I recently finished up a great trip to Japan thanks to All Nippon Airways, where I met with a number of Japanese entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs in Tokyo. It was a wonderful, whirlwind trip, and on my flight home I spent a lot of time thinking about what makes business travel suck, and what makes business travel win. (Japan won, if you’re wondering).

Ultimately, I focused on thinking about the actual travel moment itself (i.e. the flying), as opposed to the experience at large. When it comes down to it, I realized, work travel for me is best when I do my hardest to think of that in-flight travel time as a vacation.

Hear me out: I think folks all too often these days think that the actual in-air experience has to be a time to catch up on work. The introduction of wifi in-air has done nothing to help on this point, as it means we are simply always on, always accessible, and always reachable. Although we can’t actually have conference calls in flight (yet), we’re not far from that. Take the guy who wrote an entire book on transcontinental flights one year, for example. Productive? Yes. Something I would do? No.

And here’s why: Since I don’t love flying, and I find that flying typically leaves me tired and drained, I do my hardest to make flying as much of a pleasurable experience as possible. For me, that means not working as much as possible on flights. That may sound like a misnomer when I’m talking about business travel, but I really don’t think it is. After all, we all read the studies showing that we need downtime to be productive. For me, giving myself permission to have downtime in-flight is a great way to land in my destination as recharged as possible.

Here are a few specific things I do to make that inflight time feel like a vacation:

  1. Turn off your gadgets. Although Moment (my favorite way to track my iphone usage) doesn’t work in airplane mode, the premise remains the same: try to disconnect. This one thing will help you feel more calm.
  2. As much as possible, relax. Especially if you don’t love flying, this app can help. It works on iphone or Android, and turns the flight take-off into a relaxation game of sorts. Try it out to bring the zen. Or, as Arianna Huffington suggests, sleep. Getting in as much rest as possible – no matter the time zone – will help you when you land. If you fly on ANA, you’ll have a comfy seat and blanket to help you into dreamland;)
  3. Do the thing you love to do. I’m not a big movie buff, but I read like books are going out of style. This means that reading is the primary thing I do when flying. Often, I’ll save a particular book I’ve been dying to read for a long flight. The same holds for any of your favorite hobbies – doing them in the air, and saving them to do in the air, can help make flight time fun time.

Ultimately, I’m much better poised to work hard if I play hard on the flight, and land ready to tackle my work. If you’re like me, and flying drains you, thinking of your work flight as step one in your vacation might also be a good strategy for you to try. Instead of trying to work, and feeling unproductive and exhausted when you land, focus on playing. You’ll look forward to your trips, and feel better as they’re happening.

Do you try to unplug in the air?


Disclosure: As explained above, All Nippon Airways sent me to Japan to meet with entrepreneurs of all walks of life. As such, this post was created in partnership with ANA – All Nippon Airways. All opinions expressed in the post are my own and not those of ANA.


For more from Claire, read her free ebook on developing a morning routine, check out her blog, follow her on LinkedIn, or find her on the Twitters via @claire.

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