How do you decide if business travel is worth it?

Deciding where to spend my time and money is never easy. I struggle with a number of things when deciding to go on a business trip:

First Air 727-100
Originally uploaded by caribb
  • Face-to-face meetings. In today’s online, ever connected world, when is face time worth it? It’s really hard to measure the importance of meeting face-to-face – it’s invaluable. While I have in the past (reluctantly) flown somewhere for a one hour meeting, I tend to try to schedule face-to-face meetings around conferences. The right conferences can allow for lots of planned and impromptu meetings. Actually, at most conferences I go to very few talks – every time I try to go to a talk, I run into someone and next thing I know, the talk is half over.
  • Attending talks. Some conferences have tons of great speakers and between the ideas they present and the discussions that happen around them in twitter and on blogs, I learn lots and end up with new ways of thinking about things. But I never travel just to attend talks.
  • Giving talks. Being asked to speak at a conference is a tremendous privilege. It’s a chance to explain your perspective, your ideas and your thoughts to 20-700 people. That’s a huge responsibility, an excellent opportunity and a great privilege.
  • Time away from family. I miss the family when I’m gone and I know it’s hard on them when I’m on the road. It’s especially hard on Frank, my boyfriend, but luckily he’s a superdad! Not only does Frank have to do both his household work as well as mine, but the kids are tired because they have to be up extra early. (Frank has an hour commute and starts work at 7:30.)
  • Frank’s schedule. Frank only travels a few times a year (without me) but those trips are very important to him. Since I travel so much, I try to work around his travel schedule.
  • Support. If you are known for something (supporting a project or idea), your presence at a conference or event can help support the event itself. Imagine a Linux event with Linus Torvalds as a keynote. Just the fact that he’s there lends support to the conference.
  • Costs. To me costs are time – time away from home – as well as the actual money cost of travel.

So while there’s no nice formula to apply to any request for travel, conference I want to go to or meeting I want to attend, those are some of the things I consider.

I worked out my travel plans for the rest of the year and here are the events I’ll be attending.

  • OSiM. GNOME Mobile is an important initiative for GNOME right now.
  • Maemo Summit. Right after OSiM – I’m looking forward to learning more about what Nokia and the Maemo community are working on.
  • GNOME.Asia. GNOME’s first large event in Asia.
  • I also have money set aside for one other inter-US trip that I will save for any necessary meetings with existing or potential sponsors.

Here are the events I really wanted to go to, that I won’t be able to go to this year. They would have been great opportunities to meet up with people.

  • Boston Summit – a GNOME hackfest.
  • Encuentro Linux – they are having a GNOME day.
  • Latinoware – where there will be a Fórum do Gnome.
  • OSAC – HP’s open source advisory council meeting.
  • … and numerous other conferences!

How do you decide if a particular trip is worth it?

3 Replies to “How do you decide if business travel is worth it?”

  1. Slightly related:
    When can I download the guadec videos? The usual place ( ) has not been updated yet and I haven’t heard anything about them.
    Will it take until december again 😉 ?
    You guys really seem to need a dedicated admin.
    The debian project did really really well in that regard. Debconf8 was streamed live and most of the videos were available just a few days after the event. But I guess distribution is what they do best …

  2. These days, it’s almost never worth it. Flying anywhere totally sucks, and flying to the US, with their paranoid “guilty until proven innocent” immigration policies, sucks an order of magnitude more than anywhere else.
    (Unfortunately, in the world of IT, a lot of important things still happen in the US, but I just can’t be bothered with the hassle of joining in any more. I’ve managed to avoid going there for the past 10 years without missing it a bit, though.)

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