I loved the movie Up in the Air. George Clooney made business travel look so easy – maybe even glamorous – whisking through airports; arriving at his hotel with no check-in lines as the scene simply cuts to him relaxing in a hotel room.
Great movie but it was far from reality. Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling, but it is hardly easy. What are the downsides to traveling every week? Let me count the ways …
It begins with packing, typically an hour in total (20 minutes packing my luggage, 40 minutes packing my laptop tote). While I am pretty good about including everything after so many years of experience, sometimes I shake my head in disbelief at all of the items I want to take with me that just don’t make sense. Am I really going to work on knitting a scarf while in-flight or read a dozen magazines?
The actual travel time to the airport, and for some the parking of the car, adds to the hassle.
Then there is the occasional check-in at the ticket counter – mandatory if you have checked bags. On a good day, the wait is relatively short. In Orlando, due to many tourists departing on Monday mornings the waits are generally long.
Early flights are the best because the plane is most likely on time. The downside here is having to get up quite early. Depending on the flight time, I am awake as early as 3 am to achieve this benefit. It always means a very short night of sleep of only three to four hours.
Even the best of flights require some long TSA lines. While a few airports have an “Expert” traveler line, TSA routinely ignores it. If any Orlando TSA workers read this, please enforce this rule! All in all, it can take 20-40 minutes to get through security, and you are rewarded with an additional wait for the shuttle to the terminal plus a 5-15 minute walk to the gate.
Flight delays and canceled flights are no picnic. I always check the weather for any connecting cities, but planes delayed elsewhere can impact flights even where the weather is fine. At its worst, it means sleeping overnight in an airport. I have been in this situation too many times!
Travel time is always very long. It includes getting to the airport, getting from the front door to the gate, flying to a destination, walking to the rental car agency, renting a car, driving to a hotel, parking, checking in, getting to your room, and finally unpacking.
And after all is said and done, the road home requires re-packing, checking out of a hotel, driving to the airport, returning a rental car, and going through that long walk – including the dreaded TSA lines – all over again. Add to this the jet lag, missed events and family moments back home and it begins to look ugly. Eventually you get to your home airport, walk to the baggage claim to wait again, complete the drive back home and get ready for unpacking the mountain of mail which always awaits. A few days at home and it starts all over again.
There are many upsides to business travel, but after 25 years I accept the downsides. In the real world, I feel more like Groundhog Day than Up in the Air. When my mind wanders through movieland, just once it would be nice to get to a destination by clicking my heels together or saying, “Beam me up, Scottie!”