Don’t Just Wing It: Preparing for Your First Business Trip


Maybe your boss is traveling for a site visit or a client meeting and is taking you along. Or your company is sending you to an industry conference. Or a client wants a representative to visit them for a consultation — in your area of expertise. Whatever the reason, you’re about to take your first business trip and you’re excited about the opportunity.

As you prepare for a successful journey, be sure you keep these five business travel tips in mind:

1. Follow your boss’s lead. For your first business trip, there’s a good possibility that you’ll be accompanying your boss. If he or she wants to relax on the flight or after meetings, then you can likely take it easy too. But if your manager wants to keep working, you should be prepared to work then and there. If you aren’t sure what your responsibilities will be or you have other questions about expectations or timing, try to clarify those points with your boss at the outset of the trip.

2. Keep track of everything. Whether you’re traveling with your boss, with colleagues or alone, make sure you keep close track of all travel information, schedules, contact information and expenses. Before your trip, print key information so you have hard copies readily available. Misplacing your rental car confirmation, for instance, could strand you at the counter with no vehicle ­and no way to make it in time to the presentation you’re in town to give. Being organized is also important for post-trip reconciliation, as you may not be reimbursed for expenses if you can’t provide a receipt.

3. Check your etiquette. Knowing how to interact with unfamiliar clients in unfamiliar environments can be difficult, especially because the pressure is on to make a good impression on your first business trip. Be alert for social cues you’ll need to follow. If you’re traveling overseas, study the customs of the country you’re visiting to show cultural sensitivity.

4. Pack wisely. No list of business travel tips would be complete without some packing advice. We all know how to pack a suitcase, but in the rush to prepare work materials, some things can be forgotten. Here are a few basic reminders:

  • Charge all of your electronics the night before you fly.
  • Don't check a bag if at all possible. On longer trips this may not be an option, but avoiding checking a bag will save you precious time in the airport. Plus, you won't have to worry about lost luggage.
  • Pack a comfortable pair of shoes to wear during travel and a set of casual clothes for non-work time.
  • If you don’t use a garment bag, fold and pack your business clothes inside out to prevent wrinkling.
  • To save space, consider shipping work materials or printing work documents on-site rather than carrying them all with you.

5. Take care of yourself. Travel can take a toll on you that you might not see coming until it’s too late, especially on your first business trip. Get plenty of sleep before and during the trip. Drink lots of water, and keep alcohol consumption to a minimum. Bring healthy snacks, medication and anything else you might need, especially if you’ll be on long flights.

What business travel tips do you wish you’d known on your first business trip? Share with us below.