How to make staying in a hotel for work easier and enjoyable

I’ve travelled for work a LOT in my life. For PR events, marketing activities, training, head office visits with companies based abroad or in different parts of the country, and even for companies that liked to hold their annual meetings abroad as a ‘work perk’. I’ve stayed in luxury hotels, I’ve stayed in Travelodges, I’ve shared hotel rooms with colleagues, and I’ve been unexpectedly upgraded to suites. After all this time I’ve pretty much perfected the art of the stress-free work hotel stay, so read on and hopefully you’ll find some useful suggestions!

Pack weather-versatile outfits – When travelling within the UK and Ireland at least, no matter what time of year it is, never ever leave for a work trip without a pair of shoes you can wear in the rain, and clothes that can be layered and removed as needed. Bring tights and a cardigan, and clothes that can be worn with or without them. It’s a horrible feeling to underestimate the weather and be cold/damp for your whole trip!

The do not disturb sign – Not just for people having a lie in after a heavy night. If you put this on your door in the morning, the hotel staff won’t come into your room to make the bed or replenish the toiletries. When you’re on holiday there’s something nice about coming back to a straightened up room, but personally when I’m travelling for work, I’m not at my most relaxed or easygoing, so I really don’t want someone in my room moving all my stuff. I have utmost respect for hotel staff because damn that’s a hard job, but it’s just that when I travel for work I really want my hotel room to be my own space. Sometimes when you use the DND sign, they even leave you an extra towel, toilet roll and shortbread packets outside your room for you to pick up on your way back in.

Bring your favourite tea with you – Come on now, does anyone really enjoy that vile Twinings Breakfast Blend? The best hotel room I’ve ever stayed in had a little bottle of complimentary fresh milk in the mini fridge, big chunky mugs instead of measly cups, and bags of Yorkshire Tea. It was heaven to come back to that in the evening, and so now I always bring my Clipper teabags (I’ve switched because they’re plastic free and taste just as good as Yorkshire Tea) with me so I can have a comforting cuppa when I get in, just like I would at home. Of course this only works if you’re travelling within the UK where we have kettles in hotel rooms, but then, who drinks tea when they’re abroad anyway?

Spend the evening doing your ‘self maintenance’ – I strongly do not recommend working in your hotel room, but even if you don’t work, it can be tricky to fully switch off when you’re in work trip mode. I often can’t concentrate on a book, or even crap TV. So instead, make a list of all the ‘body chores’ you’ve been meaning to get around to doing – your self tan, cutting/painting your nails, dying or deep conditioning your hair, shaving your legs, face masks… and spend your evening doing it all!

Laundry bag routine – If you’ve ever bought anything from Aesop, or received fancy pyjamas as a gift, you probably already own one of these nice drawstring cotton bags. They are perfect for keeping on top of your laundry, because you can hang it off the side of the desk chair, or on a wardrobe door handle, and every time you take off your socks and underwear for the day, you just conveniently stuff them in the bag. It means you never have to worry that there’s a forgotten pair of knickers under the bed when you leave, and you won’t be picking up stray socks from the floor when you’re supposed to be checking out to catch your train home. Also, it eliminates the need for a plastic shopping bag, which is what I used to use before, and, well, would never dream of using now!

Be wise about your skincare products – The key with skincare is to make it as fuss-free as possible, because you never know what kind of bathroom facilities you’re going to be confronted with. When I travel, I always bring a travel size of Caudalie’s Cleansing Oil instead because it dissolves makeup on its own and then rinses off. It’s the most convenient makeup remover ever! I also bring my bar of facial soap for a second cleanse/morning cleanse. Then I bring a small slice of soap to wash my body with too, because unless its a nice hotel, I know I’ll hate the shower gel they have (recently I’ve been trying to move away from plastic wherever I can, hence the bars of soap!). Some people recommend bringing skincare sample sachets along on a trip, but I wouldn’t recommend trying new skincare while you’re travelling for work – you never know if something will trigger a reaction, or make you so greasy that your foundation slips off your face by noon. I usually just bring my full size serum and cream because I don’t want to take them out of their normal packaging (for example, you don’t want to dip your fingers into a product that is designed to be squeezed out of a tube because the preservatives won’t work).

Fluffy slipper socks – It’s very difficult to fully relax when you’re on a work trip, but a pair of comforting fluffy socks certainly helps me.

