Traveling for work can be both an exhilarating, horizon-broadening experience and a stressful ordeal. But do a little prep work and follow a few rules, and you can minimize the hassles of business travel. Here are 10 tips that will have you traveling like a pro:
1. Double check your name
If you’re not booking your own ticket, make sure whoever is has your full name as it appears on your driver's license or government-issued photo ID—especially if you use a maiden name, nickname, or go by your middle name. If the name on your ticket doesn’t match the ID you show airport security, your trip may end at the security gate.
2. Pack carefully
A nasty shampoo spill can ruin your carefully-chosen professional wardrobe and shoes for the entire trip. Put all shampoos, body washes, lotions, and other liquids in clear zip-lock bags so they don’t leak over your outfits. And if you’re bringing carry-on bags, remember the 3-ounce limit.
3. Stock up on cash
Tipping is part of traveling, from the skycap who checks your luggage to the bellhop who takes your suitcase to your room. Travel with a stack of fives and ones in an easy-to-reach place so you’re ready to tip throughout your trip. This will save you the embarrassment of not having cash to tip, needing to make change, or arguing with a taxi driver over whether he’s supposed to accept credit cards.
How much to tip? A few simple guidelines:
4. Alert your credit card company
Whether you’re traveling with the company card or your own, be sure to alert the issuing bank when and where you’re traveling. Some banks view large charges in new places as a sign of potential fraud, triggering trouble with your account. To avoid any surprises on your trip, plan ahead and make the phone call.
5. Distinguish your bags
It seems 99.9 percent of travelers have a black rolling suitcase. Make yours stand out so you can keep track of it by putting a colorful, easy-to-identify nametag on your luggage, whether you plan to check it or carry it on. You can get distinctive and tasteful tags almost anywhere. Avoid ribbons and bows—they don't send a professional message.
6. Give yourself extra travel time
That means leaving extra early to get to the airport: don’t count on hitting every green light to get you there on time. You also never know if you’ll zip through the security line or stand in it for a half-hour. Worse, you may be the unlucky one who has to step out of line and let a TSA agent give your bag a closer look.
7. Dress for professional comfort
When you’re traveling, choose clothing and footwear that you could “live” in if there’s an unexpected lay-over or delay. Your shoes should allow you to remain standing when the airport tram jerks to a stop, or walk to a different terminal to catch your connecting flight. If your favorite pumps just aren’t comfortable, leave them at home or in your suitcase.
8. Do your homework before you get there
Find out the best way to get from the airport to your hotel. Do you need to arrange for a taxi or airport transfer service? Or does your hotel have an airport shuttle? Make your game plan ahead of time.
9. Know your company’s travel policy
What expenses will you be reimbursed for? Do you need to keep all receipts and turn them in when you return? Check with your office administrators and know before you go. Also, don’t go wild and open the $15 bag of peanuts in your room’s mini-bar unless you’re paying for it yourself. Your company may frown on such extravagance.
10. Before you go to bed, check the fire exits
Fire alarms can go off in the middle of the night—if you travel enough, it’s bound to happen—and knowing which way to go to find the stairs is a plus. And remember how your mother always said, “Wear clean underwear in case you get into an accident?” Well, pack a decent set of pajamas in case you find yourself in the hotel lobby with your co-workers, waiting just to hear it was a false alarm.
Photo courtesy of Stephen Jones.
Diane Gottsman is a nationally recognized etiquette expert and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in national corporate etiquette training. Visit her website, protocolschooloftexas.com, to learn more or gain valuable, timely tips from her blog: dianegottsman.com.More from this Author