For employers, business travel trips are means to establish new partnerships, strengthen global relationships, and explore new avenues in the business world. For the employees who are sent on the business trips, they are so much more. A business trip can be a chance to prove your business acumen, meet new people, and maybe even tick off some bucket list aspirations.
So, to ensure your business trip isn’t all about getting stuck in traffic and asking for the WiFi password, here are our top 15 tips for business travellers. Follow these tips for a trip that’s both effective and enjoyable.
What Should You Not Forget When Travelling for Business?
Our full list of 15 tips for business travel is below, but let’s cover the essentials first.
• Get as many details as possible. You’ll want the full itinerary, details on who is travelling with you, and who you will be meeting.
• Check your passport. Make sure it hasn’t expired and that visa-related issues will not be a problem at your destination.
• Research about the destination. Will you be able to spend leisurely time like a tourist. Will you work obligations require you to visit places that are challenging to locate or access?
• Who’s providing the work equipment? Find out if you will be supplied with company equipment or if you are expected to prepare your own.
• Likewise, who’s paying for business expenses? Find out if you need to pay upfront and be reimbursed, or if the various expenses are taken care of by your employer.
Until you can check off this mini list, you won’t be able to properly plan for your business trip. And as you’re about to find out, planning is the key.
1. Packing Efficiently for Business Trips
The number one rule of business travel is to never over-pack. Bring only the essentials. One less thing you carry with you, is one less thing to worry about. Additionally, try to opt for a carry-on for your luggage, unless you’re going on a lengthy business trip. This is a reliable way to know you won’t have to deal with luggage lost or delayed.
Your business travel packing list should include:
• Professional attire for every day you will be away.
• A few casual clothing options.
• Work laptop, phone, and chargers.
• Earplugs, headphones and an eye mask.
Pack smart and light. It’s a good idea to pack a spare work outfit as a form of contingency planning. Likewise, it is nice to have a change of clothing for impromptu events, like going out with colleagues for drinks. With shirts, trousers and blazers, the key is to fold them along the seams and then roll to keep wrinkles to a minimum. Essentials like toothbrushes and toothpaste can be purchased at any airport around the world – save your bag space for the essentials you cannot buy abroad.
2. Know Your Destination
It is essential to find accommodation at your destination. If your company will arrange the accommodation for you during the trip, this is something you wouldn’t have to worry about. However, if you need to find your own place to stay, it is recommended to take care of it a few days or even weeks in advance. Depending on your company’s budget allocation, you can weigh your options with the likes of Airbnb or hotel booking websites.
Always look for accommodation that caters to business travellers. Location is paramount – ensure you are close enough to the office and thoroughly plan travel times to and from there. Planning your itinerary will indicate how much time you can spare for commuting. Once you know what area your accommodation should be in, start to filter results according to budget and the level of comfort you desire.
You should also manage travel documents (e.g. visas and travel cards) in advance. Temporary business visas vary around the world and unlike tourist e-visas, many require interviews that must be booked months before you depart.
3. Managing Jet Lag and Time Zones
Jetlag can hit you when you least expect it. It can even occur after a short flight. Make plans with this in mind. You will need to have a clear mindset and be at your sharpest when you attend your business or work function. Hence, you should be well-rested. Try to arrive a day or two prior to your work commitments to find your bearings and get on local time.
Time zone differences during business travel can be managed effectively. First, set your work calendar to the time zone of your destination and make sure colleagues at the office know what time zone you’ll be working in. Block out ‘offline’ hours so they won’t be trying to contact you in the middle of the night. If there are no overlapping business hours for your travel time zone and office time zone, establish a daily routine for regular check-ins.
Jetlag and time zone changes require adjusting sleep schedules and patience. Ensuring the office respects your work-life balance in the new time zone will help this go by smoother.
4. Loyalty Programmes for Business Travellers
As a business traveller, you are neither a tourist nor a local. But this needn’t be a bad thing. In fact, it comes with numerous perks that you should take advantage of. Loyalty programmes aimed at business travellers include:
• Frequent-flyer programmes
• Hotel points
• Car rental rewards
The advantages of joining a club are sometimes monetary, with discounted rates. Often, they provide upgrades and priorities, like being the first to board the plane or access to premium hotel rooms – this can make the discomfort of travelling a little easier. Choose programmes that are most prominent in your frequent destinations, so being loyal to one company doesn’t require going out of your way. If you need to go out of your way to be loyal and receive a perk, the inconvenience is rarely worth the money saved.
