We all know the importance of good preparation before we travel. Family holidays often involve triple checking passports, hotel and car rental bookings, boarding passes and that all the children are in tow (avoiding a real-life Home Alone moment). But what about when we’re travelling for business? Do you need to make all your reservations, or will someone take care of that for you? Do you need some extra items you don’t normally take on a leisurely break?
We’re all familiar with the phrase ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’. This certainly rings true for all travel arrangements, but there are a few additional things to take into account when travelling for business. Whether you’re a first-time business traveller or a well-seasoned pro, preparing for your work-related trip will ensure you aren’t dubbed the colleague that was late for the all-important meeting or missed their flight altogether! Once you know how to prepare for business travel, planning a trip will no longer seem so daunting.
6 easy steps for planning a successful business trip
Planning a business trip for the first time can seem like a monumental task, with hotels and transport, meeting itineraries and the potential need for visas. Following a few simple tasks will make planning easier and take the stress out of preparing for your next work trip.
Plan your accommodation and transport
If you have the gift of time on your side when planning your business trip, it’s worth booking accommodation and transport as far in advance as possible. The closer to your travel dates that you book, the more expensive and the more limited your options become. This will also ensure that, if there are limited options available, you don’t miss out on the dates you need.
Arrange business travel insurance
As soon as you’ve booked flights, accommodation and rental cars, you should arrange business travel insurance
. This will ensure you are protected for things like cancellation, medical incidents or theft of personal belongings.
Arrange any visas or permits
Once you’ve made all the necessary bookings, ensure you apply for any visas or work permits required for your destination as soon as possible. These can sometimes take a month or more for approval or appointments for applications can be booked out for weeks in advance. Don’t leave it to the last minute, as you can be denied boarding if you don’t have the correct documentation. This article from Transferwise
details the various procedures for obtaining visas and permits in several countries.
Map out your itinerary
A clear itinerary will not only let you know where you need to be and when but will keep you organised throughout your trip. If possible, build in a little free time for yourself to explore your destination or just some time to relax at the end of the day to avoid burnout. Also, give yourself plenty of time between meetings to account for making your way around a new location, as you might have to use unfamiliar public transport systems.
Organise your documents
Keep all of your documents together, before you depart and while you are away. This will reduce the risk of lost bookings, misplaced passports and the stress that comes with it. A document wallet for all physical items and digital copies should have you covered.
Less is more, or so they say. Pack only the essentials and leave the rest. This way you can avoid check-in queues, waiting at the carousel at your destination and you have the reassurance that your possessions are with you at all times, so you know they’re in good hands. When it comes to clothes, think about dark-coloured lightweight business attire that doesn’t crease too easily.
Tips for quickly preparing for a last-minute business trip
Sometimes we don’t have the luxury of time when planning travel for business. Meetings can be called at the last minute, you might need to fill in for a poorly colleague, or you might have to travel in person to handle some crisis management in another office.
No matter what the reason, it’s helpful to know how to pull together everything you need for a business excursion at the eleventh hour.
- Keep your passport up to date and ensure you have a few blank pages in case they’re required for visas.
- Book flights, hotels and car rental online. Using aggregators such as skyscanner and booking.com can help you find a good deal when booking last minute.
- Pull together an itinerary and share with colleagues, your boss or anyone else who might need to be involved or reach you while you’re away.
- Ensure you have access to more than one credit card in case there are payment issues abroad.
- Consider using a travel agent if you don’t have time to make the travel arrangements yourself, so you can focus on your requirements for the business side and leave the travel planning to the experts.
We’re fortunate to have access to almost everything online these days. Whether you’ve received a call in the middle of the night and need to be somewhere tomorrow or just want to review your options, almost every element of your business travel can be booked and managed online, from booking a hire car or hotel to checking in at the airport.
How do I prepare for an overseas business trip?
Most of the principles of planning for domestic business travel such as hotels and transport apply to international business trips, but there are also a few additional considerations when heading overseas for work.
When crossing international borders you will almost certainly require a passport and, on occasion, a visa to travel to your destination. You may also have more questions. What should I bring for an international business trip? Will I have access to phone or internet connections? These are all things that differ between domestic and international travel, which is why planning for an international trip needs a little more attention to ensure nothing stops you from reaching that all-important meeting or seminar.
Important for any international travel, whether business or leisure, you’ll need a passport to enter another country. Some countries require you to have six months validity remaining on your passport from the date you are due to depart, so ensuring your passport always meets this requirement is key, especially when last-minute trips don’t leave time to arrange a new one. It’s also worth noting that in order to enter certain countries with visa requirements, you need one or more blank pages in your passport. If you’re well travelled and have been busy collecting stamps, it’s worth keeping in mind.
