Traveling With Your Coworkers

Traveling with your boss and coworkers can be surprisingly difficult — the first time I took a flight with my boss I remember wondering how I should dress, whether I should “visit” her during the flight to check in/chat, and more.  Thankfully, Road Warriorette has some great suggestions for how to travel with your coworkers (and you can check out her earlier post on what to pack for business travel). I’m thrilled to have her back! – Kat. (Pictured: Carry-on., originally uploaded to Flickr by _Fidelio_.)

How to Travel With Your Coworkers || CorporetteBusiness travel is something so many of us do all the time, but even after several years’ experience can still be tricky. Add another person to the mix, and things can definitely get interesting. Sometimes traveling with a coworker can make an otherwise monotonous trip fun. On the other hand, it can also make an otherwise productive trip really, really awful. In my years of travel I have experienced both of these scenarios. Below are all issues that I have personally experienced, but unfortunately there are many other potential problems. A few tips for minimizing the things that could go wrong:

  • Be prepared. For most trips, plan on carrying on instead of checking your bag. If it’s a longer trip, check with your traveling companions to see if they are checking, because you don’t want to be the one that everyone is waiting for! Also, know your itinerary and necessary addresses when you arrive. The goal is to be competent and easy to travel with, not high maintenance.
  • Don’t overindulge. Winding down at the end of a long day with a glass (or two, or three…) of wine can be fun. But don’t get sloppy. It is so not impressive to see a coworker throw up in the back of a cab, with the division director looking on. Four years later, we are still talking about that one. It doesn’t look good (understatement), can lead to a multitude of problems and causes the next day to be really painful. Plus you will be more likely to share too much personal information if you drink too much. Which leads us to…..
  • Avoid oversharing. Traveling with someone creates a sense of intimacy. Working together, flying together, and eating meals together can foster a sense of closeness that may not hold up once you’re back in the office. Remember, the person you are traveling with is still a co-worker. Just because you are with them for three days solid doesn’t mean they need to know that you and your spouse are trying to have a baby, or that your husband cheated on you, or that you’re looking for another job.
  • Maintain boundaries. During a trip this year, my coworker got a little drunk and told me long stories about marital troubles, going on in excruciating detail for a while. It was kind of awkward for me, to say the least. When you are the recipient of oversharing, exiting gracefully can be a challenge.  If it seems like things may be getting too personal, try to steer the conversation back to neutral territory, and wrap up as quickly as you can.
  • Get your work done. Just because someone is traveling with you doesn’t mean work obligations go away. You still need to check email, finish documents, and prepare for the next day. Make sure you’re not sacrificing work (or sleep!) for socializing.
  • Avoid romantic entanglements. I would hope this would go without saying, but just in case. Please, please do not get physically or romantically involved with a coworker on a business trip. Especially your boss.

Things can be even dicier when it’s not just a coworker, but your boss that’s your traveling companion. If you are traveling with a superior, you have to be on your best, and most competent, behavior. You want to come across as low maintenance as possible, and this can extend from your suitcase to your clothes to your dinner orders (remember When Harry Met Sally? Don’t be Sally!!). The above tips are even more important in this situation, and here are a few additional tips to look calm, collected, and like you know what you’re doing.

  • Be competent! This touches everything you do, starting with your suitcase. Know the airline’s guidelines so that if you are carrying on, your bag is within the correct size requirements. Also, make sure you can lift it into the overhead bin without throwing out your back or making weird noises. I recommend a simple, solid colored, neutral suitcase. Black is great, but blue, gray, brown, and red should also work. Although I love my bright pink suitcase, I try to channel Elle Woods only on personal trips.
  • Be productive. While on the plane with your superior, working is never a bad thing. If that’s not an option, look at a magazine that you could show your grandparents: Real Simple, In Style, something in that vein. (Not People or Us Weekly, please! Unless you’re sure that your boss shares your obsession with Brangelina.) Another option is to read a book. You don’t have to try to come across as a pseudo-intellectual, but please don’t read anything that looks like a trashy romance or something called “How to Get Your Boss’s Job.” This is a great excuse to finally get a Kindle! No one knows what you’re reading.
  • Know where you’re going. When you arrive, make sure you know where you are going and have a plan for getting there. You don’t necessarily need to do anything above and beyond what you would do when traveling alone. Just make sure, for example, you know the address of the office, what car rental company you are using, and the general location of your hotel. Long ago, I was traveling with a coworker and I couldn’t remember the name of my hotel, I just knew it was some kind of Marriott. I had to call all over the city to find my reservation (because I didn’t have access to my Rewards number or my confirmation code), and then it turned out my hotel was literally on the airport property. Way to look competent!!
  • Look professional. During any downtime that you spend with your boss, wear something comfortable but cute and well put together. It’s pretty unlikely you’ll have to wear a suit to dinner (unless of course you’re going straight from the office), so maybe a pair of slacks or dark jeans, a nice top, and cute shoes. Don’t wear anything that would make someone think you are going to a bar: nothing revealing, no too-tall shoes, etc.

