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Quick travel notes: move through the airport quickly

Posted: - Modified: | travel

Avoid the airport lines by doing as much from home as possible, like checking in online and printing or e-mailing your boarding pass. If you can fit all of your things into carry-on luggage, then you can get through the airport so much faster.

Next time you’re at the airport, take extra copies of other forms you often need to fill in. For example, whenever I travel to the US, I need to fill out a departure record (white form) and a customs form (blue form). The extra copy I took last time meant that I could fill in the form at home, then just grab a few more on my way through.

Also: if there’s an alternate entrance for a popular attraction (such as the subway entrance for the Museum of Natural History in New York), take that instead of the main entrance. The lines are usually much shorter.

Thinking of a travel dossier

Posted: - Modified: | delegation, process, travel

I usually spend the evening before a flight putting together a travel dossier. It includes:

  • a map of the route from the airport to the hotel
  • a map of the route from the hotel to the meeting center
  • public transit routes for the airport to the hotel
  • some events and background information

This is something a virtual assistant can easily prepare, and he or she can add more information too. I’d love to have:

  • restaurants near the hotel, cross-referenced with reviews from Yelp or other sites
  • pictures, names, bios and mobile numbers of people in the area who are interested in meeting up
  • names and addresses of people in the area so that I can send postcards
  • taxi companies and phone numbers

In addition, the VA could update my TripIt and Dopplr accounts, so I can start tracking these trips better.

So I’d give the VAs:

– my flight information
– my hotel information
– the location of the meeting

and they would prepare a document that contains:

  1. The weather forecast, if available, including temperature in Celsius and whether to expect rain
  2. The flight information (date and time, flight number, booking reference, terminal number if possible)
  3. The hotel information (name, address, contact number, whether there’s a courtesy shuttle from the airport, and what amenities are available)
  4. A map of the route from the airport to the hotel, including a large map and small maps with driving directions for each step
  5. A public transit version of that map (large map + text)
  6. A map of the route from the hotel to the meeting place, including a large map and small maps with driving directions
  7. A public transit version of that map (large map + text)
  8. A list of taxi companies and phone numbers that serve the area. If the meeting place is in a different city, get me taxi companies for that city too
  9. A list of restaurants near the hotel, ranked by their Yelp rating
  10. A list of restaurants near the meeting venue, ranked by their Yelp rating
  11. A list of my Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Dopplr, and Google contacts in that city, as a table with names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers, and addresses (if from Google contacts), so that we can reach out to them and ask who’s interested in meeting up (maybe a Facebook event + e-mail for those not on FB)

I can then print this document out easily, and keep a copy on my computer for backup.

When people have confirmed that they’ll meet up, the VA can prepare a list of pictures, names, contact information, bios/interests, and blog URLs.

Sounds like an interesting idea!

Making business travel awesome

Posted: - Modified: | life, travel

Business travel makes me anxious.

When I book my flight and hotel, I wonder if I’ve chosen the right airport and the right flight, and if I can get to the hotel and to the venue easily. I wonder about the moments I’ll miss, the stories I’ll skip by being away. I worry about my visas and about being stuck on the wrong side of an immigration counter. I worry about losing my paperwork or running out of foreign currency. I worry about forgetting things in hotel rooms or forgetting myself in work.

I can work through the anxiety. My checklists and travel gear make packing easy. I’ve figured out the trick to doing work at airports and on airplanes. A netbook and a paper notebook mean I never run out of things to do. I wake up early. I explore public transit. Each trip gives me ideas for making the next trip better.

And when I’m there at the presentation, meeting, or workshop, I’m there, not wishing I was miles away.

Many people I talk to who have loved ones at home think of travel as a necessary evil. Travel has its perks: meeting new people, cementing relationships, experiencing new things. But it tires many people out.

If anyone can figure out how to make travel awesome, I can. If travelling will help me create the most value for our clients, the company, and myself, then I might as well figure out how to not only tolerate it, but even enjoy it.

So I made a mind-map today about the things I didn’t like about travel and the things I liked about travel, and I decided to work on emphasizing the positives. Here’s what I’m going to do to make future trips awesome:

  • Learn more. Interesting experiences + time to explore = awesomeness. =)
  • Focus on the advantages of stretching my comfort zone. Yes, it’s hard to find your way around an unknown city, particularly when you don’t have GPS or maps on your phone. But if anyone’s prepared to do it, I am. My parents took us backpacking across the US and Europe when my sisters and I were kids, and I loved reading maps. As a technical intern in Japan, I took overnight buses to Kobe, Osaka and Kyoto to see the sights, practice Japanese, and just enjoy wandering around. I’m not one for packaged tours or popular tourist spots. I love starting to find my way around a place, starting to get a feel for the public transit and the pulse of a city.
  • Take more pictures and share more media. I usually don’t
    take a large camera because I pack light, but if I carry a camera, I
    can share more experiences with W-, J-, and others. I always take a
    recorder, thoughMy netbook has a built-in webcam, so I can explore
    videoblogging and I can use it for video chat. Maybe if I take a camera, I can get better at figuring out what a place looks like and feels like.

