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The Smart Guide to Business Trips

Updated on August 20, 2016

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Business Travel Planning

Whether you travel only once a year or it seems like you're hopping on and off a plane every week, business trips take a toll. Head out with a solid plan to head off common struggles that come with traveling.

Set out below are strategies you might not have thought of to make the financial and personal side of traveling for work effortless and get the most out of your trip.

Eating Right while Traveling

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Eating on Business

Just by the nature of being in an unfamiliar city with rented rooms and vehicles you are going to be tempted to spend more money than you would back home and splurge on the higher calorie meal or dessert. That can be avoided if you do a little planning ahead and make sure you do a grocery store run for snacks and produce to get you through the duration of your stay.

Sometimes there's no way around eating out when you're traveling for work. Many trips are structured with meetings scheduled around meals and it is expected that you go out for lunch or dinner with your colleagues. If you have to go out to eat it is easy to find the lower price items and avoiding alcohol will always save you a big chunk of the bill.

Depending on the industry you are in you might find yourself skipping meals or staying late. Then it can be hard to find quick healthy food when the hour is late or you are really burnt out. In this case you will be tempted to order room service but before you do check to see if GrubHub is available in the area you are traveling. Even with a charge for delivery it will be cheaper than room service and you will have healthier options if you choose to stick with them.

Did You Know?

Uber has started to overtake rental cars as the local transportation of choice for business travelers.

Transportation for Business Travel

You already have to be on a plane to get to and from your destination and chances are you will be renting a car or taking taxis to get around locally. But in 2015 more ground transportation expenses were reported for Uber than rental cars by business travelers. Uber makes sense as a better alternative than renting a car for a few reasons:

  1. You don't have the stress of driving yourself or the risk of being tired from jet lag.
  2. You can rely on a local who drives the city all the time instead of trying to navigate somewhere you've never been before by yourself.
  3. You pay for Uber as you need it so you end up charging the company exactly how much was necessary instead of a rental car that sits in the lot during the day.

Ubers can still be shared by coworkers and the cars allow enough room for transportation of luggage. One drawback of Uber is you will need to get your ride arranged 10-20 minutes ahead of time during peak hours. With frequent enough trips within just a few days the cost of an Uber could out weigh the cost of renting a car.

Skype While You're Away

Stay connected with your family while you're across the country.
Stay connected with your family while you're across the country. | Source

Leaving Your Family Behind

Frequent business travel can be hard on families. The typical person who travels for business in the United States is 30-49 years old, which means many of them have children who are away from their mom or dad.

When you are gone often enough you need a few strategies to make life easier on your loved ones in your absence. If your schedules and time difference match up right you might be able to establish a daily routine where you call your spouse for 15 minutes each night before bed or you get to Skype with the kids in the morning before they go to school and you head in for the first meeting.

Help your spouse prepare for your absence by doing your normal chores or tasks ahead of time so they have less to deal with. Let them know when you will be able to check in and during which times it is unlikely they will be able to reach you.

If you travel frequently and are looking for a way to make it up to your family, there is always fun souvenirs you can bring home.

Use That Smart Phone

Uber, Lyft, Skype and GrubHub were already mentioned as tools to help make your business trip easier and more enjoyable. There is no reason why business travel should not evolve with technology and tech trends.

If you use your Google account it probably already put your flight into your calendar the moment you received that confirmation email and is ready to let you know if your flight will be delayed and what gate you need to find. In addition, most airlines have free apps that help you manage your online boarding pass and your itinerary.

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Keep Track of Your Expenses As You Go

Nothing is worse than getting back from a tiring business trip to have to catch up on work and fill out a tedious expense report. Except maybe doing all that and realizing you threw away the hotel receipt and the process for requesting a copy so you can be reimbursed those hundreds of dollars is way more difficult than it should be.

The lesson here: record as much of the travel related expenses you can with their associated invoices before leaving. And then during the trip save all the relevant receipts in a dedicated pocket in your bag. That will make it a breeze when you go to fill out the expense report.

Get Rewarded for Your Travels

Each hotel reservation, flight, and rental car is an opportunity to earn rewards while your company pays for your travel. Then next time you take a personal trip you will have points racked up you can use for discounts or even free visits.

If your company allows you to book your own flight use an airline you trust that has good rewards. Airlines like Southwest whose points never expire and allows you to buy trips directly with points are a good choice to earn a quick return that has flexible options when it comes time to book your next vacation.

For hotel rewards, sign up for an account at a hotel that has a location close to the places you are most commonly working. You want to find one that you can earn a free stay within 5-7 paid nights. Look for hotels with free continental breakfast and save more on what you use for food expenses.

Avoid Unnecessary Travel

An often over looked part of traveling smart is only boarding that plane when you really need to. Can this meeting be done just as well with a teleconference? Is attending the trade show going to directly improve your business's bottom line? In many cases you do make a better impression to the client if you can be there in person and attending a trade show may present opportunities you couldn't have predicted in advance but just make sure you and your company are evaluating the cost and benefit of travel with each trip.

Travel like a Pro

Use these tips next time you travel on business:

  1. Plan out the logistics of your trip before you leave the office.
  2. Check out alternatives to expensive business travel meals and have a plan for eating healthy.
  3. Consider a ride share program while traveling to avoid the rental car stress.
  4. Have a plan to stay in contact with your family so you can use the rest of your time to stay focused on work.
  5. Whenever possible choose airlines and hotels that will accumulate rewards.
  6. Make sure each business trip has a worthwhile goal.

Share Your Business Travel Experiences

Do you use any of these strategies when you travel? Do you have other things you have tried that seem to be effective?

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