9 damn good ways to survive hotels, airports, and taxis

Updated to Habits, Productivity, Speaking on January 23, 2023.

I was in a car the other day with a radiologist and a neurosurgeon talking about hypertension. 

This conversation is actually not as unusual as it might sound. I volunteer for a local society that does trail clearing in a popular hiking and mountain bike park and many of the volunteers happen to be recently retired doctors. 

Back in the car, one of the doctors happened to mention that recently his medical partner, who is in his early 60’s, had a mild stroke. As we wound our way further up the dirt road to our work site my education continued. 

I learned that strokes are the second biggest cause of mortality worldwide and the third most common cause of disability. The scary statistics get worse. As you age your chance of a stroke doubles every 10 years after 55

There’s a checklist of health conditions that make you more susceptible to a stroke, like obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes. But the biggest culprit – six times out of ten – is hypertension or high blood pressure. In my books, that’s worth paying attention to.

What’s interesting is that stress, in itself, is not the direct cause of high blood pressure. It’s what we do when under stress that leads to nasty results. We eat too much, drink too much, and move too little. Basically, we deal with stress by making unhealthy choices.

For me, stress starts with worry.

Ngoc Son Temple, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam

I’ve had a lot of worries

There is a world of problems you can worry about – take your pick. You can worry that Ukraine will be pummeled into a tiny province of rubble, or that we’ve passed the tipping point with global warming, or the tiny spot on your chin is cancer. 

Or not.

“I’ve had a lot of worries,” quipped Mark Twain “most of which never happened.” Our mind loves a good worry. Like a dog chewing a bone, we want to turn our worry around, looking from all angles, poking and prodding until it swells up into something bigger than it really is.

I used to worry incessantly before every keynote speech. I’d worry I’d miss my flight or wasn’t prepared enough, or I would be greeted by the “audience from hell.” Trust me, when you have 60 minutes to educate, entertain, inspire, motivate, and get laughs from an audience you’ve never met before, any sane person would invent a long list of worries.

It was at one of those events when a fellow speaker opened an exit door for my worries. He suggested that audiences don’t want you to fail – in fact, they want you to succeed. “They want to see you having fun—enjoying yourself. That way,” he explained, “they can enjoy the ride with you.”

When I accepted the long list of what I could never control – my flights, the audience, the speaker before me going overtime – I was free to focus on what I could control.

Enjoying the moment. 

What your life will have been

In her book, Comfortable with Uncertainty, Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön tells the story of delighting in the preciousness of every single moment.

A woman is running from lions. She runs and she runs, and the lions are getting closer. She comes to the edge of a cliff. She sees a vine there, so she climbs down and holds onto it. Then she looks down and sees that there are lions below her as well. At the same time, she notices a little mouse gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries emerging from a nearby clump of grass. She looks up, she looks down, and she looks a the mouse. Then she picks a strawberry, pops it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.

Learning what to focus on, and what to ignore, seems to be the ultimate secret to living a healthy, stress-free life. “Whatever compelled your attention from moment to moment,” writes Oliver Burkeman in Four Thousand Weeks (a must-read for anyone over 50), “is simply what your life will have been.”

So, what are you focussing on?

What to focus on

You can learn a lot when you’re the dumbest one in a car full of doctors. I learned that strokes are a silent pandemic. And that hypertension is the leading cause of that pandemic. And I learned the leading cause of hypertension is stress. 

I was also reminded that stress is a choice.

We all have lions and tigers in our life. Maybe even a mouse or two gnawing away at something we value. Meanwhile, we have the moment.

Choosing what to focus on (and what not to) might just be the healthiest choice you can make.

Got this far? You might also like these posts:

Photo of eggs by Nik on Unsplash
Photo of Ngoc Son Temple by author
Photo of tigers by author

I try to travel smart. Sometimes, it’s more like survival.

This past week, I missed one flight, booked a flight to the wrong city, humped two 40 lb (20kg) boxes of books across the country, and had the pleasure of 5 keynotes, 7 cab rides, 3 hotels, 600 delegates, 120 book sales, and 1 bad movie. 

All in all, it was a good week.

When it comes to travel, it’s bad enough we endure cramped airplane seats, indifferent food, and lineups to the urinal/toilet. Suffering should be optional.


I learned these tips for business travel from the school of hard pillows when I was cranking off 110 events a year (now, I do about 45). So, I know they work.

Here are my nine damn good ways to survive hotels, airports, and taxis.

1. Drink like a camel.

Your brain is 75% water. No water, dumb brain – it’s that simple. Your body is no different – water lubes your joints, deals with buffet line overindulgence, regulates temperature, and keeps you alert. 

My friend Steve Perry, at Disney, coaches staff to drink water all day. “The goal is to move more often and get away from your computer screen for breaks.” he told me “When they drink more water, the have to pee more often – problem solved!”

Start your day with a full glass of water (that should be a habit). I take a one quart (litre) container with me to work. My goal is to drain it before heading home. Two more glasses at home, and I’m good. 

2. Don’t bring To-Do’s.

This is a bad habit I broke recently. Bringing a ton of work from home on my road trips would wipe me out. Every spare minute (and into the night) I was trying to complete conference calls, interview clients, finish reports, and update my web site. By the time I got to the stage (what I was being paid for) I was exhausted.

