Life on the Road with Joel Lewis: Advice for fellow Business Travellers


Cutting it fine? Skip the line

If you do enough travelling, you’re going to find yourself in the odd close shave with a train departure or an airport check-in closure. Even with the best of preparations, there is always the possibility of an unforeseen, unavoidable delay. Or you’ve just given yourself too aspirational a schedule and the inevitable happens – a few minutes lost here, an overlooked terminal transfer there – and suddenly you’re not sure if you’re going to make it. 

I’ve had a few memorable instances like this. So what can you do? 

First up, lose that Britishness. Don’t be afraid to put on a sprint if absolutely necessary. I’ve hot-footed it back and forth across Oslo airport departure hall, getting myself checked in at the airline desk after the machine check-in closed – I’m sure I looked a sight, but it paid off. The desk solemnly informed me that they couldn’t guarantee I would be boarded, I would just have to do my best to reach the gate before it closed. Here’s where it gets really challenging for the Brit in you though. 

Everyone knows that queues are sacred to the Brits – well forget that. Not when your gate is closing, they aren’t. Swallow your pride and politely ask those in front of you if you can go in front of them because your gate is about to close. 

Pretty much everyone in an airport knows what it’s like to be in a sticky position like that, and will most likely just wave you through and wish you good luck. And it’s not just Scandinavia where this works – I counselled a fellow Brit stuck in a vast line-up in Charles-De-Gaulle, as they mysteriously dispatched all but two of the passport control staff at precisely the peak time for departing flights. 

His flight was imminent, and he was getting increasingly nervous. After some persuasion, he even more nervously edged up to the people in front and asked if he could go ahead – they stepped aside. In no time at all he was at the head of the queue in going in. I’ve no idea if he actually made his flight, but he certainly wouldn’t have done if he’d stayed in line. 

Sometimes it can take a bit more than polite supplication. A memorable episode in Guernsey springs to mind, where my return travel plans included a fairly catastrophic misjudgment of the availability of taxis to the airport on a Friday afternoon. It concluded with my hastily cramming the contents of my carry-on into the (fortunately) cabin-bag sized hold luggage in order to make the gate, having finally arrived the airport after the hold luggage check-in had closed. 

Let’s run with this 

If there’s one thing a busy work travel schedule can play havoc with, it’s any kind of running regime. Getting the running kit into a carry-on alongside the requisite work materials can be a challenge. The upside is, if you succeed, there’s no better way of getting the feel of a place you’ve never been to before than a quick run after check-in at the hotel – or first thing in the morning. 
A little tip is to try the running app Strava where you can share your route or learn the running routes of others.  
With a bit of planning you can take in sights, find your way around town and get your exercise all in one go. Why confine yourself to the invariably generic hotel-gym-that-could-be-anywhere instead of making the most of the opportunity to absorb a little of wherever it is that you’ve been dispatched to? 

Everywhere has its hidden gems, and you’ll never find them if you don’t get out and wander. 

Of course, you will have to manage your expectations. You’re in a different country where you’re not sure which side of the pavement other pedestrians are going to expect you to take. 

You’re either making up the route as you go - or trying to match landmarks and unfamiliar road names to a hastily constructed map in your mind, worked up from a quick browse of Google Maps or one of those rather inadequate city centre maps that the hotel reception gave you. 

Give yourself a bit of a time buffer for getting back, in case you take a wrong turn and find yourself unexpectedly in a grotty Oslo underpass without a GPS signal and unsure of the way back. For instance. Or, more cheerfully, it might be that you want to pause and take a couple of photos of sunrise over the beach in Cannes. 

Now, unless there’s a park on your doorstep, you’re unlikely to have a chance to challenge any of your distance “PBs” – so just make the most of it any other way you can, spotting interesting looking cafes or bars that will give you the chance to show off your local knowledge later, or pausing to take early morning photos of the sightseeing spots while they are still relatively empty. 

While we’re on the topic of travel and running, here’s another little tip. 

You know that great little Gate8 “Shirt Mate” gizmo to keep your shirts in good shape during your jet-setting? Well you may not realise it, but they are also perfect for run-commuting. With a bit of practice, one pair suit trousers, one neatly folded shirt, one tie, one set of underwear and a pair of cuff-links can be neatly packed in 5 mins in the morning – and the pack goes neatly in a Brompton front carrier bag, or in a running backpack (check the size before you buy, so you get one that fits it in – I’m currently using an Osprey Talon 18).
For more advice from the travel pros, check out our Business Travel Hacks page for over 60 of the best tips to make your travel much, much easier!