How to plan your first business trip EVER

 

Here it goes… The requested “willingness to travel” from your job description actually comes to reality: You get to do you first business travel EVER!

BUT – OMG!!! What to do now? Where to start? What if you forget something? Are there any rules? Who can I ask? Those and million other questions might pop up at one point or the other – and this is NORMAL! So first of all: Take a deep breath, calm down and continue reading…

Every time you do something for the very first time, you feel nervous, insecure, and you have numerous questions. Same goes for business trips.

Who is in charge of organizing? What should I bring? Can I go sightseeing? Is it like an all-inclusive vacation? Etc. Not to mention the questions you should ask but are not aware of.

To make sure you consider all essentials and make your first business trip successful, we got your back and provide practical tips for your journey. Because there is so much to be aware of, we break it up into three articles. Let’s start with the first part:

Planning your business trip like a pro

If you plan and prepare right, there is not much left to worry about.

As soon as you know that you are going to travel, you should:

  • Check who is in charge of organizing and booking.
  • Review company travel guidelines, if there are any.
  • Make sure your passport, ID, credit cards and all the documents you need for this trip are valid for the time of your travel. Update your documents if necessary.
  • Check if you require a visa and apply for it if you need one. It can take quite a while until you receive it.
  • Check public safety advise for the country you are travelling to. Usually you would find warnings and information regarding the country you travel to on a federal homepage, but you should also review the safety guideline of your company and any other sources you can find.
  • Check if the country you are travelling to requires a medical check before traveling or any immunization. If yes, have it done. Don't wait until the last day because an immunization may have effects on your body which affects your ability to travel or make it an unpleasant experience.
  • Review the company guidelines for travel expense reimbursement to make sure you get your money back for this business trip. Usually, flight and accommodation are covered up to a certain amount. If the company has a responsible person or department to organize for you, you don’t have to worry about these things. If you have to book everything yourself, make sure you know the limits and double-check with your manager before you place reservations. You will also find an allowance for food, and how to report the expenses.
  • Make sure your are insured through your employer for this business trip. It can be very costly when you get sick abroad and have to be transported back home. If your employer doesn’t provide such an insurance, make sure you have a private one for yourself. Sometimes your credit card may offer such an insurance or you can find the most suitable offers online.

Big corporations usually have a dedicated department or at least someone in charge of organizing travels for their employees. In case your employer doesn't make reservations for you, then it's on you. You checked what the restrictions are so you can now go ahead and book your transportation and accommodation:

  • You want to book a non-stop flight. Don’t get confused with direct flights. A direct flight might still stop, but you would just stay on the plane instead of having to switch planes. If you can't spot a non-stop flight, a direct flight is your best option, and most are actual non-stop.
  • If you have to change planes on your route, make sure the plane change happens at the same airport. You wouldn't be the first person to have to change airport to get the connecting flight. Also make sure you have enough time to transfer between the gates. I'd recommend at least an hour between landing and take-off. Two hours is more comfortable and avoids stress.
  • Keep the option to reschedule the flight. Changes to your trip are not uncommon. You don't want to tell your manager that you need money for a second flight because you made a beginner-mistake when booking.
  • If you are going to travel more often, it pays off to stay loyal to one airline and hotel chain, as they will reward you with bonus programs or free upgrades. (That's what you want.)
  • Find a hotel near to where you have to be, to not waste your time and energy on commuting.
  • Avoid touristy hotels or resorts as they may be noisy.

 

Once your basic preparation is done, you booked flight and hotel, you checked all your documents, you know the company guidelines, visa and medical checks are arranged, it would be helpful to look into the local culture. Know how it is different and what the dos and don'ts are. This may close or break a deal!

 

As the travel date approaches, you want to start the next level of travel preparation:

Stay connected

Check the usage of your mobile device with your manager and how to set it up so you are able to work abroad. You may want to consider getting a local SIM card at your destination or a mobile hot spot to not end up paying a fortune.

Transportation

Plan your trip backwards from the time of boarding. You should arrive at the airport about 2 hours prior to take off for domestic flights and 2-3 hours for international flights. Plan time for the drive to the airport and organize your transportation. Book a shuttle or taxi, or arrange the drop off with a friend. You could even drive yourself and park at the airport.

Consider the traffic situation for the time of your journey. Bigger airports experience heavy traffic which turn a 10 kilometer drive into a 40-50 minutes journey. You don’t want to be stuck in traffic without having planned for it.

It is also helpful to know your airports or do research if you don’t. Some airports have fairly long walkways on the inside. If your gate is somewhere far out, it will take you a while getting there.

Packing

  • Prepare your travel pharmacy in case you get sick. Bring medication for headache, upset digestive system, colds, and any medication you were prescribed. Band aids and mosquito repellant may be useful as well.
  • When traveling short stays (one week or less), try to condense your wardrobe to only necessary pieces so you can travel with hand luggage only. This will save your time when checking in. Also you won't have to wait to pick it up again. Experienced travelers manage to bring a carry-on luggage only, even for 2 to 3 weeks of travel.
  • Unless you are going to a fashion show, focus on practicality and bring dark colored clothes - they hide stains better than light colors. Also versatile pieces which can be layered with others come in handy.
  • Folding or rolling? There is no perfect packing strategy. Just try to fit everything you want to bring safely and without wrinkling it too much.  Personally, I fold my shirts and fill the gaps with smaller piece or roll t-shirts to fill the gaps.

If you are in the market to purchase a new luggage piece, I'd strongly recommend a lightweight piece, so you can bring more of your belongings. Personally I love my Rimowa, but there are plenty of other options available. If you travel a lot, I'd recommend a 4-wheel carry-on luggage to release your arms from the weight. And last advice: It should be clear, but I still want to mention it: Please no flashy colors for your luggage (unless your are in the fashion industry). You are not a tourist but a business traveler and your client may also see your luggage. You don't want to embarrass yourself already before the meeting started, right?

 

That's enough food for thought for today!

 

Continue reading part 2 to learn what to do The day before your first business trip.