The goal is to exude confidence and competence at all times. I know it doesn’t seem fair that someone could be judging you during “off” times, but that won’t stop them from subconsciously doing it. If a behavior could even remotely be considered questionable, don’t do it. But this is a time that you can show how skilled you are in areas your boss doesn’t usually get to see–so take advantage!

Readers, any tips to add? What are your crazy coworker travel stories?

(L-0)

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Comments

  1. Heh. If I have time later today, I’ll repost the story of traveling with my boss to New Jersey. I unfortunately had to sit with him on the train both ways. He made sure of that. And he was a complete boor the entire trip.

  2. Is it ok to sleep on the plane next to your manager or some VP?
    Once I hit the plane, I typically sleep until drinks or food comes around…

    • I am going to say it’s fine as long as you don’t drool or lean into him/her. I have to take anti-anxiety meds in order to fly. However, I do mention to my coworker that I am taking them and that I will probably doze off (so that they won’t be offended).

      • TMI Oops…I might had drooled into the collar of my shirt. Yay for having extra changes in the carry on to freshen up!

      • I take anti-anxiety meds to travel too. So far I have only traveled by air for fun and not business. When I land I’m usually a little tired but can still think pretty clearly. Do you ever have trouble moving straight into work mode after landing? I find if I am still anxious after landing (which I would be traveling with coworkers) I will be fine on the med but if I get into a totally comfortable situation right away (dad picks me up from the airport) I’m out like a light.

    • I think it depends on what kind of sleeper you are. If you move about, drool, snore, etc, I would try to stay awake.

      I’m also totally jealous of people who can sleep on the plane. It seems so blissful not to have to deal with 10 hours of mind-numbing boredom.

    • Yes, get a neck pillow to blow up. They are the best to travel with and support your neck.

  3. Threadjack: The gorgeous pink Tory Burch faux wrap dress that was featured a while back is on sale: http://tinyurl.com/5vk3mjb

    All sizes but medium.

  4. Am I the only one hoping Ellen travels with the MANAGEING PARTNER?

  5. Do people really only bring a carry on? My job requires international travel, with most of my trips being 2 weeks or longer, and I have never managed to pack in a carry on. Even for just a short trip, I need a bazillion hair and skincare products to avoid looking like a hot mess. I don’t think I’m particularly high maintenance, but since the onset of the 3 oz. rule, I’m amazed when I read that other women professionals are only bringing a carry on.

    • At my office, checking is standard for any trip of about five days or longer. Two weeks would be a no-brainer.

      • Yeah, at my office too. I’m not really planning to change my habit of checking a bag, just wondering if I’m normal.

    • I would try to only bring a carry on. It may sound unfair, but if everyone brings a carry on and gets stuck waiting for your luggage, it will be an inconvenience and may lead to some judgment (fair or not).

      You can bring all of your products in travel size containers. I think if you’re travelling on a 2+ week trip, it may be a different situation, assuming you are bringing business clothes, etc. But, even then, I would ask the people I was traveling with (assuming it’s appropriate) if they planned on checking a bag. Again, if they said no, I would do everything within my power to make all my stuff fit in my carry on.

      • I don’t know, the business clothes thing seems impossible to me – I can (and do) take a carry-on for two weeks of casual traveling, figuring I’ll wear the same thing over and over and nobody will care if I get a bit grotty. But I can’t imagine looking professional for two weeks out of a carry-on.

        • Okay, I revise – I guess if it was somewhere where I could easily send out laundry and people didn’t mind me repeating outfits a lot, it would work.

      • I just find it so obnoxious when people are trying to stuff enormous carry-ons into the overhead bin and sneaking on a third (or fourth) bag. Half the time they end up having to gate-check anyway. Plus, lugging a suitcase or duffel around for 12+ hours is a literal pain.

        I rarely travel with coworkers, but everyone else at my office seems to check a bag when they travel too. Since checking is free on international flights, why bother with the carry on?

        Also, even if you put things in travel size containers (which inevitably ends up wasting product), you’re limited to the number of containers that you can fit in a quart Ziploc. So that doesn’t help much.

        • I fly a lot and I have never been limited to one ziploc bag. I also put most stuff into small jars that go into a makeup bag. No one has ever taken issue with that.

          If the people you travel with also check bags, then obviously do what you prefer. But I have also travelled with people who all packed a carry on, and waiting for that one person who checked her bag can be annoying. I think asking ahead of time can let you know if this will even be an issue.

