So you nailed the interview and got the job. Your first month has gone swimmingly. But now you are being handed the ultimate responsibility of going on your first official business trip. Eek!
The idea of traveling for work, whether for a client meeting or a trade show, can be both exciting and a little daunting.
And despite the perks of being able to travel on someone else’s dime, either overseas or in state, business travel can be a tiring, lonely, and stressful experience. So here are some helpful tips for making your first trip for work a complete success.
Set an out-of-office alert for your email
Set up an autoreply email, so colleagues and clients are aware that you’ll be out of town. (Photo: shehan peruma/Flickr)
From having your phone on airplane mode to being occupied in meetings or exhibitions, being “out of town” means that you might not have the time to be as responsive in your communication as when you are in the office. The polite thing to do is to set up an out-of-office email response to inform your clients and colleagues that you are currently unavailable but will strive to get back to them in a timely manner. You can also suggest a secondary person or alternative contact information in case of an urgent matter.
Know the dress code
Make sure to pack business-appropriate attire for your trip. (Photo: Getty Images)
Unless given a specific dress code, always assume that you should be in business attire appropriate for your given field. Even in downtime, you are still representing your employer, so keep casual clothing smart and muted. You don’t want to be remembered for your colorful clothing choices as opposed to your professional demeanor or work ethic.
Learn how to pack light
Invest in a good carry-on suitcase never have to worry about your luggage (and your good suits) getting lost. (Photo: Stalman & Boniecka/Stocksy)
Losing your luggage is always a nightmare and can waste hours of your precious time as you wait in line at the airline baggage desk and fill out a mountain of claim forms. To avoid this issue, you should avoid checking baggage at all costs. Invest in a good rolling carry-on bag and learn how to pack light. You can use a hotel’s laundry facilities to refresh your wardrobe and plan your attire for each occasion in advance.
Organizing expert Julie Morgenstern suggests making lists ahead of time for everything you might need for different types of trips.
“Keep them in your suitcase so they are easy to access,” she advises. “And edit them each time you travel with things you don’t need or wish you had packed.”
Consider potential health risks
Talk to your doctor about any immunizations you might need or other potential health risks. (Photo: Sean Locke/Stocksy)
Airplanes are breeding grounds for germs, and with foreign destinations come foreign food and foreign water. All of these create potential health risks. For overseas travel, always check with your doctor about the need for any vaccinations, and read up on any advisories on water- or food-borne illnesses that may be prevalent in your host country.
Prepare for lots of alone time
Business travel can mean many hours spent alone in a hotel room. (Photo: Julien L. Balmer)
Loneliness is inevitable when having to spend nights alone in a hotel room (which may or may not be of any decent standard). And being lonely can negatively affect your overall experience. Business travelers may spend many an evening eating or drinking solo in restaurants and hotel bars. Being away from friends, family, and the creature comforts of home can be difficult. To make these experiences more enjoyable, you can set up Skype or FaceTime chats with people at home during your downtime. Choose restaurants that are more casual in style, and take a book or a tablet with you so that you can read while you eat. (This wouldn’t be appropriate in a fancy dining establishment, and make sure to check local customs regarding what is considered polite.)
Delays happen, so plan ahead and avoid scheduling things too close together. (Photo: Simone Becchetti/Stocksy)
Travel delays are inevitable and out of your control. Always give yourself extra time as a buffer to minimize their impact on your trip. Tell colleagues or clients you may be meeting at your destination about any delays as soon as possible. And always keep a list of important phone numbers and addresses on hand for quick reference.
You will be tired
Business travel can be hectic and utterly exhausting. Try to take advantage and grab some sleep on the plane. (Photo: Getty Images)
With travel time, jet lag, and long hours working — and maybe even mandatory social engagements taking up the rest of your time — you can bet that you’ll be pretty darned tired. So how do you deal with fatigue and stay on your A game? Use the chance to sleep when it arises. Take advantage of your time on the plane, and try to stay at a hotel that is close to where you will be working to minimize travel time and maximize those z’s. Make sure you have access to healthy snacks and meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugar balanced, and slip some instant-coffee packets into your bag for a quick pick-me-up if needed.
Don’t drink too much
Drinking and flying are a poor combo. (Photo: Patrick Lauke/Flickr)
Having a couple of drinks is fine, but being drunk while on the clock is not. And being hung over during daily work activities while on a business trip does not make the best impression. Even during social activities, set yourself a two-drink maximum and stick to it. There is nothing worse than waking up thinking you embarrassed yourself in front of a bunch of new work colleagues or (even worse) clients.
In-flight drinking is also a big no-no. “Drinking on an aircraft is a terrible idea,” advises travel expert Joe Brancatelli. “Given the reality of the in-flight environment, alcohol has a much greater effect and affects you faster. Some studies show two drinks actually equals four when you are onboard.”
Arriving at your destination drunk not only is unprofessional but also could be deemed gross misconduct by your employer. So consider this before you imbibe.
Prepare for cultural differences
Look up local traditions and customs in advance to avoid making a cultural faux pas. (Photo: Getty Images)
This should be considered for both domestic and international travel. There are some big differences between New York and the South, or California and the Midwest.
“Do your homework about your destination,” suggests Brancatelli. “Research local customs and idioms. Simple things that might not even seem important can differ greatly from state to state or country to country.”
Conventions for ordering in a restaurant or politely greeting people can vary by locale.
“These can be confusing and disorienting. This affects your business equilibrium,” Brancatelli continues. “It is also good to remember that not everyone in the world speaks English. Learning the basics — hello, goodbye, please, thank you — can go a long way.”
He advises consulting the Just Enough Phrasebook Series, which provides the basics in various languages and is available on Amazon.
Use any free time well
Make the most of your free time and hit up local restaurants and attractions. (Photo: Aleksandra Jankovic/Stocksy)
To make the most of being in your new, foreign location, use your free time to explore local attractions. Whether you try a highly rated restaurant nearby, a local art exhibition, or a tour of landmarks, a business trip can quickly become a mini vacation.