Traveling as a Consultant – Insights From a Former Top Consultant

Since you have to be available for the client, flying is a matter of course in the consulting industry. The following article gives insights into flight statistics from our expert Agrim, so you know roughly what to expect. Moreover, the coach differentiates between start-of-the-week flights and end-of-the-week flights. Agrim also explains exactly what you need to look out for to ensure that your flight runs smoothly. His tips will prepare you perfectly for your next flight!

Expert Article Agrim
Traveling requirements of consultants

Consulting has traditionally been a traveling profession. The core responsibility of the job is to become a “trusted” advisor to the client. That requires direct engagement with the client and their team. And that means the consultant needs to be wherever the client is.

The client can be in the same city, a different city, or even a different country. Hence, the life of the consultant is very much governed by how far the client is.

  • If the client is in the same city, then your daily commute is between your home and the client's office.
  • If the client is in a different country, most likely you stay out of the country from Monday morning to Thursday evening, and sometimes even Fridays.
  • The middle ground is trickier. If the client is about 2 hours away by car. In that case, both models exist. Single people typically go for the hotel stay option to rack up points, while married people are more likely to choose to sleep at their homes.

For my time at BCG Dubai, my estimated travel stats stand as follows:

  • Air: 200+ flights and 750+ hours in the aircraft. Most flights were 2-3 hours long, some were transcontinental.
  • Stay: 600+ nights spread across 20+ hotels. Most stays were 3 nights long.
  • Land: 1,000+ cab rides to commute from the hotel to the client.

This was the way, at least until COVID hit. Now, there are many changes in the system. Some offices have broken up into smaller offices for sub-regions (such as middle-east), while some are beginning to resume full travel. It was very inspiring to see the flexibility with which consulting companies and all their employees adapted to the changing demands of the pandemic.

Nevertheless, for the consultants who are still going to be traveling, this article presents a good picture of what happens in a typical week.

Start of the week flight

Typically you take an early morning flight on Monday or a late night flight on Sunday. This depends on a couple of things:

Flight Distance

Short flights (1-3hr) mean that Monday mornings will likely be the case. 4-6hrs and you are looking at red-eyes. If your client is based further away than 6 hours, you will most likely be stationed in the client city on a continuous basis for the duration of the project. This is commonly known as cross-office staffing.

Case Budget

If the case budget is not enough, most likely the partner will try to minimize the air travel and/or the hotel stay. Most likely the hotel stay. So, you might have to push yourself into waking up at 5am on a Monday.

Personal Preference

Family-bearing consultants would prefer a few extra hours of time home on a Sunday night and hence choose the Monday flight.

End of the week flight

There is more variability on the return leg. Usually the return flight is on a Thursday - so that the team can work in the home office on Fridays. This is always a much preferred retreat. It allows consultants to socialise in the office, file expenses, spend an extra day home, wake up to their family, and much more. Flight times are picked based on client schedules. Sometimes it can be early evenings and sometimes in the night.

Additional tips

Reservations

  • Negotiate with the project manager on a schedule that best fits your requirements and the project constraints.
  • Try to book all your flights and hotels in the beginning of the project to avoid last minute availability issues. The travel desk can be helpful in this regard.
  • Try to also reserve your seats in advance. As your tier increases, you will get access to better seats. Some people prefer aisle seats, and some prefer windows. Take your pick - see what works best for you and stick with it.
  • Create your frequent flyer accounts and hotel membership accounts. Make sure everything is configured properly and tied up to everything else. Install the apps, configure your meal preferences, bedding preferences etc.

Luggage

  • As you rack up the flights, you will realize that waiting for your checked-in luggage is a pain and you will start finding ways to compress your week’s life into a carry-on. For the unorganized, this can be a real difficulty. For the meticulous, it is just another puzzle waiting to be solved. Over time, you will perfect it - so don’t worry.
  • An alternative solution for chronic flying projects is to store a luggage suitcase at the hotel itself. It stays there for the weekend with your core stuff like suits, extra shirts, your make-up kit etc. - all the stuff that can cramp-out a carry-on. Usually, the hotels would do this for you once they realize you are going to be back in a couple of days.

Airport and Flight

  • Flights typically preferred by consultants are always the busy ones. So, keep a cool head at the airport. Long queues and waiting times might be normal. Learn to relish it and not get pissed at it - it will only do harm to your mind and body.
  • Generally, you would wear formal clothes on the morning flight itself because you would go to the client straight from the airport. So, pick the most comfortable yet formal clothes for travel.
  • Sleep is a major issue to be managed as a consultant. Some people sleep easily in flights - giving them a strategic advantage. For others, keep a pair of eyeshades and a travel pillow with you. It helps a lot.
  • If you want to sleep through the flight, ask the attendants for a DND sticker that would mean that they don’t bother you for the meal service.

Hotel

  • Make friends with the hotel staff - they will be your lifeline. Tipping depends on your region’s cultural norm but being nice is universal.
  • Explore all features of your hotel and use them to the fullest. All the way from meeting rooms to saunas.

Lifestyle

  • Make sure you don’t get bedazzled with all the free/client-paid food and coffees. They will soon show up in your belly pouch.
  • Keep razor focus on your diet and ensure that your calorie and nutrient intake is regulated. Most dinners will be at the hotel. Make sure you keep a simple diet for dinners. Travel takes a lot of tolls on your body, so don’t stress it further with complex food. It might seem boring at first, but you will relish it as you go past 100 nights.
  • Ensure you get your gym-fix every day. Try to find the right timeslot that aligns with your personal preferences and the project needs.
  • Your in-hotel-room time is very precious. Don’t throw it away. Create a routine of things (mundane or otherwise) that can help you be productive and relaxed at the same time. Take time out to speak to your family, have a peaceful dinner, avoid binge-watching late into the night, and also create your pre-sleep routine that can help you fall asleep quickly. This will help you minimize wasted time in shoulder hours and will allow you to be efficient and productive.
  • Create a regimen and fixed place for all your personal belongings: Keys, passport, cables, chargers, toothbrush, airpods, the lot. Allocate a fixed place for them in your luggage and develop a habit over the course of time to keep those stuff in their allocated spots. This way you avoid all the forgetfulness anxiety associated with travel.

About the Author

Agrim

CoachingPlus Expert | 34 Reviews with 100% Recommendation Rate | Ex BCG and Opera Solutions | 131 meetings

  • Professional Experience: BCG, Opera Solutions
  • Languages: English
  • Location: United Arab Emirates

Agrim is an interview coach, former BCG Project Leader and Solutions Analyst at Opera Solutions. He is a Specialist in PEI / Fit / Unorthodox Cases / CV / Market Sizing. Agrim helped a lot of candidates to land offers from McKinsey, BCG, and Bain. He is an expert in the Middle-East (Saudi Arabia / Dubai / Qatar / Abu Dhabi / Oman / Kuwait). As a consultant, Agrim worked as a Project Leader at BCG for 4 years. Before that, he was a Solutions Analyst for Opera Solutions for 2 years. 

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