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ALTERNATIVE TRAVEL CONSULTING

Are you a Travel Consultant? It’s Free Vacation Time!

That’s right, you heard it here first: one of the beautiful perks of being a travel consultant is that instead of flying home every weekend from your client site, you can fly just about anywhere in North America. Okay, well, it’s likely that this is not the first time you are hearing about it. But every time I even think about this awesome perk, I smile. This is the greatest job, especially if you’re starting your career in consulting, if not solely for this perk. Okay, let’s break down the ins and outs of weekend travel, alternative travel, in leu of, whatever terminology your firm uses – for the sake of this post we’ll stick to weekend travel.

First, it’s important to know the policy at the firm, then on the project. Firm policy varies widely from firm to firm – talk to HR or do almost 30 seconds of research on your firm’s internal site. Some policies are simple: for the price of your airfare home and back to the client, you can fly anywhere at the same or lesser cost – OR stay in the same city and put that cost towards stay and food. Some firms get a bit trickier, but that isn’t always bad. Take this for example: for the sum of the price of a one-way ticket home and a one-way ticket to the client, you get to fly anywhere round trip as a travel consultant. I know not much is different so far, hang with me. If you have left over money, that can go to hotels, rental cars (ride shares, or taxis), or even food.

Another firm policy to consider when making your weekend travel plans is if the firm considers this a taxable expense. It’s a good point to note, that as a consultant, all of your expenses for your client (ie. flights, hotels, food, transportation) are technically income but they are not taxable income. Here’s why that’s important, if your firm considers your weekend travel taxable income, you could see deductions taken from your paycheck of up to 20-30% of the total expense from that weekend travel. Now let’s say you go to Hawaii and you spend $1000 on your corporate card. A couple pay periods later you see a $200 deduction on your paycheck, I’d say that’s the best damn travel deal you’ll ever find. But if your firm considers weekend travel a nontaxable event, just think of all the free pinacolatos you’ll be sipping next weekend.

The next thing to consider is the travel consultant project policy. Technically, the project policy should mirror the firm policy. The good news is some projects have less strict guidelines, like not needing approval for weekend travel. But there is a flip side to every coin. That means you know what the bad news is: some projects have guidelines that will make it much more difficult to take weekend travel – you must submit your request for hand-written travel at least 6 weeks in advance on Monday at 8:32 am or Wednesday at 9:06pm to even be considered (I’m exaggerating here). And that’s not a culture thing or a mean partner thing; it’s a client thing. Here’s the truth – clients do not want to know or hear about your weekend travel. They don’t understand that it changes anything for them, all they hear and see is that you are off having a blast. So, to play it very safe and close to the chest, no matter what your firm/project policy is you never tell the client.

Alright, now that we know our firm/project policy, we are ready to turn our travel consultant roles into free travel and make the most of it. This is a good time to note that weekend travel takes a little pre-planning or prep if you will. Now instead of being gone for 4 days, you’re traveling for 2 weeks, even 3 or 4 – yes, I have planned weekend travel to the point I was not home in January. This brings up a good question, how do I pack?

Deciding how to pack and what to pack is as important decision in the planning effort. And it all relies on where you are taking your weekend travel. What’s the weather like, what sort of activities will you be doing, and so on. Here’s how I start, I lay out two suit cases. One’s my normal carry on that I bring weekly to the client – this will double as our weekender bag. The second one is a larger checked bag. But what goes in what.

For simplicity and due to the mere fact that it is also always packed and ready to go, I always pack my carry on the same way – work week ready. Here’s the fun part packing the checked bag. This bag is the key to all your adventures that lie ahead of you. Let’s get the boring part out of the way – whatever I typically pack for work in a carry on, I also pack a spare or double in the checked bag. Think an extra suit, a couple extra button downs, ties, you name it. This is also a good time to emphasize: it is highly important that you stay at the same hotel from week to week when you are traveling on the weekend. Alright we’re back! Things to consider are packing real sized toiletries – yes that’s right we are checking a bag, so we get to bring precious liquids. Keeping in mind where your destination weekend, pack accordingly. Is it sunny during the day, and chilly at night – bring layers. You get the idea of this. Because you are checking a bag feel free to over pack.

Now that we have both our carry on “work week” bag and our checked “basically a traveling closet” bag, we can talk about how to prep for travel day. If you are new to consulting, you may not have heard the phrase “travel day” and know all its beautiful meaning. Travel day is 99% of the time the Thursday, a normal consultant goes home and looks forward to all week. But you’re no ‘normal’ consultant. Travel day to you is the start of an epic and glorious journey to venture into a new city scape and to soak up all the culture – or booze – that your heart desires. Well, how do we prep for travel day?

There are two types of consultants in the world when it comes to packing for travel day. The “Wednesday nighters” and “the oh f-ck its travel day, I need to shove everything in my bag right now to get to work on time”. I highly recommend being the former, especially when you are planning on utilizing the perk of weekend travel. Now it comes time to pack your carry on for the weekend and your checked bag to have its own stay at the hotel while you’re off adventuring. Note, I typically wear the same suit but pack a spare dress shirt for Monday. But that that we’ve packed, and you’ve left that checked bag behind at the front desk of the hotel, we’re ready to take on travel day and enjoy the fruits of our firm’s policy.

Struggling to find places to weekend travel to, don’t sweat. Enter your email and we’ll send you our free pdf that has a full list of places to travel to no matter where you are working.

Related: The Best Airlines to Fly of 2020

Have an awesome travel destination, drop it in the comments below!

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