19 Do’s and Don’ts of Your First Business Trip
tl;dr: There are a lot of surprising ways a business trip can go sideways — here’s a quick list to help set you up for success
Business trips are exciting opportunities to get out of the office, grow your company, and meet with people you don’t see every day. But, they can also be daunting. You’re forced to switch up your routine and adjust to travel-related obstacles on the fly.
If you’re facing the first business trip of your career, here are some guidelines for making it a successful one.
- Update your packing list
This isn’t a leisure trip, which means you can probably leave the bathing suit and flip flops at home. Make sure you find out beforehand what type of events your business trip will be comprised of, and be able to dress accordingly. You’re also likely to need materials from the office. Start making your packing list a week before departure and write down everything you will need for your meetings and events. Collect them at your desk, and don’t forget to bring them home the day before departure!
- Dress to impress
While on the road for business, you are the face of your company. Whether meeting with individual clients or attending a massive conference, you want to give off a positive first impression on behalf of your employer. Yes, this means you probably shouldn’t wear your pajamas down to breakfast if you’re staying in the same hotel as other clients or vendors.
- Set yourself up for remote work
To have access to company documents and resources while on the road, you’ll likely need VPN access to tap into your organization’s network. Don’t forget to get access to all of the accounts and assets that might be necessary during meetings or presentations.
- Try to get airline rewards points
Same goes with hotel loyalty points. Sometimes with business trips you have to go the extra mile to make sure you get on a certain airline or booked into a certain hotel, but if you have developed a strong loyalty to a specific provider, don’t be afraid to speak up.
- Book a hotel room for the night before you get there
Taking a red eye? Or even a crazy early flight before your meetings start up? Most hotels won’t let you check in until at least 3 pm. So if you want to be able to freshen up before getting down to work, it might be worth it to snag an extra night at the hotel just to have access to it when you arrive at the crack of dawn.
- Be able to communicate
Picture this: your airplane lands and you hop on your phone to reach out to the client you’re meeting up with. Only to realize you have to dig through your inbox to find the last email exchange you had with them...Not ideal. Collect and organize the contact information for everyone your meeting and traveling with to enable easy communication.
- Hope for the best, prepare for the worst
There is nothing worse then being blindsided by some preventable setback minutes before walking into a meeting. Especially if you’re on the clumsy-er side (read: likely to spill coffee all over yourself), make sure to toss in an extra shirt just in case. Bring sensible shoes for walking, as well as work appropriate kicks. And don’t forget the other essentials like business cards, notebook, pen, snacks, gum, and hand sanitizer.
- Know the ins and outs of your company’s travel policy
Do you know what expenses you can be reimbursed for? What about how much you can spend on each meal? What happens if there’s an emergency while you’re on the road? Read up on your organization’s travel policy for the answers to these important questions.
- Hang up your clothes immediately
Nothing looks less professional than a wrinkled outfit. Make sure to hang up your clothes ASAP upon arrival. If they’re still a little wrinkly when it’s almost time to get dressed, hotels will usually offer an iron and ironing board. If you’re short on time, hang the clothes in the bathroom while you shower and let the steam do its magic.
- Look up fun things to do in your destination
Every city or town has a variety of local hot spots, weekend events, or odd claims to fame. Figure out what your current destination has to offer, and suggest the idea to your coworkers as a fun way to fill gaps in the evenings.
- Have your company credit card info on hand
You might need it at the hotel or to treat clients to meals. And it’s much easier for everyone if you use a company card right off the bat rather than pay for expenses out of pocket and have to be reimbursed later.
- Hold onto your receipts
Your company will likely reimburse you for most of your expenses while on the road, so make sure to ask for and keep your receipts to track and report your spending. Make sure your expenses stay in line with your company’s per diem rates for meals, transportation, and lodging. Better yet, find an expense management provider that allows you to use digital receipts and upload them as you go.
- Have a positive attitude
A smile goes a long way, especially when your team is working long days on the road. Keeping a positive attitude will not only make the experience more enjoyable for you, but it will also encourage others to ditch their Negative Nancy tendencies as well.
With most of your attention on client meetings and closing deals, the last thing you want to think about is lugging around a massive suitcase. Stick to the basics and pack efficiently. Only bringing a carryon bag can also be a saving grace in the case of flight changes or delays.
- Go straight into a meeting from a red eye
This is especially true if comfy chairs are involved. It’s impossible to be our best selves coming off of an overnight flight, so make sure to block out some time to rest and get refreshed before you go into a meeting.
- Book flights or reserve hotels last minute
Last minute booking will likely guarantee you a back row middle seat and a tiny grungy hotel room 45 minutes from where your meetings are being held. Prepare ahead of time to make sure you can find a reasonably priced flight at a time most convenient for you and a hotel as close as to your meeting locations as possible.
- Take a leisure trip before your business trip
If you want to combine your business trips with leisure, it’s probably best to take on your relaxing vacation after the work is done. If you hit the beach before your work trip, your zen mode has a guaranteed expiration date.
- Drink too much
Especially on your first business trip, you don’t want to earn the reputation as the wild one. Know your limits and stick to them. No one needs to see that side of you while at work.
- Be a Debbie Downer
See: Do have a positive attitude. No one wants to work with a grouch. And really no one wants to be stuck next to a grouch on an airplane for hours. Leave the drama at home.
Most of all, just focus on the work at hand. That's why you're there after all!