          • Maybe you’ve gotten away with it, but the law is pretty clear that you only get one ziploc filled with maximum 3-oz containers. You’ve probably just been lucky with the TSA not really paying attention. I definitely would not want to be “that girl” who has to throw away all her beauty products or mail them to herself at the airport – far worse than delaying everyone 3 minutes because you check a bag.

          • I guess I would agree that you shouldn’t risk it. But in that case, I don’t think it would be a problem for me to limit myself to a quart-size bag. I get the smallest containers possible (I repurpose the clear plastic sample jars from fancy makeup counters [chanel has the best ones]) and only bring essentials. Extras in my purse such as hand cream, if called upon, I can toss without too much regret (and again, I fly a lot, very regularly, and this has not never happened to me either in the US or abroad).

            And, no one cares about the 3 minutes it takes to check a bag, it’s the picking it up that causes delays (15-20 min., best case scenario). Not to mention that I would hate to be “that girl” whose clothing and necessities for the entire trip get lost or misplaced by the airline.

            Anyway, my only point, the reasons for which are explained much better by AD below, is that it’s good to know who you are flying with and to plan accordingly.

          • Ugh. “Never happened,” not “not never happened” …
            My inner grammar girl is horrified.

        • I put everything in a quart sized ziploc no problem, for up to a week.

          I am willing to use the hotel’s shampoo and lotion, but I take all kinds of stuff – toothpaste, foundation, retin-a, moisturizer, liquid antibiotic ointment, aquaphor, serum, mascara, concealer, etc. I collect those gift with purchase samples and save them for travel. I also decant my key items into the smallest containers I can find. (I like the little contact lens size containers Sephora will give you a sample in.)

          I keep my ziploc packed and at the ready, always. In fact, it’s such a habit at this point, I use it for car trips too.

          • During all of my first business trips at my current job, my trips would coincide with board members regular trips to assess performance in other countries. They all had carry-on only, and they were generally kind enough to sneak me into the VIP lounge. To me it became second nature to always carry on (unless it is a transatlantic flight to the US where I plan to buy a year’s worth of clothing).
            There are no stores around to give sample jars so I have bought tiny jars from target and I put everything I need in them (sunscreen, pills, makeup remover etc.) everything fits in one ziploc bag. When I get to the travel location, I buy a bottle of Mouthwash and different teas.
            For clothing, I have a standard capsule wardrobe:
            - 3 to 4 shells I got from Ann Taylor, they take no place and can be worn with formal bottoms or jeans
            - 2 skirts, + hosiery
            - 2 dresses,
            - dark wash denim
            - 3 cardigans (colors to match my shells, my dresses and jeans)
            - workout clothes (very thin fast dry fabric from under armour)
            - microfiber underwear (very fast drying)
            - a pair of flats and a pair of pumps
            All this fits in the carry-on (some of the garments I will be wearing during travel).
            I guess it also helps, that I do not have to wear suits all the time.

      • My old company used to let us ship clothes, presentation materials, etc… via Fedex/UPS over to our destination overseas offices when we were traveling for over a week (and the same on return). This was a huge benefit (especially if you have heavy paper materials that you need to bring). It also made check-in a lot more pleasant.

      • I agree with AIMS. You may not like it, but if you’re traveling with coworkers, they will not want to wait around at the baggage carousel with you. Two weeks overseas – understandable you’d want to check luggage. But for your standard domestic three-day trip, no. I’m not waiting at the carousel for you. And what happens when the airline loses your bag?

      • Your luggage should be appropriate for how long you’re traveling. For longer than a week, sure, check a bag. For a two day trip, checking a huge bag will make you seem high- maintainence. I also agree that your luggage will probably be seen by your clients/coworkers if you have afternoon meetings. When I was a young college graduate, I went on a trip with my college duffel, and I did NOT feel professional. However, I love my cherry blossom pink rollerboard! http://hideowakamatsu.com/Hideo-Wakamatsu-Koura-TSA-19-CarryOn/M/B003VIOWQG.htm

        If you’re traveling international, buy a converter for your phone/computer before you leave. Sounds simple, but will save hassle.

        Traveling with coworkers allows you to see them for more casual, more extended time. I wanted to transfer to another department, and went on a business trip with the head of the other department. We were stuck in Chicago on a long delay, and I talked him into giving me the job.

        It’s also important to preserve “me” and down time and not feel joined at the hip. There’s nothing wrong with saying “I need to catch up on my emails” and avoid a group dinner if you need to recharge.

    • If you are the only person traveling with a boss/superior type, find out at the hotel desk if they have a house physician or what they do in case of medical emergencies. If the hotel doesn’t have a plan in place, get the phone number of someone in the local office/vendor/client. I was traveling with my boss and one night (in the middle of the night) he ran a 105+ degree fever with lots of other problems and I was FREAKING OUT. Thank god the hotel had a relationship with the nearest hospital. My boss was airlifted out of the country the next day.

