Free Article – Top 10 Tips for Business Travel
Things to know before you take off
Key learning outcomes:
- Acknowledge that while business travel may appear to be glamourous, it is also a cause of stress for some travellers.
- Determine that the more preparation you undertake, the more straightforward your business trips will be.
- Implement a strategy to ensure your technology works for you during your travels.
- Understand the importance of staying healthy and alert while on the road.
Being in a small business such as a consultancy can mean you spend a lot of time travelling for work. This can seem exciting on the surface, but like anything the novelty can wear off and travelling for business can become a source of stress unless you plan well. As you see in the movie, Up in the air, there are some tricks of the trade that can make life on the road a little easier. Here are our top 10 tips that are practical and easy to implement.
Never check in luggage
Unless you are away for more than three or four days, you should be able to take only carry-on luggage. It might not seem much, but the 20 or so minutes you save if you don’t need to wait for luggage to be offloaded can, will allow you, for example, to get home in time for dinner. Additionally, taking everything with you eliminates any chance of your luggage getting lost. A lightweight, high-quality carry-on bag on wheels is a must have for business travellers.
Pick one airline
One of the tricks to business travel is to build your frequent flyer status. This means you need to pick one airline and stick with it. We suggest you choose an airline for their scheduling; that is, select the airline that works best for you in terms of flights out of your hometown to your most common destinations.
What does building up elite status get you? Priority security lanes, early boarding, preferred seating towards the front of the plane and lounge access – all little things that add up to making life on the road a little easier. It might seem a little rude to be whizzing past a long line to board the plan first, but you need to get over it. The more you travel for business, the more you understand that minutes count. Always use the perks available to you – you have earned them! Most airlines reserve forward seats for frequent flyers even if they are flying on a discount ticket. Sitting in row 6 rather than 46 means you can be off the plane with your carry-on bag and on your way home or to the hotel in no time.
Look for upgrade opportunities
Nowadays, very few airlines upgrade at the counter; you need to request one online and in advance. Most will give you the opportunity to use your frequent flyer points to upgrade at a fraction of the points required to buy a full ticket. It is important to read the fine print – the cheapest non-refundable fare usually cannot be upgraded, so on a longer flight you might be better to pay a little extra for a flexible ticket and then use points to upgrade.
With hotels, it is always wise to ask politely when you check in if there are any upgrade opportunities. You may be able to upgrade to a nicer or larger room, or the hotel may at least place you on a higher floor, which can often mean a quieter stay. Look for hotels that cater for business travellers. You will often find that by paying a little extra you can gain access to a club room or executive floor that can offer you benefits such as complimentary breakfast, pressing of your shirts and the use of a well-equipped business centre.
Stick to your basics
Smart business travellers know that a monochrome wardrobe works best. Use scarves and ties to add a splash of colour or give your outfits a different look over multiple days. By sticking to a one-colour palette, it allows you to pack more efficiently and ensure bulky items such as shoes or coats can be worn more than once.
There is nothing worse than coming down with an illness while you are travelling, and it is even worse when you also have deadlines to meet or clients to service. Aeroplanes and hotel rooms can be a breeding ground for germs, so it is wise to carry some antibacterial wipes and hand sanitiser in your bag. A quick wipe down of the surfaces you will touch may not keep you from getting sick, but it will help to reduce your chances of catching germs. We also take a small medical kit everywhere we go. The last thing you want to do is to spend valuable rest time looking for an all-night pharmacy to get some headache pills or bandaids. You may carry the kit around for weeks or months and never use it, but it is good insurance and we know you will be so grateful when you do need it.
When you are working away from home, tiredness can be a big issue. You will often work hard, and trips can include dinners and late nights with clients. Add to that strange surroundings and noises, and before you know it you are feeling wrung out and stressed. Good quality sleep is one of the keys to high performance. Your body rests and repairs while you sleep, allowing you to get up and face the next day firing on all cylinders. Here are some quick tips to improve your sleep quality while travelling:
- Your quality of sleep is higher when you are a little cooler. Make sure you do not have the hotel room too hot, let in some fresh air if you can or turn the air-conditioning down a few degrees.
- Avoid alcohol. It might be tempting to hit the mini bar, which might help you to go to sleep; however, your quality of sleep is likely to be detrimentally affected.
