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10 Tips on How to Reduce Stress During Business Travel

Today's business travelers are wired -- in more ways than one.

Plugged into voice mail and e-mail, hovered over laptops far into the night, business travelers have nowhere to hide from the pressures of work. Other stresses such as crowded highways, overbooked flights and unexplained delays can make just getting to a destination downright miserable -- it's no wonder today's road warriors are seeking ways to relax.

According to the Travel Industry Association of America's National Travel Survey, 197 million trips were taken in 1998, with each business traveler taking an average of 5.4 business trips a year.

So how can the nation's road warriors cope with all of that travel? Here are 10 tips that just may take the edge off business travel.

1. Take a mental vacation. That's what nearly all business travelers do when they're traveling by plane. Ninety-five percent do not consider work their first priority during flight, according to a poll conducted by Harris Interactive for Delta Air Lines. Leisure, rather than work activities, is mentioned more frequently. In fact, more than half (55 percent) take advantage of onboard entertainment and 64 percent use the time to sit and think. A whopping 81 percent read for pleasure, topped only by the all-time favorite activity for business fliers -- looking out the window.

2. Escape in a book. If you're among those who enjoy reading to relax, Country Inns & Suites By Carlson has an in-hotel library program called Book It And Return that lends guests free books such as The New York Times best-seller "Tuesdays with Morrie." "With more than 80 percent of business travelers reading for pleasure during their trips, we encourage our guests to borrow a book from the in-house library. When they're finished with it we ask that guests return the book to any Country Inns & Suites North American property upon their next visit," says Yvonne La Penotiere, vice president of sales & marketing, Country Inns & Suites. "For each book that is returned, the company will make a $5 donation to Laubach Literacy, up to a $20,000 annual donation."

3. Get some exercise. After sitting in meetings and seminars all day, it's not unusual to feel the need for exercise and fresh air. More than one fourth of U.S. travelers have used a fitness center or gym while traveling. And last year one in eight played golf while on a trip of 100 miles or more away from home, according to the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA).

4. Find another outlet. Is shopping your sport? It is for many travelers, including those on business trips. Outlet shopping malls are becoming major attractions, with 55 million travelers visiting them annually. And while the shopping experience isn't necessarily the primary reason for most trips, many consider it another diversion from the daily grind. After all, walking around a mall is a form of exercise, too.

5. Create your own spa. A business trip is the perfect excuse to pamper yourself. Why not turn your hotel bathroom into you own personal spa? Pack some scented candles into your overnight case. Fill up the tub, throw in some bath oil and wallow in self-indulgence. Paint your toenails pink. And no one will see you if you use a bright blue facial mask.

6. Eat anything you want. When you're tired, stressed and frazzled, a club sandwich won't do. Splurge on room service and order a thick, juicy steak. Top off your meal with chocolate mousse and strawberries. Or forget the idea of a balanced meal altogether and have hot, buttered popcorn for dinner, and watch the in-room movie in your PJ's.

7. Tune everything out. Late night revelers keeping you awake? Bring along a sound machine. You can find portable battery-operated or plug-in models in gift and gadget stores. Some units even have cartridges for special effects, so you can drift off to the restful sounds of ocean waves, crickets or rain showers -- there's even a "white noise" version based on the sounds of a mother's womb.

8. Ask for it -- they just might have it. Many hotel chains are following U.S. lodging industry trends that point to customized hotels for business travelers. According to www.countryinns.com, you can expect a variety of amenities, ranging from in-room coffeemakers and irons, to a "Did You Forget?" program that offers guests more than a dozen personal care items, from a toothbrush to a sewing kit.

9. Bring the family. If your business trip takes you away from the family, bring them with you. More travelers are taking family members along with them on business trips, and extending their business travels into leisure vacations. Two out of 10 business travelers (21 percent) combined business and vacation on their last business trip, according to the Travel Industry Association of America.

10. De-stress the drive. An often-overlooked segment of the business travel market includes people who drive to their destinations. If you're among them, you're not alone. According to D.K. Shifflet & Associates, a Virginia market research firm, U.S. business people spend 1.1 billion days a year on out-of-town trips, and more than 62 percent of the journeys are by car. While in the car, Americans bring a variety of tech toys with them -- as many as 57 percent, according to a survey by electronics retailer Best Buy.

Among the gizmos designed to take the bite out of travel, a surprising 16.5 percent of the survey's respondents, including 70 percent men, said they would choose a global positioning system (GPS) as their most desired product to bring along on a trip.

No matter how much things change, some travel truisms stay the same: When it comes to coping strategies, it seems most people would rather use a GPS than ask someone for directions.

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