      • yikes, this was supposed to be a stand alone reply. Sorry.

        • Umm, I hope you’d have the same human concern for someone at or below your level, not just for superiors.
          I recall a senior professor realizing that my son, who had traveled to a conference with me, was ill, and offering to make any middle-of-the-night pharmacy runs necessary, or help me out however I needed. I had set the babysitter’s hours in the ad I placed a few weeks before the conference, so couldn’t very well ask her to change. Fortunately, I had meds for him along, his fever came down, and I didn’t have to ask her to do anything.
          Besides kiddos and bosses, ANYone with a high fever needs help–why not get the karma points?

    • I travel a fair amount for work (domestic and international) and do try to go carry on when possible – probably up to about a week to ten days, depending on circumstances. My coworkers are predominantly men and it’s an unfortunately fact of life that they don’t need the number of hair products that I do, so I learned pretty quickly to develop some efficient packing strategies so as to not be the one that everyone is waiting for. (And yes, fair or not, everyone knows who that’s going to be, and yes, they are silently judging. I had a female colleague come to me for advice after our department head told her that I was a “competent traveler” with the unspoken implication that she was not.)

      For similar reasons, I probably wouldn’t be the one carrying a pink piece of luggage either…though for the record I do wear peep-toe shoes, so to each her own.

  6. On another note, how do deal when travelling with your spouse’s coworkers and spouses? I travel a fair bit when my husband goes on business with his boss and bosses wife. I find it really awkward because they are a lot older than us and we have nothing in common with them except for the face that they work together. I always dread the evening meals.

    • Houndstooth :

      My husband and I end up doing the exact same thing with his boss and his wife. We always have a blast and look forward to the next trip we are able to take with them. I would imagine that this just depends on what kind of people the boss and his wife are and if they are fun to be around, etc.

    • How ’bout checking out activities where ever you’re going to be ahead of time. You could give them the info on what you’re seeing in the theater or what hotspot you’re going to ahead of time, under the guise of them making reservations, but it doesn’t sound like they’d take you up on it.

  7. Apologies in advance for the early threadjack!

    We just found out that our FAVORITE (all time, hands down) daycare provider at our daughter’s center is moving 2 hrs away for personal reasons (breakup). This woman is totally amazing and I’m not afraid to admit that when I got the news of her pending departure via email, I cried.

    She’s transferring to another center, owned by the same company, in her new town. I already sent an email extolling her virtues to our center’s higher-ups, which they forwarded to her new bosses.

    My question is: what’s an appropriate going-away gift in a situation like this? I’d send her off with the sun, moon and stars if possible! On one hand, I want to do something sentimental — but on the other, I’m thinking a nice hefty giftcard is always good too.

    I’d appreciate your thoughts, Corporettes. FWIW, I would not be surprised is we stayed in touch with this woman for a long time.

    • Giftcard! It will be sentimental if it’s hefty. :)

      • Giftcard, together with a photo of your daughter and her daycare provider in a frame. And, most importantly, a nice note about how much you and your daughter have loved this woman and how you hope to stay in touch., together with your personal contact information.

        • Thanks, ladies. As always, y’all give great advice! I’ll do both — big giftcard and framed pic of my kiddo…plus ridiculously heartfelt letter and a plea to keep in touch!

          • I actually think a framed drawing done by your kid for her might be nicer than a picture of your kid – it’s more personal and likely to mean more to her since it was made just for her. She probably gets a lot of pictures of kids.

    • Sweetknee :

      Whynot do both ? I would write her a lovely letter, and enclose a cute picture of your little one as well as a hefty gift card to a practical place, like Target. IN my experience, day care workers don’t make a lot of money, and those practical gift cards are always welcome. You could also take a cute pic of her with your little one and put it in a cute frame if you want something to wrap up.

      Just my .02

      • AttiredAttorney :

        As a former childcare provider during undergrad summers and breaks, definitely make the gift card to someplace practical. I once received a $100 Williams Sonoma gift card as a Christmas gift from a family. Incredibly generous, but sat unused for over a year, because my lifestyle just did not include wants from WS!

    • I’ve thought the same thing on several occasions, was right on one, bruised on the others. If you’re going all-out for her, I hope you’re a better judge of sincerity than I!

  8. Diana Barry :

    Thank goodness I don’t have to travel for work. I go to events by myself, in my car, and sing loudly. The best is when I get to travel with my husband to meetings (we have one client in common)! :)

  9. found a peanut :

    “Black is great, but blue, gray, brown, and red should also work. Although I love my bright pink suitcase, I try to channel Elle Woods only on personal trips.”

    I kind of hate this advice. You have more important things to think about than the color of your suitcase. Do you really think your boss is thinking, Well I thought _____ was a very competent and intelligent employee until I saw her suitcase? If it’s pink, it’s pink. Big deal.

