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Laura Hess

is a 26 year old market research project manager from Nuremberg, Germany. Overseeing market research projects from beginning to end she is involved in every step along the way. Her work includes traveling to research locations across Europe weekly to meet customers and coordinate focus groups. Today she is talking to us about her travel experience as a project manager in market research.

Thank you so much for talking to us today, Laura! How exactly is traveling related to your job in market research?

Of course in order to collect data for market research I have to travel to many different locations to talk to the test persons who have been selected for this particular project. These talks can come in the shape of group discussions or interviews. For our work it’s crucial that our data is representative so I talk to test persons from many different places, especially large European cities. The number of locations always depends on the size of the project. The reason why I travel to each location personally is that in a face-to-face conversation you simply get much more valuable information than you would get over the phone or the internet.

What’s especially important to you when traveling for work?

In general, traveling is the very first activity on my schedule. I’m on the train or plane for many hours and then afterwards my actual work will start. Unfortunately I can’t arrive, check into my hotel and relax first, but after several hours of travel I have to start working right away. That’s why it’s important to me that I can travel comfortably. This could include simple things such as a seat reservation on the train or that the journey to the airport is already booked and organized. And then, of course, it’s important to me to have a relaxed journey. I like to read on my travels or listen to audio books to start my working day in a relaxed way.
Since I have rather unusual working hours on business trips, I often check into my accommodation late at night. Therefore it is particularly important that the check-in at the hotel works smoothly. A 24-hour reception and the possibility to have something to eat at the hotel are really important to me.

What are your personal travel essentials that you always take with you?

My powerbank is incredibly important to me. If I can’t charge my phone, I’m lost. My phone is everything  – my calendar, my alarm clock, my connection with customers and colleagues. Also, it is always important for me to have a bottle of water with me to stay hydrated throughout the day. I also like to have a small snack with me, such as nuts or dried fruits. This has often saved my life when I ended up stranded somewhere due to delays or other incidents. My headphones are very important for me too in order to be able to block out noise on the train or plane.
I always have lip care products and hand cream with me. I always notice that my hands are dry when I don’t have any cream with me. My handbag is like a small living room for me – when I take it with me I can be sure that all the important essentials are in there. I replace them immediately if anything is empty.

And what’s your favorite travel outfit?

I’m not the type of person to wear a casual outfit for the trip and then change hectically just before the appointment with the customer. If I know that I have an appointment with a customer that day, I like to be well-dressed throughout the trip already. So I will choose clothes that fit well and don’t wrinkle easily. I’ll then just freshen up after the trip. On my way back I like to change into more comfortable shoes, but I would never wear sweatpants or the like on my journey. What I generally like to wear is a light scarf, as it, for instance, protects against any harsh air conditioning.

What are your tips for traveling light?

Planning is key here. Figuring out what I will need beforehand really saves me a lot of luggage. I usually check if shampoo or shower gel are provided at my hotel so I can leave them at home. If necessary, I can still purchase them on site, but that has never actually happened to me.
All in all, it’s always a bit of a trade-off what comfort I don’t want to do without when traveling. For example, I always take my electric toothbrush with me when I travel as, to me, the additional comfort is worth the extra weight.
In regards to clothing, I tend to pack pieces that allow for many different combinations in order to maximize the number of outfits. One-trick ponies have to stay home.

When you consider all your travel experience so far – what would make traveling more convenient for you?

Punctuality when it comes to transportation and pleasant fellow travellers are of course always a plus. I find a quiet and clean environment on the train or plane important and desirable. What I often miss when travelling is the possibility to eat something fresh like fruit or vegetables. This is often difficult and expensive on trains and on the road. On shorter flights usually only a small snack is served. Also, I would love to be served a warm refreshing towel on trains, just like on the plane – this always greatly increases my well-being and it makes me feel pampered.

How do you travel as a private person as opposed to your work-related travels? What’s important to you?

When I travel privately, my priorities are actually very different. Privately, for example, I would never travel by train. For shorter distances I prefer to use the car because it gives me more freedom and flexibility. I would pay even more attention to a central location of the hotel than on business trips, where additional transport costs are covered by the employer. A pleasant environment with many sights in the vicinity is also much more important to me on private trips.

Last but not least: What’s your craziest travel story?

The hotels for my travels are usually selected and booked by our front office. For a trip to Berlin they booked a hotel that was very centrally located and offered good value for money, which are usually valid criteria. When my colleague and I arrived though we realized it was a hotel specifically aimed at gay men. It was also the weekend of Christopher Street Day, so there was a lot of partying going on at the hotel. It was actually a really nice hotel with great interior and service and very good reviews so on a private trip we might even have stayed. However, with all the partying going on we figured we might not get much shuteye there and, in the end, decided to rebook.

Thank you so much for sharing your travel experience with us today! We wish you pleasant travels in the future!

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