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Mia Moore
Mia Moore

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at xomia.com

8 Travel Tips for Developer Advocates (and Other Tech Roles)

Mia taking a mirror selfie in the airport bathroom wearing a mask. Their brown hair is dyed, half peach. Their luggage is rose gold and pink and they are wearing a Trixie and Katya shirt with mom shorts.

When I moved into developer relations back in 2018, I found myself in a role where I got to travel frequently for work! This is definitely a privilege and something I try not to take for granted. Many people don’t get to travel at all, let alone have a company fund their way.

At the same time, frequent travel comes with its own set of challenges. It is an art form to balance frequent travel with your mental and physical health. Travel is exciting, but also exhausting and isolating. I was just starting to get the hang of things when the pandemic hit and travel came to an abrupt stop.

Recently, folks who started DevRel during the pandemic are starting to travel, and after Ceora started a thread on Twitter for travel tips, I wanted to make a list of the things I’ve learned for supporting your own well-being while traveling - at least as someone in tech.

It turns out I have a lot of feelings about balancing your physical and mental health while traveling! This list is less about which hotels to stay at or other travel hacking and more about taking care of yourself while you’re regularly on the road.

Above all, make things easier for yourself, keep on top of your mental and physical health, and find your personal balance for all things travel!

Disclaimer: As of September 2022, I’m still not traveling regularly due to the ongoing pandemic. I have traveled to an event once so far (pictured right). These tips are not adjusted for how things have changed during the pandemic. Please wear a mask and stay safe!

1. Don’t try to save your company money.

This is something a manager told me, and it sounds a little harsh at first, but hear me out. Travel is physically and mentally demanding. There are a lot of small comforts that can help make things more sustainable for you long-term, especially if you are traveling frequently.

Double check your travel policies to see what your company allows. Get the slightly more expensive flight with the much better timing. Fly in a day early, or even a few days if there’s a large time zone difference. Lots of company policies will allow for upgrades on your flight if it’s over a certain length. Stay closer to the venue that the event is in.

Even if something is not within company policy, you can sometimes negotiate certain perks. I’ve asked a manager if I could get a (slightly) more expensive room rather than taking an Uber to the conference every day or walking back alone at night - I’ve never been told “no” so far!

These little comforts are important; they will help you not to burn out or overwork yourself. And that matters to the capitalistic machine company, too — you can’t travel or perform your best if you’re burned out.

2. Choose one airline and one hotel brand.

This is probably the most common travel tip, and for good reason! Earning status with an airline or hotel chain gives you fairly significant perks. Early check in/late check out, free checked bags, and airline seat upgrades make a big quality of life difference for the frequent traveler.

These choices will likely depend on where you’re flying to and from most frequently. If your hometown is a hub city for a certain airline, that probably makes the decision for you. I live in Austin and there are not a ton of direct flights. But, if I knew that I would be flying to San Francisco frequently, only Alaska and American offer a nonstop flight, so I’d likely choose one of them. (You can usually transfer or match your airline status if you end up needing to switch airlines later.)

Another factor is your employer’s travel policies. If the best airline is always too expensive or otherwise out of policy, then that may not be the one to pick.

With your airline/hotel status, you not only get extras during your trip, but also points to use on flights and hotels during your personal travel. It’s one of the biggest perks of the whole “work travel” thing.

Travel “hacking” with credit cards/points is a topic in and of itself — I don’t do it personally, but it’s definitely something you can look into if that interests you.

3. Take time off.

This is an evergreen career message — use your time off!! — but especially so when you’re traveling. If you are traveling or working on the weekend, take proportional time off. Personally, I have always been on teams where that is the explicit policy, even if the company as a whole didn’t have unlimited PTO.

If you’re flying home on a Saturday, take an extra day off another time. And even if the only “work” you did was travel — that is work, that counts, and you should take the proportional time off. A day here or there may not feel like much, but it adds up over time. You will feel much more refreshed giving yourself that room to breathe.

This tip also applies during the trip itself. You don’t have to go to every happy hour or every conference talk. I’m an introvert, and after a day of boothing, I can’t always handle another social event. It’s totally fine to get delivery and watch trashy TV in your hotel room. Use your best judgement to pace yourself when you can; it pays off.

4. Say no sometimes.

At first, I said yes to every opportunity to travel — after all, I didn’t know how long I’d be in a position where my employer would be paying for me to travel. Why would I ever say no? Some of my coworkers would roll their eyes about traveling to certain locations, but I didn’t understand why. I truly didn’t think it’d ever get old.

Well, it turns out, saying yes to everything is a one-way ticket to burnout. It’s difficult to maintain your home life or your relationships with loved ones if you’re constantly on the road. It can get exhausting and lonely to be without a home base.

