Our sales team is no stranger to “pounding the pavement.” Don’t knock that business hustle. When it comes to business travel tips, they’ve come up with some best practices after spending long hours in airports and hotel rooms, stuck in traffic in a rental car, or hustling through an intense airport security line.
So with their help, we’ve come up with 12 Tips for Better Business Travel. These are universal hints for better travel on your next business trip. Some of them are old school, some are new, but all should help you plan, coordinate, and execute your next business trip in style.
Using this as a guide, you’ll be better organized, less stressed, and hopefully more successful for your business and your clients or customers. Travel for pleasure can be stressful, much less travel for work. But by following some successful steps laid out by our map-hopping sales team, you too can be a business travel pro.
1. Master Your Itinerary
The first step to a successful business trip always comes before you even pack your bags, much less get in line at airport security. I’m talking about your itinerary, and without one, you’ll be lost in the woods.
It’s easier to “wing it,” as they say; to figure out traffic transit when you get there, to shoot your prospective client or customer an email seeing if they’re available for a happy hour meet-up “later this afternoon.” But when you play fast and loose with people’s time, you’re playing with fire.
As it turns out, most people won’t care about your business trip and its successes and failures nearly as much as you will. Your clients have their own work lives, and more importantly, their own out of work lives.
For the most part they’ll make plans, choosing to spend their time in or out of the office, and once those plans are made they’re not likely to change them. This is why it’s incredibly important to thoroughly plan your itinerary, make sure you have scheduled appointments, and get phone numbers in case of delays or emergencies.
Map out exactly how long you’ll be sitting in traffic for that rush hour meeting (Terry Corbell, The Biz Coach). Remember that an itinerary is much more than just your appointments, it’s your lifeblood on your business trip, it’s your ring to rule all other rings. A good itinerary can reduce stress and improve results. Results…Isn’t that the point of a successful business trip?
2. Enjoy Yourself!
It’s easy to get caught up in work. Especially when you’re on a business trip, it’s easy to get lost among the appointments, to be a slave to the numbers, to think of your time solely in wins and losses. But there really is something to be said about the ability of travel to refresh your senses. So often we find ourselves visiting the same old clients, the same old hotels, same old restaurants and rental car services.
But it doesn’t have to be this way! Most every place has something. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bike trail, a new restaurant, or a newly-opened Top Golf. It’s important to find some time away from work on your next business trip.
You might be surprised, but it will help you focus when it comes time for the serious work (Jamie Cole, 1st Author Interviews). Even if you’re frequenting the same spots, don’t get bogged down by the hotel bar and room service.
If at all possible get out, walk the streets, look the citizens or the waiters or the bartenders in the eye. By opening up the experience of travel, and thinking about it (even slightly) in terms of a vacation (where the primary objective is fun), you’ll no doubt learn something. And who knows, it might help you when it comes time for your business meeting.
3. Get a Packing Checklist
It’s good to have a checklist for most things when it comes to a successful business trip, and packing is no different. The last thing you need to do is pack the morning of your trip, hurried and trying to get everything set before the cab driver taking you to the airport shows up. I’ve lived that life, and it isn’t pretty.
Always pack the night before your trip and print out a checklist you trust before hand (Greg Nunan, Blogtrepreneur). Mark off each item as you pack it: underwear, socks, work out gear, running shoes, business shoes, contact lense solution, floss, phone chargers… The list goes on and on. Especially if you’re going on an extended trip, with more than one location, you’re going to want to keep things organized when it comes to packing.
We’ll talk about this later in the post, but a packing checklist also helps you cut down on over-packing, and the possibility of paying extra for checked bags. The best packers are like newspaper editors; they cut and cut and cut until what’s left is bare bones efficiency. That’s what you’re looking for when you pack: efficiency.
Embrace the smartphone and its various apps. You won’t regret it.
4. Do Not Fear the Travel App
It’s pretty crazy to think about, but smartphones have revolutionized our daily way of life, and especially the way we travel. Today, there are numerous apps that you can download to your phone and take with you on your trip that will help you do a myriad of things in a city that you aren’t familiar with.
You can use apps in the U.S. or even international trips, and they’ll do a lot of the heavy lifting on things such as transportation, parking, etc (Brett Nuckles, Business News Daily). I’ve used apps on my phone for translation when I’m in a place I don’t speak the language (France, 2013), not to mention Google Maps which is a lifesaver for when it comes to finding a morning coffee. These are just two apps that can prove essential for a successful business trip, and there’s more and more every day.
Even if you’re old school with most of your business practices, don’t make the mistake of creased and folded paper maps, or flipping frantically through the phone book for business hours of the restaurant across town. Most apps aren’t amateur, and can be trusted in a pinch. Embrace the smartphone and its various apps. You won’t regret it.
5. Keep Good Records
If you’re running a small business, you know how thin the line can be between personal and professional expenses. You are your company, your company is you. Because of this, it’s important to keep good records during your business travel.
Two: With good records of receipts and expenses you can write off all sorts of good stuff for your business. Obviously you’ll have to look into what you should and should not write off, but the point is that you keep the records to make it possible. Date and sign all of your receipts. Pay attention to hotel costs, airplane tickets, and food and drink.
If you’re picking up the tab for your clients, make a note of it. By keeping good records during your business travel you can save money on taxes in the long run, and avoid any issues that might arise in mid-April.
