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A number of job descriptions (US-based, if it matters) list things like "Approximately 10% travel" among the activities involved in the job, but just how much travel is that?

My initial guess would be that 10% of all business days would involve travel, which would work out to once every two weeks, which makes me want to run away screaming. On the other hand, if the day of departure and day of return are counted as separate travel instances, one trip would consist of two travel days, meaning there would be one trip every 20 business days, or about once a month. On the third hand, if days spent away between departure & return are counted as travel time as well — rather than "travel" just referring to the actual travelling — then one trip would consist of (pulling numbers out of the air here) about four business days, so once every two months or so.

I could probably keep going like this without getting anywhere, so I turn to you good people: Just what can I expect from "10% travel"?

  • travel definitely does not just refer to the time spent in the air or in a car, but to the totality of time spent away from home. Now as to whether it's measured in days, weeks or whatever, that will vary company to company. – Kate Gregory Dec 6 '19 at 23:03
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    Note that this is also a rough estimate, many companies write 5% or 10% travel in every position, to avoid hiring people that are never willing to travel. It could well end up less than the 10%, or optionally more. – Aganju Dec 7 '19 at 1:56
  • The way I always calculate travel is doing x% of 260 work days (without holidays or PTO), so 10% would be 26 days. It could be one day every two weeks or two days every four weeks, it could be one entire month of year. – KingDuken Dec 8 '19 at 18:15
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I'd certainly expect "travel time" to encompass the entire trip. So if you work 50 weeks a year and have to take 5 business trips a year each of which lasts 1 week (say, visiting a client as part of a project), that would be 10%. You could have more shorter trips or fewer longer ones, of course, but I'd expect that it meant something like "1 out of 10 business days you'd be sleeping somewhere other than your home".

Of course, different companies have very different approaches and needs so you're going to want to have the conversation with the employer. Often, employers list 10% travel time with little intention to actually require travel because it is something that is needed occasionally. Plenty of people in such positions go years between trips. If an employer actually contemplates regular travel, then you'd need to figure out what sort of cadence they really expect. For most people, there is a huge difference between needing to make 2 1-day trips a month vs 1 1-week trip a quarter vs 1 5-week trip a year any of which would potentially be considered 10% travel.

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I would be inclined to interpret "10% travel" as "10% of your working time is not in the office".

It's impossible for us to guess whether that means "you might have to go across town for half an hour to talk to a client two or three times a week" or "we need to you take part in a four-week-long world-wide sales campaign once a year".

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Its tough to say, because it could mean a different thing from company to company, from role to role. I've seen colleagues with 10-20% travel time that never took a single business trip in their entire time in those positions. But generally it indicates that on average 1 out of every 10 business days will be traveling. Travel refers to the entire duration of time you are gone in business days, not the actual commute.

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