A Beginners Guide to Traveling for Business
So you’ve secured the corporate job of your dreams and now you’re being sent off on a business trip interstate or overseas. While you may be focused on the excitement of visiting a new city and possibly enjoying the perks of eating out on a company card, there are a number of things to consider when traveling for business.
If this will be your first time traveling for business, it’s important to know not only what to pack for a business trip but also a number of other things. Of course, business travel requires you to not only think about your personal belongings but also professional items as well.
Packing for business travel often requires specific attire, travel documents, devices, and supplies. It also often requires you to review your company’s travel policy to know how to conduct yourself, possibly learn a bit about foreign business etiquette, and track your expenses.
To aid you on your first or next business trip, here are some essential packing tips and other vital things you should know to enjoy a more successful trip.
When traveling abroad for work purposes, you’ll often need to take more than just your laptop and phone, especially if you’re going to be away for longer than a week or two. Make sure you have all the tech bits you need by packing a comprehensive tech survival kit with a range of items including tools like small screwdrivers, phone accessories like a portable Wi-Fi hotspot, and data storage devices such as flash drives for accessing important documents.
By ensuring you have a complete technology kit at hand, you can eliminate the worry that you’ve forgotten something important, allowing you to concentrate on making the most of your first business trip abroad.
Hotel conference rooms may already include various electronics such as digital entertainment and audio-visual equipment when booking the room or you may need to inquire about the cost and availability of equipment you’ll need. This will often be arranged by your management team but if you are the one in charge of making sure this equipment is available you need to do your research. Weigh out the costs of packing larger electronics or renting them at your travel destination.
A VPN or Virtual Private Network is another smart idea for business trips since it allows you to secure sensitive data such as company passwords, user names, and files. You may want to further protect sensitive files by encrypting them before you travel, as well as backing them up in case your laptop is lost or stolen.
Adapters may be another requirement when traveling internationally. Make sure your electronics can be used safely on the voltage used in the country you will be visiting. You may simply need a simple adapter that will fit the plugs or a voltage converter in cases where your electronics do not operate on a wide range of voltages.
Important Travel Documents
If you’re traveling abroad for work, make sure that you don’t forget to first make sure you have a passport that is still valid and then to make sure to bring it along with you. Passports can sometimes take awhile to process so make sure you have a valid one long before your trip is scheduled, keeping in mind you are usually required to have at least a six month period of validity left on your passport for entry into most countries.
You may also need to get a special business visa or work permit to be able to conduct business abroad. A company meeting overseas may not require a permit but actually working overseas or doing business while traveling internationally may be another story.
Have a printout copy of your boarding pass, hotel bookings, and transportation reservations in case you are unable to access digital versions. A copy of your itinerary that details times of meetings and conferences is also a good idea.
For the rest of your travel documents, we recommend downloading an app such as TripIt, so that you can keep them all in one place. And don’t forget travel insurance as it can protect you financially should a number of things go wrong such as travel delays, lost luggage, or needing overseas medical treatment.
Having business cards is another good idea in order to network and make new business contacts while traveling.
Track Your Business Travel Expenses
Before heading off, make sure you’re clear on your company policy for tracking expenses. Some companies offer their employees a pre-paid debit card, but others expect their employees to pay for various expenses upfront and then reimburse them later. If the latter is true for your workplace, download an expenses tracking app to keep all your receipts in one place.
Be sure to clarify details regarding covered expenses so you know what you’ll have to pay for out-of-pocket. You will often be on your own when it comes to buying things like alcohol or enjoying activities in your downtime.
Know what your spending limits are, such as how much you will be reimbursed for meals, what type of hotel rooms you can book, or whether you can fly business class or are restricted to economy.
Business Travel Attire
Traveling for business means giving more attention than you would normally for a regular holiday. Whether it’s attending conferences, meetings, or trying to win over clients with fancy restaurant dinner reseravtions, you will likely have to pack at least one or two suits or formal dresses.
It’s wise to pack clothing that is easy to maintain and doesn’t wrinkle or stain easily. Avoid white clothing which can more noticeably show off stains and stick with neutral clothing that can mixed and matched more easily.
Make sure to also pack suitable dress shoes for work purposes. However, don’t forget to pack normal clothing for non-business activities such as sightseeing or active wear for workouts in the hotel gym.
And don’t overlook the luggage you put all your clothes and travel items in. Your suitcase, much like your car, can say a lot about you. Investing in classy suitcases as opposed to rocking up with heavily used luggage with holes and a zipper that’s barely holding everything together may not give off a good look to other colleagues, bosses, or business contacts you are meeting with overseas.
You want to show you’re ready for business and can be taken seriously. You never know who will be picking you up from the airport or when your luggage will be on show.
Be Aware of the Company’s Business Travel Policy
Your company may have a set travel policy in place which details all kinds of information. It will often outline the procedure for booking your travel, limits to what you can book or spend, what approval must be obtained, whether you’ll need to track expenses, etc.
The policy will often detail how much in advance you should book your business trips, if you have to book with certain carriers or brand name hotels. It may also offer advice for travel precautions you should take and outline the expectations for how you should conduct yourself while traveling. You need to keep in mind that you may be representing your company when doing business overseas and your attitude or behavior can affect business dealings.
Research Foreign Business Etiquette
Business etiquette may be vastly different to what you’re used to in your own country. You’ll need to learn proper greeting procedures such as whether you should shake hands or if there is a better alternative instead.
Learning a bit of the foreign language can also show you respect other cultures and are serious about doing business. No what mannerisms to avoid or what words to avoid so as to not be insulting.
After your trip, it’s always good practice to also send thank you emails to any individuals or businesses you met with. It may also be a good gesture to bring along small gifts to foreign business meetings that can act as an icebreaker and show you value their time.
Stay Healthy and Ready for Business
When traveling on business, you want to make sure you are your best self. That means taking care of your health and appearance. Being business-ready should start from the minute you get on the plane. Avoid consuming too much alcohol during your trip, pack any necessary medications you readily take or will need such as those to alleviate motion-sickness or jet lag, and necessary toiletries to maintain proper hygiene.
Stay hydrated, eat healthy, and try to incorporate exercise into your business vacation. Be sure to get proper sleep and stick to a routine that allows you to function as close to 100% as possible. Business travel can be stressful, so you may want to utilize music, mindfulness apps, or simply take walks in local gardens or parks to reduce any stress and anxiety.
Think About Your Colleagues
Finally, consider your other colleagues that will be traveling with you. You may not always get along with everyone you work with and travel stress can exacerbate existing conflicts. Do your best to put the company’s interests above your own personal agendas, unless of course another colleague crosses the line in terms of appropriate behavior towards you or others. If this should happen during a work trip, don’t take it upon yourself to confront the person rather contact management that is traveling with you or those in charge back at home so they can quickly sort things out.
Packing extras of essentials can also make you a bit of a hero should another colleague forget to pack items like a toothbrush, phone charger, sunglasses, tie, or headache medication. It may also be a good idea to take a first-aid training class in case anyone in the group should require medical assistance. Make sure all colleagues are aware of each other’s current allergies or medical conditions so they can act accordingly if someone suffers a medical episode while traveling together.
As you can see, packing for a business trip isn’t the same as packing for a relaxing holiday abroad. By following the tips outlined above, you’ll be much better prepared to enjoy a successful business trip whether this will be your first business trip or are a regular business traveler. It may also prove to your boss that you’re a good candidate for any future business travel opportunities that arise.