Let’s face it – you didn’t sign up to be a consultant because you wanted to spend your work years in a cubicle, neck deep in mediocrity. You braved an insane interview process because you knew there was more out there, and because you wanted to create real change at some of the biggest and best companies on the planet.
As if that wasn’t enough, consultants value being on site, so they can really understand what’s happening at their clients’ businesses. As such, the bulk of your consulting work is going to be done face-to-face, away from the office. Got a client in Paris? Guess where you’re going. Got a client in Buenos Aires? Guess where you’re going. Got a client in a small town in Mississippi? Guess where you’re going.
(For the record, one of my favorite projects at Bain took me to a small – and I mean small – town in Mississippi. But more about that another day).
On top of doing meaningful work at a variety of locations, consultants can also benefit from a ton of insane perks while doing the traveling itself.
How? We’re glad you asked. There are 5 major ways.
1 – Huge Travel Budgets
When your firm is figuring out how much to bill the client for the top notch consulting your team will provide, up to 20% ON TOP OF that bill will be travel costs. That’s right, when your firm bills your team of 6 out for $500K for a month, up to $100K of that is added to cover your flights, hotels, food, car rentals, and whatever else comes up (hint: massages and golf are on the menu).
Long story short: if you’ve ever met a consultant who isn’t being well looked after while they’re on site, they have way too many first world problems to have any sympathy for them.
2 – Rack Up Airline Miles
Have you ever flown two people to Hawaii on vacation and only had to pay $22 for the tickets? I have. How? Airline miles. In consulting it goes like this:
- Someone else pays for your flights (but they are charged to your personal card)
- You rack up miles (upon miles)
- You keep them
- You use them however you choose, for yourself or friends and family
Imagine you’re based out of San Francisco, get billed out to a client in Indiana for a month long project, and decide to come home each weekend to spend time with friends and family. Every time you fly back and forth from the great state of Indiana, you get more miles, and no one can take them from you.
It may take a little while to get going, but once you get some momentum, you’d be amazed at what your miles can do for you. Our absolute favorite cards to rack up the miles are the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express.
The Sapphire Preferred gives you 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in your first 3 months, and the points transfer on a 1:1 basis to United, Southwest, and multiple other travel partners. The kicker? The annual fee is only $95, unheard of for a premium travel rewards credit card, and $400 less than the annual fee for the Sapphire Preferred’s older cousin.
Named 'Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption' by Kiplinger's Personal Finance
The Chase Sapphire Preferred®
Named 'Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption' by Kiplinger's Personal FinanceApply Now
The Platinum Card gives you a 60,000 point welcome bonus after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months, and gives you instant Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite / Hilton Honors Gold status, as well as access to multiple airline lounge networks worldwide.
Earn a 60,000 point welcome bonus after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months, elite hotel status, and global airport lounge access
The Platinum Card® from American Express
Earn a 60,000 point welcome bonus after spending $5,000 in your first 3 months, elite hotel status, and global airport lounge accessApply Now
Read more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred®
Read more about The Platinum Card® from American Express
3 – Upgrades, Upgrades, Upgrades
As an associate/analyst, if you travel every week, you can expect to start getting frequent flyer benefits after about 4 months on the job – and more if you sign up for a credit card that offers MQM bonuses (check our our two favorite credit cards for consultants). We do have to warn you though – once you’ve experienced life in business/first class, there’s no way you’ll ever want to go back.
What do these upgrades mean for you? They mean good food and drink (free, of course) at international airline lounges before takeoff, comfortable seats while you wait, and more outlets than you can shake a stick at. Gone are the days of grumpily relocating yourself and all of your luggage just so your laptop won’t die.
And that’s before you’ve even gotten on the plane.
Then there are the big things like priority boarding, the quality of service you receive from the staff, the legroom, the food and adult beverages, being able to get on and off the plane first, and, of course, reclining privileges, but there’s also that little swell of joy you feel when the flight attendant closes the curtain on economy class.
Call me petty, but I still get a little kick out of it.
In all seriousness, you would not believe how much more relaxing flying is when you get to experience the perks of business and first class, especially when it’s a long haul flight and you’re expected to work (or sleep) mid-flight and hit the ground running on the other side.
As a general rule, top firms (read: MBB, Big 4, top boutiques) all mandate business class for international or red-eye flights so you can get some shut-eye.
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4 – Opportunities for Adventure
Not all of your projects are going to be in Paris and not all of them are going to be in small town Mississippi. What if your office is in New York, but your project is in Miami, a city you’ve always wanted to visit? When you’re on site, you don’t have to fly home at the weekend if you don’t want to. This may seem pretty obvious, but the implications are huge.
Not only will you be engaging in high level, interesting work in all of these great places, but if you want to stay and explore Miami/St. Louis/Chicago/Nashville or wherever it is you end up, you can.
Life as a consultant at an elite firm does what not many other jobs can; it allows work and pleasure to intersect in ways you probably didn’t expect but will definitely love.
5 – Your Team Will Reimburse Your Expenses
If you’ve ever worked for companies who aren’t as caring for their traveling staff, you’ll know what it’s like to deal with the purgatory of per diems. Sure, $20 a day doesn’t sound too bad at first, but do you really want to spend 75% of your allowance on that crappy looking, pre-packaged excuse for an airport salad? On the other hand, do you really trust the mystery meat in that $5 sandwich?
To be an elite consultant, you need to operate from a clear mind at all times and what you put in your body is what will fuel you. Elite consulting firms understand that, they understand the rigors of travel, and they understand what it takes to bring value to their clients, which is why they go out of their way to make the experience as comfortable and enjoyable as they can for their consultants.
Feeling a bit under the weather? Maybe you should get yourself a green juice with a ginger shot. Are you one of those people who needs to snack continually, lest you turn into a monster? Buy yourself that extra large bag of trail mix; everyone will thank you for it. Feeling bummed after a frustrating day? Get yourself that cocktail, you deserve it.
Just make sure you keep track of what you spend, spend on an elite travel rewards card, and remember to file an expense report.
If you’re already a consultant, what are your favorite travel perks? Is there anything we missed? If you’re not yet a consultant, how do you plan on making the most of your travel opportunities?