Travel real tale: What I've learned
I travel for work.
I know that sounds very exciting and glamorous - and it is, sort of. But there are a few moments when plane-hopping round the world delivers the sort of head-shaking, face-palming experience that you get in any other work place.
Whether it is a 5am flight out of a back-of-beyond airport (to save costs), a red-eye flight straight into an office meeting or pre-arranged travel plans falling apart as you are half way through a city where you know neither people nor the language, it can be very entertaining.
Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change it for the world. I quite like being landing in the middle of a new place and winging it, but I have learned a few things along the way.
So over this series (which I'm dubbing Travel Real Tale as a terrible pun on the travel retail industry) I'll look at some of the less glam - or downright weird - moments. All of which will be interspersed with any tips or tricks I've picked up along the way.
But first, here is a quick rundown of what I have learned in just over a year of 'mile high commuting'.
Have a stock and simple travel outfit
Find yourself a look which is comfy to travel in, packs up easily and fits anything you might be doing. Mine, for example, is grey jeans, plain t-shirt, denim jacket, boots (smart trainers if it is warm) and a light jumper and beanie in my hand luggage. It is comfy enough for slopping about a plane, but I can greet colleagues and contacts in it without blushing.
Make yourself a 'go bag', even just a mental one
Sometimes trips are sprung on you last minute, sometimes you are disorganised, but there is nothing worse than packing in a hurry and a panic. My wash bag is always packed to go because I don't want to arrive and find I haven't got something. But either have a small case with one all-purpose outfit, underwear and essentials in at all times, or know what it looks like in your head.
Working in a city doesn't mean seeing it
If you don't book time in a city yourself, do not assume you will see any of it. I now have a long list of places which fall into the category of "What is ##### like?" "I'm sure it's lovely, I only saw the hotel, conference centre and the inside of a cab."
Please don't be the person juggling tatty scraps of paper as you head through security. Get your boarding pass on your phone and use it. It's 2018. And put your charger and adapter in your hand-luggage.
You don't know when the sun will be out, whether it is hot or cold. You don't want your first impression in a new country to be squinting at everyone.
Make sure your destination is written down in a way that locals can read it
I once arrived in the middle of Guangzhou in China with a bus full of business people from across the globe. We were dropped off at a bus depot and needed taxis to the hotel. Taxi drivers did not speak English and we didn't speak Chinese. But us brandishing phones and pieces of paper with the hotel name written on did not help either - the locals couldn't read English text any more than they could understand the words.
Hand luggage only = mix & match clothes
Don't try and cram too much into a small hand-luggage case. It will be too heavy and everything will be creased. Find pieces which compliment each other and mix and match.
Invest in good headphones
People get very annoyed by a crying baby next to them on a plane, but parents have to travel and babies don't enjoy it. Get yourself some noice-cancelling headphones and settle in for the ride. Offer to help and you'll be a hero for the next few hours.
Flying overnight? Pay for your seat
It is worth the cash for a good night's sleep and not being stuck between two people. Personally I prefer a window, but whatever your preference, make sure you get it.
Always have the local currency. In cash
For tips, taxis or a bite to eat; don't arrive and assume you can use your card.
Check your flights and hotels. Then check them again
I know so many experienced travellers who have arrived at an airport to discover their plane is booked on the wrong day, or something to that effect. Check, check and check again. Otherwise it will be costly and your friends and colleagues will never let you forget it.
It will be raining when you get land in the UK
Take it as a given. I recently spent four days in the Nordic region, came back to the UK for a few days and then headed to Dubai for a conference. It had been a mix of cold and hot, but no real rain. Then on my final return to the UK, as I walked home from the station after my overnight flight - downpour.