When we asked our favorite travel experts how they balance work and travel, we got so many great answers that we turned it into a three-part series covering how to stay healthy while traveling, how to have fun on business trips, and, in this article, how to be productive when you’re on the road.
Whether you’re cranking out a report or just whittling down your inbox, it can be hard to get work done while traveling.
Especially when the weather’s nice, the city is new, and the itinerary is packed. To help you cross things off your to-do list, we tapped the travel pros for their best tips on staying productive when they’re on the go.
Working from coffee shops is a great way to get a sense of a neighborhood or city while peopling watching from the corner of your eye. When I’m in a U.S. city, I use the Spot app to find cool cafes to work in. They have a tight list of gems in cities like San Francisco (like Saint Frank Coffee in Russian Hill) that I probably wouldn’t have found otherwise. – Natasha Lee, photographer
Make a schedule and stick to it. Build in time for exploration, happy hour, and dinner reservations that you make in advance. (There’s nothing worse than scrolling through restaurant reviews at 7 p.m.) When I’m traveling in the United States, Lifetime Gym is a 2-for-1 deal — many of their locations offer free business centers and workspaces. If I can work and work out in the same place, it’s a huge time saver. – Eric Monkaba, founder, Tripscaper
When I’m traveling, I like doing work and taking calls from public parks. This allows me to see local life and connect with native plants, birds and trees. Hyde Park in London and Ueno Park in Tokyo are some of my favorite environments for this. – Magdalena Sartori, co-founder, The Assemblage
I’m an early bird. When I have to do thinking work, I wake up very early, make a pot of tea, and dive into the subject. I can typically crank out a strategic paper between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. In terms of a place to work, it just needs to be quiet. – Barbara Muckermann, chief marketing officer, Silversea Cruises
Rather than watching movies on a flight, I load up on uninterrupted work time. I get to the airport early and find a spot in the lounge. The last time I took a long-haul flight, I found a nook in the super-swanky Polaris lounge and got to work with a glass of champagne, because why not? – Mary Holland, freelance writer
I’m highly productive working from hotel common areas. A great lobby has a certain energy, especially if it has a local scene and is not too hectic. A restaurant or bar area could work, too. Some favorites are Four Seasons Los Angeles (the outdoor cafe is great for emails), Park Hyatt New York (if I’m uptown), 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge (if I’m downtown), Firmdale properties in London (each hotel has a peaceful library lounge with an honor bar), and Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach (plenty of areas to camp down and get work done, pool breaks included). – Karl Backlund, owner, Marchay
I love working with a view, especially outdoors. When possible, I find a nook or terrace (even a public park sometimes), put on my tunes, and hammer things out. Otherwise, long flights are my dream. I can get through a week’s worth of stuff on a fifteen-hour flight. – Jack Ezon, founder, Embark
We try and travel in twos as much as possible at Bellini: that way there’s always someone to bounce ideas off on a car, train, or boat journey. Everyone in the office has different tastes, so it’s interesting to hear everyone’s take on a place or experience, which helps us figure out which of our clients it would be most suited to. – Emily FitzRoy, founder, Bellini Travel
Call me a grandma, but I prefer to spend my nights on the road working and emailing rather than drinking into the wee hours. Alcohol only makes my jet lag and sleepiness worse, so I tend to have a nice dinner, take a shower, and curl up in bed with my laptop after a long day. Or, depending on the time zone, I’ll wake up at the crack of dawn. By squeezing my work into early a.m. or late p.m., I free my days to explore. It makes for a long day, but after a crazy week of this, I’m more than ready to sleep the whole flight home. – Alyssa Coscarelli, freelance writer and consultant
I go on safari a lot for work and I can’t always go on game drives or do other safari activities. Instead, I’ll sit outside my room and listen to the birds while doing my work. I’m amazed at how much wildlife I see just by staying in one place. I saw a leopard chasing a baby impala outside my room and elephants drink water from my plunge pool. I also love when I don’t have internet access. I can get work done faster — and then go out and play. – Elizabeth Gordon, co-founder and CEO, Extraordinary Journeys
Some of my best thinking is on long-haul flights. I put on my Bose noise cancelling headphones with a great soothing playlist (which I enjoy making) and have no distractions. – Mitchell Hochberg, President, Lightstone
I don’t like using my laptop on the plane, so I’ll save any reading I have to do for the flight, printing out longer documents if necessary. I like public libraries more than cafes when I have to buckle down on something. – Darrell Hartman, co-founder, Jungles in Paris
More Tips on Balancing Work and Travel
We Asked the Pros: How Can I Have Some Fun on Business Trips?
We Asked the Pros: How Can I Stay Healthy While Traveling?