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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: fuzzed on September 11, 2013, 06:22:21 AM

Title: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: fuzzed on September 11, 2013, 06:22:21 AM
I was wondering if anyone travels for work? 
I am considering a position which could require 25% to a max 50% of travel (USA and Canada).  Typically it would be a fly out on the Sunday night or Monday am, and fly back on the Thursday afternoon.    Most likely not two weeks in a row, but as a worse case every other week for a couple of months.  The remaining time would be spent working from my home office.  The salary would be about a 25% increase from my current position.
As for our situation, we are child and pet free and will not be changing that decision.  We do live in a house, I realize a condo would be more ideal for this type of job, ie minimal maintenance.

So any of you out there live this?  What are the pros and cons for this type of role?  Is there an ideal level of travel?  Any thoughts and opinions are appreciated.

Thank you.
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: Rust on September 11, 2013, 07:21:27 AM
Sans Children, work travel is a great way to stash away cash.

As you stated your being paid a premium to be away from your hometown but they also typically pay a Per Diem or they just pay for all your food.  Some will even pay for your dry cleaning/laundry.

Speak to your SO.  Because this will effect them as well.  I've seen some who travel for work lose their relationship because they were gone and it was too hard on them.  But, with a clear plan to save money like crazy, work travel is awesome for that.
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: Phoebe on September 11, 2013, 07:31:06 AM
I do!  I travel quite a bit, sporadically, and I really like it.  It's hard at times (everyone now and then I am gone a few weeks in a row) but generally it breaks up the work weeks, and adds some spontaneity.  As the poster above said, you can stash a lot of cash away, and I also wind up getting tons of airline and hotel miles, meaning I earn cash back each month and also take very cheap vacations.

It can be hard on an SO, so you have to make sure you both support it, and as we're also child free the only thing we had to worry about was pets.  Luckily we have cats, which are fine if I'm traveling and my husband has to stay late at work, but if we had a dog we'd probably have to hire a walker some weeks.
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: MissStache on September 11, 2013, 07:46:31 AM
This sounds like my dream job!  We have recruiters in our company who do this and I'd love to apply for a position, but they never have openings.

One benefit our recruiters have is that they get to accrue all the frequent flier miles for their trips.  They've been able to take great vacations with their SOs for extremely cheap because they can cash in their miles. 

I really can't see any downsides to it.  You are still around on the weekends (and working from home when you aren't travelling!) to spend with your SO, you don't have to worry about them taking on extra pet or child duties, AND you get a pay raise!  And, if you get a per diem, you can probably save even more thanks to your mustacian skills.

And if it works out to be something you do longterm, you can downsize your living situation and save even more!
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: Samsam on September 11, 2013, 07:47:26 AM
I travel up to 75% of the the time.  I love it!  I get a pretty hefty food budget and everything paid for (I am very antimustachian on these trips as far as food goes).  It is hard being away from the SO though, but it sounds like without kids and pets you would be able to handle the job. 

The other reason I like to travel is sometime out in the future I am hoping to live away from my home office because all my work will be either remote or travel.  I feel like I have a lot more freedom than my office counterparts.  I also have times where I can be not traveling if I am burning out, I don't know how flexible your job will be, but I have a team that can easily back me up.  So I feel my travel is almost completely win-win. 

hotel rewards (choose 1 or 2 and stick with that one, get a member number)
airline miles (same as above and also sign up for reward miles)
get to see new places
travel money (my work pays extra for traveling a certain amount)
food budget**** (this is my favorite pro.... $75 / day)
Can live where I want
I like traveling better than working a desk from 9 - 6

plane trips can be scheduled badly (always give over 1 hr for layover in Atlanta!)
away from SO (imo this is the hardest, so I try to schedule engagements for less than a week)
harder for SO to take care of children / pets
missing any weekly activities (sports leagues, hangout days with friends)

Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: mgreczyn on September 11, 2013, 08:51:50 AM
I travel 25% - 50%, but there is no "typical" for me, it's basically as-needed to accomplish my job.  Sometimes it's an out and back car trip, no overnight, sometimes it's a multileg 4 day trip.  Sometimes the travel is to cool places like Portland, Chicago, Austin.  I've also spent many a night in Bumfuck, USA in sketchy hotels (Cow Palace motel in Lamar, CO anyone?).  I've had this job before and after having a child (we've had a pet for a while).  It's always been a mixed bag, but after-kid the mix has been more to the negative side, with more negative as she's gotten older.  When I'm not travelling, I work from home, though for the first couple of years it was from an office.  Travel and working from home both have their pros and cons.

