18 June 2013

Glamorous or grueling? Jet-setting can be both

Story Originally Appeared in USA TODAY

NEW YORK — Samantha DiGennaro had a resolution at New Year's.

The founder and CEO of New York-based public relations firm DiGennaro Communications was determined that at a time when many tend to friendships and business via Facebook, Skype and Twitter, she would spend more time, face to face, with her far-flung clients.

"That was my commitment, so I've been flying all over the country," says DiGennaro, 43. "So many people are constantly plugged in, and that's important, but that does not beat the power of face-to-face interaction and communication."

To help business people work smarter on the road and in the office, USA TODAY is looking at how many executives, like DiGennaro, can work more efficiently and is offering their tips to help others.

DiGennaro has a wealth of advice on how to make business travel more productive and pleasant. This year, she's been on the road more than she's been home, traveling to Istanbul and Milan in just the last four weeks

"Over time, you learn this works more effectively than that; this saves more time than that," she says.

DiGennaro enjoys traveling for fun. But she acknowledges that hopscotching across the globe for work can be stressful.

"No matter how free-spirited you are or how much wanderlust you have, it's an entirely different experience than traveling for pleasure," says DiGennaro, who also flies back and forth to her second office in Santa Monica, Calif., to London, where she has a partner agency, and to attend conferences important to her executive clients.

"It's a lot of having to be on," she says, "constantly moving, constantly entertaining, eating out three meals a day, not necessarily having time to squeeze in a workout or exercise. So I love to travel, but travel is not always easy."


First things first is the packing. No matter how far she's flying or how long she'll be away, DiGennaro tries to travel with a carry-on to avoid waiting on checked luggage. She takes clothes that don't have to be ironed and uses cloth shoe bags to separate them. "I might have all of my shirts in one pouch and all of my dresses in another," she says. "Then I can unpack pretty easily."

She carries chargers and adapters for her electronics. Except for her contact lens solution, toothpaste and makeup, DiGennaro tends to travel toiletry-free. That eliminates the worry over airport security screeners who decide a too-big bottle of shampoo needs to be tossed or checked. She buys anything else she needs when she arrives.

She recently bought luggage with wheels that allow her to roll it in front or beside her, instead of just pulling it along. "I have to move quickly," she says, "and so luggage matters."

So does having clearance to pass through airport checkpoints more quickly. DiGennaro belongs to the U.S. Global Entry trusted traveler program, which means she gets to use special "pre-check" lanes that don't require passengers to take off their shoes or take out their laptops.


When traveling for business, DiGennaro thinks that a trip on a private jet trumps commercial flying because of the "privacy, the ability to get work done."

She realizes that's not an option available to everyone. So the next best thing is a seat in business class. DiGennaro will veer toward coach if a client is buying her ticket. But when paying her own way, "I'm more likely to maneuver to get an upgrade."

"The difference between the business-class experience and the economy experience is astounding," she says. "Everybody's respectful of everybody's space. There's a higher probability sitting in coach that somebody ... is going to sit next to you and not take a social cue that you need to get your work done or you want to read your book."

When booking, DiGennaro often tries to get a flight that offers Wi-Fi to get work done. She also aims for the first flight of the day when traveling from New York to the West Coast in case bad weather causes delays.

Returning home to New York, however, she tends to fly at night, when she expects airports to be a bit less crowded and chaotic.

On the ground, she'll often just hail a taxi rather than rent a car "so that I can sit back and relax and not worry about ... finding streets I don't know," she says. "Travel is stressful enough. I feel that's one way to take a little edge off."

Mobile apps can also be helpful, says DiGennaro. She particularly likes Uber, the on-call car service, Four Square and Google maps on her iPhone so she can quickly orient herself in an unfamiliar city.


She's found it a harder to stick to a healthy diet on the road. If her client prefers the local rib joint to a salad bar, she has to go with the flow.

She also says she finds she drinks more on the road than at home. So the trick, she says, is "knowing your limits and when to stop. Knowing that I wouldn't be having a third glass of wine if I were at home, so there's no reason to have a third glass of wine while I'm away."

To try to keep fit, she packs yoga pants and flip-flops. "The most important thing is to always be prepared with exercise clothes, so the option at least is there," she says. She also packs her vitamins in plastic baggies or a pill case, to save room in her luggage.

DiGennaro prefers her business trips to be back to back. "I personally would rather be on the road for two and a half to three weeks straight and get everything done ... than to have to fly back and forth five and six times in a month," she says.

But, she says, she will squeeze in a weekend of fun. In March, for instance, she went skiing with friends in Aspen between business trips to California and Texas.

On flights with no Wi-Fi, DiGennaro considers the working part of the day done. She'll use that time to acknowledge a relative's anniversary or an employee's promotion with a handwritten note. Or, she'll listen to a meditation podcast.

"It's a good opportunity to calm the mind down," she says. "There are a lot of people out there who dread flying ... (but) how often do we sit still for five hours? We're all moving at this fast pace. Enjoy that sitting still. It's a nice thing."

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