12 Most Common Stereotypes About Frequent Business Travel
I’m pretty fortunate that my business travel experiences have been mostly positive. However, after many years of travelling to various locations, I can tell you with certainty that EVENTUALLY you’re going to end up staying at some dive hotel, and eating at the worst greasy spoon diner in the Midwest. It’s as inevitable as the tides.
That being said, while traveling on business is definitely not torture, those people who do not travel as part of their jobs always seem to assume that it’s a wonderful vacation, full of magnificent sights and culinary experiences to delight the senses. Often, this can be pretty far from the truth. Here I’ve gathered what I believe to be the 12 most common assumptions people seem to make about frequent business travelers. Perhaps you can relate to a few of these:
1. Must be nice to see new places all the time!
Most people who travel frequently on business don’t get to see ‘new places’ all the time. In fact, the vast majority of frequent business travel is to the same handful of places. For example, Vegas is typically always one of them since that’s where pretty much every trade show happens these days, and also Chicago since nearly every US flight gets routed through there. Other than that, you’re always flying to the same spot. Depending on where that spot is, you could fall anywhere on a sliding scale of ‘fun places’. In addition, anyone who’s been to Vegas on business rather than vacation can tell you about the 3-day rule – once you’ve been there for three consecutive nights, you’re MORE than ready to go home.
2. Must be nice to eat at fancy restaurants all the time!
“Fancy”? Occasionally, sure. But you’d better believe that the average company isn’t paying for $100 steak dinners every night you’re gone. Many times there are daily allowances for meals, which severely limits your choice of restaurants. Even without a set limit, you’re always mindful of the fact that your expense report will come under scrutiny. Add to that the fact that you simply don’t always WANT a steak, and sometimes you’ll find yourself slowly pecking away at a veggie sub because you just can’t handle the sight of another 40oz prime rib. Lastly, depending on where you are in the world, the concept of ‘fine dining’ varies greatly. In once place you’re having white-glove service, in another you’re lucky if they use cloth napkins and metal utensils.
3. Must be nice to stay at fancy hotels all the time!
Again, “fancy”? It’s all about perspective, isn’t it? Sometimes the fanciest place in the area is the no-tell motel with the flickering neon sign, straight out of a horror movie. Other times, you’ll find yourself face to face with 10 variations of the Four Seasons. And, similar to the meal situation, this can fall victim to the allowance put forth by your company. If you’ve ever been to Vegas or New York, you’ve probably got some idea of the kind of place you can get for $100 per night. Location is everything, and money talks. If you’re on a budget or allowance, you’re often forced to choose between a nice place to sleep and a nice place to eat.
4. Must be nice to meet new people all the time!
Remember Stereotype #1? Yeah, that applies to people, too. For the most part, the people we all deal with every day are pretty cool, don’t get me wrong. It’s simply that ‘new’ people aren’t who you spend most of your time with while traveling on business. The vast majority of people you’ll interact with on a business trip will consist of the same people you’ve seen dozens of times before. Depending on your perspective, this can be a pleasant experience, or an agonizing ordeal. Assuming you follow the sensible advice to not bring up politics or religion at a business dinner, you’ll still eventually find yourself awkwardly shifting in your seat as your companion for the evening rants about whoever is currently ruining their country.
5. Must be nice to have time to yourself every evening!
We don’t. The vast majority of the time business travelers have obligations to be out for meetings or business dinners with co-workers or clients. Because a business trip always consists of a finite amount of time, most companies try to make the most of the time that you will be wherever you are. This means that meetings past 6pm are commonplace, and often business continues well in to the evening, after dessert has been served and your hotel bed beckons. Even when you do get some time in the evening to be alone, most of that time is spent either ironing your clothes for the next day or preparing notes for upcoming meetings.
6. Must be nice to check out the wonderful sights in those cities!
Refer to Stereotype #5 – Time is in finite supply, and most companies don’t pay for you to play tourist. Add in the fact that tourist sights don’t always operate 24-7, and the odds that you’ll have enough time to check something out before they close are slim. Also, where does the cost of admission come from, and whom are you going to go with? If you’re visiting Orlando, a ticket to Disney World or Universal Studios doesn’t come cheap. And are you going to go by yourself? Fun times. Suffice to say, the ‘wonderful sights’ aren’t always so wonderful if you’re flying solo.
7. Must be nice to learn all the fast ways to get around the airport!
Airports aren’t amusement parks. They are an obstacle course full of unpleasant experiences that business travelers must battle through just to do their jobs. Customs, security, taxis and shuttles, lineups, delays, delays, delays. There’s a limit to the efficiency with which an individual can navigate an airport. You hit that level of efficiency after a handful of flights, and then you resign yourself to the fact that you’re not going anywhere any faster no matter how hard you try. We’re more efficient on average than a family of 8 traveling with 50 pieces of luggage, but we still end up behind them in line at the ticket counter.
8. Must be nice to earn all those air miles!
If your company allows you to pay with your own credit card, and choose the airline, and choose the time you fly, and choose the car rental place that gives miles, and choose the hotel that gives miles, then consider yourself very, very lucky. Most companies give you a certain amount of flexibility in making travel arrangements so that you’re not constantly flying on the redeye, but you don’t get free reign. If you can get a competing flight for $300 less, then you can forget about those air miles, because that $300 comes right out of the company budget.
9. Must be nice to drive nice rental cars all the time!
Rental cars aren’t cheap. Want to know what they consider to be a good example of a ‘midsize’? Chevy Cobalt. Everything above and beyond that, and the dollars really start ringing up. Traveling with more than 3 companions? Prepare yourself to be driving a sexy minivan around Las Vegas, because that’s what you need. Glamorous, isn’t it?
10. Must be nice to get fun souvenirs for your kids all the time!
Good luck finding stuff that’s not unbelievably tacky or unbelievably cheap. Plus, how many sets of Mickey Mouse ears does one kid need? Refer back to Stereotype #1 – You’ll be flying to the same few places most of the time. Eventually, you run out of cute souvenir ideas, and if you’ve set a precedent in your family by always bringing something home on previous trips, you feel terrible returning home empty handed.
11. Must be nice to shop at all those cool malls and outlet stores!
You know where most of these stores are located? 10 miles out of town. Don’t have a rental car? Those cab prices add up fast. Don’t have a lot of extra luggage space? Packing becomes a nightmare. Buying something fragile? It won’t be the same when you get it home. Buying something for your wife? God help you if you don’t get the right size, because you can’t return it. Shopping is a gamble for anyone but yourself, and if all you do is bring home a bunch of cool stuff for YOURSELF, how’s that going to look to the family?
12. Must be nice to have almost constant access to duty-free shops!
Actually, this one is definitely true. It is really nice to get a bottle of Ketel One for half-price. Nothing wrong with that! All you have to do is hold your breath while you walk through the toxic chemical war zone that is the perfume section. Get in and out fast if you don’t want to be hospitalized due to lack of oxygen.
Well, there you have it. Hopefully any business travelers who read this got a chuckle. And perhaps those of you who have said any of these stereotypes to a friend or family member who is a business traveler maybe gained a little insight in to the fact that being required to fly to Scranton for a week of meetings isn’t nearly as much fun as being at home with your family. Given the choice, I’m pretty confident that most would choose the latter. Happy travels!
Featured image courtesy of via Creative Commons.