By Chris Helvajian

With both feet now planted firmly in Reading Season and 200+ files sitting in my queue ready to be read, now is the perfect time to divert my attention away from my real job and look back on a successful Travel Season. Let’s discuss some lessons learned from Stretching Per Diem over the last several months.

Lesson #1: You Can’t Do It Alone
As much as I like to think I’m out here lone-wolfing it and crushing travel season like a Nature Valley Bar (which are suddenly not crunchy anymore), I know that I wouldn’t have made it out alive if it hadn’t been for my supportive (work) family. If nothing else, they provide a release valve for venting frustration to, and potentially free food if they’re not going to eat all of what they ordered.

Pro Tip: Encourage others to order large meals and practice your puppy-dog stare. You’ll definitely score some pity fries.

Lesson #2: You Can Still Be Productive With Down-Time
I’ve found that it’s difficult to shut off entirely during travel season. You’re on all day during visits, fairs and all of your other commitments. Why not continue that momentum and direct your energy in to earning some freebies on the road (after all of your commitments, of course)? I routinely rotate through three survey sites/apps to earn gift cards and other perks.

SurveyMini,, and the Google Opinion Rewards app all have decent prizes and are super easy to use. I often use the rewards I earn to stretch per diem with free meals at restaurants, free Google Play Store credits and gift cards to use on the road. All of this comes in handy when trying to live that per diem life.

Lesson #3: Plan For The Unexpected
As soon as I got back from extended travel, I had some unexpected expenses pop up. My wife’s car needed a new power-brake booster (which sounds like something from The Fast and The Furious but is actually a real thing) and new brakes. All of the roughing it I did on the road paid off as I was able to get her car fixed without needing to bust my bank account.

The work you put in up front to stretch per diem provides a cushion for you later on. The same is true for all of the recruiting work you do in the fall. It makes having files to read and getting quality applications that much easier. See what I did there? Stretching per diem is a parallel for converting your hard work to deposits. So clever.

…aaaaaand another ten files hit my queue.