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 … Continue reading “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.

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.

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.

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.

Battling Travel Anxiety

The classic anxiety story about travel involves being on the road for a while only to suddenly remember that you forgot to turn off the oven. While that is a domestic story, there is just as much or more anxiety that can go into getting on the road for a business purpose as there is for private travel. The details that must be taken care of to put a business trip on the road can be overwhelming.

It is easy to develop an anxiety complex when going on a business trip and get to where you are in a constant state of stress and worry that you have forgotten something or that there is an important detail that was left undone before you left. This stress anxiety can be destructive to your business goals for the trip. So you need some basic concepts that you can go back to just before the business trips gets underway and as you get on the road so you have some ammunition to combat travel anxiety en route.

* Call in the troops. One big way to stop travel anxiety in its tracks is to utilize your business partners to help you prepare for the trip. It is likely that a number of people in your chain of command or in your department have a vested interest in seeing the trip you are setting out to accomplish is a success. Use their help to plan the trip and to develop detailed check lists of what has to happen before you leave and what has to go with you. Then on the day before you depart, meet with those associates and review those lists. As you check off each thing, insist that your associate initial the list to validate that the detail was taken care of. Then take the list with you. By consulting it often, you can calm yourself that you did take care of all the details along the way.

* Did you forget your head? Ok so you have a good system in to make sure all of your business needs are covered, the next level of anxiety comes when you are sitting on the airplane and you wonder if you packed everything you need for travel personally. There are a couple of antidotes to this type of travel anxiety. First of all, use a similar check list system to assure you have what you need on the flight. You can develop a travel check list that you maintain and update from business trip to business trip. As you use that list each trip, you will discover any missing items or things to do and update the list. And by checking each need off as you take care of it before you travel, you can calm that nervous system of yours that you have done everything so its time to relax.

* What do you really need after all? Second of all, if that check list system has dozens of items and issues on it, much of that can be eliminated by that simple question. The truth is there is very little you really need that you cannot get there if you forgot something at home. You must have your airline tickets, your driver’s license and credit card and any special medication that cannot be found at your destination. If you have plenty of credit, there really is little else you cannot buy at your destination point if you forgot something or other. Comfort yourself that the trip won’t grind to a halt if you forgot something.

* But what if? That question literally can drive you insane. If you let yourself start thinking about whether the plane will crash or if your dog dies while you are away or the hundred of other “what ifs” that might happen, you will turn into a ball of anxiety before the first flight is done. So the answer to “but what if?” is “that has not happened so far and the odds it will happen this time are remote.” Use some logic and adult thinking to combat emotional urge to worry.

The urge to worry is natural in all of us. Its part of your urgent desire to do well on the road. But make one of the things on that check list of things that must happen for this business trip to be a success just one word which is “RELAX”.