Everyone’s personal balance is different, and it will likely take some trial and error to find yours. Think about what makes sense with the rest of your life. Do you have kids/partner(s)/family that rely on you? Will you have to offload some of your home duties to others while you are gone? Are you able to socialize and enjoy your leisure time, or do you find yourself still recovering from travel? Will you miss your dog too much if you’re gone two weeks out of the month? Can you keep up with responsibilities like cleaning, making dinner, whatever else? Are your partner/family/friends feeling neglected?

Note: Being able to say no depends on your team dynamic/expectations. There may be a certain percentage of travel you agreed to when you took this role, or certain events that are not optional. But if it’s getting to be too much, talk to your manager about expectations and what you can do to have more time at home.

5. You’ll probably do less (other) work.

“I’ll have plenty of time to do that on the plane!” is a lie we tell ourselves to feel like we’re not behind.

A lot of folks expect to do the same amount of work they normally do while traveling. To put it simply, this isn’t possible if you want to maintain your sanity.

Keep travel dates in mind when you’re planning what’s realistic — you likely can’t commit to as much as if you weren’t traveling. For example, if part of your job is writing blog posts, you may have to scale down how many you do per month/quarter so you can also attend events.

In my experience, your manager will understand and not expect an equal amount of output if you’re traveling — it’s our own expectations that are harder to shift.

6. Pack light and pack smart.

Before traveling for work, I always had a checked bag. Now, even on longer, personal trips, I can usually get away with just a carry-on suitcase and a backpack.

Things that make a huge difference:

  • Packing cubes
  • A backpack that opens like a suitcase
  • A case for your various cables
  • Travel-specific toiletries. Buy the extra toothbrush/hair brush/hair care/etc. and you’ll never forget something again!
  • Bonus: Buy cute toiletry containers. A splurge, but a delightful one.

Some folks have separate shoes, clothes, cables, etc. that live in their suitcase full time (aside from laundry time) and are only used for travel. This is a great idea if you’re traveling often enough!

7. Travel still “counts.”

A lot of folks, myself included, feel like travel “doesn’t count” as real life, in a lot of different ways. When you travel enough for work that it is no longer a special occasion, you have to start maintaining your health the way you do otherwise. That said, I think it’s important to have some flexibility for inevitable activities that pop up — and most importantly of all, not worry about it later regardless. Guilt is not the goal either!

For me, this looks like making sure I eat fruits/vegetables regularly, packing snacks, taking my vitamins/medications, trying to maintain my sleep schedule, keeping up with therapy, etc. I had a coworker who swore by sticking to his same gym routine, no matter where he was in the world. There’s something to be said the comfort of a routine, plus I imagine it makes it easier to stay in the routine when you return.

8. Fit in fun.

If you’re able, find time for things you love to do. Personally, I find it more challenging to take the time to think about things to do than to actually go and do stuff during the trip! Planning is key here.

Take time to watch a show you’ve been meaning to check out on the plane. Collect a Starbucks mug in every city you visit. Like beer? Suggest a local brewery for happy hour. Stay an extra day and do a tour of the city or visit a museum. Whatever floats your boat!

Or make time to visit the Nintendo Store in NYC and buy a giant Isabelle stuffed animal and figure out how to fit it in your luggage later… just hypothetically.

Mia holding a big Isabelle plush.

The giant Isabelle plush in a carry-on suitcase.

Top comments (10)

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codenameone profile image
Shai Almog

Great advice!

I think some of the advice is geared to people who like to travel. I'm not a fan, but I do like the conferences. A few of the things that I find important:

  • Travel light - I fly with one carry on. I put my backpack inside the carry on. That way I have room for presents/swag for the kids

  • Don't draw local currency - I used to do that a lot. You can pay with your phone nearly everywhere. I do have a bit of $ and Euro which are both universally exchangeable if necessary never had to use either

  • Use hotel laundry - underpack and if necessary just send clothes for washing

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xomiamoore profile image
Mia Moore Author

Hah! That's a good point, I do like to visit new places, though the travel part specifically is not my favorite. Thanks for the additions!

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erinmikail profile image
Erin Mikail Staples

Love ALL of this Mia!
and I do feel like this is the key and especially as I'm getting back in the swing of things.

(And YES to the isabella stuffed animal or finding little prizes along the way — I recently picked up a tube of bright pink lipstick from a shop in Romania and i am SO GLAD I DID!)

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xomiamoore profile image
Mia Moore Author

I LOVE that you got pink lipstick, how fun! And now every time you use it, you'll remember being in Romania :)

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kanekotic profile image
Alvaro

awesome post. I was a traveling consultant for some time and feel most of these things are great for starting, especially packing the fun.
My 2 cents is travel on company time as travel is also part of the job.

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xomiamoore profile image
Mia Moore Author

Totally agree! Thanks for reading!

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themfon profile image
Mfon.

This is insightful, Mia. I'll be sure to share with my devrel friends.🏅💯

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xomiamoore profile image
Mia Moore Author

Thanks so much! :)

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rmoff profile image
Robin Moffatt

Excellent points!

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yuridevat profile image
Julia 👩🏻‍💻

Love your article! It helps a lot, thanks for sharing 🙏

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