Tell Me Tuesday: How to Travel Well

Towering over and smiling with this great group of friends in Atlanta. (Notice the "tall" one next to SBS is wearing heels.)

So SBS and I have been on the road quite a bit, and here's the thing: I love, love, love meeting mother runners; listening to stories about victories (and occasional injuries); cheering at races; and hearing, "I've never felt this short before," as somebody gets sandwiched between us for a picture. I am definitely not complaining about how fortunate I am to have this be my job.

But here's the other thing: I suck at traveling. The actual act of extracting myself from my everyday life--packing, making sure the fridge is filled, playdates are made, flute lessons are remembered--then folding myself into a seat made for somebody who 5'4" and hurtling through time zones with no snacks to be had unless I remembered them myself (not likely) is just extremely unpleasant. I try to make it better by remembering snacks, downloading podcasts (not our own), and trying to relax, but it doesn't come easy. Sarah always talks about how well she slept on the flight; I can't remember the last time I slept, unless you count about 10 neck-jerking minutes in a vague haze on the way home from Kansas City in March.

And coming home? Although the packing part is easier--if you brought it, bring it home--the actual re-entry is as bumpy as a typical plane landing in mountainous Denver. There is none of the unpacking time I used to enjoy, oh, 10 years ago, when I could kind of reset and realign with the routine. The kids often greet me as I drive down the street, and are with me, meltdowns and all, until my bedtime, which is often earlier than theirs when I return from a trip. Seriously, 8:15 isn't too early when I've been on the road all day.

This looks fairly accurate, although these seats look more comfortable than ones I've seen lately.

This jetting around takes a serious toll on my body and energy. Sarah is so much more resilient than I am; she got up Monday, this morning, after four whirlwind days in Minneapolis and sent out a boatload of shirt orders and then proceeded to have a crazy productive day. I could barely make my kids lunches, let alone conquer any work. I had one story due today, and thankfully, it was 90% done when I went to "work" on it. I had to print out at least four times to read it again and again make sure I didn't forget a word. (Spelling and grammar check can only get you so far.)

No matter how well I try to "pace myself" over a weekend, I always crash and feel like a zombie by the time I'm checking my bags to get home. Here's what I feel like I do right:
1. Hydrate. Sarah and I are never without our Camelbak bottles filled with nuun.
2. Eat fairly well. We try to stock up on fruits and other good snacks like nuts for expos. Sure, there's the occasional pound bag of pretzel M&M's, but they're consumed by both of us over the course of a couple of days. (Okay, I consume 80% of them, but it truly is a couple of days.) I try to eat a salad at least once a day and always opt for the veggie option (at a pizza place, at Subway) when possible.
3. Limit my alcohol. I definitely like a beer after being on my feet for the day, but it's one beer, and I'm done.
4. Take probiotics. This is fairly new--I started about two weeks ago--but it's working so far. Need to keep the intestines happy and things moving along instead of feeling clogged, so to speak.

Here's what I can use help on:
1. Sleep. I know I need at least 8 hours, and try to get that. But I like to sleep in fresh air and my own bed, not a air conditioner that hums on and off and a bed that just doesn't feel quite right.
2. Pacing myself. No matter how hard I try to pace my AMR weekends the way I know I should race, I get so excited that I think I use up all my energy on the first day/mile. Say I have 20 candles of energy to burn and we're doing stuff for 2.5 days; I should burn about 8, and 8, then 4. Instead, I go about 17, then 2, then 1. Same way I think I can run 8-minute splits for a half-marathon, even though I've been training at a 9:30 pace.
3. Being more engaged when I get home. I know my kids and husband have missed me, but all I can think about is taking care of myself.

Although this post is definitely self-centered--waah! help me travel!--what I'm asking for isn't very different than what any runner who travels for an important race needs. Namely, to minimize the disturbances on their diet, sleep, and mentality so they can bring out the best in themselves. So I'm turning to you, readers, for ideas you use or have heard about for making traveling easier. How do you minimize the turbulence, so to speak, when you travel?


31 responses to “Tell Me Tuesday: How to Travel Well

  1. I travel a lot for work – and honestly I try to use my nights in the hotel as my own little retreat. Bring a book or a magazine and zone out without worrying about the kiddo. I’m sure that won’t help you much though – as I’m sure that you’re trips are much more of a whirlwind than mine are. But try to relax a bit and enjoy the adventure.

