Travel secrets of Aussie frequent fliers

Everyone has their strategies for business travel, and many build theirs on the tips and advice of the wise and experienced.

Business Insider Australia spoke to eight Australian road warriors who regularly spend time in the air on the long jump to Asia and beyond for business.

It asked them for their tips on how to pack, when and what to eat, how to avoid jet lag, how to stay fresh, what they do on the plane, and how they cope when they return home.

Some had similar tactics, some are more unusual than others and many of the practical trips are simple when you know about them.

Steve Shelley

Vice president modular solutions, Emerson Network Power

HOT TIP: Train yourself to sleep on planes

I have two sets of toiletries, one in the bathroom and one in a partly-packed bag which takes me five minutes to pack.

The less fuss the better. Packing shouldn't be a big job and a business trip shouldn't take over your life.


I hardly ever pack a suit and I often don't bother with a sports jacket.

As soon as I buckle up on the plane heading from Sydney to Asia, I'm asleep within 15 minutes.

But this isn't a natural skill, falling asleep on aircraft. When I first started travelling to Asia in 1996 as a finance executive for Emerson, I would return home sleep-deprived.

My wife told me: “If you're going to be grumpy, don't bother coming home.”

So the next flight, I lay back in my seat and forced myself to sleep. The trick? I thought about the many weird and wonderful things which could be invented.

And when I wake up, I do a little work for an hour or so, then read a book or watch a movie.

I now return home not quite refreshed, but certainly not grumpy.

John Mollard

Global head of mining, Baker & McKenzie

HOT TIP: Get an APEC Business Travel Card

I first started travelling to Asia in 1993 and have been travelling within Asia continuously for the last 15 years, and more recently to Africa.

Probably due to gender and the fact that a suit is required, I usually get away with a carry-on suit bag and computer case for trips of up to two weeks. This gets me off planes without a trip to the baggage carousel.

And I take enough shirts for a week, and send them to the hotel laundry if the trip is longer.

A spare toilet bag with razor and toothbrush is always ready and packed. Included are spare cuff links, which inexplicably can be easily forgotten out of the limited wardrobe a man needs.

I recommend the APEC Business Travel Card, which helps with visa requirements and immigration queues. Also take plenty of spare business cards. The yellow vaccination card is always in my computer case (this is required in most African states).

On the plane it is a combination of work, reading and movies (a rare chance to watch foreign language films), but not generally too much sleep – especially on day flights.

My tip on dealing with jet lag is to acclimatise on arrival, which typically means staying up late on the first night to force the body clock to the right time. I take the same approach when returning to Australia.

James Bunn

Chairman, TX Australia (also director of Australia-Singapore Chamber of Commerce)

HOT TIP: Take a tablet loaded with music, movies and audio books

I pack as light as possible, generally an hour or so before I depart for the airport helps me to focus. I've one medium-sized suitcase for the longer trips and the biggest carry-on possible. If I am only planning a short two-day trip I try to avoid checking in bags so that I can streamline the process on arrival. It's best to carry a change of shirt in your carry-on bag in case of accidents.

A suit is not required in Asia anymore, but at board level things can be quite traditional.

I have three strategies for staying fresh: hydrating (always water, sparkling preferred); getting some sun (much has been said about vitamin D and it works for me); and, a game-changing refreshing shower.

Jet lag is a bigger issue for me on day three but I find it is remarkable what you can overcome when stimulated by new business opportunities and cultures.

When I can't sleep I like to workout in a deserted hotel gym so 24-hour hotel facilities are important to me. If I've planned the trip well, I'm back on a plane by the time jet lag is an issue. Then it's gin, vodka or red wine … I'm just kidding. It's all about hydration, and alcohol is not a good fit.

I break the flight into three stages – work, relax and rest – and time these for the time zone I'm flying to. After take-off, it's work time and I love the liberation of no interruptions. Catching up on reading, emails, reviewing presentations. Then it could be rest, depending on the flight, sometimes sleep.

I always travel with a tablet loaded with music, movies and audio books so that I can be independent from the aircraft system unless I need to hear safety announcements.

I try to eat light on the flight itself. From experience I know that a heavy meal will weigh me down and interrupt rest. It's harder to stay fresh when you're feeling slow. The preference is salad or soup with a glass of wine, but I have been known to weaken when caviar is available.

No matter how many times I travel, it's always good to come home.

Drop the bags, hot shower and straight back into it. I tend to be fired-up and full of positive excited energy when I get home. I aim to be back in the right time-zone on the same day.

I'm only grumpy if somehow I was bumped into economy. Actually, it's probably more crumpled that grumpy, but it definitely takes more time to recover if you've travelled for eight hours in the back of the bus.

