For 30+ years, I traveled 80-90% of the year and was proud to do so. A road warrior, loyal rewards member, and goddess of the “how do you do it?” club. I could manage a weeklong trip in one carry-on suitcase. I could get through to most gate departures within 30 minutes, and I had no problem traveling to five states in five days. That was my life, and I was good at it.

Fast forward to COVID-19 putting a screeching halt to travel in 2020, leaving many of us grounded for several months, and even years in many cases. Suddenly, a carry-on would never carry a week of clothes because, in addition to forgetting how to pack it, there was the need for extra things in case something didn’t look like it should. Forget about the ever-prepacked Ziploc bag of key essentials. Hitting the road meant starting over much like the very first business trip ever taken. Convenience and drug stores became my friends during that first, second, and even third trip out for daily stops to gather forgotten supplies.

It’s comforting to know I am not alone in this. Many of my friends and colleagues have shared similar tales. For our friends just getting ready to hit the roads, let’s review a few of the tips and tricks to reinstate that road warrior card:

  • The name on your airline ticket must exactly match your name on your driver’s license or passport.
  • Pick your seat when you book your ticket, or you are getting a middle seat.
  • CLEAR memberships are worth their weight in gold at a busy airport. You can set one up here.
  • There have been a lot of changes in rewards programs so you may want to review.
  • It takes longer to get to the gates at most airports now due to shortage of TSA employees. Bring your patience and allow for the extra time needed.
  • A carry-on suitcase is your best bet. A few “packing small” tips for a full week are provided below, and check out this video for more:
    o Roll your clothes; you can fit more in and have far less wrinkles.
    o Be prepared to reuse suit jackets or trousers with a different shirt.
    o Bring one pair of shoes for all purposes! You can do it if you think through the week.
    o Limit essentials to what you use every day.
    o Ziploc bags hold more than a make up case and are easier to maneuver in a small bag.
  • Check your suitcase before you go. Does the handle still go up and down? Are the wheels working? Like many of us, after sitting for a few years we can get stiff and not work as well.
  • Airline Internet has been intermittent, so bring a book or download any work you are hoping to get done.
  • Gone are the days when you can cancel/change a hotel reservation with 24 hours’ notice. Make sure to know what the requirements are when you book in case you do have to make a change.
  • Bring your toothbrush – you will be amazed how often that simple essential gets left behind.

This road warrior didn’t think she had missed travel, but being with people in-person feels good no matter how accustomed you are to working alone or attending video meetings. People still need people, so take a deep breath and get ready to hit the road. Start packing now because your next trip may be right around the corner. No matter where you go, enjoy it because life is short and every trip is a moment in this journey called life.

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