One of the perks of being an employee with a company who has clients all over the world is traveling for business, but the stress of emerging successfully from your business trip can feel intense.
Depending on the scope of your purpose for business travel, your employer will measure your success in various ways. Will you save a contract or beat out the competition with better service offerings? Are you there to scout new locations for business expansion?
Your personal take on what makes for successful business trip may have lower or higher stakes. Mostly, you want to make sure you don’t forget your underwear and company laptop. Whether it’s your first or tenth business trip, your daily routine will be disrupted, and you have to plan for the little details, too.
Packing with Purpose
The key to successful packing is to focus on need and multipurpose, without being too utilitarian. Allow a book, camera or another self-care item along for the trip. Check TSA rules for ounce limits on shampoo and conditioner.
Where’s your power suit? Does it really look good on you? Pack it, but remember to stick with a small wardrobe that allows you to formulate multiple outfits with less clothing items. Think of it as business travel capsule wardrobe. For the ladies, slip on flats are easiest for airport security lines.
Essentials go in your carry-on: your presentation, documents, laptop, chargers, medication and a quick change of business-appropriate attire. If your luggage doesn’t make it through, you still have a change of underwear and what you need to get the job done.
Does the plane have room for a roller bag underneath the seat? It’s easier to have your luggage nearby than to check it; least something happens to your bags.
Travel, Meals, Tipping and Sleeping Essentials
Always be on the lookout for the unexpected. Arrive a day before a scheduled meeting or business doings, which gives you time to decompress or strategize if a roadblock emerges. Book a direct flight, so you won’t risk the potential mishaps that arise from having to switch planes. Sign up to earn frequent flier miles and stay points now.
Know what your employer covers and how or if they reimburse you for travel and accommodation expenses so you’re not faced with unexpected expenses that won’t be paid back. If your employer allows, join an airline members’ club which gives you some privacy, comfort and a chance to relax with a cup of coffee — this will boost your energy levels and allow you quiet time to prepare for your meeting.
Don’t forget to track your expenses, and there are many apps that allow you to take photos of receipts and check in in places virtually. Make sure any apps you use have backup storage.
Don’t skip the first meal of the day. You never know if your schedule will shift. Fuel your body so you won’t be irritable and fail to impress the client. Take healthy energy bars to avoid stuffing yourself with salty and sugary vending machine treats.
Don’t drink too much alcohol on personal time or during happy hour with a client. Know your tolerance level and drink water. You may miss out on important details or your flight home, not mention risking inappropriate behavior or sickness.
In the United States, tipping waiting and hotel staff is standard. However, in other countries, many service positions pay a higher wage with benefits, and tipping is a faux pas. It never hurts to ask what the standard is or do your research beforehand.
Quality sleep is vital on your business trip, and jet lag affects your sleep patterns. You need seven to eight hours of sleep every night, but your meetings may be scheduled out far apart. Even if sleep has to be split into two blocks of four hours, make sure you get your sleep in and bring a comfortable travel pillow and earplugs with you on long flights.
Respect and Enjoy the Culture
How long is your trip? Some people extend their business trip by a day or two by adding on employee vacation time. In fact, 17 percent of business travelers bring a spouse or friend along to make the most out of the trip, and 25 percent stay over after an event, such as a convention or conference. Ask about activities and amenities in advance to make your stay more enjoyable, as many hotels focused on business also combine business with pleasure to help you enjoy your stay, such as providing activities for kids.
Ask if your employer will let you do this so you can get in your sightseeing without affecting your ability to do what you came to achieve. Business is the priority, but always balance out any sightseeing activities realistically with your top priorities.
Realize there are different practices when it comes to business and social interaction in different countries. Some cultures don’t shake hands, they bow. Research beforehand so you don’t risk offending your client. Similarly, when sightseeing, respect and enjoy the culture. Ask what’s proper. Don’t be afraid to practice the language.
Your first business trip will be a successful one if you prepare in advance and be a good guest. Focus on business priorities first, but don’t forget the need for personal comfort and adventure, too.