11 Tips for Working Remotely While Traveling

Directly above shot of red headphones, laptop and book on table in cafe
••• Apeloga AB / Getty Images

Working from outside of the office, whether it's from home or while you're on the go, can be a key opportunity to figure out your work habits and boost your output. It can also be a challenge to nail down an effective way of managing work while you’re traveling.

Whether you've just asked to work remotely, you're on a test run to prove your productivity, or you're traveling and job searching at the same time, these tips will help you get the most of your remote work.

11 Tips for Working Online While You're On the Go

Have a plan for your Internet connection. In the United States, those of us who work from our computers or job search online are used to clocking in at a café and settling in for the day. But when you’re traveling internationally, you can’t always rely on the corner Starbucks.

If you’ve griped about the WiFi speed at the Starbucks in the States, the connection can be even more harrowing when you're abroad. Moreover, not every city has a “café culture” that accommodates the one-purchase-per-hour-of-work paradigm that exists in most American coffee shops.

Before you travel, do your research on finding WiFi in your destination, and have a backup plan, whether it’s purchasing an Internet SIM card, connecting to a wireless hotspot, or securing a spot in a co-working space.

Carry around a notebook and pen. There will come a day when you can’t connect to WiFi, when you forgot to grab a converter for your laptop charger, or when you’re in a location not quite secure enough to pull out a $1,000 computer. But, the solution is easy: slip a notebook in your bag and keep a pen hooked over its cover. You’ll always have a place to jot down your ideas, and you might just find yourself grateful when inspiration strikes at a random time.

Figure out when, and how, you work best. This sounds like a given, but if you can settle into a routine that maximizes your productivity, do your best to stick with it. For example, I am most productive when I work in short, two-hour bursts with a half-hour break in-between. I know I get the most done when I close out any extraneous windows – that means no Facebook chat running in the background – and I plug in with my headphones. I also know my productivity is at its top levels when I have an unbroken stream of music playing, one that doesn’t require me to change songs or repeatedly hit shuffle.

You’d be surprised how many minutes you waste searching for songs on YouTube, scrolling through Spotify looking for new music, or responding to Facebook chats.

Make a productivity playlist. That said, if you know you work well to music, set up a playlist before you dive into your to-do list. Keep in mind that your WiFi might not have enough juice to load music videos on YouTube or stream Spotify, which also places restrictions on users listening abroad without a premium account. When I’m connected to a decent WiFi connection, I like to use 8Tracks, where you can find pre-made playlists specifically put together for getting work done.

Invest in a pair of quality headphones. Trust me, you’ll need them. Although the standard Apple earbuds, or their generic equivalents, are convenient to pack, they aren’t the best for blocking out noise. Even with the volume on full blast, I’ve found my Apple earbuds don’t do a great job of blocking out background noise, especially when it’s a boisterous conversation in Russian or the drone of motorbikes whizzing by. Bose is the best-known brand for noise-canceling headphones, but my Symphonized NRG in-ear noise-isolating earbuds do a pretty good job for a fraction of the price.

Buy international outlet adapters before you go. Sure, you can pick them up at the airport, but you’ll pay less if you order online from a site like Amazon, which has a huge selection of converters. If you use Mac products, the Apple World Traveler Kit is a good investment. For only about $30, it comes with plugs for North America, Japan, China, United Kingdom, Europe, Korea, Australia, and Hong Kong. And, because you simply switch out the plug on your existing laptop or iPhone charger, rather than attaching it to a converter, it offers a more secure source of power and a lower risk of damaging your device.

Arrange your communication channels before you go. If you’re working with other people, or expect to be job searching and arranging interviews while you're traveling, you should take a few minutes to set up your messaging systems before you go. This is especially true if you’re going to use an Internet messaging platform like WhatsApp or Viber, as these types of apps usually require that you confirm via MMS, which won’t work once you hit airplane mode and turn off your cellular service. If you’re going to be communicating via video, set up and test Google Hangouts, Zoom, and Skype before you leave.

If you opt for an international phone plan, carefully review the available options so you’re not spending a fortune on staying connected.

With the abundance of Internet messaging services, from cross-platform apps like WhatsApp and Viber, to iMessage, Google Hangouts Chat, Slack, and Skype, most people can get by without paying for an international phone plan. You can pick up an inexpensive flip phone and SIM card for use within another country, or purchase Skype credits through your Skype account to call mobile phones and landlines worldwide. Here is more information on arranging an international phone interview.

Plan ahead for video job interviews or meetings. You don't want to be scrambling at the last minute if you have a Skype call with an important boss or need to do a video job interview for a new position. For example, it's a good idea to put on an appropriate shirt or blouse for a video interview. Just because you're traveling, doesn't mean you don't need to dress the part. Make sure you read up on how to have a successful video interview, and take a few minutes to practice so you’re not scrambling to get ready when the call comes.

Be flexible, but also upfront. When you’re communicating with professionals in other countries, you need to be aware of time zones and take into account whether you're really going to be able to get online at 4:30 a.m. local time to accommodate someone located halfway around the world. You should also be upfront about your accessibility. If you know you’re going to have difficulty connecting to the Internet from a certain location, or if you’re going to be in transit for a few days, let others know in advance.

Be mindful of the time and date differences. Keep track of time zones, so you don’t end up calling a potential employer or another important contact at 3 a.m. without realizing it. Most smartphones allow you to set a clock for another time zone, or you can download an app to keep track.

Once you get a feel for the time difference, you can strategize to make it work to your advantage.

If you’re staying somewhere with a large time difference, you should factor in the discrepancy in dates, too. For example, if you are in a very different time zone, you could wake up early Saturday morning with an extensive to-do list because it is only Friday afternoon in the United States and your boss and co-workers arewrapping up their workweek. Conversely, Mondays can be a good time for me to get a head start, because it was only Sunday in the U.S.

Plan Ahead Before You Travel

  • Before you leave, research how and where you'll be connecting to the internet.
  • Set up your communication channels before you go.
  • Bring the travel adaptors you'll need for your devices with you.
  • Be cognizant of the time zone when you're scheduling meetings or call.