6. Don’t Check a Bag
Even if you’re not a frequent traveller, we all have our lost luggage horror stories. That sinking feeling you get when the last bag is off the conveyor belt and you’re still standing empty handed. It’s such a pain. There’s always the continued refrain: “I’m never checking a bag again.”
Listen, the truth is that sometimes checking a bag can’t be helped. In those moments, cross your fingers and pray to your god.
The rest of the time? Carry-On. Apart from the prospect of lost luggage, checking a bag adds time, and time is something you want to make the most of when it comes to business travel (Road Warriorette, Boarding Area). Checking a bag adds time to your check-in as well as time once you’ve landed.
While it might seem like 15 minutes here or there is not a big deal, it does add up. Flights are delayed and cancelled enough as is. It can be weather or mechanical failures; can’t control that. But what you can control is cutting down on your luggage and going carry-on.
You can always do a load of laundry in the sink…
7. Go For a Run
One of the best ways to stay active, battle jet lag, and feel better about your trip and routine is to go for a run (Diana Ecker, Redbooth). Obviously, if you’re not a regular runner I don’t suggest lacing up your wingtips and hitting the trail for a few miles.
That’s a recipe for disaster. But if you are a runner, don’t think that you can’t keep your routine just because you’re on a business trip. I prefer to get outside in the mornings, time and weather permitting, and running around the neighborhood or downtown area.
This keeps me rooted to the city in a way I might not otherwise experience. I can check out restaurants or parks I might want to visit in my downtime, as well as get a feeling for the people. If running is your thing, make sure you pack accordingly. You can always do a load of laundry in the sink, and don’t forget your running shoes.
8. Get to Know City Mapper
So you’ve done all your research. You know where to go, and when to get there. You’re loaded up with addresses, names, phone numbers, and appointments. But you know what? Transportation in unfamiliar places can be difficult. Especially if you’re going international, it can be downright dangerous to get on roads where you don’t know the rules or customs.
Not to mention that renting a car will be costly.
If at all possible, you want to utilize public transportation, and an app like City Mapper makes that easy (Mackensie Graham, The Next Web). It’s similar to something like Google Maps, but designed in such a way that it seems a bit easier to use, and specifically made for getting around cities that you aren’t familiar with.
I’m sure there are other, similar apps to City Mapper, so do a bit of experimenting and find the app that works right for you and your travels.
A proper business card is a cheap and easy way to make yourself look good.
9. Never Leave Without Your Business Card
We’ve talked a lot about new technology helping plan and execute your business trips, but some things are timeless. Business cards are still one of the most important parts of any successful business trip. After all, you never know who you’re going to run into.
Hotels, restaurants, bars, conventions; the list goes on and on with places where you might meet your next business connection, your next client or customer. Never, never, never go on a business trip without plenty of business cards (Allison Voigts, Level Office).
Apart from networking, a good looking business card shows your professionalism and that you’re legitimate. A proper business card is a cheap and easy way to make yourself look good. Don’t underestimate the power of the card; they are old school in the best way.
10. Catch the Right Flight
Obviously you’ve got to catch your flight. That’s a deal breaker. But it’s not the same as catching the right flight. Sometimes you can find those cheap red-eye flights, but is it really worth it? Your sleep schedule screwed up, you zombie through a meeting and end up doing more damage than good on your business trip.
Sometimes it’s worth it to pay more for the right flight, the flight that gets you there on time; not too early, not too late. Your body and mind will thank you. Whenever possible, spring for the direct flight.
With direct flights you can avoid missing connections, cut down on your chances of lost luggage, and get where you need to be with time to spare. The right flight is not always the cheapest, not always the earliest or the latest.
There are a lot of things that go into picking the right flight for your business trip; from choosing the right airport, commute time, and even getting to the airport. Speaking of airports…
11. Get to the Airport Early
No doubt you’ve seen all the articles about the airport waiting times. Across the country, the summer vacation season has hit the security lines hard. Sure, it’s frustrating, but it’s frustrating like taxes and traffic are “frustrating.” You can’t fix the problem of long security lines, you can only plan for it.
It’s imperative to get to the airport early these days. The worst case scenario if you get there early is that you have time to relax before your flight, and hey, maybe even go over that plan for the business meeting one more time.
Compare that to worst case scenario if you don’t get to the airport early. Missed flights. Missed meetings. Embarrassing loss of time and money. It’s not worth it. Get there 30 minutes earlier than you think you need to be there. If you’re a frequent traveller and you haven’t already, enroll in TSA Pre-Check.
Though as more and more people enroll in the program the pre-check lines will grow, rest assured they should still save you time when you’re going through security. And always remember, holidays and summer months are peak travel times, so plan accordingly.
12. Get on Board with Uber
Although Austin and Uber have parted ways, most places offer the ride sharing service these days. It’s worth it to download the app, get your account, and have it on your phone, even if you don’t plan on using Uber. If you’re not renting a car, or in a place with great public transit, Uber might do you some good.
Some places allow pickup or drop-off at airports, other’s don’t, so check the Uber regulations at your location before dialing up your driver. As with any Uber ride, watch out for peak time price gouging, especially if you don’t know how long it will take you to get to your hotel or meeting.
Uber can be a great alternative to renting a car and driving in a place where you don’t know the rules of the road. Though taxis are always an option, and some people feel more comfortable with the regulations put in place by taxi companies, Uber is often more available and more affordable. If you’re new to Uber, don’t be afraid to give it a shot. You might find that you love it.