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Preparing for your first business trip

Updated on October 9, 2013

Preparing for Your First Business Trip

Going on your first business trip can be a stressful experience. If you are new to your company, or traveling with people much higher up in the company than you, then it can be particularly intimidating. Even for a well seasoned traveller, traveling for your company can be a new and uncomfortable experience. Policies are different for every company, but here are a few tips and trips to get you started off right.

Whether you are going on your business trip alone, by airplane, traveling internationally, or driving in a car, there are many things that you can do to make the best of the situation. Remember, at all times when you are traveling you are a reflection on your company. Your behavior on your trip, even after hours, will have an impact on your career.

Question by tj scenes
Question by tj scenes

Find Out Relevant Company Policies for Business Travel

And the unwritten rules for business travel as well.

The first thing you need to do is speak to someone in your office about company policies for traveling. Ask someone in HR, your direct supervisor, any coworkers that are going on the trip with you, or the administrative assistant who is planning the trip. Make sure that you understand what is required of you, and what your responsibilities are. Use the following questions as a guideline to help you remember to get all of the necessary information.

1. Will you be expected to drive, or fly?

2. If driving, are you expected to use your personal vehicle?

3. Are you expected to pay for costs up front, and be reimbursed by the company? Or given a company card?

4. How much money are you allotted for meals, and other expenses?

5. What is the general itinerary for the trip?

6. What records do you need to keep for billing? How are you supposed to report them?

7. Who are the people you should be in contact with at the office if you experience travel difficulties such as a delayed or cancelled flight?

Tips for International Business Travel

Are you prepared for an international business trip?

If you are traveling internationally, there are some different issues that you may face. Take the following into consideration:

1. Passport: If you do not already have a passport, order one as soon as possible. Processing times may take a while. Also check an existing passport to make sure that it will not expire within six months of the end of your trip.

2. Power converters: Not every country uses the same type of electricity. Research the type of electricity used in the country that you are going to, and make sure you have a power converter if necessary. Be careful using expensive electronics in a different country, even with a power converter they can get fried.

3. Visas: Find out what type of visa you are traveling on, and make sure your activities comply with it.

4. Customs: Learn about local customs, especially for business interactions. Most people will give foreigners the benefit of the doubt, but at least try and make sure you do not do anything culturally offensive. You will probably have a few formal business meals, where you will encounter strange food and strange behavior. Try and be as gracious as possible and make your hosts feel respected.

5. Language: Learn how to say at least a few words of the language where you are going, such as - please, thank you, excuse me, help, hello and goodbye, ask the price for something, and count to ten. No one will expect you to learn the language of every country that you do business in, but making this small effort will show your hosts that you are willing to meet them part way, and will save you some travel headaches.

6. Cash: Not all countries accept credit cards everywhere, as is common in the United States. Carry enough cash with you to be prepared for this. Also, depending on the country that you are going to, ATMs might not always be functioning, or your cards could get frozen due to strange international charges being made. Also, make sure call your card companies in advance and warn them that you will be traveling.

Career Advancement Strategies with Business Trips

A business trip is also a great opportunity for your career

While many people dread business trips, especially if they are traveling with their boss, they also can be a great opportunity to help advance your career. Business trips are an excellent chance for networking. Take advantage of the opportunity to:

1. Get to know different coworkers. Trips are a great chance to get to meet coworkers in different departments, or different offices within your company. The more people who know who you are, and respect you, the better for your career. You can find out about what benefits and difficulties are in their office or department, and use this information to do your job more effectively. Get the scoop on different departments, to find out if there is one that you want to transfer to. These connections will be an invaluable resource to you as your career advances, and if you are lucky you will get a good mentor out of it.

2. Make industry connections outside of your company. Often business trips involve industry conferences, trade shows, or meetings with other companies. Take the opportunity to introduce yourself to as many industry people as possible. If you need hire a vendor for your company, you will be able to select a vendor that you met in person, which will give you better results. If you need to transition to a different company at some point in your career, they will remember you when your resume lands on their desk.

3. Showcase different skills. They say that you should never marry someone until you travel with them, and for good reason. While traveling people are faced with different challenges than they are in their normal day-to-day life, and find out how people react to them. This is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate to your boss that you are prepared, handle stressful situation with ease, and adapt well to an unfamiliar environment.

4. Face time with the client. A business trip might be the only time that the client has the opportunity to put a face to your name. It makes you more than just another email in their inbox. If you make a good impression with your clients, they may start to request you individually. In certain industries, such as the law, this will help build a solid foundation for a successful career. Remember that the reverse is also true. The client is likely paying your company quite a bit of money for your time. Try to always seem engaged, even if you are not. Take notes, make eye contact and listen intently. Make sure the client feels like they got the most for their money.

Selecting Luggage for Your First Business Trip

What luggage is appropriate to take on a business trip?

