The right business travel tips can maximize your travel and avoid costly mistakes to make the most efficient use of your time on the road.
Here are 25 genius business travel tips, ideas and mistakes to avoid from the pros to maximize the investment in your trips.
1. Call Ahead to Connections That Can Help with Your Purpose for Traveling
Shyam Krishna Iyer, Founder, SKI Charities
I am the founder of a global charity requiring constant business travel and networking at both official and local levels in the places we operate. The key to a successful trip has been to take time to cold call local experts in my field, such as Rotary Club members and NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], brainstorm potential solutions that address concerns while also maintaining respect for cultural markers such as age and experience, and communicating the need for compromise on behalf of the team and community served by our charity.
2. Observe Simple Practices That Help Avoid Travel Delays
Glenn S. Phillips, CEO, Lake Homes Realty
To maximize my business travel, I fly in meeting-suitable attire to avoid lost baggage disasters, and I strive to spend the night close to the next day’s meeting to limit traffic problems. A short confirmation text the night before a meeting or first thing in the morning has often avoided mistakes on the exact meeting location or time of the meeting. I pack in color schemes that will all match with one pair of dress shoes (worn on the plane if flying). Being mindful and treating all service people as real people and not objects has been the most helpful habit. I believe I get better treatment and more help when I have a problem, and it keeps me in a happier mindset too.
3. Finalize Travel Arrangements Only After Confirming Your Scheduled Meetings
Aaron Hockel, Partner & Vice President of Digital Marketing, AltaVista Strategic Partners
My annual business travel averages more than 100 hotel nights and 50 one-way flight segments. This travel is entirely for face-to-face sales meetings, which are notorious for being canceled, rescheduled, forgotten and so on. So, I follow three concrete rules when planning and setting business trip meetings. First, emphasize you are traveling from out of state for the meeting to establish it is not canceled or rescheduled easily. Second, send the calendar invitation for the meeting while you are still on the phone with the prospect. Lastly, if the calendar invitation is not accepted, I will assume the meeting is off until it is reconfirmed on the phone and accepted.
This meeting confirmation process makes business travel more efficient because it significantly reduces canceled and rescheduled meetings.
4. Network with Potential Partners in Your Destination
Jamie Izaks, President, All Points Public Relations
No matter where I’m traveling, I like to maximize my business trips by scheduling time for what I like to call the big three — existing client visits, new business meetings and professional development opportunities. Before heading out, think about which contacts are based in that area and plan to host a dinner or grab a quick coffee with them. These face-to-face meetings go a long way in maintaining relationships with existing clientele as well as forming connections with potential business partners. To maximize your time out of office, look into any additional conventions or meet-ups you can attend to either strengthen your skill set or learn something new. Being in a foreign learning environment can also be fantastic for networking. If you seek out opportunities in these big three areas, no minute will be wasted.
5. Take Advantage of Tax Deductions for Travel Expenses
Tom Wheelwright, CPA, CEO, WealthAbility
Many CEOs and entrepreneurs spend much of their travel time focused on work, which means they may be able to turn a vacation into a business trip. If the business owner spends more than 50 percent of each eight-hour workday on business, then their travel can be deductible. Almost every travel expense can be deductible if it qualifies as a business trip, including airfare and rental cars. Schedule client meetings, meet with prospects, hold shareholder meetings or look at potential investments while you are on vacation to make the trip deductible.
6. Always Carry Enough Business Cards
Meg Schmitz, Franchise Broker, MegSchmitz.com
I always say that a stranger is a friend I haven’t met yet, so I like talking to people in each of the airports I travel through, so I make sure I have enough business cards with me to give out. As a franchise broker, I see individual franchisees in every market and visit their stores, offices and so on. For example, I was recently visiting a Club Pilates franchise in Nashville. The next week, I was in Kansas City, so I visited St. Gregory Development Group, home of Club Pilates, Bishops Barber Shops, Local Barre and more. In Milwaukee, I hosted a franchise networking group. Prior to that evening meeting, I set up an office at the CBS affiliate, so I can hopefully “make a friend” out of a reporter or two while killing time ahead of the meeting.
7. Always Arrange for a Networking Dinner
Jói Sigurdsson, Founder & CEO, CrankWheel
Whenever you travel, it’s a great strategy to put together a networking dinner. This lets you learn about your target audience and gain new leads. Already have a customer or two in the city you’re visiting or a connection in your network? Invite them, and ask them to make introductions to a few others. Otherwise, you can use cold outreach. Frame the meal as a chance to get to know other folks in the same industry. Exchange business cards and tell people what you do but don’t pitch. Pay for the entire meal if you have the budget. Your guests will feel obliged to help you out when you later ask if you might do business with their company.