Visa or Work Permit
Depending on your nationality and where you are travelling, you may need to apply for a visa or work permit for business-related travel. Various countries have different rules
about what is considered ‘business’ for visa purposes, so checking the specifications for the correct visa before applying is important.
Visas are available in a number of formats, including e-visas which are applied for and granted online, postal or in-person application and some are granted on arrival. There are also countries which operate visa waiver programs
for citizens of specific countries, such as the United States. In this case, you may be required to still register for travel online before entry can be granted, and this should be done before leaving your country of origin.
Some visas can also take a considerable amount of time to acquire. While in many cases there is an option to pay an additional fee to expedite your application, this isn’t always the case. So giving yourself plenty of time to apply and receive your visa is important.
Connectivity - Wifi and phone service
In the digital age with so much work completed online, via email and over the phone, it’s little wonder connectivity is a key factor when travelling for business. A reliable wifi connection is invaluable when on the road, especially if the work you are completing abroad needs to include other team members who aren’t there.
Pocket wifi or portable wireless hotspots are available for international travellers and provide access to local 4G connections. With rates significantly cheaper than using the global roaming and hotspot on your smartphone, these are a great option for those who have limited access to wifi when away. It’s also much more reliable than hoping for quality connections in cafes and at airports where they can be notoriously patchy.
If you’re travelling in Europe and are using a UK sim, your provider should enable you to use your phone within EU countries at no additional cost, with a number of plans including calls, text and data. You should also check that global roaming has been enabled before you jet off. There’s nothing worse than arriving at your destination only to discover you can’t reach anyone.
The local dress code
Depending on where your work takes you, you might find yourself in a country where the dress code differs from your own. Ensure you investigate what is considered acceptable attire in your destination, and any other customs or local traditions that should be kept in mind to be respectful of the culture.
How to make travelling and surviving long business trips easier
There are a few things that will make your business trip much simpler, which means you can travel relatively stress-free and enjoy working from a new environment.
For shorter trips, pack as light as possible and ideally with carry-on luggage only. Not only will it save your arms from dragging a heavy suitcase behind you but it will save you time and hassle at check-in. Pack only the essentials, choose travel-sized toiletries, and invest in a sturdy hand luggage-sized case that will last you for years to come. Another advantage of only packing hand luggage is you eliminate the risk of important belongings being damaged or lost. There’s nothing worse than arriving at your destination, only to discover your bag didn’t.
Give yourself time
Sprinting through the terminal to your gate just before it closes isn’t exactly a great start to your business trip. Build plenty of time into your schedule to ensure you can move through the airport and between meetings at a leisurely pace. This is especially important when you are in locations you are unfamiliar with, as navigating new cities can be confusing. This will take the stress out of the situation and may even afford you some time to see the local sights.
Keep all your travel documents safe
Losing your passport or another key travel document is nobody’s idea of fun, so keeping a check on all your essential travel documents is a must. Organise your documents in a wallet or folder, and make use of a passport holder that is easily stowed in your bag when travelling or in a hotel safe during your stay.
Make use of Airbnb or apartment rentals
Travelling for a short business trip can mean a whirlwind tour of your destination, but what about when you’ve got more time away from home? While eating out and hotel service can all be convenient, the novelty can soon wear off.
If small hotel rooms make you feel a little claustrophobic, why not look into renting an Airbnb or self-contained apartment for your stay? This will offer you the luxury of more space and a kitchen to cook your own meals, which can often be a creature comfort after endless takeaway dinners. After days full of back-to-back meetings retreating to your own space to unwind can also be exactly what you need to recharge for the next day. Additionally, it can save your company money on hotel and dining costs, which can quickly mount up.
Stay connected to home
It’s also important to stay connected with loved ones if you’ve been stationed somewhere else for an extended period of time. Organise a time to chat or Skype with loved ones, so you don’t feel like you’re missing out with what’s going on at home. And remember there might be time differences to take into account.
Do I need business travel insurance?
With everything else planned and booked, you should ensure you’ve purchased business travel insurance to cover you and your employees so you can get on with doing your best work.
Insurance policies offer protection for companies and their employees when travelling for work whether domestically or internationally, and include coverage for medical, political evacuation, baggage, possessions and personal money.
Booking business travel insurance is not only advisable but a legal obligation for companies with staff working abroad. Taking out an insurance policy as soon as bookings have been made ensures you’re covered before anyone has even made it to the terminal – especially important when cancellations are non-refundable.
Get a quote from Insurance Choice today for group business travel insurance
so that you and your colleagues can travel with confidence.