5. Travel Insurance
There are numerous types of travel insurance available to business travellers:
• Business travel insurance – a general option that covers business equipment, company money, and schedule changes.
• Trip cancellation insurance – covers pre-booked expenses that may be nonrefundable, such as hotel rooms booked with business rates.
• Medical coverage – a self-explanatory insurance, covering unexpected medical costs incurred while abroad.
• Luggage protection – covers lost, stolen or damaged luggage (including company equipment) so long as employees weren’t at fault.
• Emergency assistance – 24/7 service that provides help to business travellers in emergencies, including natural disasters, evacuations, accidents and illnesses.
When purchasing business travel insurance, you should think about what your personal insurance covers. Some personal plans will cover part of the business elements, such as a work laptop that goes missing with your personal luggage. But business plans won’t cover you if something unexpected occurs while sightseeing. Choose a personal and business plan combination that doesn’t leave any gaps.
6. Stay Healthy During Your Business Trip
A change in diet, routine and time zone can have a huge impact on your health and wellbeing. Focus on setting up a new routine in your destination in order to navigate potential obstacles, prioritise a healthy sleep pattern, engage in regular meals, and designated work/life schedules. This should help maintain general health, keep your mood uplifted, and ensure your immune system is working at an optimal level.
One of the most common medical condition that one could be subjected to when travelling is stomach upset. According to Harvard, diarrhoea, constipation, and indigestion are the most common culprits. The best way to avoid this is to make wise choices about what you eat. Yoghurt for breakfast, for example, provides probiotics that can help your gut stay healthy and adjust to new foods that you try later in the day. Another good tip is to regulate – only try one new food per day, and make sure your portion sizes don’t get out of control.
7. Navigating the Airport and Security
Breezing through airport procedures and security checks will help you start and end your business trip on a positive note. The first thing you should do is research security requirements at both ends. Consider security for both outbound and inbound flights.
Some airports will have express lanes that can be booked in advance, but they aren’t always worth the money. Check how busy the airport typically is before spending money on these services. If you are flying on a holiday weekend, for example, skipping the queues will be worth it.
Generally, the quietest times at the airport are from 6pm to 8am (overnight) midweek, on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Booking express or skip-the-queue services at these times won’t make the process any faster.
8. Learn About the Culture
Unless you’ve been to the location in question, you likely know little about the local customs and culture. Take the time to research the area and its history, and even business customs, before setting off. Learning a couple of words or greetings from the local language, such as “hello”, “please”, and “thank you” can go a long way to helping you communicate while abroad.
Online digital platforms can be a helpful guide for understanding office culture and customs. This can help you prepare to meet prospective business partners and make a good first impression. However, the most important thing to remember here is to keep an open mind.. As most travellers know, making just a little effort when conversing with the locals goes a very long way.
If you are travelling to a country with a different language than your own, consider having your business materials (presentation, leaflets, flyers, or just your business card) professionally translated and printed for the trip.
9. Stay Charged During Your Business Trip
Your phone may consume more battery power while you’re working abroad – you might find yourself constantly checking mails, replying to messages, searching for directions, and more. The last thing you want is for your phone battery to drain when you need it the most. Get a power bank – these days they are designed to be nifty, light, and convenient. For more charges, get at least a 10,000 mAh one.
Besides ensuring your devices are charged overnight at your accommodation, you can also note places where public charging is available. Some public transport hubs offer power outlets, including bus stations, train stations and airports.
Having the right adaptor is also important. Even if your destination country has the same socket type, the voltage can make a difference. For example, Japan’s standard voltage is 100V, while much of Europe and Australia are between 220v and 240v – some appliances may not function correctly or at all when switching.
10. Stay Connected with Tech and Communication
You will want to make sure you’re connected at all times. Check if there is a guaranteed working WiFi connection, regardless of whether your company booked your accommodation or if you are using homestays. If you need to stay in touch at all times, make sure you can enable roaming or get a pocket WiFi wherever necessary. This will come extra handy if you need to find directions, hire transport, make reservations and so forth.
