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How to Say No to Work Travel

By Maurie Backman – Apr 10, 2019 at 8:03AM

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Tired of living out of suitcases? Here's what to do when your travel schedule gets out of hand.

Travel is a part of many jobs, whether you're a financial professional, writer, or IT guru. But while occasional travel is to be expected at work, you may reach a point where you can't remember the last time you spent two weeks in a row in your hometown without having to get on a plane or train. If that's the case, then you may be inclined to bow out the next time your boss asks you to pack your bags for a work trip. The question is: How can you say no to travel without compromising your job or causing issues?

When work travel gets to be too much

Before you think about declining a work trip, you'll need to ask yourself whether the request at hand is in line with the amount of travel you're expected to do in the course of your job. Some roles, like consulting, lend to a lot of travel, so think about whether you're really traveling excessively, or whether you've just personally had enough. If it's the latter, then unfortunately, you may be out of luck.

Man wearing shoulder bag and holding luggage looking out window of airport


On the other hand, if, when you first accepted your job, you were told you'd be traveling three or four times a year only, and you're coming up on your seventh trip in 2019, then you have every right to sit down with your boss and explain that the travel is getting to be too much. In that case, you might revisit that initial conversation where travel-related expectations were outlined and ask your manager to honor the original parameters you discussed when you first came on board.

Granted, it could be that your role has since changed or evolved, thereby resulting in a need for more travel. If that's the case, then you should aim to be flexible, too. But if you're traveling monthly for a job you were told would require four trips a year tops, then you shouldn't hesitate to at least voice your concerns and see if you can arrive at a compromise that makes everyone happy.

Another good way to avoid having to travel so much is to present a business case for cutting back. Imagine you're asked to travel frequently between company offices throughout the country to train others in whatever it is you do. If you can prove that doing that training online or via videoconference is just as effective and far less expensive than paying for your various flights and hotels, then your company might agree to scale back on your travel and try having you do that work remotely.

Finally, if there are specific circumstances in your life that make work travel exceptionally difficult for a period of time, talk to your boss. For example, if you've recently had a baby, and leaving your spouse for a week will result in an undue burden on your family, then you might ask to be let off the hook until things normalize at home. Similarly, if your spouse is going through a period where he or she is traveling a lot, having you out of town might leave you in a real child care bind -- in which case asking for some leeway certainly can't hurt.

Too much work travel can impact your health, productivity, and sanity. If you feel that you've been traveling excessively for work, it's time to take a step back. And if you go about the process strategically, chances are, you'll get at least a slight break on the travel front without ruffling too many feathers in the process.

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