So, will you be travelling for business?

Who hasn’t ever dreamt of travelling the world with all expenses paid? Wouldn’t it be nice? Some people believe that this is what business trips are all about. Well, when you start investigating the bits and pieces of travelling for business you may realize it is not that simple.

I can assure you that travelling for business has its advantages. But at some point you realize that the only reason you keep doing it is because: you love to travel and you love your job. A business trip incorporates lots of responsibilities that you need to cope with. Not all business trips are all fun. Depending on your business, the purpose of the trip, and your schedule you might be able to include some extra time for the “fun” part. But it doesn’t happen all the time. At least not for me! Let’s start with the trip preparation. You will probably have to plan the trip by yourself, and need to:

  • Create a cost efficient itinerary to maximize your time (a business week has only 5 days depending on the time of the year and … let’s say … cultural aspects);
  • Prepare your estimate expense report;
  • Get quotes and book flights and hotels (not always business class and 5 star hotels);
  • Arrange visits and meetings with clients and prospects;
  • Plan your ground transportation (look for safe transportation and check for common taxi scams);
  • Prepare your marketing / promotional material; just to name a few.

OK, so now you are all set and ready to go, right!? Not quite! Think about your own personal life. Who will be taking care of your bills, regular errands, house, plants, pets? Your life does not stop and you might need some help while you are away. Are you taking evening or online courses? Don’t forget to prepare those assignments that will be due during your trip, and re-schedule the group meetings for the final project.

Let’s also add the fact that you are travelling to a country where you have not been to. You will have to do a lot of research about the destination, visa requirements, recommended vaccination, cultural aspects, appropriate attire, weather forecast, current social and political situation, where to go and not to go, things and places to avoid. It is also worth to do a little research on the local food. If you are travelling to a non-English speaking country, try to write down the items you cannot eat in the local language. Hopefully Google Translate can help you with that!

Milanesa and Fries, La Maestranza restaurant in Montevideo, Uruguay - Mercado del Puerto
‘Milanesa’ and Fries – in Montevideo, Uruguay

You will also need to travel with some cash. Estimate how much you will spend so you are not left with NO cash in the middle of your trip (or in the middle of nowhere, which is worse). You can always use your debit or credit card to withdraw money in case of emergencies. You just have to pray that ATMs will actually work. Sometimes they just don’t!

Message displayed for 5 days on an ATM in downtown Tripoli, Libya - Aman Bank, Omar Almukhtar Road, Tripoli International Fair Branch
Message displayed for 5 days on an ATM (downtown Tripoli, Libya).

Make sure to pack medicines that you are used to take in case of a cold, sore throat, headache, stomach ache. You don’t want to go to a pharmacy in a non-English speaking country and try to explain what you are feeling, unless you speak their language or are really good at Pictionary-like games. If you are under medical treatment, make sure to talk to your doctor first, and have enough medicine for the whole trip. It is also worth checking for restrictions when carrying prescribed medicine.

They always say that you have to ‘pack half the clothes and twice the money’. As you become a more experienced traveller, you start realizing that this statement is somewhat true. Although I have always managed to keep my travel expenses within the initial plan. 🙂 But I have definitely been packing less clothes.

I also suggest you keep an accurate check list with all the items you cannot forget. You do not want to realize that you left something behind when your plane is pushing back. Make sure you have your itinerary, map(s), and contact information of the people you will be meeting printed with you, as well. Just in case you have no internet connection, no battery left, or maybe you are somewhere where you just cannot take out your cell phone, tablet or laptop without being robbed – Yes, there are places like that!

Several tools are available to help you organize the details of your trip. I have selected three websites that bring a good number of interesting options for you to consider:

So, you’ve worked hard for weeks or even months to make sure you had everything planned. What could go wrong with your neatly well organized schedule? Literally, everything! Have a back-up plan. Things can change, especially for long trips that include several destinations. You will be very lucky if they don’t.

If you are landing in another country, for example, be prepared to spend a lot of time to go through immigration and clear customs. If you have somebody waiting for you outside, make sure to remind them that you are coming from overseas. Sometimes it can take you more than two hours to leave the airport. It happened to me before.

Your luggage did not arrive!? Relax! You packed an extra shirt, pair of socks, clean underwear and some toiletry items in your carry on, right!? Oh, no, you didn’t! Well, that can happen to anyone. But don’t worry! Hopefully you will be staying in this city for more than a day and your luggage will come in the next flight. Do not leave the luggage claim area without reporting it to the airline and getting a complete claim form and their contact information.

Are you going to have some free time? Cool! Check for reviews of travellers about tips and places to go when you have some spare hours. I always check Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself working for 10, 12, 14 hours a day. That is pretty normal, I would say! I have visited places I have no pictures of. Still, I am happy I had the chance to be there and somehow experience it . You can always hope that you will come back. I have always enjoyed a little bit more the second or third time I travelled to the same destination.

Hawler Park, beautiful view from the Citadel - Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq. Middle East.
Hawler Park, view from the Citadel (Erbil, Iraq).

Whatever you do, don’t push yourself too hard. Depending on the nature and purpose of your trip, you will not be able to achieve immediate results. Take advantage of every single opportunity to establish a good and positive connection with people. Get to know more about them, their company, their culture. Be ready to also share a little bit about yourself. In the end, people do business with people they know and trust.

At this point you might be thinking I hate business trips, right!? The truth is I love them. It is not easy. Sometimes you have to be away from home for a long time. You miss your family, friends, your own bed. You miss celebrations, parties, weddings. But I feel blessed for the opportunity to visit places I would never think of visiting for vacation. You end up experiencing things that will be recorded in your memories for the rest of your life. You make new friends, get to rediscover yourself and rethink your beliefs. You start becoming another person. A better person, I would say!

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