  2. For the last 15 years I’ve had jobs that involve travel and for me the travel wasn’t bad, it was the re-entry and reconnecting because I would be distracted by the condition of the house (MESSY), the giant pile of mail (really hubby you couldn’t toss the junk mail?), etc. My kids ages are 20,16,14 so it’s not that big of deal NOW but when they were little the condition of the house would exhaust me and ruin the ‘hi I’m home’ moment. My strategy would be that when I got near home I would remind myself that my husband and I chose this lifestyle, I’m lucky to have choices and that my husband has not complained about being left alone with his full time job and three small children (which is TRUE – he didn’t) and finally whatever is on the side of the door can either cleaned or tossed or replaced. Then when I got home I would turn a blind eye to condition of the house for as long as humanly possible. Good Luck!

  3. While I’m on the road, I put together an order of groceries to be delivered the day I get back (or the very next morning). That way, I have all of my favorite foods at home, I don’t have to go out grocery shopping, and my husband doesn’t to try to fit it in to his busy work schedule, either. So worth the delivery charge! (I use Peapod from Stop and Shop – they have an app.)

    P.S. What kind of probiotics do you use? I’m coming off a round of antibiotics and need to get my body back!

  4. As another member of the 6-footer club, I can’t fit into an airplane seat, nor can I sleep in one. So that’s out.

    I just got back home from eight days on the road and spent the first four hours today doing laundry and going to the supermarket (there were tumbleweeds blowing through the fridge; it was that barren).

    I know that I can’t go all-out all day, every day, so now when I go to conferences I skip the lunchtime sessions in favor of quiet time on my own. That could mean retreating to the room, going shopping, eating lunch at another location… just doing something that doesn’t require my brain or my personality to be engaged.

    I try to meet friends whenever possible, run if the weather permits and generally do as many non-work things as I can find time for. And when all other options fail to disengage my brain, there’s always hotel HBO.

  5. I am also a mother who travels frequently. I have a suitcase packed at all times. I have a second set of toiletries, earbuds, sunglasses, umbrella, undies, socks, pjs, etc. that always stay in my suitcase. When it’s time to go, I pack only the outfits I want to wear while gone. When I get home, Everything but dirty laundry stays in the suitcase. With four kids in the house, laundry gets done daily, so that’s easy to get into the cue and then the basics get thrown back into the suitcase for next time.

    I cook on the weekends and try to keep at least one or two casseroles/soups in the freezer for my boyfriend to feed the kids. And they usually like to do a night out when I’m gone.

    I’m also a huge proponate of lists. Everyone’s schedule is kept in our family notebook so we all know what’s happening when, regardless of whether I am in town.

    As for the return, I try to give everyone 10 or 20 minutes and then ask for about a half an hour to get caught up. We always plan a family meeting for that night or day after I get back.

    Hope that helps!

  6. I used to live on the road and was on an airplane every Monday headed to a new city. It is definitely a rough life but I learned quickly to live simply. I stripped down to the essentials and knew that if I ever didn’t have something…I could always buy it in the next city. And then re-entry was always difficult. No matter what I gave myself 2 days to not do anything. No unpacking, no working. Just spending that time with my loved ones that really did miss me after all! 🙂

    1. I think that’s a great idea, Carrie: I’m pretty much going to think of Mondays as a day off after a weekend. My kids are in school, but they’ll appreciate a more rested mom when they get home. 🙂

  7. I travel a lot for work, so I have to somehow make it tolerable. What works for me:
    1. I try to go into the trip well rested (what’s that??). I know my sleep isn’t the same when I’m traveling, so if I go into it with extra sleep in the bank, all the better. I know I’ll be pooped when I get home, so I just try to plan around that.
    2. I stay at the nicest, cleanest, safest hotel my work will pay for and have at times ponied up my own money for better digs – don’t put me in a room by the ice bucket, elevator or stairs, please.
    3. I read some trashy pop culture mag and take a hot bath before bed. Puts me to sleep every time. I’ve never used a sleep aid — they’re just not for me.
    4. I used to try to minimize overnight stays, but didn’t like the hectic, whirlwind feeling of flying in early, rushing to a meeting, having to be “on” right away and then flying home late, so now I try to arrive the day before my meetings – it gives me time to deflate and get some decent food. If I’m hungry or eating crappy food, I’m worthless. If there’s time, I do something for me – I’ve gotten a pedicure, If I have friends there, I meet up with them or I just poke around town. Something outside of my hotel room. And I try to go for a run in the morning.
    5. Coming home – I got nothin’ for you there. My kids are a little bit older and less needy when I walk in the door. If anything I want to be around them and they are off doing their thing….. 🙂

    1. I like the idea of getting into town early, chilling and relaxing, Jo. And yes, celebrity trash=always welcome diversion! I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot when somebody leaves one in a seatback!

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