Work travel for the career-minded military spouse may seem impossible.
Maybe your service member has an unpredictable schedule.
Maybe you live in a duty station that isn’t near an airport.
No matter what your situation I’m here to tell you work travel is possible.
In fact, I’m sitting in a Starbucks, in a town not my own and you guessed it…working. This happens to be my 5th trip for work in the last 3 months (did I mention I also LOVE to travel?).
On this particular topic, I would also like to draw attention to the fact that this is something that plays into the lives of ANY dual-income family where one or both members travel for work. I think we often feel like the military makes our lives extra complicated, and while it definitely can, in this case 2 people managing work travel is tricky no matter what.
So how can you prepare for work travel? Here’s what I do:
Schedule a chat to look at schedules
First, I identify what my spouse’s schedule looks like on the dates I need or want to travel. I don’t just guess what it will look like: I ASK HIM. This may seem like a no-brainier, but seriously – things are not always what they seem.
In my case, my husband travels too and there are some weeks where he is required to report super early and get home super late; so if possible, I avoid the weeks where his hours are wonky.
That said, if I have concrete dates that I NEED to travel, I ask anyway because he may be able to move things. I’ve been lucky enough that he’s moved TDY dates, rescheduled meetings and passed off his turn to lead command PT. I realize that is not always going to be possible (and it’s not always possible at my house either), but it’s worth the question. Don’t stress until you know the answer.
Look at the long-term schedules
Don’t just look at one trip at a time. That’s important obviously, but sometimes it’s worth thinking about the long-term.
Is there a lengthy TDY or deployment on the horizon? If so, will that keep you home for all of that time? It’s good to think about those things now so you can potentially group some of your travel to occur while your service member is here and then know you won’t be missing too much on your schedule when he or she is gone.
In my case, there is a long trip on his horizon and because of requirements we have at home, I won’t be able to travel much, if at all, while he’s gone. Luckily, some of my travel is flexible and I can meet some of the requirements at any time. That means a really busy fall for me this year, but when he needs to go I’ll be ready (work-wise at least).
Review responsibilities at home
If you’ve been traveling a while, this may not be as necessary, but if work travel is new for you, you may need to go over a few things at home.
As much as my husband and I approach life as a team, there are things that each of us do more often than the other. You’ve had the discussion before deployment I’m sure, same thing applies here. Make sure they know if there are things that MUST be done daily (such as give the dog her meds) and then open it up for questions about the rest.
I find the best approach is usually a back-and-forth question and answer style conversation. That way I don’t assume he knows something but I also don’t assume that he doesn’t. Whatever communication style works for you is great, but make sure things are covered on the homefront.
As for most things in marriage, expecting the other person to read your mind will likely lead to disappointment.
Identify your backup
The next thing I do is figure out a backup. This could be the backup for care of your children, backup for your pets or emergency repairs on the house should something unexpected happen.
If you’re super new to an area, perhaps you can ask your service member for the number of someone at work to serve as backup. That may sound weird, but remember this backup is just in case of emergency.
We’re not talking about someone to stock the pantry before you return. Whoever is identified, make sure you take all of their numbers with you. This is someone you may need to contact from afar if your service member is delayed at work or sent on an unexpected assignment.
In the case that your service member is deploying or traveling long-term, your backup may also be someone (or a group of someones) that can allow you to travel during that time.
Perhaps your parents or in-laws come in to take care of the kids.
Maybe your neighbor cuts the lawn the week you’re gone (offer to return the favor the following week) or perhaps it’s just someone that can water the plants.
Again, a backup may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easier to think of these things well in advance.
Plan for the end of your trip before you leave
This one may not always work out, but I try to think ahead to at least a few things I’ll have to do when I get back and set them up before I leave.
In my house, I’m the primary cook by choice so I try and plan a meal or two for the days I return so I know I have the ingredients needed and I don’t have to think much about it on my travel day or the day after when I’m catching up. I also try to clean up my desk and office so that at least that corner of my world is in good shape when I sit down to dive back into the day-to-day.