My new strategy is to do my best to clean my slate in the last two days before heading to the airport. The only type of extra work I might take are reading and writing projects that I can enjoy doing on flights, and in the early morning. The rest can wait.

3. Pack light.

I can’t say enough about the advantages of traveling with only carry-on luggage. With a little forethought, you can easily manage five daysIMG_5329 with a single, rolling carry-on.

Unless I’m schlepping books, I can be out of an airport and in a cab in under 10 minutes. I know my suit and other clothes are with me and it’s easy in the morning to negotiate my way from my room, to the conference hall, and meeting with the client. 

Some tricks for packing light: 

  • I bring only one suit and changes of shirts (sorry ladies). My travel clothes are one pair casual slacks and change of shirts and a light jacket.
  • I don’t bring workout gear anymore – I workout in my room (see blog “My favourite hotel room workout”).
  • I wear the same shoes I present in.
  • I pack toiletries like Jack Reacher – minimal.
  • All my reading, work files, computer and tech-stuff is crammed into my computer bag.

At the end of the day, I’m not a fashion show. A bunch more outfits just slows me down and means I’m burning willpower in the morning deciding what to wear.

4. Arrive early.

Rushing is a cheap thrill that gets old pretty quick.

I used to pride myself on leaving home 30 minutes before a flight, just to see if I could do it. No longer. I learned long ago that missing a flight is a big bummer when you are being paid $150 a minute as the opening keynote speaker to 400 people.

The decision is simple: I’m going to kill time waiting, so it might as well be at the airport. Thirty minutes earlier makes a huge difference to my stress levels and means I’ll be on the flight. 

5. Plan your flight.

Flying for business is a game of strategy and preparation. Here’s what I do.

I know I’ll be tempted to waste time on a flight (end of day means low willpower) watching the TV or fiddling on my computer, instead, I have a strategy. If it’s a short commuter, I read. My preference is to read a book on Kindle (on my iPhone). The Kindle reader is brilliant at remembering where I left off, highlighting (did you know you can access and copy all the highlights you made while reading on a Kindle? Learn how here.), skipping ahead over boring parts.

For longer flights, I plan an hour of work, then a movie, then sleep. I find having the one hour of work rule, makes me plan ahead and actually look forward to completing something before the hour is up.

6. Talk with your cabbie.

Travel is also a time to think differently. I get some of my most creative thoughts just as a flight is taking off. I also know that talking with people sparks the creative juices. 

When in cabs, I make an effort to learn about the driver. I’ve met symphony conductors, PhD’s in engineering, medical doctors, and some nice folks with interesting twists on: life, family, money, and god. 

It’s no different when I’m speaking. If someone thanks me for my speech, I always reply by asking them are they’re going to DO with what I talked about. That conversation is much more valuable for me (and, hopefully, for them). 

Get out of your comfort bubble, ask people about themselves, and avoid the temptation to talk about yourself (you already know that story).

7. Move your booty.

Travel means sitting a lot – not good. I’m going to reveal my best health tricks in just a second. But, first you need to be convinced this is important. Just like drinking water, and eating less at the buffet, you won’t do it unless you are convinced it’s important.

Here’s the deal: during the day, the more times you stand, walk, stretch, or do stairs, the better your health, attitude, and ability to focus on hard work. Research is now revealing that bursts of sweat in the gym can’t compensate for the damage down by sitting all day. Small moves, done all day, is trick.

  • Skip escalators, take the stairs.
  • Visit your carry on bag or the toilet at least once on a flight.
  • On a long drive, pull over and run around your car three times (you will attract funny looks). My kids like that one!
  • Stand every 20 minutes in meetings and do a light stretch.
  • At a conference, get up and move between speakers. Drink lots of water so you have to…you know.
  • Stand every 20 minutes in your room and fetch something, make tea, look out the window – anything to move.

8. Plan a power morning.

When I’m on the road my mornings are critical and always planned. Here’s what I do.

The night before I make a quick list of actions and times, leading up to leaving my room. My list might have: 5:00-6:00 client prep, 6:00-6:15IMAGE_key-small workout (I use the timer on my watch for this), 6:15-6:45 dress/leave

I also iron my clothes – that’s an easy task I want out of the way.

I either put the TV remote in a drawer or remove the batteries. It sounds silly, but my goal is to get the max amount of sleep I can and having a small barrier, like having to retrieve the remote from a bureau drawer is enough to stop me from turning on the TV.

In the morning, my goal is to stay off email (I catch up in the afternoon, after my event), follow my plan, and stick to my cut-off times. That routine always makes me feel successful and confident and sets me up for success in the day.

To learn how I stay fit when on the road, read “My favourite hotel room workout” (it’s a life saver!)

9. Use check lists.

I have packing lists for my various seminars and one for keynotes. I also have a packing list for clothes and computer/technical items. A simple check list (I now store them on Evernote) reduces my need to worry and means I won’t be scouring some airport gift shop for a phone adapter.

I’m fresh back from three days on the road and about to head out for two more. These nine tips for business travel have saved my bacon over and over. I hope they help you as well!

Let me know, below what you favourite travel tip is!