Business Travel 101: Traveling When You Don’t Feel Your Best

Business Travel 101 is a weekly series about making that first business trip as easy and successful as possible. Packing, security, comfort, and etiquette are all factors that, with a little planning, can contribute to a smooth and efficient trip. If you think of a topic I should include, email me at

When you spend a large part of your life on the road, it is inevitable that some of that time you will not feel your best. Whether it’s a headache, sinus infection, allergies, pregnancy, or something else, we all have to travel when we feel bad. I have flown with allergies, a sinus infection, headaches, ear infections, cramps, a broken foot, food poisoning, and, most recently, a reaction to a flu shot. While business travel is not always fun, it is even less fun when you’re not in top form. It is so important to take care of yourself during these times that you can work as efficiently as you are able while not making yourself more miserable than you already are.

And a caveat: if you are contagious in any way, PLEASE DO NOT FLY!! I know that your meeting/convention/training/trial/whatever is very important, but getting a plane full of people as sick as you is not the answer. Check back on Monday for my story about how I learned that lesson. They still call me Typhoid Mary at my old job…..

  • Hydrate. Drinking sufficient water is even more important when you don’t feel good. My pharmacist told me when I’m feeling bad to drink enough ounces of water to equal half of my body weight. So for example, if you way 150lbs, you should drink no less than 75 oz of water.
  • Emergen-C, Emergen-C, Emergen-C. If I am feeling under the weather at all, in any way, I start taking the Emergen-C. Obviously if you have issues with Vitamin C then this is not for you. But for the rest of us, it could give you what you need to feel better. As a bonus, it also gives you energy. I take it every day anyway, but I will double up when I’m feeling bad.
  • OTC/prescription meds. Make sure you have whatever medicines you need with you. For this trip, I have ibuprofen. When I had my ear infection, I also had Afrin and the antibiotics the doctor gave me. If you forget, you can purchase many things on-location, but not everything.
  • Be comfortable. Take anything that will make your flight more comfortable. Even though I don’t usually bring a pillow on domestic flights, when I’m not feeling my best I will bring my Bucky so I can rest more comfortably. I also bring a larger pashmina than normal to use as a blanket.
  • Wear/bring comfy clothing. All clothing that you travel in should be comfortable, and that is even more important when you feel bad. My super-comfort clothing is all very soft, with usually one layer being tunic length. For some reason wearing a longer shirt or sweater makes me feel cozy and taken care of.
  • Go easy on yourself. I know that I am usually the “Get out and see the city!” girl. But when you don’t feel good, feel free to stay in your room, order room service, and watch Grey’s Anatomy.
  • Give yourself extra time. When you are moving slowly, it gives you a little peace of mind to know that you have extra time to get places.  Just ten extra minutes at the airport, leaving five minutes early for the office, can give you the time you want to move as slowly as you need to.
  • Treat yourself, just a little. If you normally drink Diet Coke but getting a real Coke will make you feel a little bit indulgent, do it. For me, getting a big cup of Earl Gray while in the cold, cold airport comforts and warms me.



  1. On traveling when pregnant:
    Check with your airline on any restrictions. Most allow travel up until the 9th month, and after that with a OB’s note.

    You *will* swell more than you expect – get up and move as much as possible.

    Try to get an aisle seat – even on a short flight, you’re likely to have to get up and use the lavatory. I’ve found that most people are willing to switch with me once they see my belly, but try to get that aisle seat to start with!

    Drink a lot of water. You (and the baby) need it, and dehydration can start false contractions (Braxton-Hicks). Don’t mess with it.

    Enjoy the freaky feelings of amniotic fluid changing pressure. My belly seems to enjoy takeoff and landing, as I would get a lot of kicking and movement at those times.

  2. The problem today with being sick is the airlines don’t care – if you choose not to board a flight, then you will pay the re-booking penalty (around $150).

    So yes, I have flown sick and most likely spread my cold around the flight – but I was not ready to loose the $150.

    Sad but true – I will make the same decision in the future when sick.

  3. I like your comfy clothing tip. I NEVER travel while wearing a tie, it’s just too restrictive on my movement. Usually, I’ll just wear a polo shirt, jeans, and my trusty Colbert Report cap, even in international C or even F!

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