8. Know How to Save on Hotel Reservations
Rune Sovndahl, Co-founder & CEO, Fantastic Services
Over the years, I’ve learned a few valuable lessons that I would love to share with budding entrepreneurs, saving them from making the same mistakes I did. I have two tips when it comes to saving on hotel bookings. One, call the hotel and book directly. They would gladly offer you a better deal as they will save money from paying commission to the booking websites. Two, it also pays off to book last minute, reserving a room after 6 p.m. on the day of your arrival could bag you an even better deal.
9. Be Ready for Peak Season and Last-minute Travel
Kimberly Haltom, Managing Owner, Halwood Services
If you know that there is a good chance you will be traveling, especially if you will be traveling during a peak season or holiday, start looking into your travel arrangements. Many times, it’s best to book your flight, hotel and car together as you will get a better deal. If you have to travel last minute, there is always the Skiplagged option, but make sure you are fully aware of the stipulations associated with booking travel through such a site. If you find you are booking travel for more than one employee often, it’s best to use a travel management site like American Express Global Travel. I know it doesn’t seem like a cost-effective option for all small businesses, but it is something to consider as they have saved my clients and me the expense of having to change last-minute travel plans.
When you find that you are traveling more than once a month, I encourage you to register as a known traveler as it will save you time getting through security.
10. Get Rewarded by Joining International Business Groups
Richard Walton, CEO, Avirtual
Joining an international business group like Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) can reap the rewards as you can then network with people whatever city you are in to maximize your time on any trip. EO has a large number of members from all around the world and is extremely easy to join — all you need to do is apply to become a member on their website. During any business trip, the schedule is pretty tight. It’s very difficult to make plans once you are there as every minute of the day needs to be planned out beforehand. International groups can help as they give you the chance to get in touch with professionals prior to your departure. Getting to know someone before the trip will make it easier to plan a meeting that will fit into the schedule and will make sure your trip is full of great opportunities for both business-related and other travel.
International groups also help solidify the connections built during a business trip. Letting networking efforts go to waste is a real shame. International groups can help business professionals stay in touch and create long lasting business relationships.
11. Plan Out Your Limited Time Wisely
Zoé Bélisle-Springer, Digital Content Editor, Phorest Salon Software
The number one thing to remember if you’re going on a business trip is that you have limited time in your hands. Plan your days, weeks and month ahead. Maximize this time by organizing and setting meetings before you fly out, use the travel time to do one of these two things: your research on the place and people you are visiting or event you’re attending or administrative work.
If you happen to be in an area where you already have clients, put aside a few hours to visit a few of them. Building relationships is just as important as nurturing the existing ones.
12. Be Productive During Downtime
Maura Thomas, TEDx Speaker & Productivity Trainer, MauraThomas.com
As a productivity trainer, I travel quite frequently. Sometimes, there can be quite a bit of downtime. It could be long delays between flights or canceled flights requiring you to rebook on a later flight. This often causes travelers a great deal of stress. But, don’t fear downtime. If your flight gets delayed, you might default to checking your email or doing other work. However, it may be more productive to use this unexpected time to meditate or just let your mind wander. This kind of mental break boosts your productivity and creativity.
13. Keep Painkillers in Handy While Traveling
Dr. Ameerzeb Pirzada, CEO & Consultant Dentist, Z Dental Studio BDS
It is worthwhile to grab a couple of painkillers an hour or two before you leave for the airport. It’s very common for travelers to experience headaches due to jet lag, dehydration, neck ache pains from carrying heavy bags and pain due to indigestion from eating from a different place and at unusual hours. Therefore, keeping a few painkillers can help you avoid such dreadful, unforeseen circumstances and keep your productivity level at its optimum.
14. Have a Bag Designated for Travel
Hank Yuloff, Targeted Marketing Tactician, Yuloff Creative Marketing Solutions
When we are on the road, speaking to groups about marketing, we have to bring our laptops and all the other cameras, wires and action guides and stuff that go with it. I have found that having a specific bag just for air travel trips (compared to driving) allows me to keep the weight and just as importantly, the excess stuff, from tagging along with me. It gets me through security much faster. As soon as we return from our marketing seminars, the first thing to do in the office is remove all the things we gathered along the way — most importantly, the sales forms and the business cards of entrepreneurs who need information about our business coaching programs. This is the best way to make sure that you don’t overlook an important sales lead.
15. Be Nice and Pleasant to the Hotel Staff
Jason Jennings, Author & Speaker, JasonJennings.com
If using room service, be nice to the order taker and make him or her your friend. When they tell the chef about the nice person from whom they just took an order, you’ve assured yourself of getting good food. If the food is great, call back and ask the order taker to thank the chef. I’ve had chefs call me back and say that no hotel guest had ever said thank you to them in their career. Always be nice to hotel workers and go out of your way to greet them with a good morning or good afternoon. They deal with loads of jerks and rude people. Visit the bank before your trip — hotels never have money to make change — and change $100 into $5 bills.