  • Enjoy eating out more. I hardly ever eat out in Toronto because home-cooked food is fun to make and eat. When I’m out and about, however, I have to eat at restaurants. I prefer to find small, local haunts instead of eating at multinational chains. W- reminded me that I can use these trips to explore cuisines and look for inspiration. Besides, not spending time on cooking or cleaning up should give me more time to learn, write, and explore.
  • Sew more stuff. I liked bringing an eye mask that I made myself. =) I think I’ll spend this Canada Day sewing pajamas, and a passport organizer, a travel kit… <laugh>
  • Take more pictures and share more media. I usually don’t
    take a large camera because I pack light, but if I carry a camera, I
    can share more experiences with W-, J-, and others. I always take a
    recorder, thoughMy netbook has a built-in webcam, so I can explore
    videoblogging and I can use it for video chat.

  • Meet up with friends. I can get better at tweetups and other meetups. Maybe this is what a virtual assistant can help me put together–a list of restaurants near the hotel, a list of people who want to meet up… =)

Maybe I can help find ways to make travel better. =)

Travelling with smiles

| travel

I think I’m getting the hang of how to make flights comfortable. =)

  • A checklist of electronics, toiletries, and paperwork helps me make sure I don’t forget anything at home or at the hotel. The CarbonFin Outliner application on the iPhone/iPod Touch is perfect for keeping a task outline that you can check as you pack and clear when you want to reuse it.
  • A water bottle makes it easy to stay hydrated on the flight and on the road. Ask flight attendants to fill it up with water, particularly on long flights. Cap the bottle when you’re sleeping so that you don’t worry aboutspilling anything.
  • Wash-hang-and-wear clothes from Tilley and other travel outfitters are light and easy to launder in a hotel room sink. You don’t even need to iron them to look presentable.
  • A hat shades me from the sun and makes it easy to pick me out from the conference crowds.
  • Mini-socks or foot covers can be worn through airport security so that I don’t have to walk barefoot while my shoes are being X-rayed
  • A passport organizer on a lanyard keeps my passport, boarding pass, and iPod handy.
  • A rolling case that’s just the right size for even cramped regional jets means I can comfortably travel light.
  • A netbook lets me work in airports and on the plane.
  • An Eagle Creek compact comfort travel pillow is easy to inflate and deflate, covered with soft microfleece, and good at helping me avoid stiff necks. In a pinch, it can also be used as lumbar support.
  • Skullcandy earphones or another noise-isolating earphone set – good for inflight entertainment or my iPod.
  • A custom eye-mask I sewed from the comfy cat-print flannel I used for my pajamas fits well and makes me smile.

It’s the little things that make all the difference… =)

Back on the ground; lessons from Innovation Discovery Tel Aviv and CASCON

| travel

It’s good to finally be on the ground.

It’s been a crazy two weeks, so I’ve been blogging very little. From Sunday to Wednesday last week, I was in Boston. I returned to Toronto, then I flew to Tel Aviv on Friday and I got back on Tuesday. Tuesday was also when I’d promised to talk about social networking business models at CASCON, so I did, jet-lagged and all. Before all of these Innovation Discovery workshops turned up on my calendar, I’d bought myself a ticket to the opera (Don Giovanni). It was a beautiful production (great lighting and set design!), and the singing was, of course, amazing.

So the long and short of it is, this is the first time I’ve been able to sit down and write! <laugh>

Time for the usual reflections. What worked well:

