There are many smart travelers and many smart women travelers, but Carol Margolis has forged an identity for herself tied to the name. Through her website Smart Women Travelers, and her book titled Business Travel Success, Margolis displays her travel expertise. She shared some of her tips and tricks with us recently as part of our Road Warrior Series.
Savvy Traveler: What’s your favorite and least favorite airport?
CM: My favorite airport is Amsterdam because of all the stores and restaurants and museums and art and just a huge variety of things to do. I keep hoping for a good layover, you know, for a flight delay, but I can’t seem to get one. Careful what I wish for, right? But I love Amsterdam.
My least favorite airport is Newark. Newark for the reason that when you come back from an international trip it takes forever to get your bags, like a 45-minute wait. While I have no issue with TSA generally, I find in that airport they are the least friendly of any airport in the U.S. that I’ve encountered.
You really have to walk a far distance there. You just do a lot of walking.
Savvy Traveler: What’s the item or gadget you always need to have with you when you’re traveling?
CM: I have two things, one is personal and one is more of a gadget. On a personal side I always bring a robe for my hotel room, because most of my hotel rooms do not have that. It’s just a very lightweight, very small, compact, but it’s a little piece of home I bring with me to feel comfortable in my room. For a gadget, I always have my iPad with me. I’ve really become attached to that for reading purposes. If I have a long flight delay, as long as I have books on my iPad, I’m good for hours of flying and delays.
Savvy Traveler: What are some of the trips you’d share with travelers to ease the traveling or travel planning process?
CM: Packing is such an issue for at least women travelers for certain and even a lot of guys. That just eases the whole travel process when you’ve got what you need with you without having it all in this massive bag that weighs a hundred pounds.
For travel planning, depending on the complexity of your trip, if you’re going multiple places I always kind of draft it out in pencil first, so I can see it before I start making plans. It can get stressful if you’re not sure if you’ve for the right hotels for the right nights, or enough time through the airports. So I just take a few minutes before I start booking it with CWT or online just to lay it out in my head. Where am I going and how much time do I have. Then I also do the same for my packing. When I leave on a two-week trip, I draft out what my clothing plan is, so I can say how many outfits I need to bring. I’m not going to bring two weeks’ worth. I may bring about a week’s worth and mix and match. So I lay that out as well.
Savvy Traveler: Have you ever brought clothing on a trip specifically with the thought of discarding it at the end of the trip in order to save space?
CM: Recently I’ve been losing some weight and I was wearing a pair of trousers that were really getting pretty loose around the waistband, so I left them in a hotel with a note for the maid that if she wanted them or donate them or whatever she wanted to do with them.
Typically I don’t, but my goal is always to come home with less than what I leave with. I travel with food and all my vitamins, so I’ll have less of that by the end of the trip. Generally I’m not taking extra clothes like that but I do know a lot of travelers who have done that, taken clothes items they’re not going to use anymore, to leave room for things they’re going to buy.
Savvy Traveler: What kind of food are you typically bringing with you?
CM: I bring enough food on the plane so that if there is a flight delay I’m not starving. So I always have nuts with me, protein bars, packages of tuna, like the packages you don’t need a can opener for. They’re very portable. I bring some dried fruits, usually apricots. If it’s the morning of the flight, I’ll bring strawberries, blueberries, hard-boiled eggs from home. I always have protein powder with me and a plastic shaker cup that is not breakable and doesn’t break a lot, so I can make a protein shake for breakfast or dinner.
Savvy Traveler: It’s even more difficult to eat healthy in the airport, but have you found there’s a trend toward more healthy options eating in airports?
CM: The airports are actually getting better with having healthier choices. For example, if you walk into a Starbucks at the airport, there will usually be some yogurt, some fruit containers. I’m starting to see more salads, a lot of fruit. There are smoothie places but I’m not really keen on those because they tend to use more sugary type of fruit, not fresh fruit.
At (sit-down) restaurants in airports you can always get something healthy because they’re all preparing to order, so you might want a salad with grilled chicken instead of deep-fried chicken and usually that’s a possibility, or leave it off. I don’t find usually it too difficult to find something healthy to end, even if it’s fruit out of desperation.
Savvy Traveler: What does travel do for your line of business?
CM: I think travel for what I do is so important because when you get to know people face to face, the rest of your business dealings with them are so much easier. It may only be a one-time meeting and yet it just paves the way for smoother business relationships. I can’t stress the importance of face to face meetings, even if it’s only once with a group.
Savvy Traveler: What’s at stake if something goes wrong travel-wise?
CM: On the outbound I may miss my meeting, and I may only be flying in for one meeting. But usually you can rearrange these things – either they may happen half a day later or a whole day later. I’ve never had a meeting was totally missed because of travel.
But on the return I may miss some important things at home and I have when my kids were growing up. My motto is, ‘I know I’m always going to get where I’m going. I may not get there exactly when I planned to but I know I will always get there.’ It helps ease my stress level.
Savvy Traveler: You do sound fairly Zen about that. I can imagine for some people, missing something at home or having to reschedule a meeting could be particularly stressful.
CM: Yeah, and you just say ‘OK, what’s my plan B.’ Let’s say I’m stuck in Newark and I can’t get on an overseas flight because of an ash cloud. Plan B would be let’s do it over a webinar, and let’s schedule the meeting for sometime in the future. Or let’s get there the next week or the next day. It just takes all the stress away.
Savvy Traveler: About the energy, resources and marine sector specifically: These are companies that are doing some really intriguing things, trying to get people in and out of really remote locations, where timing is particularly important to make rig shift changes, etc. What are some of the unique challenges about energy that you’ve encountered or heard about?
CM: What I’m hearing from them is the travel they undertake is really challenging. They’re gone from home a long time. They want the travel experience to be as easy as possible. They’re looking for smart flight itineraries that don’t have them taking five flights to save a thousand dollars when they could have done it in three. They’re looking for enough time to get through airports. They’re looking to know the rules of what they can carry on, what their weight limits are, because the rules are different by country. I think that would be something in the energy sector that would help employees reduce their stress from some of the unique travel. As in, here’s the countries you’re traveling to, here’s what the security rules are, here’s how to navigate their airports. Just anything possible that we can think of to tell you on the country or the airport you’re passing through.
Savvy Traveler: Can you describe a little more about what you do, about Smart Women Travelers?
CM: I’ve been a business traveler for consulting firms and for my own business for 27 years now. As part of it I would often get asked, how do you travel with family, what kind of gadgets do you bring with you, how do you pack so efficiently? So I thought I would just put some of these tips and tricks up on a website. So I started Smart Women Travelers in 2007 and since then it’s become a website with products now I sell to help women enjoy the travel experience more and be safer on the road. It’s a lot of writing, I do TV, magazines, etc. Basically anything I could think of to help other women travel safer, smarter and with more enjoyment.
During this time, the guys are like ‘what about us? We have some of the same issues. We have to leave our families at home and we want to know how to pack also.’ Also, being part of this large consulting firm, I would have employees quit on me who were gone too much. They come out of college and they love the idea of travel in their 20s. And they start getting engaged and want to get married and now they’re on the road 50 weeks out of the year. They feel that that’s the only option for them, is to do all that travel. Instead of working out an agreeable travel plan, they’d just come to me and quit. So I’m trying to help HR and travel managers and the business travelers themselves come up with that: What’s their life balance for their travel, how do we make their travel more productive and less stressful, for both genders. I created Business Travel Success a couple years ago and my book called Business Travel Success is out and I lead seminars in a corporate environment to teach business travelers how to live their life on the road successfully. I’m teaching everything I can think of in just a couple days.