Going on your first business trip is certainly something to remember; akin to your first international holiday in a way.
Not only does it mean you’re trusted to represent your company away from the relative comfort and familiarity of the office, but it also means you now get to enter the somewhat disguised world of corporate travel.
Corporate travel is a world away from leisure travel and binds you to different customs and practices that typically take a couple of trips to master – unless you have the anecdotal advice of seasoned business travelers who trood the track for you.
For those who are about to embark on their first solo business trip, here are some tips to keep in mind, carefully thought out and offered by those who came before you and who were also once novices.
Familiarise yourself with your company’s travel policy
Many employees are blissfully unaware that their companies have travel policies in place. If you’re set to be traveling, there will certainly be one, and it’s your duty to dig it out and get to grips with the nitty gritty. What you’ll be looking for is information on things like expenses; what can and cannot be reimbursed, and whether you need to use your own credit card or if a company card will be provided for you. Too many amateur corporate travelers have incorrectly assumed they’ll be reimbursed for things that aren’t within the remit of their company travel policy, leaving them out of pocket and red faced when their expense report gets handed back.
Speaking of expense reports, make sure you ask who is responsible for preparing it. It could be you, or there could be someone else who is responsible for the admin side of business travel. This person may also be responsible for booking flights and hotels, and approving an itinerary. If not, you may need to make all the bookings yourself and find a senior member of the team to approve your itinerary.
As soon as you get wind of a corporate trip, seek out your company’s travel manager or equivalent role-holder. Ask all the questions you need to, and study the travel policy like you’re studying for a midterm. All too many first timers have made this mistake, leaving them embarrassed and potentially off the roster for foreseeable trips.
Research your business trip destination
Just like you would if you were going on vacation, make sure you reserve time to research your intended destination, especially if it’s international. This is high up on any seasoned travelers list, because the consequences of failing to conduct due diligence can be costly and embarrassing. You’ll want to get a feel for the climate so you can pack and dress appropriately, but you’ll also want to check for recent news relating to strikes or travel disruption. This will ensure you don’t get caught short should anything untoward occur.
It’s a good idea to look on Google Maps to get a feel for the area where you’ll not only be meeting your recipients, but where your hotel is, too. If you’re using a rental car to get from point A to point B, make sure you look into driving rules and laws.
You’ll also want to educate yourself of cultural etiquette and customs. Despite being present for a business trip, you need to adhere to societal norms in the way of dress code, greetings, and general composure. Don’t assume that you’re above cultural customs because you’re there for business – if anything, it’s more important from a corporate travel perspective because you can’t play the ignorant tourist card. Your receivers will expect you to have done your homework, so make sure you do for the sake of future business relations.
Don’t try and beat the jetlag
Almost every business travel rookie has made the same mistake of assuming that, by using some underhand tactics, they can beat the jetlag associated with international travel. Don’t be one of these people – jetlag is inevitable and no amount of acupuncture, specialized diets, sleeping pills or 7am runs will get rid of it. Your body needs time to adjust and that simply can’t be forced. Trying to bypass jetlag often leads to travelers feeling worse and groggier than before.
With this in mind, plan your itinerary to account for your jetlag to ensure you get enough sleep. If you struggle with sleeping, noise canceling headphones could help on the flight. It’s a good idea to leave meetings to the day after landing where possible, as any pro business traveler will tell you.
Pencil in some downtime on your itinerary
Another common mistake made by novice business travelers is forgetting to schedule in some personal time when concocting their trip itineraries. It’s of utmost importance that your work affairs are prioritized, but in the same way you wouldn’t be expected to (or even able to) work 24/7 when you’re at home/in the office on an average day, you can’t and won’t be expected to do the same on a work trip.
You need to ensure you take regular breaks and schedule in some time where you can be alone and take a break from work. Whether you block out an evening or take a few hours in the morning to have some downtime, make sure you do it. A lot of new business travelers assume they need to be working 24/7 when they’re away, but this isn’t the case. If anything, it just leads to burnout and makes the premise of a business trip unsustainable.
This considered, think about adding in time to go sightseeing, shopping, or to visit a spa. Even dinner by yourself could be a nice break away from the corporate world. With this in mind, allot yourself some spending money for the times when you’re not entertaining clients or present in client meetings.
Finally, make sure you put some thought into your packing. Many well-traveled business folk regale tales of forgetting essential items on their first business trip because they were too focused on packing purely business supplies. Yes, your laptop, phone, associated chargers, portfolio, and work attire need to take precedence, but don’t forget about casual clothes for your scheduled downtime, snacks for the journey, and personal grooming items.
You also need to consider the way in which you transport your items. The bag you use for leisure will be different to the one you use for business. For starters, your work and personal items need to be kept separate from each other, and on top of this, you need to think about how your hand luggage looks. You need to present yourself as a working professional at all times, and this means choosing a bag that matches the theme. A giant suitcase simply won’t be ideal, and whilst roller bags are a comfortable option, they’re not necessarily the best as you may need a separate laptop bag as well.
Emigre has some excellent corporate travel luggage options that not only look the part, but that make business travel easier and more convenient. Their range of hand luggage bags comprise the finest recycled materials and protection for all your belongings, as well as comfort so you can move from the airport to your hotel room with ease. Their shoulder bag styles are padded and comfortable, and each bag has separate compartments for technology, clothes, and easy-reach items like your passport and boarding pass.
They’re a great choice for first timers and seasoned professionals alike. Don’t make the fatal mistake of running through the airport with an uncomfortable back that is bursting at the seams – invest early on, because if you follow the business travel tips above, your first business trip certainly won’t be your last.