Though technology has made it a whole lot easier to keep in touch, there simply isn’t a magic app that will maintain relationships for you (sorry, folks). But, if you stay connected and focus on the positive, you can turn the challenges that come with keeping in touch while on the road into elements that strengthen your relationships.
In the age of smartphones, there simply is no excuse for being bad at communicating. Seriously. It may seem obvious, but the key here is to check in, and do it often. Technology has made it easier to seem close while far away, so use it to your advantage. Let your spouse know you're thinking of them with a good-morning video of your big, empty bed, or tag a friend in an Instagram of some exceptional street art you stumbled upon (now that Instagram has added a real-people tagging feature, you have no excuse not to).
Staying in touch doesn't mean spending hours each night on Skype with friends and family members back home; regularly updating Facebook and/or tweeting somewhat frequently will make your people feel more connected to you as you explore a new city or enjoy delicious, 4-star, expense-account meals.
Before you set off on a trip, it’s a good idea to establish a game plan for staying in touch (especially if you’ve recently started traveling for business or are in a new relationship). Often, when one person stays home while the other is away, they have high expectations for how frequently check-ins will occur. Explain that you can’t continually monitor your phone if you are tied up in meetings or that you might not be able to call home every night because you'll have to schmooze with clients. Setting clear expectations could save you a lot of explaining — and hurt feelings — in the long run.
Technology can make it seem like there isn't much distance between you and your friends and family. Challenge your buddies to a game of Words With Friends throughout the day, or download an app like Glympse, which gives real-time location sharing via G.P.S. With this app, your family won’t have to continually ask for an E.T.A.; they can see exactly where you are on a map. Plus, it gives them no excuse not to have dinner on the table when you get there.
If you have time after a long workday, take advantage of your hotel's Wi-Fi (it's free at all Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott) and use Google Hangout to catch up on the day's funniest YouTube videos with friends, or leave your significant other on speakerphone (or Skype) while you inhale room service and they cook dinner at home. Speaking of which, you don’t have to Tweet epic poetry or text constantly in order to keep things romantic (unless, of course, you want to). Hearing and seeing each other — in any format — does a lot to boost relationship morale.
So you’re doing a good job keeping in touch with your spouse, kids, and friends via Facebook and whatnot. Now make it clear that you prioritize your relationships by making plans for when you see them again. Make a dinner reservation at that little Italian place you and your spouse both love for when you get back. Promise the kids you'll take them to the amusement park. Host a Walking Dead viewing party at your place for friends. Scheduling special dates with those you love most will give you something to look forward to while you're away.
If your spouse has always wanted to go to Vegas, why not bring them along to CES? Not only will they get a better understanding of the demanding schedule of a business traveler (and a first-hand glimpse of the battiness of thousands of tech-obsessed people), but between conference sessions you can meet up for a quick game of slots. Take advantage of the free hotel room (and, if you stay at Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott, the super comfortable beds), and if you play your cards right, perhaps you guys can extend the trip and spend some real quality time together.
Libby Zay is a Baltimore-based traveler and writer.