    • Completely agree. And I have the same sentiment about the reading materials – no one who is competent enough to be selected to go on business trips ever got dinged solely for reading People.

      • Agreed. If I was traveling with a colleague who always whipped out the latest issue of Very Important Corporate Magazine or Non-Controversial Cooking/Style Magazine while traveling, I’d silently feel a bit sorry for them that they felt such a need to appear 100% professional, 100% of the time.

        While playing Angry Birds on my iPad.

      • I’ve actually always found Entertainment Weekly to be a great ice-breaker with co-workers on flights. Everyone has an opinion on something in each issue.

    • While I really like the overall article, this rubbed me the wrong way, too. I honestly don’t think anyone I work with would care if I had a pink suitcase or not … Although, this is coming from someone who has a pink patent work bag that I carry all summer.

      • elle woods :

        i have the lesportsac by stella mccartney carry on rolling suit case in the baby pink with stars pattern–it sounds childish but, really its gorgeous – google it i am sure images will come up. on my first business trip to a training section for first year associates (i took the train down with a few male fellow first years) a washington dc cab driver asked (snarkily) if i thought my pink suitcase was professional, after one of the male associates asked him to put my suitcase in the trunk for me (it was pouring rain and the cab driver tried to help the guys with their luggage and not me). i’ve used it several times since, everyone seems to love it except for that cab driver. ugh.

      • Yeah I agree. I’ve had enough lost luggage over the years that I refuse to use a suitcase that is the same color as everyone else’s. If my rust-colored suitcase gets lost, it is always easy for someone to spot it and return it to me. A black carry-on, not so much? I also have an indigo carry-on that always gets lots of compliments and is also easy to find.

    • I have an awesome Swiss Army orange roller suitcase. It’s not too bright, more muted. But it rocks and I can always find it.

    • work-in-progress :

      I don’t think my boss questions my competency, but he gave me a really hard time when I brought a same-idea-as-a-pink-suitcase piece of luggage on a business trip. I have yet to live it down.

      • Usually Lurks :

        Hassling you about the color of your luggage sounds unprofessional to me. He’s the one with the problem.

        • AnonInfinity :

          When she said “live it down,” I think she means that the boss is joking with her about it. It’s okay to joke from time to time about things like the color of one’s luggage!

    • When I am on trips, the luggage seems to accumulate in the meeting room on the last day of meetings. I would hate to stand out in the sea of black. Maybe this advice is more important for younger women who are earlier in their careers. I think someone who is more established has less need to be taken seriously and therefore might be able to get away with more in the way of luggage (in addition to everything else). Just a guess here, because I feel the same as RoadWarriorette!

      • AnonInfinity :

        I’m so with you. As a the youngest “baby shark” in my office, I’m always conscious not to do anything that is going to give anyone a reason to label me as juvenile or unprofessional. That includes carrying a boring-colored suitcase and doing work on the plane instead of reading Harry Potter.

        • Amelia Bedelia :

          this this this

        • Same here.. I go out of my way to look like the most competent business traveler.. so far it works. I cannot see myself standing out as the one with the purple or giant suitcase. I have a purple Samsonite carry-on which was featured in this blog. Now looking for a purplish smaller carry-on for my 3-day trips which I see are becoming more frequent.

      • See, I would love to stand out in the sea of black. I think it’s just a personality thing. But yes, my position is way above sea level.

      • SF Bay Associate :

        Agreed. Everyone’s luggage ends up in the depo room on the last day before we all fly home. The first time that happened, I was so, so glad I didn’t go for the bright pink luggage that I originally had my eye on before I went for practical black (with hot pink luggage tags). I already look young and inexperienced enough without having Business Travel Barbie luggage. The hot pink tags sure made it easy to find mine though.

        If you are a senior partner, you can of course do what you darn well please, whether it’s hot pink luggage, or St. Johns and open toed sandals instead of a suit at the multimillion dollar depo. I am not that senior yet.

        As for carry on versus checking, I will simply say that Up in the Air is true. Don’t be Anna Kendrick’s character. Your bosses will not appreciate having to wait for you to retrieve your luggage from the carousel for a less than 1 week trip. Those associates don’t get asked to go on the next biz trip with the senior partner.

    • Houndstooth :

      I disagree. I think the advice is sound. Perhaps it differs based on the field that you’re in and who you’re traveling with, but I would absolutely err on the side of caution and carry a more professional suitcase for professional travel.

      This is taking it way beyond the realm of pink vs. black suitcase, but consider if your employee/coworker/boss showed up with a Hello Kitty suitcase or something equally as juvenile. I think the idea in the post was to keep it classic and professional for work trips and to let your “fun” luggage be reserved for personal travel.

