Guide to Traveling: How to Plan for Business Travel

Traveling abroad. It is important to be prepared and to expect the unexpected wherever in the world you may be. Traveling abroad can involve...

Traveling abroad. It is important to be prepared and to expect the unexpected wherever in the world you may be. Traveling abroad can involve risks. You can avoid a lot of problems by preparing your journey thoroughly. Business travel has a tendency to cause extra stress in its travelers. Not only are you concerned with traveling without incident, you are concerned with making a positive business impression. As with business planning, successful business travel requires preparation. A well-planned business trip allows you to focus on the business portion of the trip without worrying about the travel arrangements.

How to Plan a Successful Business Travel

Want to see the world? Try exporting your goods and services. It is the rare exporter who has not invested considerable time and money exploring new markets. And much of this exploration is conducted in person. Visiting an export market is the single most effective method for assessing its potential – if the visit is properly planned. Following these steps will help create a productive and cost-effective business trip, and provide you with the information you require to take your export venture to the next level.

Don’t limit your business travel out of fear. Take the necessary precautions when you plan your travel and enjoy the peace-of-mind of knowing you’re well prepared. Your next international business trip will go more smoothly. 

Make your business travel plans as early as possible

Avoid last-minute arrangements, as they may restrict or delay your available travel options. Confirm the exact dates, times and locations of your visit with your business host. Plan to arrive at least a few hours, if not a full day, before you are expected. This early arrival will allow you a chance to relax after traveling and to acclimate yourself to the new environment.

Prepare for your travel

Before you book your travel (mode and carrier) and your accommodation, make sure that you check the Travel Information and Advisory Reports available from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to ensure that travel conditions to your target market are safe. This is an excellent first step before you plan your itinerary. The wise traveler also confirms any meetings and reservations, learns about the local culture and customs, currency (and exchange rate) and contacts the Canadian representatives at the Embassy or Consulate in the target country to inform them of the business trip and its objectives. 

Have documentation

Ensure that your travel documents are in order and up to date. You need a valid passport to travel outside of the U.S. If your passport isn’t current, you should allow plenty of time for processing. The U.S. Passports & International Travel website states four to six weeks is normal. The site gives an up-to-date account of current processing times. These site states a passport application can be processed and the document returned within three weeks under an expedited process. The service costs an additional $60. 

Purchase refundable travel tickets whenever possible

as business arrangements and travel specifics can often change unexpectedly. Secure your travel tickets with a credit card to provide yourself with more purchasing power. Credit cards often provide travel insurance, warranties and other protection when used for travel.

Consider your costs

When you send your employees on a trip, airfare and lodging aren't the only costs you'll have to cover. Depending on where your employees are going and what they need to do during their travels, you may also need to compensate them for other incidental expenses, such as ground transportation, baggage fees and parking. 

Consider Hotel Alternatives

Hotels aren’t your only option when it comes to business travel. For a long stay, bed-and-breakfasts and newer alternatives to traditional hotels are often a better value. Websites like AirBnB and VRBO make it easy to find alternative lodging quickly and book the transaction securely. AccountingToday notes that lodging options like these offer the amenities of a home, making your business stay more comfortable and productive. 

Take advantage of downtime

You might feel like you have to always be available when your colleagues are, especially if you're traveling to a different time zone. But spending every single moment of your trip doing work will only add to the stresses of travel. Maura Thomas, founder of productivity training and time management company and author of "Personal Productivity Secrets" (Wiley, 2012), advised using any short lulls in your trip to disconnect and rest.

"Downtime during travel — [such as when you're] waiting for the flight, taking the bus to the rental car facility and sitting on the plane before takeoff — are perfect opportunities to recharge," Thomas said. "Use these moments to let your mind wander; take in your surroundings; experience the world with your head up, rather than bent over your device. Take some time to be inwardly focused. Do some thinking, meditate or close your eyes."
If you wrap up your work early and have a little bit more downtime, don't be afraid to explore your surroundings.

Remember connectivity

You are probably accustomed to having access to all the information you need through your mobile devices but you may not have connectivity once you arrive at your destination. Before you leave, gather the information you need and either save it in a file on your laptop or smartphone or print it out to take with you.

Arrive at your initial travel point with plenty of time to spare

Get to the airport at least two hours prior to your plane’s departure. This may seem like too much time, but it will be just enough time if you encounter long lines, security issues or traffic. Arrive at the train or bus station at least an hour prior to departure.

Anyone who travels frequently for work knows that business trips can be stressful. Between planning your itinerary, tracking your expenses and dealing with potential delays, it's often difficult to get everything done while staying connected to the office. But with enough preparation and forethought, companies and their traveling staff members can ensure that their trips go as smoothly as possible.

The U.S. government offers numerous resources to help Americans traveling abroad but it’s important to learn about these resources before you leave home. Your ability to access the websites you need might be limited overseas. Save the necessary documentation locally on your devices or print it to avoid being stranded without it.

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