The prospect of business travel, for many, is the most appealing part of a job description. After all, nothing beats visiting places the world over and not spending a cent.
However, unlike leisure travel, where you can afford to be flexible with your schedule should something go wrong, a business trip has to go like clockwork. Mistakes and delays can be very costly not only to traveling executives, but to their companies as well.
That being said, many of the problems you're likely to encounter on a business trip are fairly common and can be mitigated with some planning and plain old common sense. In fact, there are quite a few tools and techniques available to make your next business trip as smooth as possible.
Here are four common issues you are likely to encounter on your next trip, and how to make sure they don’t get in the way of the business you've set out to conduct.
Get a clear picture of your trip
Knowing what the trip ahead will look like is just about the biggest pain-point for first-time and experienced business travelers alike. To make sure there are no unforeseen incidents down the line, you should start preparing for your trip as soon as it's been assigned or decided on. At the very least, start preparing a month before departure, if not earlier.
Route-planning tools such as Routeperfect, Roadtrippers and Tripit can be used to create a travel itinerary. Each of these tools has a useful content section, detailing various activities you can try out and what to watch out for when you visit foreign places.
Importantly, your travel plans should follow your business goals. If your trip calls for multiple appointments, then it's best to make sure they are scheduled such that you have ample time to move around, freshen up and prepare for the next meeting. Ideally, the places where you decide to meet your business appointments should be easily accessible to both of you.
Finally, learn as much about the place(s) you are visiting as possible. Domestic visits need to be planned differently from international travels. In the latter case, it’s best to go beyond the usual travel itinerary and learn more about a place’s customs and protocols so that you don't end up unwittingly offending your hosts.
Anticipate and track your expenses
Before starting out, make sure you clarify what your company’s travel expense policies are. Many companies reimburse common travel costs such as tickets, hotel, food and local transport. You might find this information in your company handbook; or talk to your manager to understand what isn't and isn't paid for.
Your company might have also partnered with certain chains in cities to reduce costs. You can ask for a list of preferred service providers in the city you are visiting and contact them to get a better idea of what to expect when you get there.
While your manager will tell you to hang on to those receipts, that's easier said than done. All too often, people misplace important documents when they are strapped for time. To make sure this doesn’t happen, use mobile apps such as Mint and Expensify to keep track of your spendings. These tools' features can automate much of your recordkeeping by logging in purchases made through credit cards, and by tracking expenses and generating reports.
Manage your appointments on your business trip
While getting around and tracking expenses are the most discussed topics on traveling, let’s not forget why you are there -- to meet with those important business reps. Scheduling appointments during a business trip can get very tricky very fast, especially if Excel, email or pen and paper are all you're using.
Not that there's anything wrong with those mediums. But your emphasis should be on not only organizing your meetings thoughtfully, but keeping track of them and issuing yourself timely reminders. Since there is is a lot you need to remember when you set out on your travels, consider using a business meeting checklist to help you keep things on track.
Alternatively, you can also use appointment-scheduling apps to help keep things running smoothly. While simple ol’ Google Calendar will be a great fit here, power users might want to look into Calendly and Gigabook to help with their scheduling needs. All these tools allow for easy scheduling for multiple needs, from one-on-one meetings to group meetings; some let the invitee set up the appointment on your available dates.
Moving around once you're there
So, say you have an awesome travel plan laid out and are confident you can ace your meetings. That still leaves you with the challenge of navigating an alien city. Unless you have been there and done that, you will find yourself quickly overwhelmed, especially if you’re in a foreign country. Fear not, though! With some street smarts and a little help from technology, you can kiss your travel woes goodbye.
First, you'll need some understanding of the local language. Since it’s too late for a crash course, make a list of all the activities you will (probably) engage in and learn the most basic questions -- in the local language -- plus their answers, to help you with them. If you are a frequent traveler, you might even consider getting Google’s Pixel Buds or the offline language translator Ili. Both tools can hear a foreign language and translate it for you.
Traveling within the city need not be scary, either. It’s hard to find a place today that doesn’t have Uber or Ola taxi services. Even if there aren’t any such services, the suggestions above will suffice for communicating with taxi drivers.
Finally, anyone would want to save on data "roaming" charges in another city or country. This means that every time you switch on Google or Apple Maps, you will be coughing up a lot of money. To make sure you have information when you need it, consider a paper map and a good guidebook of the city.
Alternatively, offline GPS apps such as Sygic, Here or Maps.Me may be of great use, as they allow users to download maps of a country straight to their phone. The maps are not as detailed as their online counterparts, but the information there is usually more than enough.
Traveling, like most other skills in life, takes time and effort to master. The first few times you go out on a business trip, you'll be wise to take things slow and easy. Thorough research and mental preparation for the worst at all times will (hopefully) protect you from any unfortunate circumstances.
Then, make sure you enjoy your travels! The opportunity to make new friends in far-off places comes rarely. Take advantage of it, and bon voyage.