Maybe your boss is traveling for a site visit and is taking you along. Or your company is sending you to an industry conference. Or a client wants a representative in your area of expertise to visit for a consultation. Whatever the reason, you have business travel in your future, and you don’t want it to be complicated.
A recent Robert Half study shows an uptick in business travel, despite the increased use of video conferencing and other advancements in communications technology. Some of the survey respondents said more people are taking business trips for professional development opportunities; others say company growth has enlarged the travel budget.
Meeting in person has definite benefits over phone calls or emails. Face-to-face business meetings can help you build relationships, prevent miscommunication and speed up decisions. You can also make new contacts on the road.
As you prepare for a successful journey, be sure you keep these six business travel tips in mind:
1. Follow your boss’s lead
If this is your first business trip, there’s a good possibility you’ll be accompanying your supervisor. 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
Just as you organize your desk at the office, make sure you keep close track of all travel information, schedules, contact information and expenses, whether you’re traveling with your boss, with colleagues or alone. 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.
Familiarize yourself with your destination before you leave. Make sure you have the latest apps on your phone and tablet. 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.
With that said, be open to having conversations and networking with fellow travelers, and have extra business cards in case you want to stay in touch with someone you meet along the way.
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:
- Don't check a bag if at all possible. On longer trips this may not be an option, but if you don’t check a bag, you’ll save precious time in the airport and won't have to worry about lost luggage.
- If you do check a bag, make sure you have key items you’ll need for meetings in your carry-on.
- Pack a comfortable pair of shoes to wear during travel.
- 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 your work
Charge all your devices before you leave. Back up your data on your company server and install any security updates. Copy files you’ll need to access to your desktop, and set an out-of-office email message alerting contacts that your response may be delayed. Don’t leave your computer, tablet or phone unattended. If you do work at an airport or on an airplane, remember that those internet connections are not secure and that work calls in a public place aren’t necessarily confidential. Wi-Fi isn’t always available, but you can get a secure network by purchasing Wi-Fi and using your own personal hotspot.
6. 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.
Diminish stress by arriving early at the airport. When you have the time, get to your destination at least a day before your meeting or event, in case there are travel delays.
If you can minimize the stress of business travel by planning ahead, you might even be able to mix some of the business with pleasure.
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Getting Down to Business While Traveling
Are employees at your company traveling more or less frequently now versus five years ago?
|Much more frequently: 2%|
|Somewhat more frequently: 12%|
|There has been no change: 63%|
|Somewhat less frequently: 10%|
|Much less frequently: 4%|
|No business travel at the company: 9%|
Why employees are traveling more frequently*:
|Professional development opportunities|
|Clients or employees in different areas|
Why employees are traveling less frequently*:
|Increased use of technology (remote access, video conferencing, webinars)|
|Financial restraints, company budgets|
BEST PRACTICES OF BUSINESS TRAVEL
|#1: Pack wisely. Bring just one carry-on bag to avoid the risk of lost luggage. If that’s not possible, pack key items you’ll need for meetings (e.g., suit, toiletries, laptop, important documents) in your carry-on and check the rest of your belongings.|
|#2: Arrive early. Get to your destination at least one day before your meeting or event to avoid stress from travel delays.|
|#3: Protect your work data. Take precautions if you’re working at an airport or on an airplane because public internet connections are unsecure. Also, be aware of your surroundings when on confidential work calls and assume anyone within earshot can be a competitor.|
|#4. Prepare for technology failures. Wi-Fi isn’t always available. Print hard copies of business documents, save files you’ll need to access your desktop and set an out-of-office email message alerting contacts that your response may be delayed.|
|#5. Network: Be open to conversations with fellow travelers and have business cards at the ready. The person near you in line or next to you on a flight might be a good business contact.|
Source: Robert Half survey of more than 300 human resources managers in the United States.
*Top responses shown.
© 2017 Robert Half International Inc. An Equal Opportunity Employer M/F/Disability/Veterans.