I keep the miles, so I've enjoyed many free flights, hotel stays and rental cars on vacation
The occasional break in the home routine can be nice
When the travel is to cool places, it's enjoyable

With a child, she's old enough now to realize that I'm gone.  This absolutely kills me.
You grow to dread going to the airport, getting on a plane, etc.  In fact, travel for vacations becomes a drag and source of stress. To quote an acquaintance of mine in a similar situation "At this point, every time I start to drive to DIA I get queasy".
When the travel is not to cool places, it sucks and a resentment toward your employer slowly starts to build and fester.

Edit - A lot also depends on how your employer administers the travel.  In our company the pendulum has swung from good but not great experience to total suck then back to good but not great.  These swings have correlated to the following developments:

1. At first, the company was fairly young and not burdened by process or CYA-ness.  You booked your own travel through expedia or or wherever you could find the best deals and the most convenience.  No questions were asked, it was a total honor system and to my knowledge never abused (egregiously).  On the con side, filing expense reports was a 4-hour soul-killing nightmare of keeping / scanning receipts and filling in an arcane spreadsheet.

2. The company hires AMEX to run our travel and later our expenses. Total suck. This is the sort of move that gets made when a company starts to focus more on making the lives of administrators and back office people easier and less on clearing a path for those out making stuff happen. No formal spending guidelines are instituted, but AMEX really sucks from the user side and they started enforcing a two-week booking limit where you really get the stinkeye if travel is booked without pre-clearing it within two weeks of departure.  I note immediately that prices on AMEX are way higher than what we could get booking on our own, so my suspicion is that this is really about control and accountability rather than efficient use of company dollars, but fine.  I've also noted zero cost difference between a flight booked 15 days in advance and one booked 13 days in advance.  Again, fine.  Just don't be surprised when you come to me and ask how we can regain the entrepreneurial spirit of the good old days and "eliminate travel procedure" is one of the first things I say.  Expense report filing enters a new phase of hell as we're still expected to keep all receipts, the AMEX interface both on the web and mobile is balky / slow / counter-intuitive and worse, we get to pay interest and late fees out of pocket if we don't file on time.  This would be fine if I could use my own card and pay the reasonable fees that come with not being part of a captive market, but we use JPM cards and they come with absurd fees if you pay late.

3.  Things get somewhat better as our AMEX process slowly improves.  Now the only receipts we have to keep are hotels, reducing time and pain level on the expense report process.  After much sturm und drang, (and probably some shouting and threatening) the company decides that employees will not be responsible for late fees and interest on corporate cards, but managers will be accountable for their peoples' timeliness on expense reports. 
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: fumanchu282 on September 11, 2013, 09:18:07 AM
I'd agree with a lot of the other things that have been said so far. a few additions:

- When you travel and have such a big budget for food during the week, you can eat like a king and go to some of the nicest restaurants and it doesn't come out of your pocket. But while the savings you accrue are very mustachian, it makes it harder to not succumb to lifestyle inflation once you're back to living on your own dime. not sure if this is a pro or a con.

- Healthy eating and just general healthy habits are harder to maintain. If this is something that's important to you, you can still find ways to work towards it, but it's a lot easier to let your healthy habits slip when everyone else is ordering steaks and the menu only has one side salad option. Hotel gyms are hit or miss so I don't even go to them any more, I just run outdoors and do pushups, resistance band workouts, and yoga in my hotel room when I want to work out. You can pack your own resistance bands and a yoga mat (yoga towels are smaller, and keep you off of the dirty hotel carpet just as well)

- To really win the points/miles game, it takes money to make money. If to you, being mustachian means optimizing your spending, then this is ok. If being mustachian means minimizing your spending, you'll have a tough time accruing meaningful levels of status/award redemptions. A good example here is the targeted Amex Platinum credit card offer that I signed up for a few months ago. For an upfront $450 annual membership fee, I'll be getting about $400 in airline travel credit and $1200 in Membership Rewards points. Obviously this is a great deal, but it's a tough pill to swallow to pony up $450. see for info on the points/miles game. this guy is the expert.
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: Nate_D on September 11, 2013, 10:19:02 AM
I traveled for work as an IT consultant for about 6 years, and others have hit on all the big advantages for increasing your stache.