- Always pack earplugs and an eyeshade. These can be invaluable when you are in unfamiliar surrounds. Curtains that do not quite block out the light or irritating noises can play havoc with your sleep, and you want to be able to deal with them as quickly as possible.
Healthy eating habits can go down the drain on business trips. You are often either grabbing a snack on the run, eating on the plane or perhaps ordering room service late at night. One of the keys to keeping your energy levels high is to ensure that you are fuelling your body and mind with good food and plenty of water. Try to stick to simple and light foods that are easy to digest. One trick on planes is to order a vegetarian meal. They often contain fresh fruits and other healthy items that the standard meals do not. We also always carry some protein or healthy bars with us just in case we are caught short between meetings or flights with no time to get a meal.
Know the drill
Airport security is another area where you can lose valuable time in transit. Here are a couple of tricks that are worth remembering. If you have access to the priority lanes, always use them. Even if the line looks longer, these lanes without doubt always move faster. When you pick a lane, aim for one that is being used by business travellers rather than families or couples who are unused to the security procedures. Again, often the shortest line is not the quickest.
Pack your bags with security in mind. Put your laptop in a separate bag that can be scanned or ensure it is packed so you can take it out and slip it back in with ease. Have your toiletries packed in a clear plastic bag and only take small sizes with you. Wear slip-on shoes rather than lace-ups through the airport and be aware of what is in your pockets. Most importantly, be polite! The security staff are just doing their job. If you work with them by being polite and follow procedures, things tend to move more quickly and easily.
Make technology work for you
While it might be tempting to sit in the lounge and have a drink or spend your flight watching a movie, smart business travellers use their time wisely – working while in the air or while waiting around. They ensure their technology works wherever they go; they make use of Wi-Fi and where possible gain access to the internet while they fly. Always make sure your devices are fully charged before you leave home; it is worthwhile investing in a portable charger for your phone or tablet to use in an emergency.
Preparation and planning are the keys to a successful business trip. We know of a gentleman who flew all the way from Sydney to Japan for a business trip, only to be turned around at the other end because his paperwork and visa were not in order. Always check your passport, tickets, visas and boarding passes with plenty of time to spare. Think about how you are going to get from the airport to the hotel, and how much time you need and what resources you might need for your meeting. A business trip is not the time to wing it and hope that you will be able to get a hotel room or a taxi on the fly. It is also wise to plan for the unexpected when you have a big presentation or talk to deliver. Take an extra copy of your presentation on a USB and keep another back-up in the cloud. Never assume that your client or the hotel will have the right cords and connectors; we always carry an HDMI cable and Mac to PC connectors just in case. Lastly, it is wise to think about your insurance needs to ensure you are covered should the unexpected happen.
One of the most important things we have learnt with business travel is that you need to be flexible. Flights will get delayed, appointments will get changed and that perfect sunshine you were expecting will turn to rain. Getting upset does not change anything and you need to learn to adapt as quickly as possible. One of the most important things is not to put yourself under any more pressure than you have to. For example, we fly from Sydney to Melbourne for work purposes on a regular basis. Over time we have found that it is better to fly in the previous night to avoid the stress of morning traffic and potential flight delays. By arriving the night before, we can commit to an early start and know we will be able to perform to a higher standard without the additional stress early morning travel can bring. Of course, like everyone, we would prefer that extra night at home, but by being flexible we are able to better cater to the needs of the person who is most important – our customer.
A final word
Travelling for work can get a little tedious if it happens regularly. One of the keys is to try and make time for a little fun. On a short day or overnight trip this might be hard, but think about how you might be able to combine some business with pleasure. If you are going to be geographically close to friends or family, perhaps combine a Friday or Monday work meeting with a weekend visit. One of the things that we do on longer or overseas trips is to try and see something new or go somewhere we have not been to before. It might be visiting a museum or art gallery, or trying a new restaurant or spending a one or two-night stopover in a place we have not been to before. A half-day sightseeing trip gives you the chance to see the city’s highlights and helps to build a list of places to go back to when you have more time. Like anything, we can get tired of business travel. However, it is one of those things that you may miss, so enjoy it while you have the chance.Did you enjoy this complimentary article?
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