When you travel for business, it sort of goes without saying that the stakes are a little higher than when you for pleasure. My job in advertising requires somewhat regular work travel, but Tim’s job in consultancy requires a lot. Here’s our pooled advice!
10 Tips for Traveling for Work
Preparing for Your Trip
Get Your Documents Together
A good document organizer is gold when traveling for any reason, but especially important for work travel, when you’re your brain is already preoccupied with a client meeting, important presentation, or sales pitch. Save the mental hassle and put everything you need in one place. I love this stylish one from Amazon, which holds my passport, ID card, pen, boarding pass, and a limited number of cards and cash—but a simple folder or folio will also do the job.
Prep for Wellness
Germs and travel go hand in hand—and nothing is worse than trying to hold a serious discussion with a runny nose, or lead a presentation with a sore throat. Make sure you up your Vitamin C intake in the days before your travel, and pack a little medical kit for emergencies. Read my tips for putting your travel kit here!
Get the Green Light
Take the time night before to charge all of your devices—laptop, tablet, phone(s). It’s likely that you’ll be using your phone for your boarding pass (and if you aren’t doing mobile check-in, you should! It saves you a ton of time at the airport when you’re not checking a bag). Make sure you’ve got green bars everywhere so that you don’t try to work in flight and find your battery dead—that’s a guaranteed way to introduce stress into any work trip. Just make sure when you pack your gear the next day that you also pack your charger!
On the Road
I hate checking bags, so when it comes to packing, I pack with a plan. I treat my carry-on suitcase like a capsule wardrobe, bringing a combination of dark colored separates and dresses. I pack heavier on accessories, which helps make each outfit distinct (and so I have more options of dressing a combo up or down).
Between the demands of travel and of your work agenda, taking care of yourself can quickly fall by the wayside. Carve out time on your trip as “me-time”, where you catch up with friends, take care of your personal business, read a book (or blog 😉 ), or do some exercise. Even twenty unplugged minutes can be completely refreshing.
Work and Travel
When you can, build in a little time to enjoy the sights of where you are. Research top restaurants or bars where you can max out your per diem, treat yourself to a visit of one of the area’s sights, or take an hour and enjoy a coffee while people-watching…even if it’s just for a bit, these little ventures into your location will make this travel opportunity feel less like business and more like pleasure. And you’ll feel more like you really visited the place, rather than simply “went there for work.”
General Tips for Traveling for Work
Make your reimbursements work for you!
With both of us traveling, we decided to invest in a rewarding credit card. We have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card—it has what seems like a steep yearly fee ($450), but when you factor in the automatic $300 travel credit and the 3x points earned on travel and dining, and 1-for-1.5 redemption ratio, the card quickly pays for itself. We use the credit card for our work travel costs (which are then reimbursed by our companies), and then use the points earned to pay for fun vacations. Our recent South Africa trip was almost completely paid for using credit card points.
Get Miles for your Miles
Similarly, if you’re traveling often, sign up for those loyalty programs. Tim attained Frequent Flyer status during his first year of consulting—now he can use the lounge perks, free bags, and earned miles for personal spending. Loyalty programs can also be advantageous for the bump in customer service if ever you get stranded or delayed.
Sign Up for Global Entry (and Know the Power of your Passport)
I honestly debated whether to add this here, mostly because most people don’t seem to have heard of it, and I can zoom through the entry points whenever I go back to the States. But for business travelers who hop abroad regularly, or for US expats living out of the country, this little card is a godsend. Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that pre-qualifies certain travelers for expedited customs. I’ve flown into JFK, Dulles, and LAX with this thing and gotten through customs in less than 5 minutes. There are both a fee and an “interview” (to be honest, it was about four questions and the only inconvenience was going out to the airport office to talk to the guy), and the card is valid for five years. And if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve card, you’ll get this fee reimbursed!
As a general note, it’s also good to know the power of your passport. You’d think in this globalized era, your travel departments or HR contacts would know to advise if you need a visa for a destination, but they might not! And I know from colleague-observed situations that it’s crazy stressful to send your passport abroad shortly before a major business trip.