How to Prepare for a Business Trip (and what to pack)
Greetings, Newly Corporate Readers! I am very excited to be contributing to this site. I hope to add perspective as a woman in business. Newly Corporate is co-authored by mostly men. Like most of my daily business interactions, I am often the only woman. I hope to provide a voice for the other women (and men) that read our site. If you have any suggestions for articles, I would be happy to hear them. I am about to leave for a five-day business trip to New York City. In 27 years of life, I have never been to NYC (and I’ve lived in Pennsylvania for most of that time!) Because I am preparing for travel, I thought an article on business travel preparation was necessary.
Your first business trip may stir up many emotions. You may find yourself excited, anxious, or even scared. Preparation is the key to success for any business traveler—whether you are a seasoned traveler or beginner traveler. Here are my suggestions for preparing for any business trip. This is just a small list. The more I travel, the more things I learn.
Review Your Company’s Expense and Travel Policies
Even if you think you know your company’s policies, review them again before you go on your trip. Pay attention to restrictions on how to use your corporate card. For example, you may have a daily food limit. You may not be able to take money from a domestic ATM (but international money withdraws are acceptable). Some items may not be appropriate for your corporate card but are reimbursable later. There is nothing worse than trying to make a great impression at your first corporate job and then getting a complaint from your auditing department about a policy violation. They not only inform you of your mistake, they also forward it to you, your manager, and even your one-over-one manager. Some companies may allow you to take advantage of frequent flier and frequent stay programs. When booking your travel (if you have not done so already), understand if you can use these.
Back-up, Back-up, Back-up
Do not wait until the last minute to do work. Chances are pretty great that your plane will be delayed or your other associates will be late. Don’t wait until the last minute to complete critical tasks. Back up your work. It would be a disaster if you worked for hours preparing documents to close a deal and your computer crashes. Back up everything for your meetings on a CD or flash drive. Do not forget to carry your travel itinerary. When you get in a taxi, and you don’t have this information handy, the driver is going to ask you which Hilton you are going to. Just how many Hilton’s does Chicago have? Not enough to always get a room and too many to remember off the top of your head. Keep copies of your confirmation numbers just in case the hotel loses your reservation or your airline does not add your travel to their frequent flier program.
Research and Prepare
Ahead of time, research your travel destination and take advantage of free time you may have. On a recent trip to New Haven, CT, I had a few free hours to myself before my plane departed. Ahead of time, I researched a few highly rated restaurants that I wanted to try. I downloaded a Yale walking tour to my iPod so I could see the campus and take pictures (I love photography). You may have friends or relatives close to your travel destination. Take their information in case you have an opportunity to see them. Often, business trips get too busy to do anything besides going to work, going to dinner, and crashing. However, some times you may have delays or cancellations. If you’re going to be stranded, you may as well be stranded with a friend. Check the weather. It may be nice when you are departing for your trip. The weather on your return trip may be a whole other story.
Things I’ve Learned
There are a few other things to keep in mind when you go on trips. Traveling on the company can be a great way to see the world. It’s not a vacation. Business trips can be exhausting! If you are going on a trip for training, you will probably have a few hours of free time each night. You can take this opportunity to network with other peers. You can sneak back to your hotel room to do work. You could also take advantage of sporting events, shows, or music in the area. (I was in Chicago once during the week of Lollapalooza. They were setting up the stages in front of my hotel the day I was leaving. A little more preparation and I could have seen some of my favorite artists in concert.) There are a few types of business trips that you can go on which may include:
Customer Meeting trips can be very intensive and exhausting. They are definitely not a vacation! Here is an example of a typical day:
- 7:00AM-> Pre-meeting with your co-workers to discuss last minute changes or issues
- 8:00AM-> Travel to customer
- 8:15-Noon-> Meetings
- Noon-1:00PM-> Lunch Meeting
- 1:00PM-5:00 PM-> More Meetings
- 5:00PM-6:00PM-> Free time to change, recharge and refresh (if you’re lucky!)
- 6:00PM-10:00PM-> Dinner with customers
- 11:00PM-12:00AM-> Shower, Respond to emails, and any other things you can fit in until your body is so exhausted you cannot stay awake
- Don’t get drunk on business trips. It’s tempting. The wine will be flowing. Customers may encourage you to keep drinking (When I was on a trip to Mexico, our customers kept trying to get me to try about 8 different types of tequila. You may politely say no or you can accept one drink and sip on it the whole evening). You do not want to risk looking bad in front of your customers or co-workers.
- Find the perfect briefcase/laptop case. Lugging 40 lbs around an airport on your shoulders is no fun! In fact, it can make your airport experience miserable.
- Be sensitive to the information you look at on the plane or at the airport. You never know who may be sitting by you and you don’t want to reveal sensitive company information.
- Represent your company well. Do not act like a fool and then tell everyone where you work. It’s a small world. Things can get back to people.
- Bring a receipt holder to keep all of your receipts in. If you don’t have one place to keep your receipts, you will probably lose receipts. It’s painful when you find receipts three months later that you could have filed. I misplace taxi receipts quite often because I am usually in a hurry when paying the cab driver. I find them later and realize how much money I could have gotten back.
I have assembled a business trip checklist for you to download and print when packing for your business trip. You can download it here:business-trip-check-list-from-newly-corporate.pdf. Contact me with any items you think should be added to the list. What are things you have learned from business traveling?
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