Business trips account for 16% of all long-distance travel. Each year, Americans alone take more than 405 million long-distance business trips.
And with all of those miles traveled, any professional who regularly travels for business will tell you that planning is key for a successful, non-stressful trip.
In this post, you’re going to learn the basics of traveling for business. If you’re an experienced business traveler or seasoned travel manager, this article is a valuable resource to share with others. New teammates and employees will find it helpful as they take their first steps into the fast-paced world of corporate business travel.
Do you have a teammate or sales staff member who’s a bit ‘green around the gills?’ This post will serve as an excellent checklist to help them grasp the basics before ever stepping foot into the airport terminal.
9 Things To Remember When Traveling For Business
Here are some things to remember while planning, packing, and traveling for your job:
1. Find Out Who’s Responsible for Booking Travel and Lodging
First things first:
You’re either excited or trepidatious about the prospect of traveling for work.
Whether you’re traveling for a corporate conference or an out-of-state construction gig, slowing down and learning the ropes is going to be important.
And this means learning your company’s travel policy to find out who handles the booking process.
You should have answers to questions like:
- Are you supposed to choose the hotel room, or does your travel manager/sales manager/foreman do it?
- Will you need to book air travel and car rentals, or does management handle it?
- Should you always fly economy, or will your company’s travel program spring for perks and upgrades (like first class)?
- Will you get a per diem or corporate credit card for travel expenses, or will you cover the costs yourself and get reimbursed later?
Your company likely has a travel policy and will be able to answer any question you might have.
And regardless of whether this is a once-in-a-while thing or you’re becoming a frequent business traveler, it’s going to be in your best interest to learn these policies inside and out to keep things streamlined for both you and your company.
2. Start Preparing for Your Trip ASAP
A lot of first-time business travelers wait until the last minute to start getting ready for their trips.
Rest assured, this is NOT what you want to do.
Whether you’re traveling with a construction crew to New York City or attending a sales conference in Vegas, preparation is the key to a successful and stress-free trip.
Here are a few business travel tips to help:
- Leave early to account for delays related to the coronavirus pandemic or other travel hazards..
- Get to the TSA way ahead of schedule.
- Double-check your check-in times to make sure that your itinerary is solid, and give yourself extra time to arrive before any major event.
- If you want to have some fun and turn this into a “bleisure” trip, research day trips before leaving.
- If you need to make a cancellation, do it earlier rather than later. You don’t want to accidentally miss the deadline and have to pay a late fee.
3. Pack Appropriately
When packing for a business trip, it’s best to take a minimalistic approach (while making sure you have everything you need).
Unless you’re leaving for a month or more, limit yourself to carry-on bags, and only bring the essentials.
- Work clothes
- Travel clothes
- Items to help you sleep (hotels can be noisy)
- Shoes for every occasion (work shoes, walking shoes, etc.)
… and don’t forget your chargers!
If you end up needing something out of the ordinary, there are probably stores at your destination, and you can buy it there. So, only pack the essentials. If you try to pack for absolutely every potential situation, you’re probably going to end up packing too much.
4. How to Handle Per Diem and Expenses
As a general rule, you should familiarize yourself with how your company handles things like per diem, expenses, reimbursements, and receipts.
On our blog page, we have a detailed guide to corporate travel budgets and reimbursement policies. Read that for a basic introduction to the subject.
But, it’s even more important to talk to your leadership or management about your responsibilities when it comes to reserving rooms, renting cars, booking flights, etc.
What Qualifies as a Business Travel Expense?
According to the IRS, business travel expenses are ordinary and necessary expenses incurred when traveling away from home for your business, job, or profession.
Of course, there are different ways to handle record-keeping for business travel expenses, and this is something that you’ll need to talk to your managers about.
Who Pays for Upgrades on Business Trips?
Once again, this depends on how your company decides to allocate funds for travel expenses.
If you’re going to get per diem, for example, you’re free to use a travel booking platform to book yourself either less-expensive rooms in hotel chains or upgrade those rooms to ritzy business suites.
With that being said, some companies use different methods for booking rooms and building travel itineraries. In some cases, you may not be able to choose your own upgrades without management signing off on the decision.
