How to Make the Most of Travel Downtime

By Michael J. Solender, April 20, 2016

From long airport waits to delayed meetings to last-minute appointment cancellations, lost time away from the office can rob your productivity and add to the already high stress of travel. Taking steps to manage your downtime while away helps maximize your productivity. Take note of these four tips for capitalizing on otherwise wasted moments from Michael J. Solender.

Hunt for Wi-Fi

With Internet access (and data limits) critical, finding reliable Wi-Fi on the road is a must. Desiree Kane, an independent meeting planner and organizer for clients including Netroots Nation and the Society of Environmental Journalists, takes advantage of user-populated app Foursquare to find reliable access in unfamiliar territory. “Before I get to a new location, I search Foursquare for that location using ‘good Wi-Fi’ as my search parameter,” says Kane, who is on the road 60 percent of the time. “I learn from other people’s tips about the best coffee shops and other sources I wouldn’t necessarily be aware of.”

Productivity-Enhancing Apps

An ever-expanding universe of apps makes it possible to bring our offices on the road, so to speak, and allow for on-the-go transactions that once required access to fax machines, scanners and copiers. Candice Langston, principal at Solid, a communication and engagement agency based in Charlotte, North Carolina, has a few favorites. “DocuSign saves me a ton of time. It allows me to sign and send legal documents from my phone,” she says. “TurboScan is another fantastic productivity tool. You can take pictures of documents and turn them into PDFs without a scanner or fax machine.”

Time to Strategize

Tracy Russ, Langston’s business partner and co-founder of Solid, says he uses excess time caused by flight delays or between events to strategize and make future plans. “Sometimes it is so hectic around the office, it can be difficult to brainstorm about new or upcoming business,” says Russ, whose event planning resume includes work for the World Wildlife Fund and the 2012 Democratic National Convention. “Recently during a flight delay, Candice and I took advantage of the time away from the office to plan and discuss important issues we don’t always have time to talk about. It allowed for a strategic discussion, and we came away with actionable items for when we got back home.”

Low-Tech, Lasting Impression

Marti Fox, CMP, CMM, president of GlobalGoals, a convention, meeting and community service event planning firm based in Dallas, never hits the road without a supply of prestamped thank-you notes with return address labels. “I find there are many people I encounter where sending a handwritten thank-you note is a great follow-up opportunity to make a lasting impression,” says Fox. “It may be expressing gratitude for someone sharing an idea or their time with me, or extending a courtesy. I find if I don’t write them quickly after an interaction, they can get lost in the shuffle. Downtime on the road is a great opportunity to get these done.”

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