It is important to give some consideration to the luggage that you plan to take on your business trip.

If you are traveling with coworkers, discuss with them in advance if people are planning on checking an item, or only carrying on their bags. It can be uncomfortable to hold others up by waiting at baggage claim, when everyone else carried their bags on. Make sure you have at least one change of professional attire in your carry on bag in case your luggage gets misplaced.

Select a suitcase that is professional looking. Even if you are traveling alone, other people will see your bag. Before flying out on either end of your trip, you may need to take the bag with you to the office and leave it in a conference room. It is acceptable to have a bag that is bright, because that will make it easy to locate at baggage claim. However, take care that nothing about your bag will attract negative attention to you. It should look presentable, so this might be a good time to purchase a new one if you are still carrying your old duffel bag from college sports. In general your bag should not be overly loud or immature.

If you think you will be traveling a lot for business, splurge for a more expensive suitcase. Keep an eye out a stores like Marshalls or Ross for good quality suitcases that are discounted. Having a durable bag with a sturdy handle and smooth rolling wheels will save you many headaches on the road. Also pay attention to the internal dividers and organizers, to make sure it is laid out in a manner that is useful for you.

Travel Gear for your Business Trip - Supplies for your first business trip to help arrive looking great

The right supplies can make traveling much smoother. Different offices and industries will have different expectations of you, but you should expect to need to be very presentable. I selected these items because I find that they help me feel confident in business meetings while living out of a suitcase.

Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It Folder 15, Pacific Blue
Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It Folder 15, Pacific Blue

Fold your clothes in these folders, and your shirts will remain organized in your suitcase, and surprisingly wrinkle free.

 
Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It Half Cube, Pacific Blue
Eagle Creek Travel Gear Pack-It Half Cube, Pacific Blue

Put items such as your undergarments in the packing cubes. They keep smaller items corralled together instead of messy in your suitcase. They also have the added benefit of making it slightly less embarrassing if a security agent starts pulling everything out of your bag in front of your boss during a screening.

 
Dream Essentials Snooz Silky Soft Sleep Mask - Black
Dream Essentials Snooz Silky Soft Sleep Mask - Black

You will be expected to sleep in less than ideal conditions, so a good eye mask will help you get in a good rest. They are particularly useful if you have an overnight flight. If you are a light sleeper, consider bringing ear plugs as well to cope with a noisy hotel, provided you are confident that your alarm clock is sufficiently loud.

 
Large Genuine Black Leather Travel Kit Shaving Mens Toiletry Bag Mosaic Pattern by Dakota Leather
Large Genuine Black Leather Travel Kit Shaving Mens Toiletry Bag Mosaic Pattern by Dakota Leather

On a business trip you will be expected to look your best, so have a good way to maintain your toiletries. A sturdy cosmetics case will help you keep everything organized and in one place. If you travel frequently, keep one always ready to go, so you don't have to worry about forgetting your toothbrush.

 
You know how the song goes by cogdogblog
You know how the song goes by cogdogblog

Traveling by Car

If you do business traveling by car, you will have different considerations than people who travel by plane. It has many benefits, such as no lost luggage, no missed connections, the freedom to pull over when and where you want, and the comfort of traveling in your own vehicle. Some jobs that require people to travel by car expect them to almost entirely live out of their car, driving a thousand miles a week. Others require just the rare short jaunt. Here are some suggestions, and bear in mind that not all of them apply to every situation.

1. Keep a cell phone charger in your car. This one is probably a no brainer, but if you tend to take it out to charge your phone from different locations, double check that you remembered to put it back in your car before leaving for your trip. Also make sure to leave with a fully charged phone. If something serious goes wrong with your vehicle, you might not be able to recharge your phone.

2. Know your directions. Look up the address you are going to before you depart. Map it in your phone before you leave, and consider carrying a paper map in your car as well. Do not rely on having cell phone service along all of the roads, especially if you are going down smaller highways. Also, look over the maps before you leave to generally familiarize yourself with the way the highways go and major landmarks along your way. When traveling to a new destination, especially when preoccupied by your job, it is easy to get disoriented and lost, causing you to be late to your meetings. This is especially true if you are expecting any inclement weather during your trip.

3. Perform routine maintenance on your car. Make sure your oil changes and other routine maintenance is up to date. Check the tire pressure, and go over anything that might need attended to. If you take it to a shop, they should alert you to any potential problems, so you don't find out about them in the middle of nowhere.

4. Join a car club. If you are making long road trips routinely, consider joining a car club that offers emergency roadside assistance. AAA is a popular option, but take some time to do research to pick a program that offers the services that you are most likely to need, and covers the cities that you will be traveling between. If you get a flat tire on an empty highway, or accidentally lock your keys in your car in an unfamiliar city, it is nice to be able to make one phone call and have the problem resolved, allowing you to focus on the purpose of your business trip.

