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Research Toolkit

How to make the most of time spent travelling

How to make the most of time spent travelling

As an academic, you often spend a lot of time travelling to meetings, courses, conferences etc. Try to do this as efficiently as possible.


  • Question whether travelling is necessary– could you join a meeting by skype/teleconference instead? If not, is there the option to combine meetings (one journey, two meetings)?
  • Find out who is responsible for booking the tickets (you, the organisers of the meeting or your local University department?)
  • Book tickets in advance. If your receipts are being reimbursed, find out whether First class travel is permitted. The cost may be justified if you’re able to work more effectively. If not, book a seat in the quiet carriage, ideally a forward facing table. Some train companies have points-based schemes, allowing you to collect points when you buy train tickets.
  • If you’re a full-time student (e.g. undertaking a PhD Fellowship) you’re eligible for an annual 16-25 Railcard. To apply, you’ll need the relevant form to be stamped by your University:
  • Plan to work on the train:

    • Make a note of the Wi-Fi code if one was given when you bought the tickets.
    • Take a fully charged laptop and laptop charger.
    • Print relevant papers/documents in advance.
    • Save important documents to your laptop in advance (as the Wi-Fi may be patchy/broken).
    • Plan what is achievable during the journey (bearing in mind you will not be as efficient as if you were working at your desk).
    • A train journey is a good time to read documents before a meeting and write/action minutes after a meeting while the information is fresh in your mind.
    • Make a note of the contact details of the venue for the meeting in case the train is delayed and you need to warn them you may be late.
  • Take breaks. It is all too easy to spend an entire 2 hour journey glued to your laptop.
  • Keep your tickets so that you can claim expenses. Beware some ticket barriers swallow tickets (so ask to be let through). Submit expenses shortly after you get back as there is often a time limit for when they can be claimed.
  • If the train is delayed, make a note of your final arrival time, keep your ticket and check the train company’s website: you may be entitled to compensation.