Business Traveler Interview: Chris Christensen
This is part of a new series here at WhyGo Business Travel featuring brief interviews with people who travel for work, asking them about what they do and some of their favorite travel tips. This way, if you’re looking for a career that will require travel, you’ll get to read about people doing some of the jobs you might consider – and you’ll also learn a few great travel tips from the travel pros!
This week, we’re talking with Chris Christensen. Chris’ job is in the world of travel, and he also has a podcast that deals with travel – you could say he’s got travel on the brain.
What do you do?
I am a Director of Engineering at TripAdvisor in charge of TripAdvisor Flights and SeatGuru.com, and I’m also the host of the Amateur Traveler podcast, which talks about different travel destinations.
What kind of travel do you get to do for work? Do you get to choose where you go?
I live in San Jose, California, but the office that has my name on the door is in Newton Massachusetts just outside of Boston. So my commute is 3,000 miles but I only do it around one week a month.
Do you add any extra “fun” days on to work trips? Why or why not?
My job is pretty flexible about what weeks I spend on the East Coast so I have arranged trips to be there for my daughter’s graduation, conferences, etc. Probably one trip out of 3 I stay for an extra day or so. Those days are on my own dime so my boss does not care. The issue is more working out the time away with my “boss” in San Jose.
How often do you get to travel for work?
I travel every month for about a week.
Did you choose your job at least in part because you love to travel? Would you make the same job choice again, knowing what you know now?
I did choose this job because of my love of travel; not so much because of the love of business travel but because I now work at a company in the travel industry. When I started talking to TripAdvisor they wanted me to move to Boston but that was not practical for my family so… after much thought… they offered me the job with a 3,000 mile commute.
What are some of your favorite travel tips that you’ve picked up?
My boss at TripAdvisor came out of the airline industry so he gave me a “frequent flier makeover”. I needed to focus my flying more on one frequent flyer network. Last year I earned premium status on both American and United, but the American status did not have many benefits. The United status even though it is the lowest level stats usually gets me into the Economy Plus seating with 5 extra inches of leg room. At 6′ 3″ tall extra legroom is valuable. So this year I am only flying United and will get to the next level of status, Premium Executive, with my next trip. At that level I will have a better shot at first class upgrades.
I was already a light packer and 4 months of travel last year (2 personal and 2 for the new job) has just reinforced that. It helps that I work for a company where the president also wears tennis shows, jeans and a polo shirt. When I go on the road for 2 weeks, or even 5 weeks as I did once last Fall, I still pack for 7-10 days and do laundry. I found a laundry mat with good wi-fi not far from work.
There is a real tendency to overeat when you are traveling on an expense account. I try and treat myself maybe once a trip but then try and spend more time in the hotel gym and less in the buffet line the rest of the time. Now that the weather is nice again, I am trying to enjoy the long summer evenings by getting out into the city and sightseeing. I also try and build in at least one meetup or chance to get together with local friends per week.
What one travel tip would you, as a business traveler, pass along to someone who doesn’t travel as often?
When I tell business travelers I work on SeatGuru.com the road warriors know about this site. It helps you find the best seats on the airplane. On my last trip my boss saw my boarding pass was seat 13F. He automatically knew that the route I was flying was on a Boeing 757 and that seat 13F had no window. He does not need SeatGuru.com.
What advice do you have for someone who’s interested in doing what you do?
TripAdvisor took a chance on me by not only allowing me to work remotely but also manage a team remotely. But more and more jobs will support remote employees in the future. Be good at your job and you will be more likely to get that opportunity.
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