How does one effectively prepare for a business trip? What are the most important things to remember?
If there was a one size fits all, ‘golden rule’, for business trips then it would have to be,
“Don’t leave everything until the last minute!”
Anyone following that rule will find it difficult to go wrong. Preparation is key, especially if success is the end goal, as success is surely the point of the trip in the first place?
Preparation leads to productivity and productivity leads to success.
Business trips are ordinarily very hectic affairs. Keeping costs down means cramming an impossible number of tasks into an incredibly short space of time. Reduce the hectic nature of a trip by planning ahead.
Getting to see the world should be a rewarding experience, even if not strictly travelling for pleasure. Following these preparation tips will certainly help a trip to go far more smoothly.
Create a packing checklist
This could be a scribbled checklist on a piece of scrap paper, but the best thing to use would be a packing app such as Packing Pro or Packpoint.
The key thing to remember is that a home contains everything a person needs on a day to day basis. Being on the road means that a lot of this stuff is inaccessible. Packing effectively is deciding what stuff is essential and needs to be accessible.
Packing isn’t just about clothes and toiletries, it’s also necessary to compile a list of things that are needed from the office too. Is that essential file in the suitcase (or better still, digitally downloaded onto a laptop)?
Pack what you need (and nothing else)
If going on a short trip it’s worth considering whether a check in suitcase is absolutely necessary. If it isn’t then don’t take one. Hanging around at the baggage carousel is one thing about air travel that nobody would miss.
Buy mix and match clothes and pack them into a suitcase accordingly. Comfy shoes are never ever a luxury, they are an absolute necessity. Any seasoned business traveller would have these on their feet rather than a smart pair anyway.
Remember the liquid rule. Always keep a supply of travel sized liquids and don’t get caught out at security with a family sized bottle of shampoo.
Always keep travel documents in order
When not travelling keep passport in one easily accessible place. It should be secure but ready to pick up at a moment’s notice. Could there be a worse way to start a business trip than by searching frantically for a lost passport the night before travel?
Once the passport is located, check it. Is it in date for a start? Does it have a spare page in case a stamp/visa is required?
Speaking of visas, is one required by your destination. If so, get it sorted way ahead of time and ensure it is kept with the passport. Remember some visas take a while to be issued.
Make sure all trip specific documents are in a carry on bag. Hotel vouchers, car hire details, plane tickets or boarding passes all come under this category.
If it helps (and it certainly does wonders for the environment) keep documents electronically on an app that’s designed for the purpose.
Whether the trip is for an extended stay or just a few nights, having the perfect accommodation is vital.
If the trip involves meetings then is the accommodation nearby? Getting accommodation way outside of the city may be a false economy if the cost of getting to meetings every day in the city hasn’t been considered.
Researching accommodation has also got a bit more complicated in recent years, in a very positive way. No longer is accommodation limited to pokey little hotel rooms. Corporate housing now includes fully furnished apartments with kitchens and lounge areas. Some even have the facilities you’d expect in a hotel, like concierge and gyms.
They’re also located in some of the most prime city centre locations. Could that essential meeting actually be held in the lounge of a home from home?
Be familiar with the company travel policy
Even if it’s not a first time business trip with a company, it’s important to be familiar with the rules a company has, especially when travelling abroad. Every company will have something to abide to.
There will be preferred accommodation, flight and insurance providers. More importantly there will also likely be a lot of very specific rules regarding expenses, including spending limits and claim policies.
In this day and age, it is unlikely that anyone would walk out of their home to go on a business trip and forget either their mobile phone or laptop. They are as much a part of daily attire as wearing trousers.
However, frequently forgotten items do include the means to keep these items working indefinitely. We’re talking chargers, of course!
Take charger cables onto the aeroplane. Most airlines have charging ports available next to every seat and it is well worth keeping that laptop charged. It is essential to keep a mobile topped up as it may be needed at other end to call a cab or find your accommodation.
Remember that some countries have different plug sockets to home. Taking adaptors is essential as most accommodation will have plug sockets, but not all will have USB ports.
A battery pack is also becoming an essential travel item too. When travelling it may be some time between power points, a decent battery pack allows travellers to keep items full of juice even when in transit.
There’s (probably) an app for that
It’s difficult to appreciate how much time and effort having a smart phone saves. Not to mention how much space they save in a suitcase.
Downloading time saving apps is essential for the modern business traveller. Just for an example, how much less space does the Google translate app take up compared to a dictionary or phrase book?
There are apps which can hold an entire itinerary in one place, as well as holding copies of all of travel documents and making them available as and when they are needed.
There are apps which provide guides to cities, including public transport information and the means to book a taxi to or from anywhere.
There are apps which carry reams of what would otherwise be bulky (and heavy) documents. Not only that, they can hold contracts and even provide the means to sign them.
There are also apps which can provide a fully packed suitcase waiting on a bed at a chosen destination!
Research the apps needed, download them and try them out before the departure date. Discard any that don’t save time.
Take plenty of business cards
There is NOT an app for that. Well, there probably is but even in this day and age it is not an acceptable replacement.
If the ultimate destination is a trade show then taking as many as possible is essential. If travelling to Asia, especially Japan or Hong Kong, then not only will plenty of business cards be essential, a complete knowledge surrounding the very culture of business cards in these places is also essential.
It’s not just business cards. Make sure hand luggage contains a pen and a small pad. Taking notes on a laptop and especially a mobile can look rude. Sometimes the old fashioned way is the only way!
Make sure someone else has the itinerary
It is essential that a company knows the travel itinerary for its employees so it knows where they are at all times. But sometimes companies can be less than efficient in that regard.
Ensure a family member or a friend knows the travel itinerary that’s being followed. This should include accommodation address, flight numbers, times and departure points.
Have some local currency
Most things are now paid for by card or via an app, but not everything. There are always going to be small expenses, that local shop for an essential bottle of water for example. Relying on the presence of an ATM should never be an option.
Seek out the best exchange rate before travelling in order to have some currency in your pocket when you arrive.
Do some research on your destination
Some business trips are taken to places that people are familiar with, others take them into unchartered territory. If the destination of a business trip is the latter then some up front research is an essential task ahead of time.
For some destinations it may be the case that up to date political information or research on crime areas may be necessary, but this would be unusual.
Most of the time it’s just a case of familiarisation with local customs, in order to avoid looking foolish or, at worst, ignorant.
How do people shake hands or greet each other? How are business cards handed over? If at a restaurant, how much is an acceptable tip?
If the destination speaks an unfamiliar language, a great ice breaker in most cultures is having the ability to say a few words in the foreign tongue. Get learning!