      • OK, one of my co-workers has a hello kitty lanyard for her badge, with plastic charms! I find it bizarre!

      • North Shore :

        Thank goodness I’m old enough to rock my collection of amusing luggage tags for business travel, including, yes, a Hello Kitty luggage tag. Business travel sucks and I’m on the road way too much; gotta have some fun where I can.

        I am bummed about my suitcase options these days, though. I busted the wheels on yet another piece of luggage. My first replacement turned out to be slightly too large for carry-on, and my second replacement is the perfect size but it only came in this really ugly green or even worse orange. So, green it is. It’ll be filthy and busted soon, just like all the rest, anyway.

    • I don’t think I would carry a pink anything, but I have an orange tote/laptop bag that I love. I think you can be colorful but not juvenile and yes, there is a difference.

      In terms of carrying something unique, my rolling suitcase is Hartmann tweed. I never get it confused with anyone else’s black roller bag. I’ve had it since 1997 or so, and travel all the time, so it was definitely worth the investment.

      • Well said. There is a difference between a suitcase that’s distinct (burnt orange, e.g.) and one that is so unusual as to stick in someone’s mind (pink leopard, e.g.). I doubt anyone would talk about the former back in the office, but there is a chance someone would mention the latter. Why invite that? Again, this is with all the obvious caveats that you should know your company, your travel companions, your position, etc.

      • I don’t love that most people seem to agree pink luggage is not okay while other bright colors are okay, when the only difference between pink and any other bright color is that pink is typically associated with females. I can totally see why people think this is the case, and I’m not sure I disagree, I just think it’s a sad statement about the perception of women/femininity.

    • Anonymous :

      The advice and the reasons for it are there. It is good advice but to each their own.

    • MeliaraofTlanth :

      If anyone gives you a hard time about a brightly colored suitcase, just tell them you bought it so it’s easy to spot when luggage comes out at the bag check, and easy to describe if it gets lost.

  10. MissJackson :

    My firm’s travel office will always attempt to seat a partner and an associate traveling on the same flight in different rows. This allows the associate to read Entertainment Weekly or play Angry Birds or sleep or work on another case or whatever in peace without all of the “is the partner judging me for my reading preferences” nonsense (and presumably gives the partners some personal space, too). I’d like to shake the hand of whoever came up with this policy.

    My worst travel experience involved a partner telling me that I had to carry on a huge rolling document box for a multiple day deposition across the country. This partner is super paranoid about documents not arriving via fedex (even when they are shipped way ahead of time), so I had to have one copy of each exhibit in my bag as a “backup”. Plus, he specifically told me that he would not be checking a bag, so the assumption was that I would not check a bag, either. The jammed-packed rolling document box had to be my “large carry-on” while I was left trying to fit professional clothes for Friday through Sunday in my “personal item”. It was the most efficient packing I’ve ever done, and I was really proud… until we got stuck there for an extra day. Never again.

    • Wow, psycho boss.

      • heatheresq :

        I have to disagree. Most associates are tasked with carrying an extra set of documents to court/deposition/whatever. Better to do that than be surprised when the docs aren’t at the final destination. The partner is wise for instilling this best practice in his associates. Sucks that OP couldn’t accomodate the rest of her stuff though :(

        • MissJackson :

          I’m ordinarily all for being over prepared. But we were arriving the afternoon before the deposition, and have the technology necessary to access the documents electronically to make more copies if the need had arisen. Not ideal, perhaps, but neither is needing to make copies of the 1 set of docs that I had in my bag.

          Anyway, if I’m ever in charge, I’m going to have someone pdf the docs and stick them on a thumb drive in case of “emergency”. I’m pretty sure you can find a printer just as easily as you can find a copy machine.

          But I’m not in charge, so I’ll just keep lugging the documents for now! At least I have a rolling document box — I know that some associates lug massive amounts of paper in a shoulder bag under similar circumstances! Ouch.

        • Fine to ask an associate to carry extra set of paper. Not fine not allowing her to check a bag.

    • I hate this. I always try to pack the documents in my actual suitcase. I can usually fit a 3″ binder (and more) plus my clothes.

    • karenpadi :

      My boss had me pack 15 2-inch binders and other presentation materials for a week-long trip. They literally wouldn’t fit into a carry-on and I got an eye-roll/sigh at the airport. I don’t think he realized how bulky the materials were until, to prep for our meeting at the hotel, I brought the suitcase and he saw that it was packed with the materials.

      He very graciously decided that next time, we’d ship the materials ahead.

    • 3-4 days worth of stuff, especially weekends when you could presumably go more casual, doesn’t sound that hard to fit into a daypack/backpack.