Nick Quin

Managing director, SimCorp Asia

HOT TIP: Take a three-pack of Flyhidrate

Unless I am continuing onto Europe from Asia, I will always only travel with cabin luggage. I have a fantastic North Face cabin trolley piece that, combined with a suit bag, allows me to travel with enough casual, gym, and business clothes for a working week. I keep a clear plastic toiletry bag, packed with 100ml-and-less items, permanently ready to go. I never go anywhere without my Bose Bluetooth mini-speaker. Morning tunes help with the motivation to get into the day. In Asia I always wear a suit and tie, except for Singapore where I lose the jacket, however retain the tie.

To ensure I arrive in the best possible shape, when I travel from Sydney I always buy a long haul three-pack of Flyhidrate. These provide three different drinks for various stages of the flight. Sadly, these are not available at Asian airports yet. In addition, I will always immediately change into a sleeping suit (I take a Qantas pair with me if not flying with them), whether I plan to sleep or not.

I keep a small bag of eye drops and Fess saline nasal spray for hydration, plus ear plugs and eye mask for sleep. Cutting out the constant drone of the engines by using noise cancelling headphones also makes a huge difference to how you feel after eight hours in the air.

I will always start the next day with an early gym session to get the blood moving and energise the body. When I return home overnight from Asia I never eat or drink anything other than water, and I sleep immediately, usually taking a sleeping pill to avoid the frustration of lying awake. When I return to Sydney the best method for clearing any jet lag is a swim in the ocean.

I will typically spend the first hour or two working through work tasks I specifically save up for the plane trip. Once through that, I relax into watching a movie or TV series on the iPad or laptop, while eating and enjoying a red wine or two.

Flying to Asia I will only sleep if I can't hold if off. When returning home I will take a sleeping pill to ensure I sleep all the way back, and avoid eating and drinking altogether.

In general, experience suggests the less you eat the better, as such I will typically eat in lounges before the flight. If hungry on the plane I will always avoid red meat, given the effort to digest. I will, however, consume all possible sources of chocolate, at any time. When flying with Singapore Airlines I have a standing order for vegetarian food that ensures I feel comfortably light after eating.

After several years of trial and error, (and feedback from home), my pre-flight, in-flight and post-flight routines ensure that I arrive feeling well rested, fresh and happy. If in doubt, the solution is either immediate exercise or a quick trip to the beach.

Nikki Parker

Regional director North America and Oceania,

HOT TIP: Steer clear of alcohol

I have refined the way I pack and am now proud to say I pack light, although I always check in my luggage as I like to only take the bare essentials onboard with me. I pack the minimum, depending on the number of days and the type of work I am travelling for.

Dark coloured clothing in materials that don't wrinkle will make life much easier once you arrive. The age old adage of packing layers is definitely true when travelling in Asia. Multiple layers means you are never caught out due to weather or cultural sensitivities.

A suit is not always necessary and really depends on the types of meetings or events you are travelling for, although a lightweight suit is always good to have on hand.

I have been through several suitcases over the years and found they would not last me more than a few long haul trips. Last year I decided to invest in some strong, high-quality luggage which has so far been a great investment.

I always have cleansing face wipes and moisturiser on hand to keep my face feeling fresh which helps me “fake it till I make it” if I am overtired.

I often struggle to sleep on planes, but I always try to plan my day or night before flying overseas so that I begin to mimic the time zones I am flying into before jumping on the plane. I find being conscious of your flights, time zones and your regular sleep patterns before you even begin your journey makes the whole process and extensive travel feel far more manageable and helps me find my routine easier.

If I can't sleep, I don't fight it and make the most of the uninterrupted time. However, I make sure it is not all about work. I will typically start with any final prep work for the trip ahead and then settle in to watch a movie or two. I don't often find the time to watch TV or movies, so flying lets me indulge a little.

If I am hungry, I eat. It's as simple as that for me. Typically I will eat in the lounge before boarding. However, plane food seems to be improving all the time and I quite like the mystery of what is beneath the foil lid.

Recently on a flight to Asia I had a chilled coconut, which was a fantastic in-flight treat.

My trick is to load up on water. I will have at least a 1.5-litre bottle of water on a seven-hour flight and I steer clear of alcohol. Staying hydrated is the key to feeling good after a long flight. I will always have chewing gum and nuts on hand to battle any food cravings between meals.

I have always enjoyed travelling for work, but nothing beats coming home. I make sure I put clean sheets on my bed before I leave on a trip so that when I get home and I am exhausted I can get into my freshly-made bed.

When I am travelling for work, my exercise regime is often disrupted and replaced with dinners and overindulging. A long walk when I get back is an easy way to get back into my routine and prepares me for the challenge of hitting the gym again that week.

