As I sat on a plane last week thinking about blog topics, I realized that the CCC blog has never delved into business travel. Despite the Great Recession, business travel remains a popular way to close deals, educate people and cement/maintain crucial relationships. I used to travel for business more than I currently do, but I have spent the better part of the past two weeks on the go.
Here are some tips I’ve picked up from my travels over the years:
- Know where you’re going. Does your hotel have a pool or workout facility? Continental breakfast? Free WiFi? A Keurig in the room? With a little forethought, you can be prepared to take advantage of these amenities and save yourself time and money. Are you familiar with the area? Will you need to entertain clients? What restaurants or entertainment is available? When/where is your meeting? Are you attending or presenting at an event? What’s the time difference? Have all of the details on you, so you can alert necessary parties if travel disruptions cause a rift in your schedule.
- Know how you’re getting there. Have ALL of your travel info (airline info, itineraries, special policies, hotel confirmation, rental car confirmation, driving destinations, routes, airline, hotel & rental car contact info, etc.) in one place and easily accessible. Electronic copies are great, but it helps to have printed copies too. If any problems arise, you’ll have confirmation of your reservations and can easily contact the appropriate parties.
- Know who you’re meeting with. Whether you’re attending or presenting at an event or meeting with clients, do some research. What’s the dress code at your event or client’s office? It’s helpful to understand a client’s corporate culture if possible for meeting purposes and to ensure a successful, long-term relationship. What’s your client’s gift policy? You may think you’re being nice by bringing a special something to leave behind, but it may make for an awkward situation if your contact can’t accept it. If you’re at an event, are there other opportunities to do business or is it not appreciated (or flat out prohibited) by management? Don’t start off on the wrong foot by making an innocent mistake that could lead to major consequences.
- Plan for the worst; hope for the best. Sh%@ happens. We all know that but expect everything to run smoothly all of the time. If at all possible, don’t take a last minute flight to your conference. If it’s delayed or even canceled, you’ll have time to reroute to the conference before it begins. If you’re driving, allow for extra time in case you hit traffic or encounter construction. You may get lost, not be able to catch a cab or find out your hotel room reservation was lost. Obviously it’s not always possible to allow extra time, but oftentimes we (as human beings) put everything off to the last minute and cause a lot of our own stress.
- Track your expenses. Whether you’ll need to fill out an expense report or are a small business owner, it helps to track your expenses. You can see where unexpected expenses pop up and may be able to plan to eliminate or reduce these on future trips. For example, if you find yourself consistently buying bottled water, try to pack a refillable (and even folding/collapsible) water bottle.
- Conduct a post-trip analysis. Take a few minutes to analyze your trip when you return home. It’s really helpful to keep a small notebook to jot down ideas and feedback in real time during the trip. Were you surprised by an airline policy? Did you find a hotel that’s in a better location? Did an audience member suggest a presentation change? Did you notice something during your event that you could do differently next time? Write it down so you can look into it further or implement changes for future travel.
Helpful packing tips:
- Wear the same clothes on travel days. If you’re going to be working in airports, sitting on planes, setting up your booth, etc., save room in your suitcase.
- Coordinate clothing so that you can mix and match. You may be able to stretch two pairs of pants over three or four days with different shirts.
- Pack (mostly) healthy, on-the-go snacks. Sometimes it’s difficult to find time to eat (especially at events), so try to have almonds & dried cranberries, fruit snacks, granola/protein bars and a refillable water bottle on hand. Grab some apples, bananas and other fresh fruit for your room from the continental breakfast.
- Stuff shoes full of socks, undergarments and accessories to save space.
- Roll shirts, workout gear and other items to save space. Pants may fit better folded in a specific location.
- Put event credentials, medication, chargers and any other crucial items in your carry-on. A change of clothes is helpful too if it fits.
- Take advantage of outside pockets, interior compartments, specialty niches and any nooks & crannies in your luggage. A little planning while packing goes a long way!
- Leave room for swag bags, samples and literature you’ll be picking up at a show unless you plan on shipping these items back. (Depending on baggage policies, it may be advantageous to ship these items. Take advantage of any onsite or show specials in this area.)
- Wear slip-on shoes and simple clothes (free of embellishments, metal, etc.) to the airport. It’ll help you breeze through security and save time and a lot of frustration.
- Know where your liquids (in zip bags) and electronics are in your carry-on, so you can remove them for security quickly.
What other travel or packing tips have you picked up along the way? Chime in and help everyone do business a little easier on the road.
Enjoying the view,