Business Travel for Noobs

Business travel can be an enriching experience that allows you to see the world essentially for free. It can also be a drag if you don’t know about the hazards to avoid.  Here’s a few tips for the noobs out there who are just getting their air legs under them.

Booking

If you have to book your own travel rather than through your company, Priceline is a really great deal.  I’ve stayed in luxurious four-star hotels for as little at $65 per night.  Never underestimate the effect of a nice comfortable and clean room on your overall away-from-home health.  If your company books through their agency, make sure you have a travel profile on file with them. This will ensure that your travel preferences are taken care of without you having to worry or think about it. Stuff like aisle seat, vegetarian airplane meal, non-smoking room… you get the idea.

Flying

The halcyon days of glamorous air travel are long long gone, but there are steps you can take to make your trip through the gauntlet a little less aggravating.

  • Check in online as close to 24 hours ahead of time as possible. This will give you the ability to rearrange your seat if you need to, and for Southwest, this will get you into a more advantageous seating group. It also makes it a breeze to check in, as all you have to do is go to the e-check-in and check any baggage.
  • Dress comfortably. Unless you are heading directly to a business engagement the day of your flight, wear comfortable clothing with shoes that are easy to put on and take off.
  • Get to the airport early. Yes, two hours early is a good rule of thumb. You never know when you’ll need that extra time. Once you’re familiar with your home airport, you can begin to tweak your arrival time, but in the beginning, it’s better to wait around before boarding than to be late and miss your flight
  • Check your bags. I’m going to get beat up by some for this, but please check your bag(s)!  There isn’t enough overhead room for everyone’s bags, and the few minutes you save at your destination by not checking your bag is not worth the hassle.  AND, if you check your bags, you can stow your laptop bag in the overhead and reclaim precious leg room. If you do decide to be a douche carry on, place your bag wheels out.  I know it looks like the door won’t shut, but it will.  Placing your bag sideways is a classic noob maneuver that takes up twice the space, makes the stewardesses crabby, and can delay departure as people/staff have to rearrange your bag.
  • Cruise through security. Get familiar with what you can’t take on a flight. Before you get to the front of the line, unzip your laptop bag so that you can quickly take it out and place it in a plastic bin.  You’ll typically need two bins.  One for the laptop, and one for your shoes and other stuff you might have to take off. For best efficiency, place your stuff on the conveyer belt in this order:  laptop bag, bin with laptop, bin with other stuff.  When you get to the other end of the X-ray machine, you can quickly take the laptop and place it in your bag, and then you can take your shoes and other items and move to a bench away from the line to put your shoes back on and regroup.
  • Don’t work in the air. Unless you absolutely have to, don’t work while you’re flying.  Use the time for recreation in whatever form that takes. Read a book, listen to some music, watch a movie.  In short, just chill.  I’m usually able to knock out that book that I really want to read, but never can find the time for.

Expenses

For all of my receipts, I have a little ziplock insert in my planner that I place my receipts in.  A folder might work for you, or even a little baggie. Try to have some discipline to keep your receipts together.  I keep mine in chronological order, and generally scribble the meal that it was for somewhere on the receipt at the time I’m signing the credit-card slip.  Just doing those two things is a real life saver when you start filling out the expense report.  Some companies don’t require receipts.  If this is the case for you, I just started hating you, and you can disregard this part.  For the rest of us, one last piece of advice.  Do your expense report as soon as humanly possible upon your return.  This will get it over with, but will also protect you against lost receipts and lost memory about which receipt goes with what expense.

Have Fun

You’re there to work for sure, but if you can get some time to see the sights of the city you’re in, do it.  I’ve been known to tack on a few extra days to a business trip as a mini vacation from time to time if the city is right.  One word of caution though on fun.  It’s fine to have a couple of drinks at dinner, but cap it at two (zero if driving).  You’re there to forward your company’s agenda, and being incapacitated the morning after in any way is not a good way to do that.  And, you never want to be the person living down and act of inhibition-lowered infamy.

Safe travels!

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