Follow these 6 steps for an effective business trip:
Make your travel arrangements well in advance
Select your accommodation based on both price and convenience
Create an itinerary
Research your destination
Remember your electronics, accessories and travel documents
Prepare for your meeting
In today’s digital world, we can communicate across different time zones at a moment’s notice. However, when it comes to brokering a big deal or fostering a solid and long-lasting business relationship, nothing beats face-to-face interaction. Globally, business travel spending is forecast to rise to $1.6 trillion by 2020 in line with this trend.
Corporate travel is still so important, and it’s equally important for anyone making a business trip to prepare thoroughly. When you arrive at your destination relaxed and well-prepared, you’re better equipped to make a good impression and focus on the purpose of your meeting. Preparation lets your mind focus on the here and now, making sure you stay on the ball in that all-important meeting. If you’d like to fine-tune how you get ready for your next excursion, follow these essential tips to become an effective business trip planner.
Make travel arrangements
Whether it’s your name on the travel documents or you’re a travel manager, planning business travel thoroughly is important. Your first step should always be to familiarise yourself with your company’s corporate travel policy. You’re making travel arrangements for a business trip, not planning a personal or a short break, so being compliant with your company policy is essential.
Next, it’s time to book your travel. This may involve travelling by air, rail, car hire or even boat. Think about the journey door-to-door, balancing travel times against cost and convenience. Visualise the various steps of the trip from A to B. Consider details like how long it will take to move between airport and railway station, the time it takes to fill out paperwork at the car rental company, and whether luggage storage might be useful. Use multiple sources and different comparison sites, researching which companies are offering the best deals. Again, be aware of any budget restraints in your company’s travel policy.
Don’t forget the small details. Does the aeroplane have Wi-Fi so you can work on the move? Would leaving a day earlier allow you to arrive at your first meeting better rested and prepared? At this stage, the more carefully you prepare, the more confident and relaxed you’ll be when you depart.
Select your accommodation
Preparing business travel is, of course, only half the job. Choosing the best accommodation for your requirements is also essential. If you’ve only got one meeting place to reach, make sure you book a hotel that’s nearby – rather than be swayed by a more luxurious option that might be a stressful 45 minute trip away. Use maps on your smartphone to measure distances from the station or airport to your hotel – and remember the roads and transport networks will be busier at certain times of day.
Check your company’s hotel policies to see if there are any preferred hotels - you might be able to get a good deal too. When considering the cost, make sure you compare rates for similar types of accommodation and make sure you select something that’s fairly priced – some companies even stipulate a cost per day that would limit the choice of hotels.
It’s also a good idea to pay close attention to the amenities at the hotel. Some tourist-focused hotels may serve breakfast too late for your early starts, and as a business traveller you’re likely to want free Wi-Fi, 24-hour room service, plenty of power points for charging your devices. CWT Hotel Intel gives travellers access to trusted peer hotel reviews and can be a handy tool for business trip planners.
Create a detailed itinerary
Your itinerary is your blueprint for a successful business trip. Use it to stay in control of every detail – from transport times and the names of those you’re meeting, to your travel reservations and hotel address. Be sure to allow yourself extra time on your itinerary for relaxing, meetings that have been delayed or overrun, and busy traffic. Consider using a specially designed tool like the CWT To Go™ app, which syncs your itinerary with work calendars, and allows travellers to share this with colleagues. This is handy from a communication and efficiency perspective, and as a safety measure if you’re travelling to an unfamiliar destination.
Research your destination
It may be that you’re travelling to a destination you are familiar with and feel comfortable in. Or, you may be entering unchartered territory. If that’s the case, research is essential to avoid unnecessary risk. For example, some cities are well known for pick pockets, so you’ll need to be extra careful when storing important and expensive items like phones in your pockets. Depending on where you’re going, reading up on the current political situation at your destination could also be prudent.
Perhaps you’re travelling to a city or country with a different culture and customs to your own. Avoid looking foolish or, worse, causing offence, by researching the differences in behaviour and manners before you arrive. For example, if you’re taking potential clients for a meal, do you know the etiquette on tipping, or when to give people your business cards? Or, if you’re visiting a country where English isn’t the common language, you could even learn a few basic phrases, such as greetings and “thank you”, which could make all the difference when making a good first impression.
Prepare your travel documents
Hours of careful preparation and research will all be wasted if you forget vital travel documents. Travelling between countries requires a current, valid passport, travel tickets and sometimes a visa. It’s key to research whether or not you need a visa as soon as possible, even if you are just transiting through a country, without stepping foot outside the airport. Some embassies can take a number of days or even weeks to issue visas. Even if you’re not travelling to a different country, you may need photo ID to clarify that your name corresponds to the one on the ticket - your passport or driving licence are the best options so keep them safe at all times.
Remember your electronic accessories
Stay as productive as possible on your trip by taking a laptop or tablet – it’ll make your travel time really count. Remember to pack the relevant chargers and adapters, too. You can usually pick these up at the airport when you’re passing through, but being prepared is key and will save you time and money in the long run.
Get ready for your meeting
So you’ve followed all the right steps for planning a business trip, but what about your business objectives and the meeting itself? Making a note of what you hope to achieve on the trip can help improve your focus - even if you simply want to reach out to new contacts or gain a general overview of a potential new client. Arm yourself with as much information as possible about the people you’ll meet, as well as the places they’ll be. What’s the dress code? If you’re visiting an industrial site, for example, will you need sturdy shoes? If you’re going to be giving a presentation, what format will it take and will your host have the equipment you need? Simply emailing ahead to check if they have suitable screens and cables can ensure you avoid embarrassing delays or confusion that would get your meeting off to an awkward start. That first impression counts so give yourself the best chance of making a good one.
By setting aside the time to prepare, conducting some detailed research and following these business travel tips, you can optimize your chances of a productive and enjoyable trip.