Traveling for work seems glamorous on the surface.
You’ve got free flights, time out of the office, and your company is paying for (almost) everything.
Who wouldn’t want that?
But anyone who’s actually taken a business trip knows there’s another side to this coin. Between the red-eye flights, working remotely, and juggling back-to-back meetings and events – it’s exhausting.
Well, it can be.
The savviest business travelers know the importance of time management, efficient packing, and trip planning that allows you to squeeze in some exploration without missing a single meeting (all while still getting enough sleep).
If you’re a first-time business traveler, here’s how you can still bring your A-game and see more of the world at the same time!
Tips for Your First Time Traveling For Work
Know Your Company’s Travel Policy Like The Back of Your Hand
The secret weapon in your business travel toolkit? Memorizing your company’s travel policy.
Why? Well, for two important reasons:
- If you’re clueless about what is allowed, you could be leaving some serious business travel perks on the table.
- If you’re clueless about what isn’t allowed, you might have an unexpected deduction on your paycheck next month.
Before your first work trip, take the time to review your company’s travel policy word for word and note anything crucial that you’ll need to remember as you begin to pack your bags.
By the time you’re done familiarizing yourself with your policy, you should know things like:
- Your per diem for travel days (i.e., do you get a flat amount for expenses, or a unique budget per item, like breakfasts, lunches, dinners by yourself or with clients, and transportation?).
- Whether or not you need receipts (physical or a scanned copy) for purchases.
- What expenses are up for reimbursement (e.g., will your company cover your visa application fee? Your rental car? Your checked bag?)
- The deadlines for submitting expense reports.
- How much can you spend per night on a hotel room? Does it need to be a specific hotel or hotel chain? Can you use an alternative accommodation like Airbnb or VRBO?
- Can you use your frequent flyer number to collect flight miles? Does it need to be a specific airline?
- Can you use your own credit card or is there a company card?
What happens if your company’s travel policy isn’t super clear on the above? Set up some time with HR and/or your boss to go over these details and address any lingering questions you might have.
Doing so will help prevent any surprise expenses before, during, and after a work trip.
Tip: Use an app like Mint.com to track all your expenses and take pictures of every single receipt you get as soon as you’re handed it, just in case you lose any!
Book The Right Hotel
Booking a hotel room seems pretty basic, right?
Hop onto a site like Booking.com, put in your budget range, select the “I’m traveling for work” box (which allows you to filter for key amenities like free wifi or included breakfast), and you’re done.
Well… it’s not that easy.
When traveling for work to a new city, other factors that you can’t always control come into play.
First of all, you might be limited to a specific hotel or hotel chain your company has a negotiated agreement and special rate with, which means you won’t have a choice as to where you stay. However, if your company doesn’t have a specific hotel requirement, you have to make sure to familiarize yourself with the city and the surroundings using Google Maps. The worst thing you could do is accidentally choose a hotel far away or in an unsafe neighborhood.
To avoid this, figure out where your meetings or work obligations will be, and try your best to book a hotel room as close as possible to it.
You might have to pay more for a hotel with a convenient location, which will no doubt save you travel time and the stress of navigating a new city. But keep in mind that more expensive accommodations should be discussed with your company in case they fall outside of the suggested hotel budget listed in their travel policy.
What if you’re not the one booking your hotel room? Speak to the person in charge of corporate travel at your company and give them a list of your preferences, such as:
- Walking/driving distance to the location(s) you need to visit for work
- Amenities like reliable wifi, secure parking, a business center, etc.
- Desired neighborhood preferences
- Hotel policy and procedure for booking with a card that is not in your name
Give Yourself Enough Time for the Unexpected
Whether you’re traveling for work or pleasure, you need to expect the unexpected.
- Flights can get canceled or delayed.
- Traffic delays can prevent you from getting to a meeting on time.
- The airline could lose your bags in transit.
While these scenarios may be out of your control, you can give yourself a bit more breathing room to react and recover by doing these things:
- Instead of flying into the city the same day as your meeting, fly in the night before.
- If you’ve booked a red-eye flight, try to give yourself enough time to catch up on sleep before your first meeting.
- Driving to your meeting? Give yourself a bit more time in case traffic is bad or parking is difficult.
- Book a direct flight whenever possible. It will help you avoid missing connections and get you to your destination more quickly.
By following these tips, you’ll arrive on time, feel fully rested, and be stress-free so you can perform at your best!
Plan Your Sightseeing AFTER Important Meetings
If you’re a long-time reader, you’ll know I’m all about maximizing my work trips by using them to help me explore more of the world.
While work travel isn’t a vacation, if you’re smart with your time and plan ahead, you can squeeze in a weekend trip or quick adventure by simply extending your business trip by an extra day or two.
The trick here is to always plan your sightseeing after your meetings or when the conference you’re attending has ended. Give yourself the time to solely focus on your work so you can show up and be 100% focused on the tasks at hand.
Then, when work is over, reward yourself!
Just don’t go too crazy with your itinerary. Give yourself ample time to explore without rushing, and keep your sight-seeing goals reasonable, because exploring after work trips usually doesn’t leave you with as much time as if you were just going on vacation.
