While leisure travel is one of life’s great joys, a business trip can be a bit of a chore. Tight schedules, lengthy transit times, stressful client meetings and extended time away from home combine to make the entire ordeal exhausting.
But with some shrewd corporate travel hacks up your sleeve, you can ace your next work-related adventure. To help the trip go off without a hitch, we’ve compiled 15 handy business travel tips.
Face-to-face meetings are set to bounce back as COVID comes under control (touch wood). So there’s no better time than now to iron out your business trip checklist.
15 business travel tips
We’ve broken our business travel tips and tricks down into four distinct sections.
1. Review your company policy
If you’re in charge of the logistics, you need to get up to speed on your company’s corporate travel policy. Sift through the fine print to determine where you should book travel, budget constraints, the approval process and how to claim back expenses.
Failure to follow the rules could lead to an uncomfortable conversation with the finance guy—or worse: unexpected out-of-pocket expenses.
2. Create a convenient itinerary
This isn’t the time to save a few pounds on a cheap multi-layover red-eye flight. Unless you’re self-employed, someone else will foot the bill anyway, so it’s in your best interests to create the most convenient itinerary imaginable—a direct flight is always best.
Factor your departure and arrival time into the equation, too. Wherever possible, allow downtime to rest before your first big meeting of the trip.
3. Use appropriate luggage
The age-old carry-on versus check-in debate wages on. For long term business travel, you’ll need a sizeable check-in suitcase to stash your corporate and casual wardrobe.
But you don’t need much space to carry your business trip essentials on a quick corporate excursion. Ditch the bulky check-in luggage for a nimble carry-on suitcase or an elegant weekend bag. You’ll save valuable time at the carousel and find it easier to get around town. And don't forget to weigh luggage before arriving at the airport.
4. Download documents & apps
You won’t always have internet access, so download all your essential digital documents onto your phone. Keep a PDF copy of your flight itinerary, car hire reservations and hotel bookings on hand (pro tip: the TripIt app does all that for you).
Install your preferred travel apps (rideshare, currency conversion, translators, etc.) and ensure you’ve got an offline map for your destination. Finally, download some of your favourite music, podcasts, or TV shows to keep you entertained while airborne.
5. Check-in online
Save time by checking in online, either at home or en-route to the airport. Time-poor business travellers can save more precious moments by paying extra for priority luggage (or go carry-on only).
If you’re on a long haul flight, it pays to pre-select a comfortable seat. Exit rows afford loads of extra legroom (for a fee), while websites like Seat Guru help you pick the best position on any given plane.
6. Wear comfy clothes
As you won’t need to impress important associates in transit, feel free to wear comfy, casual clothes on board. That way, you can keep your snazzy business garb crinkle free and will find it easier to doze in your row.
Don’t dress too casual if you’re aiming for an upgrade, though — neither airline staff nor hotel reception appreciates untidy attire.
7. Use the airport lounge
Keep ahead of your hectic workload by taking advantage of your in-transit downtime. Dedicated airport lounges offer business travellers a quiet and comfortable space to get work done in-between flights.
If a lounge pass doesn’t fit your budget, you’ll find plenty of public seating at the airport. It’s not quite as glamorous, but it’ll do in a pinch.
8. Keep your fluids up
Cruising at 30,000 feet has a nasty habit of drying you out. Bring a water bottle with you on-board and sip it frequently throughout the flight. And as tempting as it may seem, say no to the alcohol cart — save the shenanigans for your holiday.
Air travel also dehydrates your exterior so keep on top of your moisturising regime.
At your destination
9. Get online (safely)
If there’s one thing a 21st-century business traveller can’t live without, it’s a reliable (and safe) internet connection. International arrivals must make a beeline for the closest airport SIM card stall the second they step off the tarmac.
If you’re using public Wi-Fi at any stage, know that it’s far from secure. Restrict use to non-sensitive browsing or install a reputable VPN.
