You’ve landed your first big corporate job and now your boss is sending you out on your first business trip abroad. Hooray! After all, traveling is one of the perks of the business world. Get ready to visit a new city, enjoy overstuffed pillows at a five-star hotel and mingle over cocktails until the wee hours. All on company dime, right?
That’s probably what your friends think you’ll be doing during your first business trip. The reality in today’s corporate world is much more mundane. Travel for work is not a vacation. With your first business trip comes a big responsibility. You’ll be representing the company. Getting nervous yet?
Whether you’re going on your first business trip, or you haven’t traveled for work in a while, the whole experience can be overwhelming, even before your leave the office. How do you make arrangements and bookings? What to pack? How do you report expenses?
Need some guidance? Take the stress out of your first business trip with this quick guide for newbies.
Before the trip
Preparing well in advance is the best strategy to a successful first business trip. Be organized and you’ll avoid many rookie mistakes – like staying in ‘slightly’ out-of-town hotels.
Know your company’s travel policy
Yes, this is the most boring aspect of traveling for work, but you need to know the rules before playing the business travel game. Any company that is serious about travel has established a series of rules to govern its travel. Don’t take them lightly because travel policy is the result of years of experience and negotiations with suppliers. Before you start any preparations, spend some time with these documents and ask your travel manager for clarifications. Not only will you learn about spend limits and how to book, but you’ll also learn about other important areas such as insurance coverages and reimbursements.
Do some research
How familiar are you with your destination? Every country is different and has a particular business etiquette. Travel to Spain and you’re in for a long, late lunch in which you may discuss business. While in cultural differences in some countries may lead to amusing misunderstandings, in others they can have a serious impact on your business relationship.
Check and double check your passport
Don’t forget to check if your passport is up-to-date. Some countries might enforce a six-month validity rule.
Book your stay early
Finding a place to stay can be a time-consuming task. Save up some time by using your company’s recommended booking channels. This ensures you’ll book within policy, not going over rate limits. Plus, if your company uses a tool like Hotelzon, you will also be able to quickly locate hotels near your destination.
Do you roll or fold?
Your first business trip is approaching and it’s time to pack your suitcase. This is where the fun starts. There are many tricks to pack like a pro, but just three main rules:
- Hand-luggage only
- Mix and match pieces for extra outfits
- Have toiletries ready in travel-sized package
On the trip
Have a plan…
Your first business trip will be successful and productive if you have a clear goal in mind. Clarify your objectives and determine what you need to do to achieve them. If your objective is to attend a conference and make new business connections, reserve some time to organize an ad-hoc meeting to strengthen those newly formed connections.
… But be flexible
No matter how solid your plan is, things can and will go wrong. Flight delays, long commutes, rescheduled meetings… Don’t overdo the agenda of your first business trip so you have free slots for last minute changes.
Eat and sleep right
The cocktail bar at the hotel is inviting, but with long days and hours on the road, business travel can derail your health. If your first business trip lasts several days, develop a routine to guarantee a good night’s sleep.
Make business connections
One of the major benefits of business travel is getting to leave your office —and the colleagues you see every day. You’re given the opportunity to meet new people and strengthen your network, so don’t be afraid of reaching out to people and introducing yourself.
Use your best judgment
When spending company dime, it’s easy to feel tempted to live a little. After all, someone else is picking up the tab. Don’t be greedy and keep your spending to a minimum. The way you handle your expenses will tell a lot about you as an employee. As a rule of thumb, don’t expense it if you wouldn’t buy with your own money.
Ask for and save all your receipts (or take pictures)
Keep meticulous track of your spending. This is the first step to completing your expense report and speed up the reimbursement process. Quick tip: take a picture of every receipt you’re given in case paper copies get lost during your trip.
Let your travel manager know about Hotelzon’s payment solutions. This is an easy way to implement an account-based solution to settle the hotel bill. Travelers will avoid collecting receipts or using a credit card to pay your hotel stay, enjoying faster checkouts and focusing on business.
Business travel feels a lot like, well… work. Don’t forget it can also be fun and exciting. Seize the opportunity to see brand new places, or try out new cuisines.
After the trip
Travel is over when you’re back home or at your office, but there are still a few things to do before wrapping up your first business trip.
Brief your teammates
Sharing is caring. If you attend a ground-breaking presentation, tell your colleagues about it and share your newly acquired knowledge. Some companies may even require this step before processing your expense report.
Filling out expense reports is no fun. Think about the fact that your company legitimately owes you money, so the sooner you file those reports, the sooner you’ll get your money back. If you collected all your receipts, half the work is already done.
Tell your travel manager what went right and what went wrong. This is critical information to adjust your company’s travel policy and guidelines.