A few things to add:

If you get a per diem allowance and are staying at a hotel with a mini fridge, you can make a grocery run right off the bat and cover most/all of your meals for the week for less than a single day in per diem. The rest goes straight to the bank account!

Depending on your employer's expense policy, you may be able to book flights, hotel, and rental cars on your personal credit cards (as opposed to a company card). You can accumulate TONS of cc rewards this way.

After I stopped traveling for work, it took me almost 2 years to use up all the airline miles and hotel points I had accumulated. They are a massive perk!
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: starbuck on September 11, 2013, 11:18:19 AM
I used to travel about 75% of the time my first year at my job out of college. Since I was living at home, it was an AWESOME way to boost my income and get me on feet and into my own apartment once the rate of travel slowed down. So as a young and carefree person, highly recommended.

I still travel fairly regularly now, probably about 10-15% of the time depending on the time of year is overnight travel. Bulk of my work now is day-trips stuff (or assignments I MAKE into day trips because I don't want to stay overnight.) My husband and I own a house and a dog and a cat. He ALSO travels regularly for work, more like once a quarter, though he has done 30-45 day details in the past.

PROS: Money, obviously. I can't even make myself eat at restaurants for every meal, so I end up saving a lot of my per diem. I have control over where I stay so I can pick a hotel that suits my needs (usually a kitchenette + good gym, or downtown location where I can walk to places.)
-As someone else said, the break from the home routine can be nice once in awhile. When my spouse travels, it's kind of nice to have the place all to myself, and watch whatever I want on netflix. :)

CONS: I find it really tiring. Most of my travel is within New England, so I don't rack up air miles (I get reimbursed for mileage instead.) So I spend a lot of time in the car, and I work a lot of hours when I travel. I work with staff during the day, then take care of my own assignments in the evening from my hotel or a coffee shop. So it's not really a relaxing time for me. Even when I'm done for the day, the pull to keep working in the evening after dinner is strong.
-Something that I've noticed recently is that I feel like my personal life gets put on hold when I'm on the road. There are so many things I want to work towards that I can't because I'm not at home. Like if I'm working on a quilt, it's really hard to pack up and keep working on it in any measurable way. And if I'm traveling all week, my weekend is spent getting caught up on quite boring stuff like laundry because I couldn't do it on a weekday.
-When one person is left behind to keep house, it gets frustrating the longer it goes on. You're right that it'd be easier with a smaller space, and no outdoor maintenance. Your life and space are set up based on two adults, and then one adult isn't there for a lot of the time, and the home burden really shifts to the one still at home. The same amount of space needs to be taken care of. This is something I really noticed when my spouse had to work out of state for 45 days. (And our house isn't even that big!)

Overall, I think it's great on a short-term basis, but it really wears on me now. I didn't realize this, but I really enjoy routine and too much travel throws it all out the window. Once every two months? Sure. More frequent than that and it's not worth the money to me anymore. YMMV.
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: fuzzed on September 11, 2013, 11:35:49 AM
Thank you everyone for the replies so far, some really great feedback. 
Funny enough, I had not really thought about the mustachian impacts of a per diem.
At first my SO was against the idea due to the shifting of the household tasks, but the more we go over it, she is definitely warming to the idea.  I will not make the move unless we are both 100% committed to the program, the last thing I want to do is upset the applecart so to speak.  I only know a few people who travel/travelled for work, one was lukewarm and the other detested it.  It is great to read about those it works for.

Thank you again for all of the input.
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: RMD on September 11, 2013, 01:28:39 PM
My only thought would be to make sure that you're getting the amount of travel you expect. 