10. Leave early for everything
Unless you’ve visited your destination before, assume the local transport infrastructure is inefficient and slow. Order your Ubers extra early or pre-book your parking online to score some wriggle room and circumvent unnecessary stress.
But rocking up late isn’t the only corporate faux pas. Research the business travel etiquette in your destination and behave accordingly.
11. Consider co-working
Need to clock a few hours in-between client meetings? If your hotel room doesn’t have a suitable desk and you hate working in busy cafes, then invest in a co-working space.
These custom-built, communal workplaces are ideal for business travel life. You get a quiet, comfortable workspace with a lightning-quick connection and all your everyday office essentials for a reasonable fee.
12. Stay on top of your receipts
The last thing you want is to be left out of pocket for your company’s business expenses. Take a backup photo of all your receipts as soon as you’ve paid, then file the dockets away for safekeeping.
If you’ve got a company card, stash your personal credit card somewhere safe so you don’t accidentally use it to pay for work-related expenses.
13. Take jet lag seriously
Adjusting your eating habits can help overcome jet lag. As Twitter strategist and expert business traveller, Olinda Hassan, told Forbes, “If you can, start eating on the local time before you get to the destination. This is especially helpful if you are travelling a long way for only a couple of days”.
Avoid the temptation to crash out the second you hit your hotel. Unless you’ve got a crucial afternoon meeting, it’s better to battle through and stay awake until a regionally-appropriate bedtime. And if you arrive well-rested in the evening, smash out some exercise to tire yourself out.
14. Prioritise Sleep
Prioritising sleep is one business travel tip that is often neglected. But studies have found the secret to happiness is a good night’s sleep. And personal experience has taught us a sure-fire path to crankiness (and subpar work performance) is inadequate sleep.
Make getting a proper good shut-eye a top priority to boost energy levels and focus through the day. In the evening, read books instead of scrolling social media and set up a blue light filter on your phone.
15. Stick to your exercise regime
Although work trips tend to entail a gruelling itinerary, that’s no excuse to neglect your exercise regime. Twenty minutes in the hotel gym at the end of an exhausting day might feel arduous, but it’ll leave you fit and rested for the day to come.
There’s no need to smash any Strava PB’s here. Just don’t let yourself become sedentary.
5 things to bring on a business trip
No business travel advice article would be complete without covering what to take with you on a plane.
We’ve compiled a shortlist of the top five business travel necessities.
1. A suitable suitcase
Whether you’re packing a pint-sized carry-on for a quick business trip or a large suitcase for an extended stay, selecting suitable luggage is essential. Frequent business travellers should splurge on something stylish, functional, and durable -— it’ll pay dividends with time.
2. Ear plugs and eye mask
Uninterrupted shut-eye is essential for nailing a successful business trip, and these two low-cost solutions work wonders at facilitating sleep. Throw in a few relaxing herbal remedies for added relaxation — think Valerian or Chamomile rather than drowsiness-inducing prescription pills.
3. Noise cancelling headphones
Frequent travellers are all-too-familiar with the ever-present, headache-rousing drone of a jet engine. These handy, high-tech devices have tiny, in-built microphones that capture the mind-numbing hum and emit an in-phase sound wave to cancel it out. The result? Blissful serenity and a happier air traveller.
4. Appropriate attire
A cosy set of non-professional threads will keep you comfortable in transit and give you something to run around town in. Fold and pack both casual and business clothes into space-saving packing cubes. If you need to race off to a meeting on arrival, slip some pre-ironed office gear into a suit bag.
5. Tiny toiletries
Pour your favourite self-care products into travel-sized containers and place them in an airport security approved container (a zip-lock bag). As air travel dries out your hair and skin, ensure you’ve got dry shampoo and moisturiser in your locker.
Business travel is no holiday. With an action-packed itinerary and stacks of critical meetings to attend, you need to be agile, efficient and on your game.
Packing light, staying healthy and pre-planning key details will help you smash your next business trip. And with global travel restrictions easing in the post-COVID era, business travel will become part of the corporate landscape again.
Keep our handy business travel tips in mind to streamline your next work-related foray.