Staying connected allows you to stay updated. If the schedule changes, you can still be on-time for that meeting if the news reached you in time. Besides bringing portable WiFi with you, it may be wise to:
• Check the data plan on your phone for roaming data charges.
• Make a note of co-working spaces before travelling but be wary of unprotected public WiFi networks.
• Have a VPN ready for websites and platforms that may be unavailable in your destination country.
• Turn off video calls and go old-school. Streaming a blurry video of your face takes up a lot of data. Stick to regular phone calls so you can communicate clearly.
11. Maximising Productivity on the Go
First, make sure you are following our advice for jetlag and time zones – this will help you optimise your work hours and stay connected without sacrificing your sleep schedule. Having a work-life balance when on a business trip correlates with productivity. While it is exciting to be in a new country, it shouldn’t distract you from your job.
Setting boundaries also applies to your physical space. Set up your laptop and work materials at the desk in your hotel room, for example. Even if you are in town for a seminar or work event, make sure that you can separate it physically from your personal time.
The tips for maintaining work-life balance are often forgotten when we travel for business but maintaining them well is a great approach to productivity.
12. Safety and Security Tips
Keep the emergency numbers of the country you’re visiting to hand, as this can differ even by state or territory. Aside from the police, ambulance, or fire department, the numbers for embassies may come in handy.
Ensuring your personal safety involves being aware of your surroundings, whether you are in the back of an Uber or just working in the hotel lobby. The basic safety tips that apply to tourists also apply to you. Being in a business suit doesn’t protect you from potential threat or dangers. Hence, it is important to be aware of your surroundings.
Keep your belongings secure within the internal pocket of your bag. You should also have photocopies of your ID, passport, visa and all other documentations in cases of an emergency.
13. Expense Management
Whether you are the employee or the employer, you need to manage your expenses. Travel expenses need to be noted for your taxes or need to be sent back to your company for reimbursement. When tracking expenses abroad, it is important to separate business and personal expenses carefully. You can do this by noting down expenses (or tracking them with an app) for business while you travel. Any expenses on your bank statement at the end of the month that weren’t noted down for business are likely to be leisure expenses not covered by the company. Many companies prefer to give their employees company credit cards for their work trips, so the company pays directly for any travel expenses, meals and other business expenses incurred directly.
Regardless of how your expenses are dealt with, you still need to manage a budget effectively. Research is the key, as costs change with the tourist seasons. Factor in a margin of error for any unforeseen circumstances and emergencies. Even with insurance coverage, you might need instant access to money to navigate tricky situations before making a claim.
14. Networking and Building Relationships
Waiting until you are already on your business trip to network and build relationships is a mistake. The best thing to do is reach out before you leave – look up the people you will be interacting with before you depart and add them on your social media or personal contact list.
This provides an opportunity for you to research their interests and achievements in advance, so rather than opening with a generic greeting, you can begin the conversation with a more personal approach. This is a much more effective method of building relationships and establishing rapport.
If there are language barriers on your business trip, remember the importance of body language and non-verbal communication. Leave a good impression in-person and follow up with remote communications where you can use a translating service. As you likely know, a good follow up after the business trip can make a difference.
15. Leisure Time and Enjoyment
Finally, don’t forget to enjoy your time away. You can effectively combine leisure travel and your business trip by following our tips above and setting boundaries. Planning your business trip as thoroughly as possible) will reduce your stress on the trip and free up more time.
That doesn’t mean you should plan your leisure time so thoroughly, however. With your business trip planned in detail, allowing your free time to be more spontaneous can be a great way to explore your destination and unwind.
Find moments of relaxation and leisure on your business trip wherever possible. Even on a short trip, you may still be able to take the scenic route to and from the business centre.
So, the ultimate key to a successful business trip is to plan ahead and keep leisure time in mind. Just like your normal routine, balancing work and life is crucial for productivity and enjoyment. Except, on your business trip, the life element is actually an opportunity to travel, be a tourist, and maybe even have a little vacation.
Get all the planning done before you leave, following our tips one by one, and you’ll find that your business trip is successful for both your company and your travel endeavours.