Business Travel: A Complete Guide
We live and work in an increasingly global society. Many of us work for businesses that operate in a variety of locations – perhaps with multiple offices in different states, or even different countries.
As you progress up the career ladder and gain new responsibilities, you may find that you are expected to travel as part of your job.
For some, this could mean meeting with fellow managers in a nearby town or city to discuss regional operations.
There are a variety of reasons why you may be asked to participate in business travel. In this article, we’ll share practical tips to make your next business trip go smoothly.
By its very definition, business travel is any form of travel that is undertaken with the specific focus of carrying out corporate activities.
Sometimes you can travel to and from your destination in a day, but generally speaking, most business travel will require an overnight stay.
While the term ‘business travel’ may bring up images of jet-setting around the world on a private jet, the reality is that business travel is often far more mundane.
There are many reasons why your employer might ask you to travel to another location to conduct your work:
You could be asked to travel to new locations to make new deals and trades with new suppliers or other key contacts.
Your business may be heavily involved in events and conferences. As well as showcasing your products or services, these events can be effective networking and training opportunities.
Some businesses choose to incorporate business travel as part of an internal incentive scheme. Perhaps your department/team has won a prize or has been asked to participate in a team-building activity.
If your company operates across a variety of locations, you may need to factor in business travel as part of your routine to check on different outlets and monitor/track their progress. This is often typical for regional managers within a retail environment who are responsible for multiple stores.
You may also need to hold a series of meetings within different office buildings. If your employer has more than one branch, it can be important to maintain collaborative working between locations.
Many people use their business travel as an opportunity to attend networking events. Not only does networking help you to raise your profile, but you can meet new contacts and build new relationships with suppliers or customers.
Once your supplier relationships are set up, you may find that your clients and customers request meetings to discuss specific projects or campaigns. Traveling to your suppliers is a good way of facilitating a positive working relationship.
Finally, you may be requested to travel to training workshops and seminars. Many employers are actively promoting internal training and development schemes in a bid to upskill their staff. These courses may be local or they could be held further afield. Your employer will fund your travel because they know that they’ll see a return on their investment through your new skills and expertise.
In most circumstances, you will likely be given plenty of advance notice of any upcoming business travel.
However, there may be some circumstances where you need to leave quickly.
It’s a good idea to have a strategy in place to help you prepare for business travel so that you can ensure your trip runs as smoothly as possible.
Your HR department will have created a variety of documents that outline expectations that relate to your business travel.
When you are undertaking business travel, you need to remember that your behavior will reflect on your employer. Therefore, there will be clear expectations as to what you should expect from a business trip.
It may be a nearby town, a different state or even a different country. Make sure that you’re aware of any local laws and cultural expectations.
You may find that your HR department takes responsibility for booking your flight and hotel details. If so, make sure that they have forwarded you all the relevant information and that you know where you need to go.
If you are booking your business travel by yourself, make sure you know what budget is available and try to book your accommodation/travel as early as you can.
A useful tip is to book your hotel close to your meeting location. That way, you are more likely to be on time when you have your meeting.
Before you leave your office, make sure you have access to all of your business travel documents. You may need to have everything close to hand in a single travel folder.
This might include your passport, your work ID, your hotel confirmation, your travel details, your itinerary and any specific work that you need to take with you.
Ask your employer for details of the company travel insurance in case of emergency and have a contact back at the office you can ring if there are any problems.
If you’re taking a company laptop, make sure that you’ve spoken to your IT department to have it preloaded with everything you may need access to – particularly if you do not have remote working capabilities installed.
As part of your planning, try to create an itinerary of what to expect.
You should remember that your business travel isn’t for leisure purposes – you are going to represent your employer, and as such, you will be expected to work.
If you are scheduling meetings, make sure that you factor in travel time between meetings (if required) and have an idea of how you plan to travel between different locations.
If you’re traveling to a different time zone, don’t forget to be aware of the local time. You may wish to factor in time to recover from jet lag in your itinerary.
If this is your first time taking part in business travel, why not sit down with your line manager to set out clear expectations. Corporate travel needs to be planned. Your business needs to know that they are getting value for money.
If you’re attending a conference or other large event, find out who your boss thinks it would be beneficial for you to meet and build a relationship with.
If there’s someone in particular that you think would be a good contact to have, why not make an informal approach in advance (perhaps using a tool such as LinkedIn) so that you can arrange a time to meet face-to-face?
If you’re nervous, you could also think about how to make business small talk.
You may wish to leave a copy of your hotel/transport details and itinerary with a family member as well as your HR representative. That way if an emergency occurs, your family or colleagues will know how to get in touch with you.