Always be lovely to the staff – There’s no excuse for being rude to hotel staff, and it’s something I’ve seen a LOT of from people on business trips. No matter how tired, stressed or irritable you are, there’s no need to make someone feel like crap just because you do. And you never know when you might need them. If the TV broke in your room, I certainly wouldn’t rush to help you if you’d been a dick to me two hours earlier.

And lastly, a few things to never ever forget:

  • Ear plugs. As my dear favourite fictional character, Dale Cooper once said: “Once a traveler leaves his home, he loses almost 100% of his ability to control his environment.” (if you aren’t familiar with Twin Peaks, this is said while he is being kept awake by a huge group of other business people who are combatting jetlag by getting drink and singing all night. Now I’ve never experienced that, but I would have been grateful for earplugs while staying in a room next door to a very amorous couple… and now I’ll never forget them (the earplugs that is, I’m trying desperately to forget the couple).
  • Pyjamas. I’m just putting this here because I DID once forget pyjamas and it just so happened to be in the one hotel I’ve ever stayed in that didn’t have over the top central heating. I had to tear around a Primark between meetings and ended up buying the crappest pjs ever because they were ‘between deliveries’. Never again.
  • Pillow spray. Not only will this help you to calm down if you’re nervous about something big going on during your trip, it also means you don’t have to worry about any weird smelling hotel rooms!
  • A long charging cable. Even modern hotel rooms with plug points by the bed are sometimes too far away to charge your phone and FaceTime your SO (or play a game) at the same time, so make sure your cable can handle it!
  • Your takeaway coffee cup. Be environmentally responsible and don’t use travelling as an excuse to fall back on disposable cups. Plus, having your cup with you means you can fill it with filter coffee at the hotel breakfast to start your day with WAY more coffee than you’d be able to drink in one sitting!
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Bringing the beauty – a Travel Post!

I’m super excited. Tomorrow I’ll be going to New York for the first time! And then up to Canada, to stay with a friend. I can’t wait, and I thought that before I go I’d share how I roll when it comes to travelling.

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These are my essentials for hand luggage. A good book. Palmer’s lipbalm. Weleda Skin Food (for my face). Weleda Rhinodoron spray for my nose (the dry air doesn’t like my sinuses). A mini Jurlique Rose Hand Cream (luxurious and nourishing, because I’ll be using a tonne of antibac hand wipes too). Pacifica Coconut Milk Wipes (for freshening up). Urbanears Headphones (the best, and prettiest). Gin Gin ginger sweets (for ear popping purposes). Benefit’s They’re Real! (because my eyelashes are more or less see through so I need mascara at all times). Buddha Nose Girl Balm (the smell is calming and refreshing at the same time).

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I’m so glad I invested in a few new mini bottles to decant all this in. Because it went from all that…

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To just these! So satisfying. I’m going to need to wash my hair while I’m away which is annoying, because I need to use so much shampoo and conditioner I have no choice but to bring whole bottles. But being able to shink the rest of the products down to just this has helped SO MUCH. Most of these bottles came from Muji, with the exception of the Travalo perfume bottle, and the oil bottle, which actually came from a Weleda Body Oil set.

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I’ve kept it super simple with make up. To be fair, my make up routine is very simple all the time anyway, as I rarely experiment. I just decanted a couple of broken eyeshadows into my tiniest travel pots to save a little space.

So that’s it! I’m really pleased with how much space I’ve saved with those Muji bottles. Happy travels, touch wood! And if you’re going away yourself this summer, I hope you have a great time 🙂

The Arboreal Pit Viper

If you watched I Bought A Rainforest this Sunday, you’ll no doubt have been fascinated by Andy Whitworth and the world of the Crees Foundation. When Charlie Hamilton James and his crew – the hilariously entertaining Adrian and Hector – arrived at Crees we were in the middle of the monthly Leaf Drying. Crees is running a 20 year long Biomass study with Oxford University, to investigate the content and abundance of leaf litter on the forest floor.

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Every month, leaf litter is collected from designated areas all over the reserve, for the volunteers and interns to separate, dry and weigh. It takes days, because the bags of litter have to be sorted into seeds, leaves and sticks, then dehydrated slowly in a drying oven, and weighed after each stint until they stop getting lighter (this final dry weight is then the one that gets recorded). This is why so many of us were home in the middle of the day when Andy was showing Charlie a deadly Arboreal Pit Viper, known locally as a Loro Machaco. We crowded round, excited to watch the photography unfold.

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As Andy briefed Charlie on the snake, we all began to wonder if getting him getting this close to something so deadly was wise – Charlie still had almost an entire TV series to film. Lexi, another staff member, ran off to our enormous first aid box (a necessity when the nearest doctor is a 40 minute boat ride and 30 minute hike away) and brought back the anti-venom kit. It sat on the side of the Project Room, reassuringly present during the filming.

