Tips for Freelancers: Surviving Business Travel

Overnight stays in hotels can initially seem glamorous, but after a whirl of nights away from home, they can become tedious, exhausting and even uncomfortable….. just what IS that low humming noise you can often hear ALL NIGHT?? So, what have I learnt about surviving business travel and even, enjoying it? In my two years of freelance work as a consultant, coach and trainer, I have learnt these things:

1. Trip Advisor is your friend http://tripadvisor.co.uk

Look at the top 5 hotels in your price bracket and identify trends in the comments. Ignore the odd crank; the nuggets are there….noisy, tatty and cramped are not good words to note. Then cross reference wildly on Trivago or some other search engine to get the best deal.

2. Filters rule on Trivago  http://trivago.co.uk

You can identify your key criteria and search by those on your chosen hotel search engine – if a pool, gym and spa will make your trip that teensy bit more enjoyable, go for them, as it is amazing how often the price difference is negligible or simply worth paying. My personal key criteria for hotels are POOL and CHARACTER ( architectural or design features which prevent that zoned out feeling of being in another purple room in another purple hotel somewhere) Normally find that BOUTIQUE covers the design thing as a filter word….

3.Don’t lose a night at home: Gain a night away

If you have diary control and can block out the day before your client work, consider taking a half-day off as a tourist in the place you will be working. Evidently some places do not merit this, but today I am in Durham and have had a splendid time walking in the woods by the river and visiting the spectacular cathedral, as well as resisting an array of nice shops. Other trips have introduced me to Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Hepworth Gallery

Both free and both thoroughly enjoyable. Why not make the most of visiting the country instead of feeling you lost a nice cuddle on the sofa with your partner??

4. When the trainline smiles..  http://www.thetrainline.com

Occasionally the trainline.com rewards your booking loyalty with a magical moment. You realize that it is only £5 extra to go First Class on some monstrous journey around the country. BOOK IT!! With most FC tickets, the free snacks and wi-fi cancel out the extra fee; on many lines you get a free meal if travelling at the right time. And the big comfy seats, sockets and little lamps make it an entirely different journey…..last time I did this to Manchester, I had cold salmon salad, wine and nibbles, a muffin, and more coffee than was really healthy. Fabulous! And of course, sufficient space that your neighbour isn’t elbowing you as you grapple with your laptop all the time.

5. For every 15 Premier Inns, go large at The Hyatt Regency

Too many chain hotel nights are soul-destroying. You don’t know where you are…you wake up thinking Plymouth? York?? Ah, Blackpool….ok, got it!. Occasionally, a splurge is healthy…restrict filters on Trivago to 5 stars only and select the Hyatt Regency in Birmingham (What a breakfast buffet! What huge rooms! What fluffy robes!) or St David’s Spa Cardiff (What glorious waterfront views! What a huge spa for a hotel! What architectural style!) Book the best deal you can see on a free cancellation pay later basis and then review the rates in the weeks prior to your trip to ensure the best deal. Prowl the search engines like a top predator and pounce on the best deal. Even top hotels have some slaughtering deals now and then…

6. Civilise the hotel

Take a few things with you that make it comfy – I like a scented candle for bath time and a wildly huge range of teas, so I can feel like I am at home. Whatever lights your candle….

7. Beware the bar

Lured by the temptation of free wi-fi, you may head down to the hotel bar on your own. Now, you may meet a colourful array of characters who become friends for life. Or not. More likely, you will meet lonely people on the loose who may be after more than your conversation. There is definitely a predatory pulling scene in some hotel bars, so be aware of that.

8. Hotel food? Sometimes YES!

Occasionally room service is the only thing you can face, so pay the scandalous tray charge. Some hotels have fantastic restaurants with local produce- memorably The Crown in Blandford and Pastures near Mexborough in Yorkshire. Stay in and roll through the awesomely priced set menus, trying local specialities! Local knowledge also goes a long way. Recently I was staying at a lovely B&B sourced by clients in Sparsholt near Winchester and they tipped me off about a local pub called The Plough Inn. Two stunning dinners and a menu I could have eaten from for a month…..otherwise I have learnt to make the effort to go out, at least for fresh air and a walk, even if I just end up in a nice chain like  Piccolino ( love the ones in Leeds and Birmingham, where they are friendly but not intrusive to solo travellers)

9. Have a night out

Surf wildly before you go and see if you can do something you like in the place where you are going. I like cinema, theatre and art galleries and often go to The Corner House in Manchester (chilled out bar with lovely food there too), Manchester Art Gallery, with a great free collection and tearoom and shop or The Lowry for art or a show. If you are dead lucky, you may be able to get a local friend out for dinner and avoid the whole room service, tray charge hell.

10. The perils of escalators

I wear high heels to create the illusion of average height (I am in fact a pixie), and never used to take spare footwear on business trips. That was until a high-heeled boot got caught in an escalator and snapped clean off, leaving me hopping up a high street and into M&S in desperation to buy a new pair ON THE WAY TO A CLIENT PRESENTATION! Stressful, irritating and expensive. Put a spare pair in your case.

11. A learning about bathrooms

Shower screens never work.They flood the bathroom. Towels on the floor. Enough said?

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