Professional Travel(lers)

Robertson Foundation Fellows Allison Carter Olsen, Tracie Hatch and Justin Gradek at the White House.

Robertson Foundation Fellows Allison Carter Olsen, Tracie Hatch and Justin Gradek at the White House. Photo Courtesy Justin Gradek

Professional Travel(lers)

The public administration and international relations careers that each of you may pursue could potentially require you to travel professionally.

Even though some of you may have extensive travel experience as tourists, exchange students, or international volunteers, I thought I would share a few tips from my recent travels over the past few years.

1) The cheaper flight is not necessarily the less expensive option.

Flying from a non-hub airport like Syracuse often means that the flight is going to be more expensive than one would like, particularly in comparison to flying out of a major international airport such as New York – Kennedy.

However, one should take into account the cost of getting to that alternate airport (it can cost anywhere from $100 to $300 to get from Syracuse to JFK and back, depending on transport and need for hotel), as well as the cost of the ancillary expenses for that flight (one of the marks of really affordable flights can be a late flight out of one city and an early one out of the next, so there might be a hotel room needed).

Professional travel budgets have been under pressure over the last several years, so do take a look at BBC America’s “Ten Tips for Cheap Airfares from the U.S. to the U.K,” but when you are looking at the flight, also calculate the cost above (as well as the cost of your own time).  It’s important to think about what your time is worth as:

2) You always have less time than you think

A conference weekend in Washington, DC is a great opportunity to spend Friday engaged in meetings, and Saturday and Sunday at the conference.

“Land at DCA on Friday at 7, first meeting at 8:30 off K Street, second at 9 on Dupont Circle, then to Main State by 10.” It sounds like a great itinerary designed to maximize face time and get a lot of good information.

However, one must remember to build in travel time between sites.  Despite your best efforts, it will take you more than five minutes to get from the State Department’s C Street Headquarters to USAID’s premises in the Ronald Reagan Building, even if you take a cab.

Also, it is likely that meetings will run long, your meeting partners will be delayed, or you’ll get engaged in a good conversation.

Despite this, make sure you:

3) Plan your days well

If you’re looking to meet with a number of people (such as on a networking trip), have an idea on who you want to meet with ahead of time, set a time and a location and most importantly get a phone number in case you are running late.  Depending on the city or their transportation systems, you might not be able to send an email to your contact if they are already on the way or have not joined the Smartphone set.