If you are excited about business travel, thinking it's a free ticket to see the world, you should stop reading now. But if you are having trouble maintaining your personal life in the face of tons of travel, these tips from a cynical traveler will make life easier for you.
1. Stick with your priorities. When people travel to another city, why do they throw out their to do list for sightseeing in random museums? If you have on your top three things you want in life: go to the gym, stay in touch with friends, read a book a week, then sightseeing is not on the list. You don't need to do it when you travel. You need to stick to your priorities. If sightseeing is on your priority list, then get a new job, because you have no control over where you sightsee if you have a job with a lot of travel.
2. Eat really well. First of all, you're not paying for your own food, so you should eat really good, healthy food, which is always more expensive than junk food. Second, if you have a rule for yourself that you always eat well when you travel, then you will actually be healthier from traveling. Most people eat crap when they travel because they are tired and they feel like the calories don't count because they are across state lines. That attitude will make you burn out faster. I can't find a link but I'm sure there's a study to support the hypothesis that you deal with the stress of travel more effectively without McDonald's.
3. Think of balance in terms of weeks, not days. I know I want to spend time with the Farmer, spend time with the kids, be around for dinner invitations, and tooth-fairy moments. I used to worry about this every day. If I didn't have breakfast with the kids, then I had to have dinner. Now I think in terms of weeks. If I was gone all week, I take off a day from work to have extra time for my personal life. If you are good at your job, and you travel a lot, no one counts how many days you take off.
4. Get elite status. Somewhere. Anywhere. When everyone is staying overnight at O'Hare, the people who are platinum are getting rebooked first. When you are waiting on the tarmac for an hour at LaGuardia because air traffic control cannot remember how many planes are in the air (which, really, is like, every day) if you get upgraded to first class, you're drinking free wine and eating firm grapes while you are a prisoner of the airport. To get elite status, it means that every time your company wants to save $50 to put you on another airline, you have to say no. If my company will save more than $300, I'll travel on an airline that I am not platinum on. Make sure your company knows you're doing them a favor.
5. Do not agree to stupid meetings for geographical reasons. Just because someone you never want to hang out with lives in Saskatchewan and you're gonna be there doesn't mean that all of a sudden you should hang out with him. You have a life. And you surely have stuff you can do that evening besides hang out with a loser. Or maybe he's only a half-loser. The thing is, you don't have time for half-losers at home. They are the same everywhere: Still just a distraction from the real work of living the life you want.
The bottom line is that you need to respect your life. Your life cannot be on hold while you travel. The travel, if it's really frequent, sort of is your life. So the values you have—be spiritual, be frugal, be healthy—have to prevail during your travel. This is not vacation travel. This is not a vacation from your life. Business travel IS your life.