Travel Tips from Suzanna

Traveling for work can be a lot of fun, but it can also be exhausting, time consuming, and stressful. As the Director of Graduate Student Recruitment and Admissions, I travel extensively in the fall and with assistance from a colleague who travels exponentially more frequently (Thanks Ryan!), here are some tips to minimize the pain and maximize the benefits of traveling for work:

  1. Take time to plan ahead. When I’m planning a trip, Google Maps is my best friend, especially if I’m not familiar with the location I’m traveling to. Where’s my event located? Will I want to stay close by? Does it make more sense to stay closer to the airport if I’ll have to get to there during rush hour to make my flight?

    All of these are questions you should be asking yourself when planning a trip. Plan ahead and think about these things before you book in order to save yourself the stress later. Trust me, you don’t want to be stuck in traffic on I-205 at 7:30 AM trying to make your flight at 9 [cut scene to me crying after watching my flight take off without me from inside the terminal at PDX].

Also, take time to think about your trip and how it’ll fit in with your regular responsibilities at work. In addition to thinking about the drive to the airport and how long it’ll take depending on what time of day it is, think about your return trip. Sure, it might seem reasonable to get back at 10 PM, but how long will it take you to get home from the airport? Will you want to go to work the next day after getting home so late? (The answer is no). Take special care when traveling between time zones. Jet lag is real and will make you miserable.

  1. Brand loyalty is key. Frankly, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’ve been in my position for nearly 4 years and I haven’t had much brand loyalty. In retrospect, I could be platinum-diamond-plutonium-plus-elite somewhere by now, but it’s taken me awhile to realize the benefits of brand loyalty, for both airlines and hotels (in my defense, I tend to fly out of Eugene, which is not exactly a hub for anything except tractors). If you fly out of PDX, consider Alaska Airlines. If you travel enough, it may also be worth it for you to get the Alaska (or whichever airline) credit card, which will maximize your mileage earnings, usually allow you a free checked bag and priority boarding, and often help you reach status faster. I also recommend paying up front for your plane tickets (using the airline credit card of course), rather than having your institution’s travel agency book the ticket for you. This way, you get the credit card points and/or miles, and you’re eventually reimbursed anyway. I always do this, and dip into savings to cover the bills if necessary, which I put back into savings when I’m reimbursed after a trip.

The same goes for hotels. I’ve recently made the switch from Hilton to Marriott due to Marriott’s acquisition of the Starwood Preferred Guest program, as there will likely be more options for hotels wherever I’m staying. It’s also common while searching for hotels to see lower prices on websites like or Expedia, but hotels hate when you use third party sites to book your room because they lose money to that site. As a result, I’ve found that if there’s a lower price on a third party site, if you call the hotel directly and say you found a lower price , but that you’d rather book directly with the hotel, they’ll not only match the price for you, but occasionally throw in an upgrade. Hey, worth a shot, right? Either way, you’re getting the lower price for your institution. On that note, if you work for a public college or university, I would definitely recommend registering for the NASPO ValuePoint Travel Center website. This website is for public employees only, and offers government rates for many hotels (though not all hotels participate in this program). I’ve had amazing success finding deals in gorgeous hotels or upgraded suites for fractions of the prices listed to the general public. For example, your girl stayed at the Sentinel Hotel in Portland (swanky!) for $130 a night and had a top floor room with a private patio (full disclosure, they have since upped the government prices for the Sentinel). Either way, it’s definitely worth checking before you commit to booking elsewhere. The site still lets you enter your loyalty program number for the hotel chain you’re booking, so there’s no downside to booking through NASPO.

Additionally, many brand loyalty programs will also let you “double dip” with other services. For example, I have my Delta SkyMiles account hooked up to my Lyft account, so not only am I earning miles by flying Delta, but I’m getting a tiny number of miles every time I take a Lyft! Delta also allows me to connect my Marriott rewards to my SkyMiles account, so I’m earning even more miles with every stay. Look into this for whichever programs you decide to do to make sure you aren’t missing opportunities to earn! Additionally, sign up with RewardsNetwork to earn more on air miles. I signed up with my Delta SkyMiles account to use the SkyMiles Dining program, which basically means that when you eat at one of their partner restaurants and use the card that you registered, you get the dollar amount in miles (or 2x, 3x miles depending on how often you use the program. You’re going to eat anyway, right?

  1. Be realistic. This connects with the first point of planning ahead; be realistic and give yourself time to recover from travel, especially air travel. Being on a plane completely drains you of energy, not to mention water – seriously, make an effort to stay hydrated on planes, even if it means you may have to use that tiny bathroom. On that same note, be realistic about layover times. Don’t give yourself a 40 minute layover in LAX and expect to make that connection. Sure, no one wants to sit around in an airport for a 3 hour layover, but boarding for your connecting flight will begin at least 30 minutes before the departure time, and if you don’t factor that into booking your flights, you’re going to have a bad time. If you’re sitting in the back of your first flight, airplane etiquette dictates that you have to let everyone else from the rows in front of you deplane first. Disrupt this rule at your own risk, and when booking flights, try to pick seats closer to the front of the plane, especially if you have a tight connection!

Most of the recruitment events I’m travelling to attend take place in the evenings, from 5:30 to 7:30 PM, and for any of these that aren’t located on the west coast, I’m traveling the day before the event. It may sound silly because you could technically arrive in time for the event, but think about your day leading up to that event. If you get up at 3 AM to make a 6 AM flight, even if it’s direct, you’re going to be exhausted by the time you get to your destination. You also 2-3 hours depending on time zones. If your flight is delayed (which NEVER happens.. just kidding), you might miss the event entirely. Even if you don’t have a travel emergency, you’re going to be exhausted and off your game, and you don’t want that, especially if your institution is spending hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars to send you somewhere to represent them. I made this mistake once and only once traveling to Minneapolis for a 5:30 – 7:30 PM event, and even though I didn’t experience any delays and my flight arrived on time 2:30 PM, it took 45 minutes to get to my hotel, I couldn’t check into the room until 4 PM. By then, a nap was out of the question and I’d already been up for 18 hours. Upon getting to my room, I barely had enough time to shower and get dressed, grab my recruitment materials, and set out to find the event. Although my school saved $130 on an extra hotel night, I knew I was far from my best that night.   

  1. Be kind. Whether it’s the dehydrating effects of air travel, or the stress of coordinating multiple legs of a trip, I believe people are truly at their worst while traveling. I think we’ve all been witness to an airport meltdown or two, and yeah, it can be amusing, but if you travel often enough, eventually it’ll be your turn to have a tantrum in the terminal. When this happens to you (notice I say “when” and not “if,” because when you travel enough, this is inevitable), it’ll be tempting to absolutely lose it at the gate agents or customer service representatives, but do your best to resist. These people do not control air traffic, plane maintenance, or weather, and they’re much more likely to want to help you if you remain civil. Plus, if you do throw a tantrum during an unavoidable inconvenient situation, you’re still going to be stuck there at the gate, only now you’ll be embarrassed in front of everyone else on your flight.

This also goes for attitudes towards your fellow travelers. Do your best to stay to the confines of your own seat, keep judgmental looks to parents of screaming children to a minimum if you can help it, and for god’s sake, above all else, respect the golden rule of the sky: the middle seat gets both armrests.


Suzanna Chase is the Director of Graduate Student Recruitment and Admissions for Oregon State University’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences. She travels extensively for recruitment each fall, and has finally learned some tips for surviving it. You can email her to follow up at

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