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.

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.

Tipping as a Business Strategy

Tipping is an odd practice primarily because it is common and expected in some professions and not at all in others. As adults, we become accustomed to tipping in the normal day in day out activity of our business and private lives.

But when it comes to tipping on a business trips, its best to think about the use of tipping as a common courtesy in light of your business trip and how it can be used to benefit you during the trip. To do that, think about the tip as a practice and why we tip. For the most part we do it because it is expected. If we think about how we tip at all, it is in the context that the tip is part of the server’s income and we want to help someone who did a good job for us.

But one of the best justifications for tipping comes down to nothing more than building a low level business relationship with the server so you can expect good service the next time you need it. On a business trip, you develop a lot of very short lasting relationships. But you want the best from those who can make your trip and your accommodations enjoyable and uneventful.

So if there is a hotel restaurant that you will be eating in each day, you know you will see that waiter and the staff of that restaurant again. A good tip policy can go a long way to assure that your service will be top notch every time you dine in that restaurant. This same principle applies to leaving a little tip for the cleaning crew who takes care of your room.

I had a situation in a fine hotel where I wanted the staff to leave me more than one package to make coffee in my in room coffee maker each day. Sure, I could have gone out and bought my own coffee. But on a business trip, you depend on being served so you can focus on your mission. So I left a note to the cleaning crew along with a nice tip. Each day I had more than the number of coffee packages left for me. Everybody wins in that situation.

Tipping is not a difficult skill to master. When tipping for a meal, you can write the tip directly onto your bill. Now when you order room service, there may be a question as to whether you should give the delivery person a tip for bringing the food. Often room service charges a fee for the service already. So in theory, you don’t need to tip that person. But remember, you may want good service in subsequent nights or in future stays. So slipping a tip to that delivery service person just to make sure they know that you appreciate good service makes sense.

When tipping taxi drivers or the hotel doorman, it’s appropriate to fold the money in the palm of your hand and hand it to him or her in the form of a handshake. If they are holding the door for you, they will look down to see you are giving a tip when your hand moves out. That moment of contact is important so they look at you and know you recognize their good service and remember you for future reference.

The amount of tips is pretty much standard. 15% is a standard tip for most meals or for the taxi drive. $1 per bag is standard for a doorman or bellhop who is helping you with your bags. Now if you only have one bag, it might be a good idea to bump that up a bit. Never tip with change, always with folded bills.

Preparing for tipping as you travel is part o your preparations. You should assure you have plenty of small denomination bills even before you leave for the airport, as it is common to need to tip shuttle drivers and waiters at the airport or even the stewardess on board the airplane if you buy a drink from her (or him). As your business trip progresses, keep an eye on your cash levels so you have plenty of spare cash for additional tipping. Business travel is a tipping intensive experience and you should be prepared so you don’t find yourself embarrassed and unable to reward those who make your trip more enjoyable along the way.

Business Trips Don’t Have to be All Business

It’s important to know your objectives on a business trip and to set out with those goals in mind and to accomplish them. But along the way, something rather amazing happens when you travel on business. You may get to go to some pretty amazing places and get chances to see things you would have never sought out if you have your wits about you as you travel.

Business trips don’t have to be all about business. There are times when you have completed your work and you can take in some of the local color, attractions and good food as part of your visit to an area. The first resource to tap to find out what is really cool to enjoy in the city or town you are visiting are the locals. If you go to a far away town to conduct business with a partner or vendor, they are often more than happy to show you the lay of the land and what is fun to see and do in town.

If you can secure the evening of a local in your destination town, you can get quite an amazing tour of the area and see things that tourists may never find. It isn’t that hard to woo a local to be your guide. If you have expense account money, you can arrange to buy your guide dinner on the company dime. They get a good meal for free and you get a guided tour of the area. The first lobster I ate in Boston happened when a person in the office I was working with took me to see the sights and find the best lobster in town. She got a great meal and I enjoyed the local haunts of one of the great cities in the country.

But don’t be afraid to be a tourist if you are in a great city and you want to see the big sites. If you are in New York and you want to take the tour of the Statue of Liberty and the boat ride around the island, by God, you just do that. It can be a fine memory of your visit to the town and after all, you worked hard on your business objectives while in town so your entitled to some relaxation.

One of the best ways to get some free time to enjoy the local events and attractions is if you are there on Friday but your work must be continued on Monday. Most businesses would rather pay for two nights in a hotel and meals rather than fly you home and back out again. So you can keep your rental car and have two days to simply be a civilian for a while and really explore the local haunts.

To find those unique events in town that not many know about, read the local paper and look for those little local culture or arts papers like the Village Voice in New York. These papers will carry details of festivals going on around the area, what is happening in the clubs and theaters in town as well. You may find a regional celebration not far away that you can be part of and pretend to be a local for a few hours and have plenty of fun along the way.

If you do have a couple days to explore, don’t be afraid to travel a bit to see some things not that far away. On the east coast, a trip up Highway One will move you through some of the most scenic New England towns you can imagine. And you can linger and take a whale watching tour if you want to. If you already have a rental car, usually it is no more expense to use it to see the state or go to the coast nearby where you are doing business. At most it might cost you a tank of gas and for that you may get so see one of the great sights in the country.

Take advantage of your business travel to see the world, have some fun and as the song says “stop and smell the roses along the way”. If you do, you will come home with successful business to deliver to your company and a nice set of new memories to keep for a long time to come.