I promise if you dial back a bit, you’ll enjoy the whole experience more, and you’ll have some time to reset before you’re back at work.
And who knows? You could stumble onto a gem you didn’t know about and would have missed if you stuck to a super rigid itinerary.
Don’t Ditch Your Healthy Eating & Workout Habits
When you travel, it’s easy to accidentally skip a meal here or there with all the running around, or order a super decadent meal because it’s quick and easy (and you’re likely not paying for it).
While indulging in fast food and networking cocktails is all fine and well (and often comes with the territory of entertaining clients and attending events), moderation is key – especially if you’re on the go often!
As a business traveler, you need to fuel your body with things that will make you feel good and maintain your energy levels whenever possible. If you don’t, you might feel sluggish in meetings, and your motivation will plummet before the end of the day, making it hard to concentrate and do your job.
Here are my tips for staying healthy while on the road:
- Don’t skip breakfast. You need to give your body enough energy to last throughout the day, and breakfast is especially important if you’re normally a breakfast eater when you’re home. When ordering your meal, choose something like granola and yogurt, or eggs and turkey bacon, instead of a pastry. Sugary treats don’t give you long-term energy, and you’ll crash from your high before it’s time for lunch.
- Stay hydrated. I always travel with a reusable water bottle, and I bring it wherever I go throughout the day. Lots of conference setups will typically have water refill stations anyway, and you can feel good about skipping the unnecessary plastic if you’ve already brought your own.
- Keep snacks in your bag. Not all airline food is great, and some meetings mentally drain you before lunchtime. Keep a few snacks like protein bars in your bag to munch on throughout your business trip. It will keep you satiated and stop you from spending money on overpriced airport food.
- Research nearby cafes and restaurants. You’re less likely to opt for some Taco Bell if you have a list of healthy eating options at your fingertips. Before your work trip, spend some time researching nearby eateries with healthier menu options for lunches and dinners on the days you don’t have work commitments.
- Try not to skip workouts. Before you start the day, a solid workout can clear your mind, help you sleep better, and keep your fitness goals on track. If your hotel comes with a gym, use it. If it doesn’t, log onto YouTube or turn to pretty much any online bodyweight-only workout program.
Pace Yourself at Work Events
When you’re having after-work drinks in a new city, it’s tempting to have more than one.
That’s totally cool, but remember – alcohol and a good night’s rest don’t mix.
It’s long been said that the effects of alcohol significantly reduce the quality of sleep and the amount of time spent in REM.
REM is a mentally restorative type of sleep, and when you’re traveling for work, you want to maximize your time there as much as possible.
I know when I’m away on a business trip, my days are usually packed with back-to-back meetings. The only way I can get through those days is by having a good 7-hour sleep and keeping my night outs short and to a minimum.
If your meetings are out of the way though, by all means, treat yourself on the last night in a new city!
Packing for Business Travel Tips
To end things off, here are some quick packing tips to always keep in mind as a corporate traveler:
- Try to stick to carry on only when possible
- Invest in a sharp-looking purse or tote that can be used both for travel and for meetings
- Pack any items you need to help you fall asleep faster (eye masks, melatonin, earplugs, etc.)
- Pack clothes that don’t wrinkle easily
- Use garment bags to help keep items wrinkle-free, and shoe bags to avoid accidentally dirtying your clothes
- Bring back-ups of important meeting resources (have copies of your presentation on a USB or Google Drive, pack extra business cards, etc)
Business Travel FAQ
- Can I deduct my business travel expenses? Yes, you can. However, you need to check with your employer or whoever helps you with your taxes to confirm what is and isn’t covered.
- What business jobs allow you to travel? In most industries, sales reps and client-facing contributors usually travel the most to attend client meetings and build up relationships. But, all kinds of career paths can have travel perks. Marketers often attend conferences and set up events, specialists in various fields have their annual trade shows, and consultants often hop on planes to visit their customers in person. Looking for something more remote with added travel flexibility? Consider one of these 18 careers that you can do 100% remotely from anywhere in the world.
- What is good business travel etiquette? Good business travel etiquette is observing and practicing cultural and social norms and representing your personal brand and your company’s with poise wherever you go. It also includes the same principles you’d follow when in the office – showing up on time, preparing your notes, dressing appropriately, and treating your colleagues with respect.
- What is business travel accident insurance? Business travel insurance is a plan that protects employees who travel for work domestically or internationally. It usually covers occupational and non-occupational accidents and health cover while traveling on company business. Consult your travel policy or ask your employer if this will be available to you when you travel.
If you’ve traveled for work, what are your top tips for first-time business travelers? If you haven’t, tell me below where you’re headed!
Read This Next:
- 9 Tips for Working While Traveling and Staying Productive
- Where Traveling for Work Meets Actually Enjoying Yourself: How Cambria Hotels Cater to Business Travelers
- How to Prevent Burnout When Traveling for Work: 5 Tips
- 6 Tips For Embracing the Work From Home Lifestyle
- How to Stay in the Zone When You Work From Home