I consult to an industry that does not have very many non-local vendors. That means many of my clients are fascinated by the thought of traveling for work. I seem to get asked the same questions over and over so here are my answers.
1. You fly a lot so that means you accrue a lot of frequent flyer miles. Do you get to keep them?
Yes. in the US the way the plans are structured the miles belong to the person flying regardless of who purchased the ticket. I hear rumors of some exceptions such as WalMart employees, but to my knowledge the majority of business travelers get to keep airline miles. Hotels can be different depending on the chain. Direct billed rooms may not accrue points for the stayer.
2. You obviously don’t have kids, do you?
I’ve noticed this is a big double standard in the business world. Since I’m not home during the week there is no way I could be a good mother (in the minds of some people out there), but I doubt the same question would be posed to a male traveler. I don’t have kids, I don’t want kids, and I’d stop traveling if I did have a kid, but that doesn’t mean a woman can’t be a good mother and travel.
3. How much do you travel?
I’m technically 80% which means that every week I should be going somewhere, but I manage my own projects instead of being told where to go so sometimes it turns out that I’m home for a whole week.
4. Do you like your job or do you see yourself doing this long term?
Sometimes those questions go hand-in-hand, sometimes I only get one. Now it mainly stops after the “do you like your job” part because I now just prempt the second question. Do I like my job? Yes, absolutely. I like being on site with my clients, I have friends all over due to our mobile society and I’ve been able to keep in good touch with friends I probably wouldn’t have seen as much without travel. I like the company I work for and the product I represent. I don’t, however, like the headaches of dealing with TSA, airline delays, driving in snow, or traveling to cold climates during the winter. This is stuff that isn’t directly related to my job, but still affects how I feel about it. So my usual response to “do you like your job” is “I love my job, but I’d like it more if I didn’t have to deal with the hassles of TSA and travel in general.
5. Are you allowed to get in early and explore the towns you visit?
You’re paying the bill, are you giving me permission for next time? This question always fascinates me because I go to mostly middle-of-nowhere 1 hour away from the closest thing to an airport type places. Many on FlyerTalk proudly proclaim they have never flown on a regional jet…my first year of business travel I didn’t see anything but them! It seems the good places like museums close around 5 pm and since I work until at least 4:30 on site it is difficult to make it to anything. Sometimes I can get on an early flight and get to a city before noon, but not always. If i’m in a middle-of-nowhere place and I get asked this question I usually say “Is there anything in particular I should see while I’m here? 90% of the time they say no. Departing Tucson one time I saw a bunch of planes. I knew planes “go to the desert” but I never really paid attention to this desert. I looked it up and discovered this is the largest collection of military aircraft for storage and recycling called Davis-Monathan Air Force Base and a tour is possible through the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson. It took a couple trips to get in early enough to visit, but eventually I did so I toured the museum and the bone yard. It was great. I forgot to bring my good camera so I was only able to take phone pictures, but oh well. I’m not really a tourist anyway.
6. How often to you get to [insert city of company headquarters]?
once a year. With technology like conference lines and WebEx we can have montly department meetings and never see eachother. I can honestly say that I’ve met everyone in my department and I see my boss regularly because I have a client in her city, but I have no real business in the city of the HQ because no one in my department really lives there.
7. What’s your favorite city?
If they specify for work to me this is like picking a favorite kid. I’m not going to say who my favorite client is, i’m not that tacky. If they don’t put that modifier on I simply say Charlotte. I live there for a reason and there’s no place like home.
8. Do you get to use those lounges in the airports?
For US programs anyone can use the standard lounge, it’s simply a membership or admission fee based system. There is no requirement to fly a certain amount and for the most part most frequent flyers don’t have free access to lounges for domestic travel. Delta is giving lounge membership to Diamond (125,000 mile/year flyers). Certain levels of frequent flyers get to use lounges when flying internationally, but I don’t cross any borders from Charlotte to Cedar Rapids. My company pays for 1 club membership so I’m a Delta Sky Club member. If I want to go into any other lounges it’s on my own dime since I don’t travel on flights that would qualify me for United Red Carpet Club access enough, but in March I’m headed to Melbourne, Aus so I’ll do my part to visit Star Gold lounges.