      But then, I recently drove across the state and slipped my clothes into my messenger bag with my laptop (except for my jacket, which I wore)

    • I feel your pain. I flew on Southwest once with a partner who had priority boarding in the first 10-15 people on the plane but left me with the dolly and his bankers’ box of depo docs despite the fact that I (a) was boarding later than him when overhead space would be scarce and (b) had my own purse and redweld of docs to handle as well. Oh, and did I mention that the dolly — the standard issue one that everyone at my firm seemed to have — was too wide to roll down the airplane aisle? So I had to struggle down the aisle of a crowded plane lugging: folded up dolly; bankers’ box of depo documents; additional redweld; and purse. It might have been a scene out of the lawyers’ version of The Devil Wears Prada.

  11. So glad my co-workers and bosses a) don’t mind what I read on the plane b) would not freak out at having to wait for check-in luggage c) are quite happy to chill out with a glass of wine or four for a gossip and a giggle when travelling. Life’s too short to always have to be completely on your guard.

  12. Threadjack:

    As some of you know, I am trying to move back from my small firm in a small city to BigLaw or possibly in-house in a larger city. Have only been looking for about a month and a half now, and have a few things in the mix.

    Just got an update e-mail from the principal headhunter I am working with to say that most of the BigLaw firms have decided not to pursue at this time because (a) I am too senior for their needs, and (b) the nasty state of the economy. I feel super demoralized and like I have been sentenced to life imprisonment in SmallLaw. I know this isn’t actually true, and I really haven’t been looking that long, and I am lucky to have a job, full stop. But – I should never have moved to SmallLaw in the first place. It was *so* the wrong move for me and now I feel totally paralyzed.

    Sorry for being grumpy and venting. Having a bad week, and it is only Tuesday.

    • heatheresq :

      Can you move to mid-law in a large city? Are you willing to lose a year or two for a big-law job? Also, are those the only 2 dings against you? There are quite a few large NYC firms that are openly advertising uppermid to senior (5-7 year) positions. Not even going through laterals. Can you do some direct contact work?

    • heatheresq :

      Ugh my comment didn’t post and now I have to retype.

      In sum,

      1) would big-law be your only consideration or could you do mid-law in a larger city?

      2) are you sure those are the only two dings against you?

      3) several NYC big-law shops are openly advertising (without recruiters) positions for upper-mid to senior associates. are you willing to do independent work?

      4) are you willing to lose a couple of years of seniority and take a paycut to make the transition to big-law?

    • Thanks, Heatheresq. Unfortunately I am wanting to move to a particular city (where I used to live, where I started my career, where most of my friends are and where my BF lives). Unfortunately that city is not NYC or LA or any other city where the offices are so large that one extra senior associate is a no-brainer. It just seems that the firms are being really conservative in their hiring right now. I am fairly certain there are no other “dings” against me as my resume is stellar and this little SmallLaw episode is the only glitch on it. I already took a large pay cut when I went from BigLaw to SmallLaw and that is not the issue – and I would be very surprised if my salary did not go back up once I do find another BigLaw job. It just really sucks right now and I am not sure how to speed things along.

  13. One comment re: “no one knows what you’re reading” on your Kindle or other e-reader…. if you’re sitting next to someone who has either never seen one, or just wants to make conversation, chances are they will start asking you questions and want to see the device in action, and you will feel beholden to demonstrate the features, while trying desperately to get it OFF of the page with a particularly graphic shall we say “bodice-ripping” scene in an Amazon freebie trashy romance that has an equally trashy title…

    • Houndstooth :

      Hilarious. :)

    • karenpadi :

      eh, romance novels are a top-selling genre. It’s not like they are uncommon. If a seatmate is taken aback, maybe he/she shouldn’t be so nosy.

      If I’m being asked about my kindle, I usually do confess, with a smile, that I’m reading a romance novel. So they’ve been warned that a bodice-ripping scene may come up.

      But then, I’m not embarrassed to read a romance novel in public.

      • Seems easy enough to handle. Close what you’re reading while asking in a friendly way what sort of thing they like to read. Search for their request, scan for freebies or sample pages. Let them play. Take it back and go back to your thing.

  14. I had a boss that was super inappropriate when we traveled. He would insinuate that he would want to date me if he weren’t married and just otherwise be creepy. Lots of fun.

    I think it’s important to have appropriate luggage for a business trip, but by appropriate, I just mean that it shouldn’t be in terrible shape and shouldn’t be too loud (leopard print) or immature (Hello Kitty).

    As for checking v. carryon, I think checking a bag is totally fine if it’s longer than four days. But it’s good to check with your colleagues to see what they’re doing. And if you do check a bag, make sure you pack one professional outfit in your carry on in case they lose your luggage.

    As for what you read on the plane, I think that as long as it’s something you’re not embarrassed to be seen reading, then it’s fine. So I wouldn’t read “He’s Just Not That Into You” but Us Weekly is fine. Whatever.