  • W- was absolutely wonderful. He helped me pull myself together for the trip. Little things reminded me of him, made me smile, and kept me going. And he picked me up from the airport and helped me get through that crazy day yesterday, too. Just so you know and there aren’t any surprises: if I ever had to choose between IBM and him, he would win. No doubt about it. So let’s not ever let things get to the point where I would have to make that choice, mmkay?
  • I prepared for my session on very short notice, but I pulled through thanks to the help of Andy Schirmer, Mahmood Ashek, Stuart McRae, and the wonderful thing that is Cattail. Julia Bartlett and Jade Nguyen-Strattner helped me make changes on the fly. One of the great things about getting to know lots of people and finding out what their passions are is that I can pull the right names out of my head. Funny, but none of them show up on the first page of a SmallBlue search for mobile social networking… =)
  • Social networking was clearly a big topic for the client, and they’d spent a while thinking about mobile social networking and what services they could build around it. They presented their plans and ideas first, which allowed us to adjust our presentation based on what they already knew and what they might be interested in.
  • The personas that I quickly developed helped people anchor the discussions and brainstorming on a clear end-user. One of the groups eventually decided to go with a different persona, but everyone found the idea to be useful.
  • One of the other topics was emerging markets, and the fact that I’m from the Philippines helped because I could give a different perspective and anecdotally validate some of the trends that they had been seeing.
  • Despite my jet lag, I still got compliments on my energy and spirit. I also got through my CASCON presentation all right, even though I was also jet-lagged and fuzzy. Stephen Perelgut suspects that this is a good way to make me more understandable at conferences – tire me out with jet lag first, then put me in front of people. ;)
  • Trips are a great opportunity for me to meet up with people I’ve kinda gotten to know online. I chatted with Ido Guy from the Haifa research lab. It was great to finally meet him! He’d like to learn more about promoting the cool things that the Haifa research lab is working on. He’s also interested in measuring the business value of social networking, and we might be able to get something going. Joan DiMicco is curious about the same thing when it comes to new hires, so that sounds like a good area to explore.
  • The maps I printed out helped me orient myself and reduced my anxiety when I was taking cabs. Also, knowing a little about the local culture helped me avoid getting ripped off by fixed pricing for cabs. ;) It was impossible to convince cabs to use the meter when I was with George and Neil, but I got the other cabs to use the meter when I was travelling alone. It’s the principle of the thing: I’d rather encourage honest taxi drivers than go with taxi drivers who take advantage of tourists, because I’ve seen how taxi drivers can go from taking advantage of tourists to taking advantage of pretty much everyone. You should try getting a cab from the malls in downtown Manila at night…
  • I spent a few hours learning Hebrew while sewing and while doing the dishes, and that helped make the place feel less alien. It probably helped me build some more rapport with the local folks, too!
  • The sock-shoes in the amenities kit on the Air Canada flight to Tel Aviv were pretty comfortable. I should make some for myself for future business trips.

What to do better next time:

  • I regretted not being able to wander around and see more of the place. Some people took extra days off. The two trips I took to the Philippines took up all my vacation time, and I also enjoy spending time at home, but maybe I can save up overtime so that I can have a free day.
  • Jade Nguyen Strattner and George Rudnicki facilitated very well, keeping the conversation flowing. I liked the introduction structure that George used, asking people to tell a story about something they innovated. I’ll try using that the next time I’m in charge of introductions. Maybe during my tea parties?
  • Neil Marquardt took individual pictures of everyone and put them into the capture document. People liked this a lot. Maybe I can do that at the Innovation Discovery workshop in Brussels. I can bring my camera and a flash, and maybe even a background if I can fit it into my suitcase. An umbrella and a light stand might be overkill, though. ;)
  • I can put together a travel kit with a mask, a travel pillow, an extra pillow for lumbar support, sock-shoes, and a wide-necked water bottle that I can ask the flight attendants to fill. I can also make sure I always get an aisle seat, so I don’t worry about disturbing others if I’m getting out of my seat too often.

Now back to my regular work!

Three tips for long flights

Posted: - Modified: | travel

Flying to the other side of the world means almost a full day in transit. Here are three tips to help you get through your next long flight:

  • Drink plenty of water. It’s easy to forget to drink water on a plane. I usually ask the flight attendants for two glasses of water. This has the side effect of also making you stand up and exercise once in a while, which is good for avoiding deep-vein thrombosis.
  • Bring noise-isolating earphones. An eye-mask is also helpful. You can usually plug the earphones into airline seats, giving you better audio than the earphones provided by the airline.
  • Bring a variety of things to do. A pen, a pad of paper, and an MP3 player will keep you busy throughout the flight.

How do you fly over the ocean?

Jetlag-assisted wakefulness

| travel

I was out like a light last night at maybe 8:00 or so. Jetlag. Today I woke up at 3:30. I meant to stay in bed until at least 4:00, but I felt time slipping past, and I wanted to do something with it. That’s okay. Maybe I can turn this into a jetlag-assisted early-morning wakeup. I hear many productive writers wake up really early, write, and then go about the rest of the day.

I spent most of yesterday putting together a photo book. There were many memories omitted because we didn’t take pictures. I may work on something a little more verbose some other time. Still, it’s not a bad first photo book. There, that’s one new thing I did this week that I’ve never done before.

What are my goals for this week?

  • I need to finish and rehearse the two talks I’ll be giving over the next two weeks.
  • I need to prepare for all the networking opportunities by having business cards printed and by getting a card scanner.
  • I need to finish my article on personal finance with ledger.
  • I want to develop a blogging plan for the various blogs I need to contribute to.
  • I want to write about 4000 words for my book. My goal is to finish the raw material for the chapter on BBDB.
  • I want to exercise first thing every morning, slowly inching up what I can do. I’m keeping track of my progress on a chart in the kitchen.

That should be enough for starters. =)