5. Bring a sack lunch. Traveling can do a number on your digestive system, so adding one more meal of familiar food can get your trip off to a better start.

6. Learn to change a tire. If you don't already know how, now is a great time to learn. Even if you have an emergency service plan, it is a useful skill. Learn at home, or learn on the side of the highway.

7. Plan entertainment. Long car rides can be brutally boring, especially if you go through large empty deserts or other desolate areas with nothing to occupy your mind. Plan ahead by bringing some music to listen to. Also consider lively podcasts and books on tape.

8. Take an emergency kit. This will obviously depend on the weather where you are traveling, but some items to consider keeping in your car are granola bars and spare drinking water. You might also want a blanket or umbrella. Also consider the minor emergencies, such as spilling food on your work shirt and needing a tide pen. Take some time to brainstorm problems you might encounter, and what you can do to address them. A small kit that contains Tums, wet wipes, safety pins, band aids, and aspirin is also a good idea.

Photo Credit: Wife thank you by mccun934 via Flickr Creative Commons
Photo Credit: Wife thank you by mccun934 via Flickr Creative Commons

Preparation for your first business trip

Be prepared for a great business trip

A little bit of preparation will make your trip run much smoothly. Remember, your performance on your business trip reflects upon you as a worker, and your employer. A few basic steps can make you appear more prepared and competent.

1. Itinerary Make up an itinerary in advance with all of your important information on one page. The name address and telephone number of your hotel, information on your flight, confirmation codes for any frequent flyer programs, and the location of all of your business meetings. Compile it all in one document, print a copy to keep with you and either email it to yourself, or save a copy to your Dropbox.

2. Parking If you are driving yourself to the airport, be sure to write down where you park at the airport. Consider also taking a photograph of the sign showing where you parked, and keeping that in your phone. When you come pick up your car days later after an exhausting trip and long flight, you won't remember where you parked.

3. Back up documents Back up copies of all important documents that you need to be able to access to do your job on your trip. Some companies will already have a plan for this, but if they do not consider saving a back up copy of your documents on a flash drive, external hard drive, or in digital cloud storage.

4. Know which hotel you are staying at, and how to get there. Have the name, phone number, reservation number, and address in advance. If you are renting a car and driving to the hotel, pull up driving directions as well and look over them so you will not have to face as many surprises when you get off the plane.

5. Rental car information This is the same as the hotel. You might be disoriented after a long flight. Make sure that you already know the company you are renting from, the reservation number, and what credit card it was made under. Remember to refill the car prior to returning it, to avoid fines.

6. Carry cash This is especially true for international trips. Cards are not as common in all other countries as they are in the United States. In some locations, ATMs do not function all the time either. Call your bank in advance to warn them that you will be traveling internationally, but they still may freeze your account due to unexpected charges.

Remember, if you are traveling with coworkers or your boss, a business trip is a chance to really shine. A bit of preparation will let your boss know that you are an organized and competent employee.

At the Airport

What to do at the airport during your business trip

Here are a few thoughts on how to make your time at the airport run more smoothly.

1. Be polite. This should go without saying, but unfortunately people forget. Being rude will embarrass yourself, your company, and any coworkers traveling with you. However warranted, do not take out your frustrations on airline staff, because they are often the only people with the ability to help you. If you travel frequently, you will run into the same airport staff all the time, and they have the ability to make your trip nice, or awful.

2. Arrive early. Navigating security and check-in lines can be a slow procedure. Make sure you allow plenty of time to get to your gate.

3. Familiarize yourself with airline luggage policies. Check with the airline about what their luggage requirements are. Make sure your carry-on bag is small enough, and checked luggage is not too heavy. Also keep an eye out for new airline security regulations.

4. Clothing. You will often have to fly directly before or after important meetings. Pick clothing that looks formal, but does not wrinkle easily. Women should consider wearing flats on the airplane to move about the airport comfortably, and then change shoes if heels are necessary. Even if you have the opportunity to change before or after your flight, still wear at least business casual clothing on the airplane because you are likely to run into people you know on the plane or at the airport. Even if you know that no one will be traveling at the same time as you, be presentable so that if you find yourself in a networking opportunity, you will feel comfortable.

5. Drinks. You may receive stipends for alcoholic drinks, have them provided as part of an elite status club, or get bored waiting for your flight at the airport bar. Watch your consumption, and remember it may effect you more at high altitudes. Always bear in mind that the purpose of your trip is for business, not vacation.

6. Boarding the plane. Mind your manners when boarding the plane. Be at the gate at the indicated time, to board when you are called. Listen to when they call your group for boarding, or be in the appropriate queue. Place your carry-on bag in the open overhead compartment closest to your seat, and assist people around you that may need help.

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    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      Great advice for business travel OR travel for pleasure.