Finally, if you think that corporate travel could become more frequent (perhaps your employer has decided to participate in trade events, or you are participating in post-graduate study), it could be beneficial to look into any frequent flyer reward programs or travel friendly/business credit cards.
This can make any subsequent travel far more cost-effective.
You may even find that you could work with a dedicated travel management company to find the most affordable options for any regular corporate travel.
As you start to travel more regularly, you’ll learn what to pack in your suitcase. But for your first few business trips, it may be tricky to know exactly what you should take with you.
To help you get started for your first corporate travel journey, here are some handy hints:
When participating in business travel, time is of the essence. You may not have time for lengthy delays as you wait for your luggage to appear from the hold.
To speed up the process, why not invest in good-quality carry-on luggage that you can store in the cabin with you.
Try to find something that fits the relevant size requirements yet promises to be sturdy enough that it won’t fall apart after only a few trips.
This way, it’s easily accessible to you when needed.
You may also wish to invest in a mobile scanning app to allow you to make copies of your documentation so that you have backups available.
Rather than taking full-size bottles of toiletries, invest in travel-size alternatives.
If you’re flying, you may find that airline regulations stipulate maximum sizes.
As well as having paracetamol, band-aids or tissues in your bag for emergencies, you should also consider any other medication that you regularly take.
If you do start to travel for work regularly, you may wish to create a travel pack of items that stay in your bag permanently.
You’ll need your phone/tablet and laptop chargers so you can stay connected online.
If you do forget, it’s often worth asking at the front desk of your hotel if they have one you can use. Chargers are often one of the items most commonly left behind in hotel rooms after someone has checked out.
To help you stay connected while on the move, you may wish to invest in a USB battery pack that can offer a top-up throughout the day.
If you’re traveling for more than one night, you will need sufficient clothes.
You are representing your business, so your outfits need to be appropriate business attire.
However, your itinerary may determine whether you have any leisure time available (perhaps time for sightseeing) or whether you are expected to participate in any corporate formal events.
Make sure you are well aware of the types of meetings/events you will be attending and pack clothes accordingly.
If you’re keen to maintain your fitness during your trip (perhaps you want to go for a run to see local sights or use your hotel’s gym or pool), don’t forget to pack your gym clothing.
Although your business trip is about representing your employer, you also need to make sure that you have time for yourself to relax and unwind and minimize your stress levels.
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, there are a few things you should do to ensure the success of your corporate travel:
Make sure that you take the time to rest and recover from your travel – particularly if you are entering a different time zone and have to consider jetlag.
Get as much sleep as you can and try to look after yourself.
This can include eating healthily, staying hydrated and trying to avoid drinking too much alcohol (particularly while flying).
Your business travel is about being as professional as you can. You want to give new contacts the same impression that you would give if you were meeting at your office, so it’s important to try to be on top form whenever possible.
During your preparation before your business travel, we recommended that you research the location. You may have found that there are some tourist attractions you would like to visit.
If you have the time, try to incorporate some sightseeing into your itinerary.
To be as professional as possible, you need some time to relax from the pressures of work. So take some time to relax and unwind if possible.
Before your meetings, remind yourself of who you are going to meet and what the meeting is about.
Take time to prepare in advance – perhaps think about who you want to meet and what you want to ask them.
Make sure you take their contact details so you can follow up afterward, whether that’s formally or informally via a LinkedIn connection request.
If you’re taking notes, you could consider using a smart pen. These would automatically upload your notes to your office (via the cloud), making it easier for colleagues in your office to automate responses and follow-ups based upon your meeting notes.
Finally, the most important tip of all is to track all of your spending and keep hold of your receipts.
Your HR team will need to have copies so that they can align your expenses with the company accounts.
You will likely be given a budget in advance (which you must stick to).
Upon your return to the office, make sure that you follow up on any potential new business leads, and make a note of any useful contacts that you have made.
If you have internal software that tracks new client relationships, make sure that information is added to your database.
You will have made many new contacts – you could provide them with a formal approach (perhaps inviting them to learn more about your business) or you could simply send a LinkedIn connection request so that you can continue a professional relationship in due course.
If your business trip was based on training and development, take the time to sit with your line manager and let them know what you learned.
This is a good way of ensuring that you understood the training and establishing how to incorporate this new knowledge into your daily tasks.
Although new technologies such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have made it easier than ever to connect with others virtually, there will always be a time and a place for face-to-face meetings.
Business travel will long be required by firms, but with budgets getting tighter, it’s important to prepare in full so that you can make the most of your corporate trips.
Our practical hints and advice can help you to create a handy checklist of things to consider in advance of your trip, what you should consider during your trip and a reminder of things to do upon your return.