than 50 pounds. I put some time into creating them, know they’re awesome, and having them written down means I’m going to follow them as closely as possible. Not only does this make your workout better, it also helps you get out of there a little faster.
Here’s a video of the lovely Ms. Neghar Fonooni killing a complex in a hotel gym. I don’t know her camera guy was, but I bet he was very handsome.
In addition to that, I normally have a bunch of bodyweight workouts that I bring as well, that way I can train without even leaving my hotel room. For an example, check out this post for one of these: my famous Dead Hooker Workout.
My final tip has to do with planning your travel based on the most ideal time to fly. Now, obviously this is a particularly high level tip, and applicable only to those who fly consistently, and who don’t mind spending a little extra money for a good time to fly. Further, this is most applicable to those who take the same flight path fairly frequently. Still, it’s a good tip, so I wanted to share.
When I say find the perfect flying time, I am referring to the time you depart and land—depending on what you need to do, it makes sense to choose a time that allows you the most freedom.
Most of the time, people assume that flying out early in the day makes the most sense, so you have “more of the day” left when you get to your destination. This makes sense if you’re going to a tropical place and need to maximize sun exposure, but for business it’s not really an issue.
Over the past two years of flying East-West and back, I’ve found the times that make the most sense for me.
When flying from NYC to Cali, the perfect time to leave is 5PM EST. This not only allows you to get in a full day of productivity on the East Coast, it also makes life easy once you land. You’ll touch down at about 8:30 PST. This is just enough time to check in, grab a quick bite, and go to bed. You’ll get a full night’s sleep and wake up naturally at about 6am, and BAM – just like that, your body is set to Western time. If you’re fasting that day, you can go right to bed and not be hungry.
When flying from Cali back to NYC, I’ve found that you really can’t have a sweet spot. Even if you leave at 7AM PST, you’ll still get in at about 3PM EST. Not only will you be exhausted, but you will lost most of the day. The way to mitigate this? The dreaded red-eye. Seriously. When I fly back from Cali, I normally take the 11:30PM flight. This gets me into NYC at about 7:40AM EST. I only get about five ours of sleep on the plane, but with a cup of coffee, that’s easy to manage. Not only do you get a full day on both coasts, but you’ll likely save money on the flight as well.
So, if you are a frequent flyer and always find yourself going to the same locations, spend a little time to figure out what the perfect flying time is, the time that allows you to maximize your productivity and enjoyment on both ends of your trip.
Once you do this, your travel becomes more fun and less stress. As an added bonus, it becomes easier to plan, because it narrows the window for searching flights. Double win.
Well, there you have it. A massive blog post written at an airport, on time I reclaimed from planning my perfect flying time, and showing up early, and posted on internet I carry in my pocket.
Whether you’re a fitness pro, an entrepreneur, or just someone who spends a lot of time on the road, follow these tips from the Roamin’ Roman, and you’ll find yourself stressing less and chilling more, all while being extra productive. Can’t beat that.
While I’m certainly a more adept traveler than I used to be, I am by no means a master. I can tell you how to stay fit and be more productive while traveling, but I can’t give you any insight on things like frequent flier miles, or how to get discounts or any of that.
Thankfully, I know someone who does: my buddy Algis Tamosaitis, whom I have known for about two years, having met at a conference thrown by Timmy Ferriss. When it comes to traveling, Algis isn’t just a boss — he’s straight up #alphastatus.
In his new book, Rock Your Travel, Algis gives insight on the ins and outs of travel, and how to take advantage of discounts, programs, and everything else.
In the book, Algis covers stuff like:
Seriously. How crazy is that shit? But, crazier, Algis is letting you download the book for free by pricing the kindle edition at $0.00 for the rest of the day. As of tomorrow, it jumps back up, but it’s still less than 10 bucks and worth EVERY PENNY.
You’ll love it.
Grab it here.