In general, travel requires a lot of planning. But a business trip forces us to be even more organized — whether we’re meeting with colleagues, managers or clients, we want to put our best, most professional face forward. So, before your next work-related jaunt, read up on these five planning tips to ensure your trip is a success.
1. Come Prepared
Traveling for pleasure might inspire some spontaneity — you could keep specific days free for open-ended exploring, for example. When you make a business trip, though, you’ll want to prepare long before you land.
Start by mapping the route from the train station or airport to the hotel where you’ll be staying. Can you take public transportation, or will you drive there? If you’re planning for the latter, be sure you have directions with and without Google Maps — sometimes, your phone won’t work as well as you’re accustomed to once you’ve landed in a new country or a city where your cell provider’s service isn’t as reliable.
Then, think about all the electronic devices you’ll need to make your business trip successful. Pack them carefully, and double-check that you have all of the chargers and converters necessary to use them for the duration of your stay. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay to buy a new version on the ground, which can cost big bucks.
Finally, be sure to pack everything you need in your carry-on luggage unless it’s a long-haul business trip. That way, you won’t have to worry about the airline losing your bag and causing you major inconvenience amid all the work you’ll have to do once you’re on the ground.
2. Dress the Part
If you’re traveling with your colleagues or if your client will be picking you up from the airport, you shouldn’t go with your usual airport outfit. Instead, wear something that’s still comfortable but put-together — no sweatpants allowed. To that end, find out what the sleeping arrangements will be before you arrive. If you have to share your hotel room with a co-worker, make sure you bring along a pair of pajamas so you can sleep modestly and comfortably, too.
3. Work in Some Downtime
One of the biggest mistakes business travelers make is to overbook the first day they arrive. On domestic trips, this might not matter as much, since you probably won’t have a considerable time zone change to which you’ll have to adjust. But on overseas work trips, you’ll be fighting against time zones, and you’ll undoubtedly be tired after spending so long on a plane. So, try to lighten your workload for your arrival day. Better yet, schedule your arrival for a Sunday or the day before your meetings will start — that way, you can relax and adjust to the time zone before the work begins.
4. Don’t Forget About Helpful Apps
Traveling makes so many amazing apps valuable to you, and you can use them whether your trip is for business or leisure. For example, different cities will have individualized apps to help you map out transit routes and forecast travel times. In London, for one, the Citymapper app will show you how to connect trains with tubes and buses to get around the city and its surroundings. Plus, it tells you how long each jaunt will take and how much it will cost. It can even tell you the price of a taxi.
And, if your business trip lasts longer than expected, an app like HotelTonight can help you, too. In cities including New York, Boston and San Francisco, this smartphone-based search tool helps you find great hotels for the night and, because you’re booking last-minute, you tend to get them at a steal.
5. Enjoy — but Not Too Much
Finally, you should always be sure to include time to enjoy your environment, especially if your business trip has taken you to a new city or country. A packed schedule won’t allow you to visit a museum or try a new restaurant, so don’t book back-to-back-to-back appointments. To that end, you can use your trip as a chance to enjoy time with your colleagues, too. There’s nothing wrong with scheduling a group activity or planning communal dinners so you can get to know one another outside work. You might even make a new friend out of it.
Of course, you should always draw a line when it comes to work-related gatherings. You can drink, but you don’t want to do so irresponsibly, nor do you want to deal with a hangover the next day. Try and keep group activities professional, too — a nice meal is always a better idea than a pub crawl. Use your best judgment when planning and all should go well.
Now that you have the planning tools you need, all you have left to do is start planning your next business trip. Soon enough, it’ll be time to hit the road — and, with these tips in mind, you’re more than ready to go.
Scott Huntington is a writer from Harrisburg PA. Find his work on Business Insider, Yahoo Autos, Time, INC, and more. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington.