Where some of us dream of a day at the spa for relaxation, Peggy Fucci looks forward to boarding a plane and traveling thousands of miles to meet with a potential customer. A long flight to Europe gives her time to take in a movie, clear email and read a magazine without interruptions: “It’s peaceful. My phone doesn’t ring. It’s me time.”
Yesterday’s road warriors have evolved into today’s global gladiators who are not just taking the red-eye across country for business, but across hemispheres and time zones. They are shaking off jet lag to meet with clients across continents and mastering ways to use extended flight time to their advantage.
For Fucci, wedging her suitcase into an overhead compartment and heading overseas to meet with potential customers has become as normal as driving on I-95.
“To get on a plane and go to Madrid or Peru or Rio is just part of what I do,” says Fucci, CEO of OneWorldProperties, which is marketing the new Paramount Miami Worldcenter, a planned luxury condo tower. “In today’s real estate market, you can’t wait for the buyers to come to you. You need to go to them.”
In 2014, business trips abroad increased an estimated 5.6 percent as companies deemed travel critical to winning new customers, closing new deals and developing global relationships with suppliers, according to the Global Business Travel Association. “When you are doing business in a global economy, nothing replaces face to face. It has to happen,” says Michael McCormick, executive director of the GBTA. Researchers expect the trend to continue, with international business trip volume expected to grow by 6.5 percent in 2015.
Jet lag, long days, a stressed-out spouse at home and children who miss their traveling mom or dad easily could lead to worn nerves. But these globe-trotters are navigating challenges to their work/life balance through simple rituals, 21st-century technology and tested time-savers.
Avoiding lost luggage, delays and travel mishaps takes know-how and planning. Whether she’s off to Sao Paolo or Beijing, Fucci takes only a carry-on, a prepacked, wheel-in-any-direction bag that she refers to as her miracle suitcase. Fucci has found a driver in most international cities with whom she can leave her suitcase and rush straight to meetings. Most crucial, she has gained global clearance, allowing her to breeze through security checks and bypass long lines. She also uses airline apps to check ahead on her mobile phone for flight delays. “Between that and traveling light, I can gain at least an extra 30 minutes to an hour at home with my family,” she says.
Law partner Francisco Cerezo, who has more flight miles under his belt than some regional pilots do, has honed his routine over 10 years of international travel. Cerezo, chair of Foley & Lardner’s Latin America legal practice and co-chair of its International practice, recently traveled to Madrid, Shanghai, San Francisco and Puerto Rico in a two-week span. “I have a packed bag permanently with spare batteries, chargers, adapters, toiletries, cuff links. All I have to do is grab shirts, suits and my papers,” Cerezo says. He, too, avoids checking luggage and employs a strategy to make travel easier: “I keep the hotels I use to a minimum so they get to know me. It makes checking in early easier and they hook me up with extras.”
For international travelers raising children, balancing work demands with the family’s needs takes extra coordination. Embracing technology and using international data plans help. Carmen Bigles, president and CEO of Coquí RadioPharmaceuticals Corp., has tackled almost every homework dilemma or bout of pre-teen angst from thousands of miles away through text and FaceTime. As Bigles travels to meet scientists in her efforts to establish a medical radioisotope production facility in Florida, she tracks her two daughters’ whereabouts through the GPS on their phones, and she approves any change in plans by typing her consent on her cellphone keyboard.
Like most parents doing a balancing act, Bigles says she knows what her family’s capacity is for her travel. She tries to keep her trips to no longer than three days. That could mean taking a midnight flight to be at an 8 a.m. meeting in Bariloche, Argentina. “When you fly 12 hours to be there for a day, you’re tired,” she admits. “I have a very different life than many people, but I enjoy it.”
Some business travelers adjust their travel routine as their home life shifts. Cerezo used to be able to fly off at the drop of a hat for a few weeks at a time and extend trips to socialize with his work friends around the world. Newly married, his travel now requires more planning: “Now I will squeeze more into fewer days because being home for the weekend is a bigger consideration.”
For most global travelers, the rush to get home surfaces as the No. 1 factor in picking flights — taking priority over fares or amenities — particularly for holidays. The Travel Industry Association of America found companies, for the most part, are accommodating working parents’ requests to shorten travel time and take red-eye flights, when it saves money.
For these travelers, though, doing deals in a global marketplace requires more than logging flight miles. The demands required to conduct business across time zones continue even after travelers return.
Mayi de la Vega, CEO of One Sotheby’s International Realty, says that after returning from a trip to market luxury South Florida homes in Mexico City, she woke up early the next morning for a call with her affiliates in London. “It takes a lot of stamina,” she says. A veteran traveler, de la Vega says she builds her endurance by exercising wherever she travels: “I always try to leave a little time to go to the gym at the hotel or go for a stroll or jog.” And like Fucci, she uses long flights as her down time. During a 16-hour return flight from Dubai, she says, “I cleared my inbox and caught up on things. I read. I slept. It was relaxing.”