Travel is part of the job descriptions for scores of employees. Billions of dollars are spent each year for sending employees to meetings, conventions, trade shows and training sessions.
For businesses, it's almost always tied to increasing profits. As an employee, keeping your job may depend on how well you perform and actually help the business. You can ease some of the stress, save time and money and shine at work by knowing some business travel tips.
Tips for All Business Travelers
No matter where you're headed, there are several things you can do to make your travels cost-effective and hassle-free.
Take only what you need; you don't need the kitchen sink for a three-day trip. Try to get everything into one bag you can carry easily. There are dozens of good reasons for traveling as lightly as possible:
- You avoid baggage fees at airports
- There's less of a chance of losing luggage or having it stolen because it's always with you
- You don't waste time and energy packing, unpacking and hauling multiple bags around
- There's no trouble using public transportation or taxis
- You don't have to pay airport or hotel staff to carry or transport your luggage
- You can move quickly to find another way of traveling if your flight is canceled or delayed
A few days before you leave, check the local weather at your destination to make sure you're packing the proper clothing.
Save Your Receipts
Business travel usually means you'll have out-of-pocket costs and expenses for meals, transportation, hotel accommodations and other things. You may be able to take tax deductions for some or all of those expenses, but only if you have receipts or other proof of the expenses.
Also, receipts are important if your employer uses expenses reports to reimburse you for your job-related expenses.
Keep in mind, you have a chance to standout among your co-workers here. Keeping your travel expenses low shows your employer you're not wasting company money.
Consider Buying Travel Insurance
It's not just for vacations! Travel insurance for your business trip may be a good investment. Policies and coverage vary, but a policy may reimburse you for:
- Lost or destroyed luggage
- Transportation costs if the trip is canceled or delayed
- Rental car insurance
- Medical coverage - this is especially important for travelers leaving the US
As a general rule, using public transportation is more efficient and much less expensive than renting a car. That may not be true for you, so keep these things in mind:
- Think ahead and reserve a car before you leave for your trip
- Shop for the best price and the rental agency closest to the airport, bus or train station, etc. you'll arrive at
- Consider buying the extra insurance offered by the agency. Your employer's insurance may not cover you, and your personal auto policy may not cover business use of a rented car
- Be sure to know what to do in case you get a ticket or have an accident. Will "points" follow you home?
Make Plans as Early as Possible
Hopefully, you're given plenty of advance notice about the trip. As soon as you know when and where you need to go, start making calls:
- Make hotel reservations. Comparison shop, look for one close to the location of the business meeting, etc., and look for business travelers' discounts
- Make airline reservations, and be sure to ask about cancellation fees and rebooking charges if your flight is rescheduled or cancelled
- Reserve a rental car, and ask for detailed directions on how to find the rental agency once you arrive at your destination
- Get detailed directions to the location of your business meeting, convention, etc., together with contact information you can give your employer and family if you need to be contacted in an emergency
Tips for Travelers Leaving the US
Leaving the US brings several extra concerns for the business traveler.
Gather Your Passport
You need a Passport to get into practically any foreign country, and more importantly, you need one to get back into the US. Keep in mind you can use a Passport Card when traveling by land or sea to and from Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico by land or sea.
Health Factors to Consider
You don't have access to your doctor, and your personal health insurance may not cover your medical needs if you become ill in another country. Consider buying an international medical insurance plan covering needs such as:
- Emergency medical assistance, including ambulance services
- The costs of transporting you home
- On-call contact with nurses and other medical professionals
Also, be sure you have the recommended immunizations for the country you're traveling to.
Stay Safe while Taking Care of Business
Before leaving, check the US State Department's travel warnings for any dangers that may pose a risk to your safety. Also, it's a good idea to register your trip with the State Department. You can be located and get help much faster if there's some type of emergency.
Know Some of the Laws & Customs
It's a good idea to learn about some the laws and customs of the country you're visiting. Things taken for granted in the US may be treated quite differently in foreign countries. For instance, in some countries, it's a crime to:
- Bring over-the-counter medications into the country
- Take pictures of government buildings
- Have pornographic materials in your possession, such as a magazine
Knowing how to contact the US embassy or consulate is critical if you land in legal troubles while traveling abroad.
Be Sure to Pack These Items
A different country is like a different world. Make things easier by remembering to bring:
- The proper electrical plug adapters for your computer, cell phone and other electronics
- A dictionary for translating back and forth from English to the language spoken at your destination
- Vitamins and necessary medications
Some careful planning can make the travel aspect of your business trip a snap. It gives you more time and energy to focus on the real task at hand: Getting the job done.
Questions for Your Attorney
- What should I do if my passport is lost or stolen?
- Can I take a tax deduction for expenses I paid for my spouse while helping me on the business trip?
- Is my employer in any way legally responsible or my safety while on a business trip?