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Working while you travel isn’t the most ideal situation, but it’s pretty normal in today’s workforce. Unless you’re Danish. Or French. If you work from home and want to make travel a priority, you can travel and work and be productive. This was the biggest challenge I faced when I traveled frequently (for pleasure), but was expected to work a full schedule with my clients.

If you’re an employee, you may not be expected to work while you’re on vacation. But chances are, the unspoken rule is that you’re still expected to check emails or Slack. I’ve seen plenty of colleagues and friends go on vacation with their work laptops, just in case.

These hacks to travel are relevant for you, too. It’ll help prevent you from constantly staring at your phone and checking emails for “emergencies.” In general, it’ll help you get into a routine while you’re traveling so you can fully enjoy your time away.

Hacks to travel are easier to employ than you may believe. Here’s how you can do it.

1. Make a plan

I had a quick layover at LAX before flying back home from Christchurch in early 2018.

The most important thing I learned when looking for hacks to travel was to have a plan. Winging it from country to country with different time zones did not help with my productivity.

I decided to create a plan and set a fail-safe routine. An example of having a plan included the times I knew I’d be without WiFi (i.e. on the plane). I would make sure my Google docs offline mode was turned on. Or I’d do some research ahead of time and save those web pages offline so I could read them later.

Google calendar became my best friend (and sometimes enemy, but that’s a different story). I prioritized tasks and projects according to deadlines. Then I scheduled each task into my Google calendar.

If not having WiFi is an issue, consider using a travel credit card with Boingo internet access to get you by.

2. Create blocks of deep work

For some reason, I’m severely challenged when it comes to calculating time zones. Before arriving at a particular city, I use to figure out how far ahead I am from my home base, which is San Francisco.

To minimize further confusion, I decided to keep my Google calendar in Pacific Standard Time, no matter where I was in the world. For some reason, it was easier to get aligned with the time back home, rather than the reverse.

Then, I created blocks of time to work and go sightseeing. I’d complete about three hours of deep work in the mornings, followed by a few hours of walking around or seeing a museum, and then lunch.

I would also set a few more blocks of time to work towards the evening as well.

A crisp, chilly day in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

3. Use a timer to fully concentrate on work

Try using the Pomodoro Method to work. It’s a strategy to get into the deep work zone with the use of a timer. When you turn on the timer (25 minutes is the recommended amount of time), it means you should fully focus on that task at hand and not get distracted with emails, Facebook, or Messenger.

When the timer goes off, take a quick five to 10-minute break. Stretch, get coffee, check an email or two. Then, go back and work for another session.

I find that my sweet spot is at 45 minutes. Then, I take my five-minute break to reset.

Tip: Be more aware of when you’re most alert and can work deeply. For me, that time is between 5am-10am, so that’s when I tend to get the bulk of my work done.

4. Invest in a noise-canceling pair of headphones

Any seasoned traveler knows that headphones are hacks to travel necessity. The large headphones that go over your ears are a must when you’re on a stuffy plane with loud people and crying babies.

Headphones may also come in handy when you’re trying to work in a cafe and want to block out the noise. It’s also a great tool for deep work and the Pomodoro Method.

5. Download Tide on your phone

After you get those headphones, download a free app called Tide, a productivity app. You can set how long you want to work and even create a white noise to go with it — I like to use the rain noise.

This is one of my favorite hacks to travel because it’s a nice mix of relaxation and being productive.

6. Stack your meetings

Whenever I traveled, I tried to designate Tuesdays and Thursdays to have back-to-back meetings.

Of course, this isn’t always possible, but it’s something to consider when you get those emails or messages that ask, “Does Monday at 2 pm work for you?” This is your chance to write back and say, “Actually, Tuesday at 2 pm works better.”

7. Try to minimize jet lag and eat meals at the local time

One of the biggest tricks I learned was to always eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner with the local time, even if I wasn’t hungry. Doing this may help minimize jet lag.

You can also download Timeshifter, which is an app that promises to alleviate jet lag.

8. Consider an international roaming plan for your mobile phone

If you have a lot of overseas travel plans, an international data roaming plan may help you save some money on your phone bill. Instead of bothering with SIM cards and worrying about how many gigs or minutes I have left, I use my phone’s international data roaming plan.

I use Sprint’s unlimited international data roaming plan, which works in over 160 cities around the world. Having data available at any time was extremely convenient, especially when I had no idea where I was going (thank you Google Maps!).

Of course, I didn’t get lightning fast speed all the time, but it was good enough to help me check in with emails and Slack, which leads me to…

9. Set several alarms on your phone for regular check-ins

I’m a big believer in not checking email and responding immediately.

I’d set my phone’s alarm to ping me every three hours or so to scan my inbox for any urgent emails and check Slack.

This depends on the nature of your work and what projects you have to complete, but I find the three-hour threshold a reasonable time to still be in the loop.

10. Have a plan for sightseeing

A breathtaking view of Barcelona, Spain.

Just like your work schedule, have a plan for sightseeing, too. When you’re working while traveling, taking the time to research when you’re already in a new and exciting city feels like a waste of time to me.

Do your research before you arrive and create a list of things to do and see. I’d get this research done during long layovers or on my phone while standing in line. That way, you don’t have to sit around Googling what to do or where to eat after you arrive.

11. Consider booking a place near the main attractions

No matter where I traveled, I always made sure to book an Airbnb or hotel closest to the main attractions and transportation in the city.

This means I was within walking distance to the trains, buses, restaurants, and cafes. It helps to save a little on traveling time because you can just walk over.

12. Assess your productivity

After a week or so, you’ll be able to assess how much work you were able to get done and if these hacks to travel worked.

This part is important because you can start making adjustments to your blocks of time.

Peace of Mind With These Hacks to Travel

The worst part about having to work while you travel is worrying about your workload and whether you’re getting projects completed.

No one wants to feel stressed out while traveling. But if you’re expected to work, these tips can help you get more done in a shorter amount of time so you can fully enjoy your new surroundings.

What are some tips you use in order to work and travel?

1 Comment On "12 Best Hacks to Travel While You Work and Remain Productive"
  1. James Ian|

    I love your idea of keeping your Google calendar in the same time zone all the time. I always get so confused when setting meetings in different time zones. A great tip.

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