Your First Business Trip

The odd thing about business travel is to some extent, it is a mixture of what you know the very strange. The business you are going out to do you know how to do. Whether it discussing a new business project, developing a software product or attending a seminar or conference, the business part of … Continue reading “Your First Business Trip”

The odd thing about business travel is to some extent, it is a mixture of what you know the very strange. The business you are going out to do you know how to do. Whether it discussing a new business project, developing a software product or attending a seminar or conference, the business part of your business trip is probably not the hardest part.

But if you are new to business travel, there are some aspects to it that are very different from travel for leisure and ways to prepare for the trip that will make or break whether it goes well or you come home frustrated in your efforts. Just like any business venture, the key word for success in this venture is preparation. Above all, have your business program well organized and ready to use when you get there. If you are giving a presentation, have it finished, the PowerPoint slides prepared and tested and all of your equipment ready to go when you set out. The sheer fact that you are prepared for the work you are going to this new city to do will relieve your tension tremendously.

But preparation doesn’t stop just in planning for a successful business effort. Do your homework about the place you are going and how you will handle the trip once you get there. Here are some key things you should think well in advance about to assure your trip goes well.

* Your plane flight. As soon as you know your destination, book that flight. The earlier you nail that down, the more you know you will have a flight and that your choice of seats is assured. This can make business travel by air much less stressful.

* Driving in a new town. If you are going to drive in a new town, be sure you have maps and know how to negotiate the roads. It’s a whole different world to drive in Boston compared to driving in Kansas City. If you can avoid driving, make sure your ground transportation is arranged ahead of time.

* Accommodations. Obviously, book your hotel well in advance to assure you will have a room when you get there. Only in situations where you are not sure where you will end up should you put this off. The last thing you want would be to need a room at 11 p.m. and everything in town is booked up.

* Extraordinary needs. If you have medicines or other needs that are going to require special planning, get out ahead of that too. If there are business needs you will require upon your arrival, you can ship things ahead for yourself so that equipment is waiting in your destination office when you arrive.

* Dealing with security. Remember that homeland security at airports is tight and the rules change from time to time. You can usually find the current restrictions and ways the airlines will allow you to travel on the internet. By knowing this in advance, you can avoid a lot of heartache when you get to the airport.

* Money. You don’t want to have wads of cash with you when you travel but think ahead about how much cash and other monetary needs you should have. Travel with plenty of credit at your disposal. Emergency situations on the road can be defrayed with good credit or you can find yourself in a real jam without it. If you are traveling overseas, become familiar with the monetary system you will be using there.

* Things you take for granted. Little things mean a lot. If you have creature comforts you need in the hotel room, think about them and pack such things so you can feel as at home as possible. Something as small as your favorite pillow or a scented candle to relax you can make all the difference in your ability to rest and be ready for business the next day.

By doing plenty of good planning, you can assure yourself that you have what you need on the trip and nothing more. This will become more natural as you travel more. But take the time to prepare well and prepare early so as you venture forth on this big adventure, you know you have covered every base before you left home.

Insider Tips for Business Travel

As with any area of specialization, there are business travelers who always seem to know what they are doing and those who constantly seem to be in a state of crisis. The business traveler who has been at it a while figures out some insider information that not many travelers know. These little travel secrets make the world of difference when traveling. And you can bet they are not going to share this information with just anyone because this is the kind of information that can change the nature of your business travel forever.

Your laptop is a crucial piece of equipment as you travel. In an airport emergency situation, your wireless laptop can be used to change reservations so you can avoid those long lines to get on the next flight out. You can reserve a rental car or snag one of the few remaining hotel rooms in town right from the comfort of a seat at the airport. Then the savvy business traveler can casually stroll to his or her designation as others around them panic because they knew how to leverage technology and the internet to bail themselves out of a crisis situation.

But one aspect of using your laptop to rescue yourself when the airport is in shut down is the limited power of laptops. To see your battery go dead just when you needed it the most is like watching your ship sink as the sharks circle the lifeboat. What not many people know is that there are open electrical outlets in airports that are there for cleaning crews if you know where they are. Usually these outlets are just under the windows that overlook the landing strips so if you can secure a seat near these outlets, you can charge up your laptop and keep your lifeline to the world alive.

Business travelers also know how to take full advantage of resources that are made available to business travelers exclusively. Find hotels that cater to the traveling businessperson. These hotels will not have amenities for families nor are they trying to bring in busses of teenagers on the way to camp. So you can find a hotel with much fewer young people making noise and being a nuisance when you are trying to focus on business.

