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Tips for Traveling with Coworkers

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Solo business trips are (usually) straightforward. You fly in, you do your thing, you head home. Traveling with coworkers is an entirely different game. Now, you have to worry about how your travel style matches up with your colleagues’ — and you might have to negotiate a compromise. We can help!

What If… You Have to Share a Hotel Room With a Coworker? 

You’re traveling to a three-day training event next week, and your manager informs you that you’ll be sharing a room with a coworker you don’t know well. This feels like a terrible invasion of privacy. What can you do?

Many people dread sharing hotel rooms on business trips. It’s common, however, in academia and nonprofits.i And some frequent travelers praise the practice, saying it offers a great opportunity to bond with colleagues.ii

If you really don’t want to share a hotel room, you have a few options. One, you can raise your objections with your manager. If you’re a light sleeper or a snorer, or if you require a controlled environment to sleep, you may want to ask if other hotel accommodations can be arranged. (If budget is an issue, or if this is the organization’s standard procedure, your request may not be granted.)

Two, you can accept the situation and discuss ground rules with your co-worker: things like quiet time, music/TV in the room, etc. Or three, you can pay for your own, private room. Ah, sweet solitude.

What If… You’re Traveling with a Clingy Co-Worker?

Your colleague insists on talking every minute of the five-hour car trip. When you arrive at your destination, he knocks on your hotel room door, asking if you want to go grab a bite to eat. You’re an introvert at heart, and you really need some down time. Is there anything you can do?

The key to dealing with a coworker who wants to stay by your side is setting clear expectations ahead of time. Ideally, you’ll tell your traveling companion that you’ve already arranged to meet up with a friend, gotten a ticket to a show, or made other (solo) plans. “That way, they have advance warning and can make other plans if they want to, or at least aren’t caught off-guard by it at the last minute, their dreams of bonding over sushi and karaoke shattering into the cold hard reality that you are in your room reading Sense & Sensibility for the fifth time,” says "Ask a Manager" creator Alison Green. If your coworker still tries to invite himself along, it’s perfectly okay to state your need for some alone time and put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door.

What If… You’re Traveling with Co-Workers Who Party Too Hard? 

You’re traveling to Orlando for your company’s big annual conference. The evening you arrive, your co-workers announce they’re heading to the Universal CityWalk entertainment complex for drinks. After a few Who’s To Blame margaritas at Margaritaville, you’re ready to head home. Everyone else wants to keep drinking. What should you do?

Aside from reminding everyone that the next day’s schedule begins at 8 a.m., there’s not much you can do unless you’re the manager. The culture at some companies may encourage late-night socializing at conferences and other events . That doesn’t mean you should join in if you’re out of your comfort zone, however. Getting drunk at a work event is never a good idea.

If a coworker you’re traveling with exhibits troubling alcohol-related behavior, you should either speak with that person or inform their manager. Things like drinking and driving, behaving inappropriately around clients, or being unable to work because of alcohol are Not Okay.

What If… Your Coworkers Are Getting a Little Too Personal? 

After two days of group hikes and trust-building exercises on a work retreat, you really feel close to your coworkers. During a late night conversation around the campfire, one colleague suggests playing “Never Have I Ever” to help everyone get to know each other. Should you stay or go?

Time to make your excuses and go to bed! On a work trip, professional boundaries often fade, and it may feel normal to have deeply personal interactions with coworkers. But once you’re back in the office, you may regret letting your guard down. Here’s a good rule of thumb when you’re traveling with coworkers: “Avoid inappropriate conversation topics such as sex, drugs, current personal struggles, mean-spirited gossip, and anything you’d be embarrassed about if your boss found out.”iii

What If… You’re Anxious About Traveling for Work? 

Your boss calls you into her office with some good news. She wants you and a coworker to represent the company at a big recruiting event in another city. You thank her, but inside you feel sick — you get severe anxiety when you travel. What can you do?

Travel anxiety can make work trips miserable. If the trip is optional, or if you know that a colleague could easily take your place, you can be frank with your boss and explain that you’d rather not go. However, anxiety may not be accepted as a reason to decline required business travel (unless it can be considered a disability requiring accommodation).

If you must travel for work, look for ways to make the trip easier on yourself. Writer and frequent traveler Richard Lucas shared with Allianz Global Assistance some of his techniques for coping with travel anxiety:

  • Ask the airline or other travel provider for accommodations, such as priority boarding and priority security screening.
  • Stay focused on your end goal, whether that’s the plane landing, getting to your hotel room, or the end of the work event.
  • Don’t hesitate to be an advocate for yourself. It’s OK to tell travel providers and co-workers if there’s anything you need to make the trip easier.

If you travel for business more than a few times a year, consider purchasing an annual travel insurance plan, such as the AllTrips Executive Plan. These plans cover your trips — both business and personal — for a 365-day period, and can make your life easier by reimbursing you for covered travel delays, baggage loss/damage and delays, and emergency care for covered medical emergencies.

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