Light on Your Feet

Its one thing to show up at your business meeting prepared mentally for the meeting and with all of your business needs at your fingertips. If that was all business travel entailed, that would be challenge enough. But to carry off a successful business trip, you have to think about your personal needs, medical needs … Continue reading “Light on Your Feet”

Its one thing to show up at your business meeting prepared mentally for the meeting and with all of your business needs at your fingertips. If that was all business travel entailed, that would be challenge enough. But to carry off a successful business trip, you have to think about your personal needs, medical needs and everything you might require. The ability to travel light on a business trip is truly a refined skill that takes into account the ordeal you might go through at the airport, the potential for lost baggage and what you really do need once you get to your destination.

Many travelers have a firm ethic about not checking bags. The result is you see almost a comical effort by travelers to drag huge bags onboard and jam them into overhead bins. As a business traveler, your ability to relax and pass through the airport system with little fuss is paramount. When you take bulky bags on board on an airplane, you exchange the time at baggage claim for a huge hassle in getting your bags on and off that airplane.

It’s best to balance what you really need at your destination with the problems of taking too much on board. To reduce your anxiety about baggage claim, leave plenty of time between your travel plans and your business appointments at your destination. If you have several hours or a day before you must make your business contacts, you can relax and go through the baggage claim process without anxiety.

The other problem with baggage claim is lost luggage. So to assure you will have the basics when you get to your hotel, lost luggage or not, pack a very small bag to take on board. In that bag, only take your basic requirements. Include your medications, contact lens supplies, sample sizes of toiletries, underwear and one change of clothes. Then you have what you need for one night and the next days meetings while your baggage catches up with you.

To pack light, do a good inventory of what you really do need. There are some economies you can utilize to greatly reduce the bulk of what you are going to take without sacrificing your needs and ability to look good when you make your business contacts.

* Wear a basic outfit. If you have a suit or other garment you know will be your anchor piece, wear it on the plane. You can also wear a coat or jacket that you might need there and then fold it and use it for a pillow on the plane thus keeping it out of your bag. That coat is not considered part of your carry on but it helps you reduce your baggage bulk.

* Economy of space in your bag. Compress what you pack and use every empty space. Pack socks into shoes and roll your clothing rather than lay them flat to squeeze the empty air filled space out of them. You can always iron and get pressed any outfits that get wrinkled in route once you are at your destination.

* Mix and Match. Take outfits that can be used over again with a different pant or shirt combinations.

* You can get it there. Don’t take anything that won’t get guaranteed and frequent use. If there is something you might need, remember, you can buy it there in a drugstore or nearby store. So don’t let anxiety make you over pack.

These steps can reduce your packing problems and result in a workable travel system that will reflect that you are well organized and ready for the road. And there is no better feeling than to come home and realize you used everything you took and needing nothing else while you are on that important business trip for your company.

Business Travel on Short Notice

In any travel situation, the further in advance you can plan your trip, the better you will do on all of your accommodations. But in the world of business, it often occurs that you have to get to a destination immediately and the ability to move swiftly is critical to the success of the business goal. The good news is that you can do some preparations well in advance for short notice business trips so you are not caught completely without a plan.

You don’t want to have to flounder around about how to book a flight and where to stay if the business journey looms suddenly and immediately. Short notice business trips seem to be endemic of certain industries and job descriptions so if you know you will go through this drill often, you can make some arrangements far in advance so you have a checklist of just what to do when you find out that you must be at your destination virtually immediately.

First of all, in a short notice travel situation, economy takes a second priority. Your employer knows that if you have to book full fare on an airline to get to your destination at a specific time, the higher expense is unavoidable. Make sure that your company travel policy has some clauses to put aside travel budget limits in such a scenario.

The part of the trip where you will have the least “wiggle room” will be airline accommodations. Of course, you can use the big internet search tools like Travelocity or Orbitz. In general, those are good places to start to find what airlines do have flights at your specified times. But once you pick an airline, working through the airline’s web site directly will show you the most options they can offer and sometimes provide you with better fares, even on short notice. Be sure you watch the travel details closely so you don’t find yourself enduring long layovers that are going to jeopardize the tight timetable of the business meetings you need to attend. If necessary, spend the money on nonstop flights to assure that the business goal of the trip is top priority.

Do your homework about hotel accommodations well in advance. If there are likely destinations that you could be called upon to go to quickly, you can do your research on the closest hotels to the business site so you cut down on commutes once you are there. By having your target hotels bookmarked and the phone numbers on file, you can quickly call and set up your accommodations in a matter of minutes. But if you find that your best choices for hotels are booked up on the days you will be at your site, call them anyway. A good hotel will call around to other hotels in the area and get you a room as close to your destination as possible. They can save you hours of frustration searching for a replacement room.

