Getting your life in order before a business trip can be challenging and stressful — there are so many things to remember, and so much that could go wrong if a crucial detail is overlooked. Save your stress for the actual business — the meeting, the presentation, the demo — by assuring that you’ve made all the essential preparations beforehand.
Cover your bases with these smart packing suggestions:
Files and Documents
Organize every business document you will need for the trip in either a single binder or a series of binders (depending on the number of handouts and other hardcopies you’ll need to bring). For all the electronic files you need, take a disc and be sure you back up your work on a second disc that you can leave at the office.
Cell Phone and PDA
Make sure you have stored the contact names and addresses of all people you will be doing business with on your cell phone or PDA (BlackBerry, Treo, etc.). If you’re not that digitized (or even if you are), make sure that information is written down somewhere safe. And don’t forget the chargers for these electronic devices!
Pack as light as possible. Aim to fit all of your belongings into one suitcase you can bring into the main cabin of the plane along with your briefcase. This will save you time and worry — waiting for checked baggage is even more agonizing on a business schedule.
Consider the type of people you’ll be doing business with. Do you know if this company has a casual dress code and office culture, or will you be dealing with a more conservative company? Pack your business clothes accordingly, and if you are unsure of what to expect, err on the side of conservative. A dark-colored suit is best for withstanding clumsy waiters, bad weather, and other rough spots you may encounter during travel. Always bring a backup dress shirt and tie. You don’t need to fret about your business clothes getting wrinkled — nearly every hotel room these days comes equipped with an iron and ironing board.
Be sure to bring along an extra telephone cord (preferably a long one) to use with your laptop in your hotel room, just in case there is no wireless access and the phone jack isn’t conveniently located. Also be sure to get the local access number for your Internet provider. This is always easier to do before you leave.
Before You Walk Out the Door
Check to make sure you have your plane ticket, hotel confirmation documents, business papers and discs, and appropriate credit cards. Pack all of these items in one of your carry-on bags to avoid a potential lost luggage catastrophe — if you’re going to check any bags, they should not contain these key items.
Go through your toiletries bag and make sure you have everything you need (for instance, an extra set of disposable contact lenses, any prescription medications). Include some snacks for the flight in your carry-on bag, since more and more airlines are retiring meal service for domestic routes.
Many airline travelers are confused by the constantly changing restrictions on different carry-on items, most recently the ban on liquids and gels in containers larger than 3 ounces. For a definitive updated list of what is and isn’t permissible, visit the TSA Web site shortly before your trip.
At the Airport
Be sure to call or e-mail your contacts before you fly to make sure they have your cell phone number should they have to notify you of last-minute changes in their schedules.
If you’d rather avoid sending your laptop through the X-ray machine, have it easily accessible so you can hand it off to a security guard when going through the security checkpoint.
With the right amount of planning and preparation beforehand, you can minimize your worries while on the road and focus on the business at hand.
While closing deals and meeting with customers is foremost in the minds of most business travelers, personal safety should be a priority, too. Read Business Travel Safety Tips for advice on staying out of harm’s way when traveling for business. And be sure to pick up these Must-Have Items for Business Travelers to ensure that your long hours traveling are both restful and productive.