How Do I Escape Business Travel Hell?

Last Updated Apr 3, 2009 10:53 AM EDT

Dear Stanley,
I'm on the road this week, which used to be a good thing, but now I have a problem. My itinerary includes Phoenix, Los Angeles, Seattle and then back home to Chicago. In the old days, my trip would have been rationally planned. I would have stayed a night in each town, had dinner with business associates, or relaxed in my room. The room would not have been fancy, but it would have been comfortable. Now, with things being what they are, this trip is a nightmare. I take off at dawn and get to Phoenix in time for a late breakfast with clients. I fly to LA right away, in time for an early dinner, and then am on a flight to Seattle that night, where I stay in the smallest room in a stinky hotel, can't have room service, can't go over $25 for dinner, have breakfast with my client, and then fly right back to Chicago, where I'm expected in the office for the rest of the afternoon if I can make it! This really blows. Is there anything I can do to bring back the reasonable old days?

Dear Exhausted,

No. We're in total "suck it up" mode, and there's very little anybody can do about it. Look on the bright side. You have a job. You have a modest expense account you can use when you're traveling. You're not in a pup tent. And you have your health, which means, as you know, that you have everything, right? It's your great privilege to be exploited as much as senior management wants to. Get over yourself!

Of course that's ridiculous. Life isn't what it was, but it's well within our rights as working people to try to make our existences as tolerable as possible until that great ocean liner of prosperity comes back into Capital Harbor. Sure, you want to help the Company save as much money as possible. But this isn't a slave labor camp. Executives are living just fine, thank you very much, perhaps not at the same level as before, but still, they're okay. Like, maybe they don't have an appetizer with their $34 cheeseburger.

My advice to you is to do a couple of these trip, the ones where you prove you can when asked. Show that you've got the chops. Then go to your boss and say, "Hey, Bob, if you want me to die out there, I'll comply. But if you want me to keep on performing in the manner to which you have become accustomed, I'm going to have to start planning my road work a little bit more humanely. Nothing flashy. But my head is going to explode if this continues." Bob will then give you a raft of horse hockey about commitment, and budgets and yada yada yada. You will listen respectfully. Then you will go away and start planning your trips the way you want to unless you are a glutton for punishment. This means:

1. If you are in a town after 4 p.m., you're going to sleep there.
2. Your hotel need not be opulent, but there should be no guys in the parking lot sleeping in their 12-wheelers.
3. If you're going to do two towns in one day, you don't have to fly out at the end of that day.
4. You should have time to take a walk while you're out of town.
5. Room service is fine, as long as you don't rack up a huge bill and don't touch the macadamia nuts in the minibar.
6. You may pick up a check if you think it's good for business.
7. While NOBODY should be flying First, If you used to fly Business Class you may still do so for flights longer than 90 minutes.

There are probably other rules that would cost your company a bit but not too much. The idea here is to keep your quality of life while others are losing theirs. There are a lot of people doing just that right now, while not being pigs about it. Try to be one of them. Look in the corner office if you need any tips.

BNET readers, what are your suggestions for business travel that's frugal yet humane?