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Screenshot from I Bought A Rainforest – watching carefully as Andy wrangles the snake

The snake (who is still one of the most beautiful creatures I’ve ever seen) has a seriously awesome tongue. Charlie really wanted to get a photo of it as it flicked out. But snakes don’t just flick their tongues for fun. They do it to scope out warm prey, and there was only so many times that expertly brave Andy could move his hand towards the snake before the risk got too high. He suggested we warm up a banana in the leaf drying oven, to simulate a body that would pique the interest of the viper’s heat sensing pits. I ran off to the cage we kept the bananas in (yes a cage – no other way to keep the insects away!) selected the snake’s victim and put it in the heated wooden box. After a few minutes we removed it, and Andy waved the fruit near the snake – it was immediately alert, its tongue curiously tasting the air for the source of the warmth. Charlie got some stunning shots, and we returned to our afternoon of leaf drying whilst listening to a combination Reggaeton, and each other’s iPods.

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Charlie’s programme was eye opening, moving and incredibly important. He’s given us a rare opportunity to see every aspect of the incredibly complicated issues that the Amazon, and the people in it, face. The lesson to be learned is that the people who will ultimately save the rainforest are the people who call it home. All we can do is use our monied privilege to help in any way we can.

I am a past volunteer of the Crees Foundation and an avid supporter of their incredible work. This post was written completely independently of them and was done from memory – so apologies if I got anything wrong! If you want to read more about Crees click here. If you want to help them support the development of a sustainable Amazon, click here. And if you want to read more about Charlie Hamilton James’  work in the Amazon, click here

Saving the Rainforest

I stood still, silent. Around me the forest creatures chirped, squawked, trilled and croaked.  The longer I stood the more I could hear, unknown numbers of infinite species. I had been in the Amazon Rainforest for just a few weeks and already two new frog species had been found. One was new to the area but already documented by scientists, while the other, with a lime green body and bright yellow toe webbing, was an entirely new discovery. It was staggering to witness first-hand this abundance and diversity of life, to see a hundred different kinds of butterfly in one day, to hear fifty different birds call in one morning.

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The lush greenery pressed in from all sides; moss covered branches, enormous leaves, and thick tree trunks all moist with the clean, humid air. Between the trees I could make out the peak of a mountain in the distance, coated in the undulating canopy of ancient forest. I heard the high, wavering call of a Tinamou, gentle yet louder than the small insects and amphibians around me.

I was in the Amazon Rainforest. But the trees that stood tall, supporting this massive collection of life, were only thirty years old. Before that, in the sixties, the area was a cattle ranch. You can still see the remains of a stone building at the top of a hill, perhaps an old outpost or cabin. Known as regenerating rainforest, when the cattle ranch closed the forest was left alone, allowed to grow back without restriction.

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Trees put down roots, undergrowth spread, and mammals, reptiles, insects, birds and amphibians returned in their droves. This area is proof that the rainforest can be saved, that we can fix the destruction our greed and ignorance has wreaked on the lungs of the earth. It takes time, of course, but animals make the most of the thick undergrowth that covers the regenerating forest floor. Birds and monkeys even put the smaller trees to good use, moving easily through the thinner canopy. Animals can happily adapt to these minor changes – whilst still enjoying their original pristine rainforest just as much as the newer parts.

In fifty years time, the canopy in this area will be as high and dense as nature allows, the floor will be dark, and what was once new growth will again be part of the ancient, wild, wonderland we call the Amazon. However, there will come a point where the jungle can no longer grow back, when we cut too far for it to heal. But it hasn’t happened yet. If we act now, we can save the rainforest.

I was inspired to write this post by the new BBC2 series ‘I Bought a Rainforest‘ which has been highlighting the massive, complex issues facing the rainforest. If you would like to learn more about CREES, the amazing conservation charity I was involved with, please take a look at their website and current fundraising campaign, which will help the Amazonian people to live sustainably. 

Amazon Rainforest Memories

Maybe it was the sudden burst of rain this afternoon, or maybe it was the fact that I’m finally getting back into writing my book (that’s set in the rainforest), but today I couldn’t get the jungle out of my mind. I had such a life changing time there, and while I wasn’t there for as long as a lot of people, it’s stuck with me as one of the best things I’ve ever done. I want to share some videos from the charity I volunteered with, because they’re actually really nice to watch.

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