As businesses continue to extend their global reach, projects require closer levels of collaboration than ever before. Yet despite the advent of high-quality VoIP software and other collaborative tools, business travel is still an essential part of corporate life. Some deals simply need that personal touch, after all.
As you would expect, there a lot of perks to working abroad, too. To help you make the most of them, we’ve compiled a handy list of tips so that the next time your boss instructs you to spend the week in Paris or Dubai (at the company’s expense, of course), you’ll be thoroughly prepared.
From cheaper plane tickets to avoiding Burger King, this is what you need to know…
1. Research Journey Prices
Specifically, search for two one-way tickets rather than a round return. Often, you can find cheaper prices as well as more flexible arrival/departure times, especially if you are flying and there is more than one airport in the city you are travelling to. Comparison sites like Skyscanner and Trainline make this process relatively painless, too.
2. Sign Up for Rewards Programmes
This is the golden tip that every regular business traveller should adhere to: ensuring you convert all those flight or train miles into future free tickets. There are numerous rewards programme providers that you can register with, and once you’ve hit a certain amount of journey miles, you’ll be eligible to reap the benefits of your loyalty – you could even use your ticket for your next vacation.
3. Keep a Separate Bag for Key Items
If you regularly work away from the office, it’s worth buying spares of each of your key items – such as phone chargers, plug converters and toothbrushes – and keeping them in a separate bag that you use only for travel. There’s nothing worse than settling down in your hotel after a long flight only to realise you left your phone charger next to your nightstand, so why not give yourself one thing less to remember when you’re in a rush?
4. Buy Toiletries at the Airport
Everybody knows the rules when it comes to taking liquids on board an aircraft, so instead of paying the extortionate baggage fees to hoard your shampoos, toothpaste and hair products, buy the small travel versions in the post-security airport terminal, instead.
5. Pack Cleverly
As previously mentioned, baggage fees are expensive; if you pack cleverly, though, you can fit everything you need into a carry-on suitcase – even if you are going to be away for several weeks.
If you’re struggling to fit everything in, it’s a good idea to invest in vacuum bags that can compress your larger items of clothing. Try to be sensible, too; obviously, you want to look your best while you’re at your host office, but if you’re only going to be away for three days, do you really need to take five pairs of trousers?
6. Take a Kindle and a Hard Drive
As it’s a business trip, you will likely be taking your laptop or tablet, so why not bring a slim and portable hard drive with you as well? At the end of your working days, you’re going to want to relax, so it could be the perfect opportunity to catch up with the season finale of Stranger Things.
Alternatively, if you’d prefer to indulge in a good book, avoid buying one at the airport. Kindles are also slight in size and won’t take up much room. Besides, you never know when you might be subject to lengthy delays, so it’s good to be prepared!
7. Print a Paper Boarding Pass
This might seem like a pretty basic tip but carrying a paper ticket through the airport is much easier and less stressful than using your phone. For starters, you have to constantly keep unlocking your phone while you queue – pretty annoying when you’re already carrying two bags, a jacket and a steaming hot coffee – before presenting it to the airline attendant, who, in the process of scrolling in to make the barcode readable (because you smashed the screen two weeks ago), accidentally closes the window and asks you to find the ticket again. All this, of course, before you repeat the whole process on the plane when someone sits in the wrong seat.
Seriously, just save yourself – and the queue of travellers behind you – the hassle. Print. The. Ticket.
8. Use the Journey Productively
You’d be amazed at how much you can get done during a five-hour flight or a three-hour train journey, especially if you’re in business class or a quiet carriage. Devoid of distractions, it’s the perfect opportunity to catch up on work or prepare for your upcoming meetings.
Alternatively, if you’re already on top of things, why not take the chance to get some pointers ahead of that keynote presentation you’re due to give? (Talk Like TED is highly recommended.) Or if you’re heading overseas, try to learn a couple of key phrases in the local language. It’s likely that you’re going to be pressed for time while you’re away, so make the most of it.
9. Always Be Kind and Polite
Whether it’s with an important business connection, a grizzled taxi driver or the hotel receptionist, smile and be kind to each and every person you meet. People will return the favour and it will make for a far more positive and pleasant journey.
Often, it will work directly in your favour, too. The old adage might be that nice guys finish last, but you will be far likelier to receive an upgrade or a perk if you are polite and empathetic to staff than if you’re hostile and downright rude.
10. Make Sightseeing Your Workout
If you’re a stickler for your exercise routine, you might want to hit the hotel gym first thing in the morning to set your day up right. Instead of spending an hour on a treadmill staring at a wall, though, why not use it as an opportunity to do a bit of exploring?
Depending on the nature of your trip, you may be pressed for time to see the sights, so whether you run or walk, use your workout as a chance to get out there and take in your surroundings. Cities tend to be at their most vibrant first thing in the morning, too, so it will definitely be worth your while.
11. Utilise Technology
Arriving in a new city used to be a primitive experience; after staring blankly at an overpriced tourist map, you’d inevitably then wander onto the wrong train before asking a confused local if they enjoy applesauce in broken high school French.
Luckily, you can now travel seamlessly and efficiently across foreign climes, with technology ensuring that you won’t miss any important meetings or end up in the wrong part of town. Before you travel, download free mobile apps like Rome2Rio, HotelTonight and, of course, Uber so that if you come unstuck during your time away, there’s always a quick solution to hand.
Also, if you’re travelling to a country with internet restrictions (like China, for example), then it’s a good idea to get a mobile VPN such as NordVPN so that you can stay connected to any sites or services that may otherwise be restricted.
12. Choose the Right Accommodation
Although this may lie in the hands of your company’s travel management agency, it’s important to try and secure yourself the best accommodation. Don’t confuse this with the most expensive or the most glamorous, though; there are several things you need to consider:
- Is it easily accessible and in relatively close proximity to the offices/location where you will be spending most of your time?
- Does it contain business-friendly amenities such as a strong and reliable WiFi connection?
- Is there a restaurant for those late nights where you don’t have time to eat elsewhere?
- Is it in a quiet location where you can get a good night’s sleep and work in peace?
Where possible, many professionals prefer to stay in rented apartments due to their spaciousness, homeliness and greater independence, so take this into consideration, too, before you rush to book the priciest five-star.
13. Always Make the Effort
As a corporate traveller, you’re unlikely to be in town for long, so nobody is expecting you to be familiar with the subtleties of the culture straight away. But expecting everyone to speak the same language as you or spending every night in a McDonald’s because you can’t understand the menus elsewhere isn’t exactly enrichening, either.
As with any kind of travel, take the time beforehand to learn a couple of short phrases (see point eight!) and at least make the effort to engage someone in their own language – it will be appreciated and people will be far more willing to help.
14. Be Positive
Many people think of business travel as a stressful experience or a negative aspect of their job, but the reality is that you are essentially getting paid to see different parts of the world. Even if you spend most of your time working, there are still opportunities to fit in some sightseeing, meet some new people and try some different food, so embrace everything and approach it all with an open attitude. Who knows? You might even be surprised at how much you enjoy the experience.
Do you have any other essential tips for when you’re working abroad? Let us know in the comments below…