An acknowledgment of great service with a thank you and discreetly placed $5 bill in the palm will make you the most well-liked person in the hotel. Stay nice and pleasant because business travel is stressful enough without creating more.
16. Get Some Work Done While on the Airplane
Sylvie Stacy, Owner & Blogger, Look for Zebras
My advice is never to watch a movie on an airplane. By that, I mean to make the most of travel time to work on projects or business-related tasks. An airplane is a great place to get work done because you’re stuck in one spot for an extended period with few options for how to spend it. You literally have people waiting on you! Without the regular distractions of being a workplace, you can get a lot accomplished, especially work that requires deep thought like strategizing or writing. Plan out what you’re going to work on beforehand, so you have any materials you need and aren’t distracted by in-flight entertainment.
17. Be Clear on the Business Objective for Your Travel
Jon Brodsky, Country Manager, Finder.com
Business trips often come at a significant financial expense, something that is felt even greater by smaller businesses. So, it’s important that before you depart, you are clear on objectives and expected outcomes of your trip. Most importantly, you should know how you’re going to pay for the trip in terms of expected future revenue. We skip a lot of conferences when we know that the clients we’ll meet there are ones that are just as happy to speak to us over the phone or video conference. Furthermore, understanding what you can and can’t claim, plus any spend limitations, is important to avoid awkward discussions when you submit your post-trip expense report.
18. If You’re Traveling for a Trade Show, Mail Your Supplies Separately
Nellie Akalp, Co-founder & CEO, CorpNet.com
My best tip for a business trip if you are exhibiting at a trade show is to have all of your equipment and booth supplies mailed separately directly to the event hall. I made the rookie mistake before of trying to bring it all in luggage, and it ended up being a complete headache! Not only was it heavy, but lugging an extra suitcase through airports, into a rental car, in the hotel and then to a trade show floor is just not fun. Save yourself some backache by having it delivered ahead of time and make it a seamless set up to start the show off on a good note.
19. Always Arrive at Your Destination on a Saturday
Ashley Saliba, Product Manager, TINYpulse
It’s not easy jumping right into work after a long-haul flight, typically with a connection or two, and seated in the economy. This is exactly why I try to take a late flight out on Friday nights — after the end of the workday — that arrives sometime on Saturday. Having the full day on Sunday to get acclimated and refreshed from the flight is critical in beating jet lag as quickly as possible, and helps you get into a groove, so you’re ready to roll on Monday.
20. Take some time to enjoy the destination
Every new destination is unique and can offer you new experiences and memories. Thus, even when traveling for business purposes, make sure to dedicate some time to explore the country you are visiting. For example, try to have dinner in a local restaurant and taste a new dish, visit some off-the-beat attractions near your hotel or business venue. You could go even further and convert the ordinary business meeting into a cultural and social experience.
21. Choose the Right Travel Agency
If your business travels become frequent, it may be best to have a travel agent that you trust on call. Doing this allows you and your team to focus more on the activities instead of worrying about transportation and accommodation. They would also be able to give you deals that you would not normally find. However, not all travel agencies are equal. Want to find out how four secrets to picking the right travel agent? Read this article.
22. Prepare to Entertain Your Clients
Even if it’s your first time in your business travel destination, you will still be expected to entertain your clients in the area as if you’re a local if you want to impress. Thankfully, the internet can help you do all the research and arrangements that you need. Here are some tips on how to entertain clients when traveling on a business trip.
23. Leave a Lasting Positive Impression on Your Clients
It’s important to be memorable to your clients in each of your business travels. Not being able to leave a lasting positive impression in their minds can only mean your trip is not as successful as it should be. But, there’s more than one way to impress, and it’s a good idea to know all of them. Read about the four essentials for being the person people remember.
24. Learn the Basics to International Business Travel
If this is your first time traveling overseas, there are a few things that you need to learn to minimize issues any new overseas traveler encounters. This is crucial knowledge especially for business trips that are usually on a tight schedule, and any delay can cost the business its opportunity to sell. Find out six things every new international business travelers should know in this article.
25. Research on Business Etiquette of Your Travel Destination
Aside from necessities like a universal charger, local currencies and so on, one important factor that every business traveler should know before getting on the plane is the business etiquette of the travel destination. Don’t expect your hosts to excuse your faux pas when it only takes time to go online and do a little research. Remember that you have the task of impressing your clients and showing that you have the initiative to learn about their culture will go a long way. Read more in this article to find out.