Can You Put ‘Fun Stuff’ on the Company Tab?
Once again, it really comes down to your company’s policy.
Sometimes, you’ll get a per diem.
But this all depends on your company and how (or if) they allocate funds for leisure purposes.
5. Sort Out Travel Insurance Before Your Trip
Travel insurance is basically insurance that covers any costs or losses associated with travel.
This includes coverage for emergency medical/healthcare benefits.
According to a survey conducted by the insurance company Battleface, almost 50% of Americans have had to absorb fees, costs, and losses associated with travel because they were uninsured.
Who Pays for Travel Insurance?
Generally, it goes one of two ways:
- The employer pays for travel coverage upfront.
- Employees source coverage on a per-trip basis and get reimbursed by the company after the fact.
In either case, the company usually pays for their employees’ travel insurance.
6. Care for Your Physical Health
The financial, business, and logistical aspects of business travel are important.
But, your health is just as important. Staying healthy will keep you happy and productive for the duration of your tip (and after). But this can be hard to do on the road!
Here are some tips to help you keep your body healthy while traveling for the company:
Mind Your Diet
Ordering out is fast, easy, and usually affordable, but it’s NOT always healthy. Skip the fast food and try to eat a balanced diet while you’re away.
While traveling, you may spend long periods of time sitting — in the car, plane, meetings, etc.
For best results, find at least 20 to 30 minutes every day to get some exercise. Even a brisk walk, a swim, or a workout in the hotel gym is beneficial.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Jetlag and other issues can keep you from getting enough sleep. But sleep is an essential pillar of health and wellness.
7. And Your Mental Health!
Caring for your mental health is just as important as caring for your physical health.
Did you know that over one-third of American business travelers feel more stressed than usual while traveling?
Between hectic schedules and the pressure to stay ‘on,’ business travelers can easily succumb to stress, anxiety, and depression.
Here are some tips to help you care for your mental health while traveling for business:
Stick to Your Itinerary
The closer you stick to the schedule, the less time-related/hectic stress you’ll end up suffering from.
Just as with physical health, these next two points make a difference. Make sure to eat a healthy breakfast every morning before getting right to work. It will help you to start the day right — both physically and mentally.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep is closely linked to mental health. A lack of sleep puts you at an increased risk of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, so make sure to get plenty of shuteye.
Schedule Relaxation Time
Find time during the day to de-stress. Try stepping away from work for a few minutes every few hours to stretch, meditate, write in your journal, or take a walk.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
If you tend to be a perfectionist or stress out about things that you can’t control, try to remind yourself that you can only do so much. Some things are just out of your hands, and letting those things go is one of the best ways to avoid burnout.
8. Get Your Business Done Before Doing Fun Stuff
When traveling for work, it’s easy to get wrapped up in all of the fun things you plan to do. But don’t get so wrapped up in these things that you neglect the purpose of your trip.
You’ll enjoy your downtime a lot more if you know you’ve handled all of your responsibilities.
You’ll simply enjoy the fun parts more if you go ahead and get the work out of the way before moving on to the more leisurely parts of the trip.
9. Keep Safety and Risk Management at the Forefront of Your Mind
Whenever you travel, there’s a risk that bad things can happen.
Risk management, therefore, is incredibly important to business travel.
Staying safe is the #1 goal.
It’s crucial to be aware and vigilant about what types of things can go wrong and what types of dangers you may encounter while on the road.
For instance, stay updated on the weather forecast to avoid the risk of driving or being caught outside in adverse weather conditions. Also, bring a backup phone battery and charge it overnight so that it’s always working.
It’s likely that your trip is going to be fun and productive, but it’s always good to take precautions and do what you can to manage risks.
Bonus: Enjoy the Journey
Alright. At this point, you’ve heard a lot about crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s while traveling for business.
But never forget that one of the most important steps of any trip is to have fun.
There’s an immense amount of adventure and fulfillment to be found while traveling — even if it’s for work.
So don’t pass up this opportunity to make the most of it.
Have fun! You deserve it!
Here are some other articles you might find valuable:
At the end of the day, there’s no better way to work than to do it on the move.
Now, equipped with all this helpful information, it’s time to get out there and change the world.