Rental cars are usually not as much of a problem. It’s a good idea to call ahead and get a reservation but short of a major convention or sporting event in town, there are so many rental car agencies that you should be able to find a car to rent even if you don’t start your search until you are on the ground at your destination city.

You can make other preparations for the possibility of a short notice business trip like having your toiletries and personal affects you always travel with packed and ready to walk out the door. By having your travel clothes ready to go, you can virtually walk home and walk out in a matter of minutes for a short notice business trip because you are that well prepared.

Staying Healthy on the Road

You can tell an experienced business traveler from one who is new to the experience. It is easy for someone new to business travel to participate in excesses on the road. As business traveler, you are an adult and you are trusted by your company to conduct yourself in a businesslike fashion during your time out representing the firm. But it is easy to let the idea of an expense account and free time in a far away town get the best of you and to let yourself go as you travel.

These kinds of excesses are the types of behavior that you will see an experienced business traveler avoid. If you are setting out on a lengthy business trip perhaps lasting many weeks and traversing many cities, the road itself can take a toll on your health and well being. The disruption to your normal life patterns, the hard work and the stress of making connections and moving from town to town can introduce levels of fatigue that can take a toll and even lead to illness on the road. And there is no more unpleasant experience than to be ill while traveling for business and to still have to do your duties despite your poor health.

It is for this reason that observing some strict rules of good living on the road will pay off over the life of the trip and make the rigors of travel much less serious. Much of the discipline of business travel involves simply introducing a daily routine to your life that includes some healthy activities so you can keep your physical, mental and emotional state in good shape and ready for business each and every day. Some simple but effective rules to live by for a healthy business travel experience include…

* Sleep routines. A good nights sleep is something we take for granted. And to get into a rested state takes more than just a bed and an alarm clock. You have routines at home that you use to cycle down toward rest. Adapt those to life on the road and allow yourself that hour before bed to get ready to rest as well as ample time to rest as well as sleep. Both are necessary for good health.

* Regular exercise. Most hotels have an exercise room or pool you can use to get some motion into your muscles. Sitting in airplanes or conference rooms can cramp your muscles and keep you from maintaining good flexibility. Even if it is nothing more than taking a walk after dinner or doing some simple exercises at night in the hotel, give your body some movement so stretch those muscles and get some fresh oxygen into your blood.

* Time not working. For the sake of your mental health, take some time just for you. If you are in a town that has some fun things to see, get away from the business side of business travel and go to the zoo or a museum or see an attraction to give your mind a break from the stress of business. And take a few hours at night to relax in the hotel and read a book or watch your favorite TV show. You need that mental down time to recuperate and process all that is going on during your trip.

* Good foods. Don’t cave into the temptation to eat fast food. Look for restaurants that will serve you well-rounded meals. Make sure you eat fruits, dairy, vegetables, breads and good healthy proteins each day.

* Don’t drink. Alcohol, while fun, is a huge drain on your body’s resources. The time drinking and recovering makes demands on your body that take away from your stamina and ability to stay healthy each day. So avoid alcohol other than perhaps a glass of wine at night. You will survive the trip so much better if you are careful about your alcohol consumption.

Some of these ideas seem almost ridiculously simple. But if you have done any business travel at all, you know that sometimes the simple requirement of a healthy diet and some time to yourself to exercise and rest can be elusive in a busy work schedule. But if you make it a priority to live well on the road as you do at home, you will come home ready to deal with home issues without having that long time to recover from the trip.

Travel to Foreign Shores

International business travel is rapidly becoming common to work out deals and to organize international partnerships. The economy is becoming more global as the world becomes “flat” due to increased communications and the rise of the economies around the world. No longer are businesses deals assumed to occur only on a national scale. To look at the business community as an international neighborhood is in step with the markets of this century. And that means that you could easily find yourself flying overseas to conduct the business of your company. And international travel takes some preparation.

Long before you book your flights to travel overseas, you will need to get your documentation in order so you can pass through customs and get on your way. Due to increased security, an up to date passport has become essential to even travel to adjacent countries. Due to the increased requirement of passports, it takes longer to get that documentation together so plan early to secure your passport so you don’t come up short when it is time to conduct your overseas business.

Also, keep in mind that a visa is required to travel to some countries. So when you set up the business meetings, find out from your contact at your destination country what is required. To get a visa, you will need to have had your passport for at least six months. In addition, you will need an original copy of an invitation from your host in the destination country. Those documents will be taken to the local embassy of your destination country to get your visa issued to you. So plan these steps if a visa is necessary for your trip.

