5 Tips to Survive a One Day Business Trip

a black suitcase with handleEveryone’s favorite, the one day trip. Leave at 5am, return home at midnight, if you’re lucky. 

In my younger days (mid to late twenties) I would do one-day trips all the time with no problem. Once I had kids and couldn’t just sleep endlessly to recover one-day trips became much harder. And honestly, now that I’m older I just need more sleep to function well at work!

Alas, a couple of weeks ago I had an unplanned, unintentional one-day trip. I was heading to the airport to catch my flight to Nashville (thru DFW) when I got the dreaded text: Your flight has been delayed. Text followed text with delays upon delays. By the time I got to the airport I was told there was no way I would make my connection and could a) fly to Dallas, have American Airlines pay for a hotel, and head to Nashville on the first flight of the morning; or b) go home and fly out at 5am. 

I’ll be honest–I thought about it for a minute. But ultimately I decided that since I’d be getting less sleep either way I’d rather sleep in my own, very comfortable bed. 

The next morning I got up at the ungodly hour of 3am and headed to the airport for my 5am flight. I hadn’t been up for a flight that early in a long time, and it was strange how few cars were on the street! 

My flights were fine, work was fine, and I got home….at 1:30am after additional delays on my flight home. Sigh. Let’s just say I was beat the next day (since my kids do NOT care when Mommy goes to bed, they get up at 6am regardless) and I will do my best to continue avoiding one-day trips as much as possible. Recovery was rough, folks.

That being said, there are a few things you can do to make your trip more bearable and less awful. 

Here are my tips to survive a one day business trip:

Tip 1: Don’t use a shoulder bag. 

I have done day trips with a shoulder bag before and by the end of the day my shoulder hurt from lugging the heavy bag around. It’s not an issue when I have my suitcase to set it on! On one days trips I highly recommend using a backpack or a wheeled briefcase. Your shoulder and back will thank you.

Tip 2: Bring an extra pair of shoes. 

It may seem silly to bring two pairs of shoes for one day, but I just find that it’s not that the same shoes that feel great at 3am start hurting my feet around 4 or 5pm. I brought a pair of Toms to change into for the flights home and it felt really good to change. 

Tip 3: Wear comfortable clothes. 

For 20-hour days it’s so important to make sure everything you are wearing is incredibly comfortable. I prefer jersey dresses that hit below the knee or stretchy slacks with a knit top. That being said, just like with shoes, something you put on at 3am may not feel great at 5pm. Consider bringing a change of clothes for the flight home–especially if you aren’t supposed to get home until really late. 

Tip 4: Eat every chance you get. 

Seriously, this is important. Let’s say, totally hypothetically, that you get to DFW and it’s after 10 so all the restaurants are closed, your flight home to Austin is delayed two hours, you know you won’t reach your house until almost 2am, and you got up at 3am and are already feeling very cranky….. You are going to be super glad you ate at the airport in Nashville even though you weren’t that hungry. Because then a granola bar from your backpack and a couple of episodes from season 1 of Person of Interest are all you need to tame the cranky monster inside. Like I said, totally hypothetically.

Tip 5: Cut yourself some slack.

I had a bunch of work I planned to do on my flights out, but none of it was that urgent so I just closed my eyes and rested or watched movies during my flights. So much of my energy was spent on making sure my meetings and presentations went well that I just didn’t have that much left for being productive during the “down” times. 

Readers, how do you survive a one day business trip?  Bonus question: would you have flown to Dallas the night before?

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  1. I’d recommend another tip for a same-day trip: fly nonstop if possible. A 2 hour nonstop from AUS to BNA is a no-brainer if out and back the same day especially because Southwest has a morning and evening flight. I prefer to accrue American qualifying miles for elite status and flexibility, but at best that’s 4 hours total travel time each way. I switched primary loyalty from WN to AA because of the need for booking exit row seats (I’m quite tall) but even for an upcoming 2 night trip from SAT to BNA I’m going to take wedge into the WN nonstop seat over connecting at DFW.

  2. @Satforlegroom that is a fantastic point. Normally for a one-day trip I would take the direct rather than going through Dallas. Alas, I am *so so close* to getting million miler that I am forgoing convenience for miles at this point….to my (apparent) detriment.

  3. All of your suggestions are spot on. I would add, if at all possible, avoid booking the last flight of the evening home.

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