Your first business trip is an exciting opportunity in any career! You’ve worked hard to prove you’re a valuable member of your team and now you’ve been given the chance to go on a trip to work and show others how awesome you are at your job, away from the comfort of your own desk.
Yes business trips are fun, but they are far from a free vacation (despite what the rest of your team may think!). So over the years I’ve been gathering some thoughts about things I wish I’d known before my first business trip. Some of them may surprise you, some are pretty obviously and to be completely honest you will never be fully prepared for what these trips can throw at you- but this list is a good place to start!
Check your expenses policy
The first thing you should do when you’re embarking on a business trip is check your companies expenses policy because they are not a cheap exercise. If you’re lucky enough to have a corporate card, make sure you keep all your receipts. If you don’t have a corporate card and you’re being reimbursed, you have to have the money there before you go (or you could look into a cash advance). Eating out 2 or 3 times a day, plus coffees to get you through jet lag and business meetings all start to add up pretty quick.
Use your own Data Roaming
Data roaming on business trips is a must because its very hard to stay connected with business if you only rely on WiFi – even in big cities like New York. If you have a business phone, check how your company is billed when you use roaming. I’ve heard of people using their business phone when overseas and they come home to a £1000 roaming bill! Sometimes its just easier to pay the £5 a day roaming charges on your own phone and expense it when the bill comes through. No one wants to be responsible for their company having to pay £1000 on their phone bill.
Jet lag on business trips is worse than if you’re on holiday
When you go on holiday you can sleep whenever you want, nap by the pool or just spend the day lounging around at the bar. When you’re on a business trip, you’ll probably have a very busy schedule, so there’s little time to recover from jet lag. Buy all the coffee.
It can be hard to expense tips
When you travel in the US its very hard to keep track of all the tipping you’re ‘advised’ to do, so make sure you keep hold of the receipts that have your tip on them or ask for a copy for you to use when submitting your expenses. 20% on nearly every meal adds up fast!
Ubers are not always the quickest way around town
Whether you’re traveling to the airport in London or heading to a lunch meeting in Brooklyn, remember taxi’s and Ubers are not always the quickest way to get there. The Heathrow express in London is a dream for getting to the airport, I even get the train all the way to heathrow from home (which is about 2 hours) because it’s quicker than driving (and a taxi would cost me about £150!). Likewise if you’re trying to get from meeting to meeting in NYC it can be a lot quicker just to take the subway. Get clued up on that public transport!
Save all those frequent flyer points
When you travel for work, try and fly with the same airline whenever you can so you can add up all your frequent flyer points. When I travel to the US I always make sure I fly with Virgin and have saved my points over the last few years. Eventually they’ll all add up and you can keep the benefits all for yourself, for example I was able to pay for the majority of Andy’s flight when we visited NYC with my Virgin frequent flyer points!
Get a fast and reliable laptop
Some business trips you’ll spend a lot of time moving around and you never know when you might need your laptop. Make sure you get yourself one that is light and reliable (i.e. it doesn’t take 10 minutes to turn on or weigh down your bag).
Find time in your day to catch up
You will always be playing catch up on your emails thanks to time zones and the sheer fact that you’re not at your desk for 8 hours a day. So designate some time in your day to respond to emails or put an out of office on to let people know you’ll be slow at replying.
Take suncream with you if you’re going somewhere hot
Even if you plan on spending most of your trip in air conditioning, still make sure you take your suncream with you if you’re going to a hot country. You never know when you’re going to get caught off guard and end up standing outside or on a rooftop terrace for a long period of time (trust me, it happens and it gets hot quick!).
Take time to breathe
Business trips can be stressful, busy and tiring so make sure you put time aside to just sit and chill. There’s no point of going on the trip if it’s just going to make you unwell. One of my best tips is to book an earlier flight to give yourself time to recover before you throw yourself into a stressful week. If you can avoid it, don’t work on the plane, use that time to switch off, relax and watch a film or two.
You’ll spend a lot of time alone
Yes your team might be great, but sometimes there’s nothing worse than spending all day and all evening with them. Besides, they might have plans to meet up with their friends after work so you can often find yourself on your own in the evening. Don’t let that stop you from exploring all the good food places though! Bring a good book for when you are eating alone or stock your phone up with good TV shows, you’ll soon realise there’s a lot of people that eat out on their own in the city.
Sometimes all you need is a night in with room service
When you find yourself in a new location, it’s easy to get pulled in by all the great restaurants, shops and sights to see. But as I mentioned before, keeping yourself healthy (and sane) is super important during a business trip. So pick up that room service menu, log into your Netflix account and just order in for the night. It’s only going to end up on your expenses sheet like all your other receipts!