Stuart McCullough

CEO, Australian Wool Innovation

HOT TIP: Sleep when you can. Don't let jet lag torment you

Most of the trips that I make are for business, so I take no more than a small carry-on bag and a suit bag. I always travel with a two-piece suit and a jacket to every destination.

Eight times out of 10 I have little to no issue with jet lag however, every now and then it bites me and I find there are no specific tricks to overcoming it. Some say flying west is worse than flying east, and I would tend to agree. My advice would be to sleep when you can and don't let it torment you. It's usually known that if you are lagged you will wake up at plus or minus 10 minutes either side of 3am.

Long haul flights remain one of life's great freedoms. No one can bother you so sleeping, reading, watching, listening and eating all feature in no specific order.

My dietary requirements are generally red wine and red meat.

I think after an overseas trip, everyone is somewhat in a worse condition than when they departed. Life will get back to normal soon enough. Travel as part of a holiday is a completely different feeling and level of excitement.

David McGregor

Asia-Pacific leader for media, entertainment and telecommunications, Ernst & Young

HOT TIP: Take an iPad Mini and leave the laptop at home

It's stating the obvious to say that packing light is the way to go. I pack light enough that I only need to take a carry-on bag. I can quite comfortably get by for a week with only a carry-on bag.

There are a few tricks to make this work. I avoid any problems with security by making sure my toiletries are in small containers. I only take two pairs of shoes – a casual pair that I wear on the plane, and a pair of black business shoes in my bag.

I always take a suit when travelling in Asia. To save space I put the suit jacket on double duty as a sports coat when I need to go smart casual, and also on the plane.

I leave my laptop at home and rely on my iPad Mini for clearing emails and work-related reading. Not bringing a computer helps me get through security faster and saves a lot of space and weight.

I have a fairly standard routine when travelling. I prefer the overnight flights up to Asia. To gain some flexibility I like to have a good meal in the lounge prior to boarding. This means that if I feel like sleeping right away I don't need to worry about missing out on the meal service.

In my experience jet lag is not a huge factor when travelling to Asia from Australia due to the small differences in time zones. You are only two or three hours out of sync and the body handles this pretty well.

Routine is important for me so I try not to upset my normal routines too much and let my body clock guide me.

When I need to get some work done on the plane I try to get stuck into it in the first couple of hours of the flight. This allows me to get it out of the way before relaxing and switching off to refresh before the inevitably busy day of client meetings on arrival.

I focus on making sure that I am on top of the key themes and issues that are likely to come up in those meetings. EY has an excellent Insights App that has all the latest thought leadership coming out of the firm and I access this from my iPad. I also use the iPad to pass some hours in the lounge, listening to Cold Chisel and watching Scottish Premier League highlights on YouTube.

My top tip when travelling is to tap into your local networks at your destination. I rely on my Asia-based colleagues and the clients that I'm meeting for recommendations about what to see and what to eat.

Part of what makes travelling for work enjoyable for me is getting to enjoy some of the local culture and the local delicacies. Recently I was in Vietnam and the local team was fantastic at knowing exactly where to go to experience the best the area had to offer.

I always try to learn about the culture wherever I travel and I try to build that into my trips when I can. The easiest time to get out and about to experience some of the local sights is usually early in the morning. I'm not a big fan of sitting inside Western-style hotels eating Western-style food. I like to get a feel for what's around me.

Coming back, I go straight into my home routines. For example, after my last two trips I've come off the plane and gone straight to my kid's soccer coaching. Hand luggage and the e-passport means that you can get off the plane and into the car very quickly these days.

Business travellers are sacrificing time with their families for their work so there's no point wasting any time once back on home ground. The quicker I can get back into my family responsibilities, the better.

Andrew Simpson

National product marketing manager, Toshiba

HOT TIP: A beach swim is an instant cure for jet lag

Most of my trips to Asia (such as Tokyo and Shanghai) are usually for the same duration (five or so days) so I pack pretty much the same things each time. The only thing that is permanently packed is my travel toiletries bag. Try to keep it light.

I usually pack one suit but occasionally two suits. A different business shirt for each day. If it is winter I will also throw in an overcoat. I will also have gym gear, one pair of board shorts, then the usual toiletries.

I try to sleep on planes. However, it doesn't always work. I always find the gym when I get to the hotel and do a half-hour gym session. That seems to help.

On the flight, I normally watch a movie then try to rest for a bit. Sometimes I might use the time to finalise and/or run through a presentation.

With food, I actually try to make sure I try something new each trip. However, I always ask the locals for recommendations and certainly stay away from foods that could be harmful to my health.

On coming home, a swim at the beach is an instant cure for jet lag.