In addition to using businesses that cater to the business traveler, take advantage of frequent flyer and priority clubs that many airlines and hotels offer. If you are going to travel a lot, you can rack up some credits on those clubs, which can result in upgrades to first class, better accommodations or free services when you stay at your selected hotels. They win because they capture your travel dollar. You win because you get pampered for a while.

You can gain a lot of convenience and reduce your hassles by using a less popular airport to come into town. By utilizing an airport in a smaller town near by and renting a car, you get out of the congestion of traffic and can drive to your destination without that exposure to the masses all pushing and shoving to get through the major hubs.

Extra copies of travel documents can speed things up a lot especially if you are leaving the country. Often when you are going through customs, you must surrender your passport so the customs agent can make a copy. So you make a copy before you get there and give it to them. With a quick scan, they can confirm that it is a legitimate copy and have you on your way much quicker.

Don’t overlook how public transportation can bail you out of dealing with a lot of traffic in large city situations. In Washington or New York, the subways work exceptionally well. If you can get out of the airport area via mass transit, you can find a rental car location in town and conduct your business with less wait and without the traffic jams you would face at the airport. Plus airport rental car sites are more expensive than those in town.

These little tips can go a long way toward making your trip less of a hassle, less expensive and more successful. By knowing how to get around the big crowds and use the resources made available to business travelers, your trip will be more efficient, more relaxed and more successful.

Never Completely Out of Touch

The problem with business travel, to put it bluntly, is that you are not in your office. If you are a manager or a project leader, your need to stay in touch with your team and what is going on at all times is crucial. It would seem that this need is at cross-purposes with the idea of business travel. But with modern technology and a bit of coordination on your part, you can maintain a reasonable level of connectivity to your important projects and team activities even while driving in the rental car or waiting out a flight at the airport.

The actual technology you use to stay connected may change over time. Whereas in the past we could only use pay phones at airports, we have evolved technologically so you can travel and access your network via your cell phone, wireless PC or an assortment of other devices. So the first step is to identify the type of technology that satisfies your need for connectivity as well as enabling you to work productively in diverse locations such as the airport, your airplane seat or your hotel room.

As you conduct a technical review of the available technology, be careful to research the durability of the equipment you are taking on the road. You may be able to afford the most sophisticated equipment on the market today. But if that equipment cannot survive the rigors of travel including being banged around in your luggage, exposure to heat, cold and moisture or just about any other harsh condition you might throw it into, it isn’t going to be the kind of equipment you want by your side on a long business trip.

Once you settle on the equipment, you should configure it or have it configured for internet access as well as the ability to tap into your corporate intranet and network. It is crucial that you can communicate with your team and access corporate files so you can stay on top of what is going on with your projects at home. For example, if you have your project team file status reports each Friday morning, you must be able to review those and give directions for action items to take that come from those reports quickly and efficiently, even if you are on a ten hour flight from Europe.

To manage your phone contacts, the idea of just putting the “out of office” auto-answer on your office message service is so last decade. Instead, you can forward your office phone to your cell phone and receive your phone calls in remote so you can conduct your business as though you were on site throughout your trip.

There is adequate technology available currently for you to be able to access and operate your desktop computer back on your desk at the office even while traveling. One such service is gotomypc.com. But there are many such services or your IT department may have a methodology to enable that access that you can use if you get them involved in your trip planning. By accessing your PC daily or several times daily, you can activate your instance of Microsoft Outlook or whatever your email software is and read and respond to important business emails as you relax in your hotel room after your business meetings out of town.

These are just a few of the technologies that make it possible to perform virtually any function from remote that you could have done only in the office in the past. So don’t accept the limitations of the road. Investigate how to be fully connected as you go about your business travel and the outcome will be that you can keep all of your important business projects moving forward simultaneously.

Where You Sit DOES Make a Difference

When you are booking a business trip, there are a lot of important decisions to be made. Obviously, the important issue is your business objectives and that everything you need so the business you will do when you arrive comes off well. So you will spend the majority of your efforts on those preparations or so you are well equipped for the trip.

But to use the old phrase, it’s the little things that mean a lot especially when you are enduring the inconvenience of business travel. You put up with a lot of inconvenience and having to accommodate the needs of others in airports where everybody wants to be comfortable. Little things mean a lot on a long business flight from how well you eat to the kind of car you rent on the other end. Just a small surprise or accommodation along the way can set put you in a good mood on the trip and that mood could even influence the outcome of the meetings you will conduct when you make your business contacts at your destination.

Some people do not have a preference where they sit during the plane flight. But there are a number of issues that can become significant during those hours where you are essentially immobile as you fly cross-country. Some of those are.