It's been the experience of some of my coworkers that the expected travel rate ends up equalling more than was initially let on.  If you can, I'd recommend talking with someone in the position to ensure that 25%-50% max really is 25%-50%. 
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: Insanity on September 11, 2013, 01:41:42 PM
Thank you everyone for the replies so far, some really great feedback. 
Funny enough, I had not really thought about the mustachian impacts of a per diem.
At first my SO was against the idea due to the shifting of the household tasks, but the more we go over it, she is definitely warming to the idea.  I will not make the move unless we are both 100% committed to the program, the last thing I want to do is upset the applecart so to speak.  I only know a few people who travel/travelled for work, one was lukewarm and the other detested it.  It is great to read about those it works for.

Thank you again for all of the input.

This is a tale which might change your own perception of it.  I do not know your SO, nor do I know you and the work you'll be doing.

I signed on for a consulting position that was 25% travel.  My DW and I discussed it at length.  It was a 20% increase in salary.  The initial project had me working from home for a very significant amount of time which was great.  Then came 3 of the next 4 gigs which required 2 months straight of travel.  That did not go over well.  It made a lot of day to day things very tough.  I am no longer there.   This might be a good thing, it might not.  But it is something to be aware of.
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: fiveoclockshadow on September 11, 2013, 02:07:09 PM
Personally I don't like travel for work, the compensation for time is often low and traveling is not really a skill.  Ideally I want to be paid by someone to increase my knowledge and skills and sitting in airports isn't one of those things.

On the other hand, if you get good money for it and per diem and expenses are to your benefit and you make sure you can use that time on planes/airports and what not as useful free time then I can certainly see positives.

Basically, if I was already at a job and someone told me to start traveling a lot without a big boost in salary I wouldn't do it.  In your case it sounds like you are getting a salary boost at the new job and home office (no commute) the rest of the time which seem like decent benefits.

As others mentioned - the character of the travel is often more important than the percentage of time.  As you describe the trips seem like they would be compatible with a home life.  Remember while on travel to allocate a lot of time to phone/chat whatever with your SO.  That really makes a big difference and can lead to absence making the heart grow fonder rather than just becoming distant.

Good luck!
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: Tyler on September 11, 2013, 03:47:52 PM
I have traveled a lot in my career.  My two peak travel times were a 3-month stretch where I commuted from Dallas to San Francisco every week, and a 2-year stretch where (on average) I was in China for about 1/3rd of the time (up to a month at a time). 

I loved it until I dreaded it.

- If you think of all the time you will spend commuting (from the travel time to and from airports, rental car facilities, waiting in security lines, flight time, etc.) it really adds up.  If you dislike a 30 minute driving commute, you're gonna hate flying all the time.

- Living out of a hotel gets really old.  After a while they all look the same and are not particularly comfortable.  I've been sick away from home, and it's miserable. 

- Don't underestimate how difficult long-term repetitive separation is on a relationship.  Even if you're personally enjoying the travel and your spouse 100% supports you, over time you basically learn to live without each other.  For example, after long trips my wife would sometimes be irritated for a few weeks when I returned home because I was actually messing with her new routine.  The effects of this are slow and cumulative, but very real.  You may not even realize something is wrong until it's too late.

- For some people, extensive travel can eventually create a strong sense of isolation.  Think of the movies "Lost in Translation" or "Up in the Air".  It's hard to maintain friendships with people you rarely see.  I became very lonely after a while, and kept a journal with notes on all of the life events I missed because of work (birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, etc).  That list became a catalyst for me to start seeking early retirement, as it made clear how much life I was sacrificing for work. 

In general, I think work travel is a great experience... for a while.  But for me at least, I found it to be unsustainable for my relationship and personal happiness.  I intentionally switched jobs to minimize travel, and am much happier now.  YMMV, of course. 
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: Hugh H on September 11, 2013, 05:03:36 PM
I fly out almost every month, for a week at a time. Leaving on Friday for Eastern Europe.
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: brewer12345 on September 11, 2013, 05:33:18 PM
I travel for work and I hate it.  Would never take another gig with significant travel. 
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: sleepyguy on September 11, 2013, 05:52:03 PM
I don't but my GF/SO used to travel ALOT... like 50-60% of the time.  She hated every moment of it... it got old about 3mths in.  Sometimes I would travel with her just for the heck of it... if there was a casino nearby ;)  But she's pretty is more sr now and can turn down most travel request.  Benefits were that of course food budget and we did rack up quite a few aeroplan pts.  She travels at most now about 2wks/yr.
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: Hugh H on September 11, 2013, 05:58:16 PM

As a single guy I love it. I also get to bank some serious per diem, and accumulate miles.