Next to the legal documents, health issues are second in priority to attend to for a successful business trip. You may need to get your vaccinations up to date for certain destinations of your trip. Consult your doctor so you are ready. Do some preparation for the unlikely chance that you will have a health emergency overseas. This is a place where travel insurance is a good idea. If you are hurt or have a severe illness overseas, you will need that kind of assistance to get medical care and to get moved back home for long-term care.

Also be sure your medical documents are available and copied in several places should you become separated from them. You want to be able to access insurance information, emergency contacts, information about medication you need and emergency contacts even if you loose everything overseas. One way to do that is to scan critical documents and store them on the internet in a folder that you can get to from anywhere in the world.

Use much of the same travel savvy that keeps you safe traveling domestically when preparing to go to a foreign country. You probably do not have knowledge of the town you are going to and where the safe places are to stay and dine and what neighborhoods to avoid. You can use very current travel books and internet information to learn that kind of “street knowledge” before you leave. But nothing replaces a local contact. Use your business contacts on the other end of your travel plans to advise you on not only where to go but where to avoid when coming into town.

Your contact in the foreign country you are traveling to can also give you insights about how to handle transportation and security in his or her country. Hailing a taxi may not work the same over there as it does here. And you want to avoid getting into a vehicle that is not a legitimate carrier who may not take you where you want to go or should go once they pick you up at the airport.

Also, spend some time learning local customs and methods of communication. Be aware of how you act, stand and use your hands as you could without knowing set off a dangerous situation. For example, the thumbs up sign in western cultures means affirmation and success. But in the Middle East, a thumbs up is the same as showing the middle finger is to us. You don’t want to flip off a policeman in Saudi Arabia just because you didn’t know that.

Take the Family With You

Business travel can be rewarding, interesting, profitable and broadening for the business traveler. But there are some downsides to the life on the road especially if you must travel for business often. Besides the occasional airport delay or layover and the ever present issue of how weather affects your business trips, it is always hard to say goodbye to your family as you go out of town to accomplish the mission of your business trip.

For many business people, one solution is to take their family with them on business trips if the nature of the trip will accommodate such arrangements. Few would deny the road weary business traveler the joys of having family with them on a challenging trip. And for your family, not only does this mean more time with you, it can be a big adventure for everybody involved.

Taking your spouse on a business trip is entirely different scenario than if you are planning a trip to include the spouse and children. In that your spouse is an adult, can rent a car and plan a day without help and mold his or her schedule around yours, a spouse can be a huge plus to you because you have that familiar face to greet you in the hotel room when you return from your business affairs of the day. And there is a strange vicarious enjoyment to be had as you are working hard to know your spouse is taking in the pleasures of the local area which you will hear about that night.

Taking the kids on a business trips gets to be more of a logistical challenge and there are some real limitations to the kind of trip that will work as a full family outing. One of the big factors in determining if this trip is a good one for the whole family to enjoy is location. If the trip is to a popular destination such as Orlando or California where your spouse and children can find plenty to do each day, then it’s a good situation for bringing the family along.

Other locations that make great choices to include the family are historic and memorable cites such as New York, New Orleans, San Francisco or some of the great overseas destinations like London, Paris or Rome. If the children have your spouse to guide their tours, those trips with you can be events to remember and tremendous learning experiences that they will be talking about to their grandkids decades from now.

Obviously, the time of year for your business travel is a determining factor on whether the children can tag along. Summer business trips work well for such plans but if your travel will interrupt the children’s school schedule, it usually is not feasible to include them. Now in a case where there is significant educational benefit to the trip, there may be some concessions to be made to the children out of school if they will gain valuable experiences from the trip.

But all of these factors, including just including your spouse on the trip will hinge on one important factor that only you can determine. And that is how much time you will be able to spend with the family when you are working and traveling. It is well known that business travel also frequently means long yours and then business dinners and negotiations that can go into the night. If you are going on a trip that such dedication to the task is necessary, it’s best not to bring the family. It does them no good to come along on an exciting business outing only to find themselves never seeing you until the flight home. They will feel frustrated and you will wonder what value there was to the expense and trouble of bringing them if you could not enjoy them except to kiss them good night in their hotel beds and good-bye in the morning.

But if all of the factors fall into place, taking the family along on an occasional business trip can take a humdrum trip and put some real fun into it. So keep your eye on that business travel agenda you have. There may be a few junkets where the family would fit in nicely.