To the neophyte traveler, the prospect often sounds exciting. New cities, new faces. More experienced travelers know that it’s usually something to be endured rather than enjoyed. But no matter how many miles employees log, it’s still possible for them to make the most of their business travels. Here are six tips that can help everyone in your organization experience a smooth and productive business trip.
- Get online before getting on the plane. New sites for business travelers are opening all the time. Many offer the chance for business travelers to explore destinations, share ideas, coordinate travel plans, and make trips more comfortable. Tripit.com, for instance, lets travelers organize their plans in a master itinerary that’s easy to share with colleagues and family members. The site can also automatically monitor itineraries and instantly alert travelers to any delays. Another good site is SeatGuru.com, which provides color-coded seat maps that identify superior and substandard seats on thousands of aircraft, including information about seats that don’t recline properly or are too close — or not close enough — to the bathroom (depending on your preference).
- Put it on the card. Charge cards are the best way to pay for airline tickets and rental cars because if something goes awry they — and your business — are protected. Charge cards also provide a paper trail, making it easier to track business expenses; cash does not. If possible, give employees business cards and encourage them to charge every business-related expense. If you’re the business owner, remember to travel with two cards: one for business expenses and the other for personal expenses. This can keep you out of trouble with the IRS by properly distinguishing business purchases, which are tax deductible, and personal purchases, which aren’t. What’s more, paying with a charge card has added benefits: Some companies offer perks like frequent-flier points.
- Copy that. Business travelers should always expect the unexpected, especially when going abroad. Instruct employees to leave a photocopy of their passport and itinerary at home or with a friend at the office. Why? If they lose their documents, a friend or family member can send copies overseas to embassy officials.
- Carry backup. The likelihood of losing business-related files or even a laptop increases exponentially on the road. That’s why it’s essential to back up critical files. Encourage travelers to store business documents on multiple devices and in multiple locations, including laptop hard drives, flash drives, and CDs. You can never have too much backup.
- Stay healthy. Business travel can throw employees out of their routine. It’s all too easy to ignore exercise and eat exclusively fast food. It doesn’t help that business travelers sit around most of the time, either at the airport, on the plane, or in meetings. Encourage your employees to pack a healthy meal on the days they’re in transit. It’s a lot better than wolfing down a dry burger at the airport food court. If possible, book business travelers at a hotel with a gym or swimming pool. These days, most hotels have beefed up their exercise facilities and offer everything from yoga classes to Pilates machines.
- Travel light. Suggest that business travelers pack everything they need in a single carry-on, if they can. You’ll save your company about $20 for every bag that goes unchecked, which can quickly add up. What’s more, lost luggage is still a big problem, as is the looting of luggage by baggage handlers. It’s always better to arrive at a destination with something rather than nothing — even if it means leaving those really cool ostrich-skin boots at home. If you forget something truly important, you can always dash over to the nearest shopping mall for a replacement. Of course, tech gear is a little more expensive than a pair of long underwear; so remind travelers to pack everything they need to do the job, including cellphone chargers and laptop power cords.
Tom Stein has contributed to leading business and general interest publications including Wired Magazine, Business 2.0, Venture Capital Journal, and Tennis Magazine. Previously, he held staff-writer positions at the San Francisco Chronicle, Red Herring, and InformationWeek. He also was a senior editor at Success Magazine, where he covered some of the most unusual and utterly unique entrepreneurial companies in the world.