Plus, I get to see places I would not see otherwise.
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: Insanity on September 11, 2013, 07:19:08 PM

As a single guy I love it. I also get to bank some serious per diem, and accumulate miles.

Plus, I get to see places I would not see otherwise.

The highlighted is a key differentiator.
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: desk_jockey on September 11, 2013, 09:35:32 PM
Everyone is going to have their own preference regarding business travel.

For me, its fine when itís <50%, probably 15% to 30% is ideal.   Iíve done stretches of 3 months when it was 100%, but I could handle it because I knew the project would end and my travel schedule would normalize.  I could NOT be a consultant that flies out every Monday at 6am and home every Thursday at 9pm.  On the other hand if I go 2 months in the office without getting out and seeing a customer, then I begin to go stir crazy. 

The type of travel is a factor too.  I almost always go to just one city for days (or weeks) then return home, so itís only one hotel to settle into.   An account manager job of 5 cities in 4 nights would wear me out.

Iím happy with it.  Iíve seen a lot of the world that I wouldnít have otherwise gotten to know if I had to pay my own way everywhere.   As mentioned by others, the mileage point perks are nice too, and using them my wife as gotten to visit a few nifty places as well. 
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: fiveoclockshadow on September 12, 2013, 07:49:39 AM
As a single guy I love it.
The highlighted is a key differentiator.

There is also persistence - single people who travel a lot may stay single longer.

As to an earlier comment about getting sick on travel - ugh, I've had this happen and it is awful.  It is even more awful if you must actually fly or drive while sick.  Do enough travel and this will happen.  And there is no better way to get sick than visit airports, planes and customers in different geographic areas.
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: pbkmaine on September 12, 2013, 08:36:00 AM
I have been on the road often in my career; everything from living in New Jersey and working in Minneapolis to my current situation, which is working at home most of the time and flying to clients the rest of the time.  You have already gotten a good perspective from the other posters.  Emphatically agree that if you can get a per diem arrangement it can really work out.  One of my jobs had this for meals. I took a soft-sided collapsible cooler with me on all my trips and bought food at the supermarket for about $5 per day.  I believe the per diem was $50 at the time, so I banked $45 per day.  Bought all my Christmas presents with my per diem that year, and flew DH out to see me.  Put the rest in the bank. 

Loneliness can be a problem.  DH and I arrange to speak often, and even watch movies together while we talk on the phone, Skype or IM. We call them "virtual dates". Now that he's retired, he comes with me as my "roadie" on long trips.  Very nice to come back to my hotel room and see him.

As far as travel itself goes, I got excellent advice once from a partner at Ernst & Young, my old firm.  He said you need 3 things to make travel bearable:
1) Something to drink. I take an empty water bottle and fill it when I am through security.
2) Something to eat. I take protein bars that I like but do not love. That way I am only tempted to eat them when I am really hungry.
3) Something to read. I always have an iPad and/or my work computer, but I also carry professional publications that offer me continuing education credit.  That way if I am stuck somewhere I have something to do.
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: Christof on September 13, 2013, 04:22:15 PM
Most traveling jobs are less about traveling, but more about working in many different remote places. If you aren't in the position it is easy to view the traveling part and varying locations as vacation. In reality, though, it quickly becomes a regular commute to places with an airport, taxis, hotels and offices. Not all clients are in glamerous locations, either.

In my area (IT consultant) travelling means longer than usual days in an office, followed by preparation for the next day, dining alone or having to attend social events that are organized by the customer. It's cool for a few years when you are young enough to hit the bar in the evening and still be able to work the next day, but beyond 30 it's getting more and more difficult.

More important is whether you love the job you are doing or whether the financial compensation is good enough, if you don't.
Title: Re: Anyone travel for work?
Post by: On_a_slow_boat on September 13, 2013, 07:07:07 PM
I have always found it is more difficult the maintain your health while traveling.

Usually there are long work days, followed by either food or drinks with coworkers, or dinner by yourself in a restaurant.

It takes discipline to make sure you always get in the right amount of exercise when you are away from your typical routine.