    • Anonymous :

      Those hard-sided things just don’t seem to hold up well. I’ve seen many smashed-up ones rolling through the airport.

      FWIW I do Sudokus on the plane and lounge when management is around, unless they know about my weird quirks (motorcycle magazines for one) and find them amusing.

  15. Anne Shirley :

    I’m not saying I disagree with this advice, but I do think the intersection of this with the NGDGTCO advice to take up space is interesting. I guess I’d add- you aren’t the travel agent! Don’t spend too much time smoothing life out for your coworkers- so if the boss gets sick, he can call room service. And if no one remembers the hotel name someone else can call their secretary. And file your expense reports.

    Not that anyone wants to be known for being high maintenance, but when I read travel advice that isn’t targeted at women, the prime concern is maximizing your own comfort and productivity.

    • elle woods :

      i think this advice is targeted for newbies and junior folks who are travelling with their superiors (perhaps for the first time).

      • Knowing your hotel and other basic competence were the focus of the OP. If the others forget and you know it, you don’t look genius, but their embarrassment will give you some latitude.

  16. Great post! People need to remember that business trips are just that… business. Not vacation! Keeping things friendly but professional is the best way to go. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Don't overthink it :

    As a junior, traveling was one of my best opportunities to get to know senior co-workers better. All the common sense rules stated here apply, but don’t overthink it — if a senior person is talking about work at dinner or at the airport and willing to gossip a bit, let them do it and just listen as you may get some valuable info. If you’re normally a reserved person, this is your time to talk in an informal setting; you can always talk about what’s going on on your other projects, how your experience has been at the firm so far etc. under the guise of ‘when I get back, I need to take care of x, y, and z for my other project.’ You can ask them work and professional questions. All of this makes people feel like they know you better and sets the groundwork for mentoring type relationships that are harder to develop when you only see a person in formal meetings. Obviously there will be personal conversation but as long as you use commons sense and don’t over-share, traveling is a nice way to develop a bond. In those inevitable times where something is going on and you need an opinion from someone senior, I always found that the people I was most comfortable calling were those who had traveled with me even for a few days bc they had a true sense of how I am outside the office, how I react to things etc.

  18. My likely-obvious-to-others advice would be that as you approach the hotel check-in, be sure to place plenty of physical distance between you and your co-worker (artificially, if need be). Last year, I was the very junior female associate traveling with the very senior male manager, and we were asked by the hotel front desk whether we were checking in for “one room or two?”. Although I answered “two” as the front desk person was finishing asking the question, I could not help but feel completely mortified and turn an unprofessional shade of fuscia.

    • AnonInfinity :

      Mortifying for you at the time, but makes for a funny story later.

    • I was thinking that it would be terrible if a friend saw you checking in with some man and made the incorrect assumption that you were cheating on a SO.

      • Ha. This happened to me with an old professor I worked for — I ran into an old friend while on my way to his apartment for an end of semester party. She thought we were having an affair. We don’t see each other too often anymore, and I think she forgot my explanation, so last time we met up she ended up brining up “that professor” I was “having a fling with in law school.” Needless to say, it was very funny … esp. for our other friends.

    • LOL, I sometimes try to throw out some legal terms loud enough for the desk clerk to hear while we are waiting to check in, “I confirmed the court reporter for the deposition tomorrow, I have all the exhibits for the first witness, etc.” just for that same reason.

    • karenpadi :

      In my first year of practice, the partner I was traveling with told me to tell the hotel that they should charge my room to his room/credit card (I think he was trying to rack up frequent flyer miles).

      Never again. The look the receptionist gave me was not good.

  19. karenpadi :

    I would also add that if your employer does not issue corporate cards, be sure your credit card is accepted at your destination. For example, Visa is not widely accepted in Eastern Europe.

    Also, be sure you have an adequate credit line. If you are traveling often, I’d advise getting a $10k (or more) credit limit.

  20. Lesson learned: I never check a bag on a flight to a destination. The only time I would do this is if I were going for 1+ weeks and was going to be at or near the destination airport for a few days so that my suitcase could catch up with me if lost.

    Reason: The last four flights where I checked luggage, it was lost three times. I got tired of waiting and re-wearing all my clothes. (Note that two of these trips were on DELTA, to which one of my travel-savvy friends said ” DELTA is an acronym for “Don’t Expect Luggage To Arrive”. ) These were all flights with connections, so that explains but doesn’t excuse the delay.

    If I have to check luggage, I make darn sure that I have all my toilettries, chargers, papers and a change of clothing in my carry-on. I do sometimes check on the way home because it is less of a problem if a suitcase goes missing.

    In addition, I’ve had gate agents randomly pull my regulation-sized suitcase and others aside and say that they are “oversized” to reduce crowding on over-full flights. So I follow the above advice re: carry-on contents and make sure that my carry-on is not over-stuffed.

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