* If you are claustrophobic, having a window seat isn’t about sight seeing. It can be a sanity saving necessity to keep you from focusing on the enclosed airplane space.

* If you wish to work, you need some space to spread out.

* Some medical needs might require easy access to the privacy of the laboratory, if for no other reason than to take medicine without being observed.

* If you have close connections and are on a tight deadline, sitting near the front of the plane helps with getting off quickly.

To get some control over the variable of where you are sit en route to or from your business trip, put some thought into the issue up front and see if you can reserve the seat that suits your purposes before you ever get to the airport. If you use online reservations, you can get a map of the plane, which will show you which seats are open. This gives you excellent ability to move your seat so you can sit just where you want before you go to the airport.

Some factors to take into consideration are the room you need and whether you need to recline your seat or not. The seats on the exit row are almost always more roomy. In exchange for being willing to open the door in an emergency, you can gain twice as much room as you might have had which pays off when you want to work during the flight.

The last row of the airplane does not recline. The upside of that row is that you don’t have anyone behind you to kick your seat back or bounce the tray table as they do whatever it is they are doing back there. By the same token, the first set in the section does not have seats in front of it so it can be roomier. But you may not have a tray table to use to set your laptop on for work. These are trade offs worth thinking through in advance.

You can have your travel agent know your preferences when they book your flight. But don’t miss the chance to make changes as late as the day of the flight. You might spot a row that is not full and be able to grab a seat and have the row to yourself. And that, in airline travel economies, is pure gold.

Are Travel Agents Obsolete?

It seems you cannot watch television for more than an hour without seeing an advertisement with William Shatner talking about Travelocity or that silly gnome talking about Orbitz. These travel web sites have been very successful at facilitating travelers to book their own airline and hotel reservations online. So with this huge push from the internet to take over the travel industry, one has to ask, “Are travel agents obsolete?”

If you have browsed some of these travel sites, you have observed that they are amazing in the diversity of travel options that they make available. And it is impossible to deny that many thousands of people have taken advantage of these services. As a business traveler, however, your needs are somewhat different than the typical airline passenger.

There are some very specific services that a living and breathing travel agent can provide that simply cannot be replicated by an automated web site like Travelocity or Orbitz. Some of those services that a seasoned business traveler would be hard pressed to live without include…

§ Focus. You as a business traveler are not arranging this trip for entertainment. You have specific business objectives in mind. So if you must take time away from preparation for your business task to worry about travel itineraries, hotel and rental car reservations and the like, that is time that you are not being productive for your business. If you can call a talented travel agent who knows your travel profile well and delegate those arrangements to that agent, they do their job in finding just the right accommodations for you and you are freed to do what you do best, focus on your business and the upcoming business trip.

§ Economy. It is difficult to find that balance between finding the accommodations that fit the demanding schedule of a businessperson on the road and is respectful of the companies travel budget as well. If you use an automated online travel service, you may have to sacrifice convenience, schedule or location for economy. A good travel agent will work hard to get you the right itinerary while getting as close the corporate travel cost restrictions as possible. And they will do it without taking up a lot of your time.

§ Back up. You don’t need help if your trip goes completely as planned. But if you encounter problems on the road, you can find yourself in need or rescheduling flights and finding new accommodations to work around canceled flights, weather issues or other unexpected interruptions to your plans. These travel disasters are not mindful of your tight deadlines to meet your business goals. But if you have a travel agent who is dedicated to providing you service, he or she can find those alternative routes and resources to do all they can to get you to your destination so you can conduct your business on time.

§ That personal touch. You may have travel preferences that you want to achieve with each trip you take. A travel agent has your profile and your travel history so they can do what they can to accommodate your preferences. But moreover, if you have specific special needs such as a diet limitation or a need for accommodation due to a disability, it will be a travel agent that sees to it that your needs are provided for and you are well taken care of on the road.

§ Complications. If your travel itinerary involves making connections with other business partners who are traveling from diverse offices, complex travel schedules and itinerary challenges that just cannot be described to the generic screens of an online travel service, you can explain these complications to your travel agent and they can work with other travel agents working to organize the meeting and see to it that your itinerary meets your requirements.

While the online travel services do provide a valuable and affordable alternative to the general traveling public, it is easy to notice their limitations if you are trying to book a trip that is tricky or if you have specific needs that the screens do not anticipate. That is why working with a human travel agent guarantees that this travel professional will dedicate themselves to the task of making sure your trip works to your specifications and that you get to your destination ready to conduct business and be successful in your achieving your goals.