At some point, almost every job in this industry requires travel. And, if it’s your first time venturing out on the company’s money, you might be jumping up and down with glee saying, “I LOVE to travel, oh, yes I do!” But before you start your happy dance, let’s review some road rules. There’s a big difference between business travel and the rest of the wandering you might do.
Being the face of your company comes with standard responsibilities. Some companies even have formal written policies. By all means, if this is available to you, it should be the first thing you ask about.
In most cases, you’ll be given few, if any, instructions beyond the standard, “No one but executives flies first class.”And there you have it. The No. 1 rule for your first time out of the gate on company money is to find out exactly how much you have to spend. Not just on air and hotel travel, but “all the other things” — gratuities for bellmen and maids, airport transportation options (bus/taxi/limo?), airline luggage charges (your mantra: pack efficiently), food, beverage, entertainment, the list goes on. Travel is expensive. Being on the company dime doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch the budget.
Here’s a short list of other items to consider:
1) ITINERARY. Make sure you leave your itinerary (air and hotel details, with dates) both at home and at the office.
2) RECEIPTS. All travel expenses need documentation, so make sure you get receipts for everything, and track them as you go. Doing this daily will help avoid panic attacks when you’re back in office with a wad of receipts.
3) DRESS CODE. Most companies have some policies. If yours doesn’t, use common sense. Leave the flip-flops at home and dress as if you’re proudly representing the company that is investing in sending you on the trip. Even on travel days, your company might prefer you wear something with a company logo. Think about the message it sends when you pair a company-issued shirt with ragged jeans, running shoes and a sweatshirt.
4) SUPPLIES. Plan ahead for extra business cards, computer/phone charging supplies, company brochures and all kinds of things you might need as a road warrior.
5) TRAVEL DOCUMENTS. Keep all travel documents in one location, preferably one that looks professional. Passport, personal ID and credit cards, airline information, hotel confirmations (be sure to have exact addresses so there’s no confusion about which Hilton/Hyatt/Marriott you’re going to), company expense forms, etc.
6) FOOD & BEVERAGE. Make good choices. If that sounds like something your mother might say, then so be it. Some people think business travel gives them license to eat, drink and be merry with no consequences. Remember, when traveling on someone else’s money, you’re always representing them. Don’t do things you might regret or that could risk your job. Just don’t.
Finally, it’s also important to remember to stay connected while traveling. But even that should have limits. Check in with someone at the office as much as needed, but always remember to focus on your presence wherever you are and with whomever that involves at the moment. Business travel should be about the mission and the journey, not what’s going on at the office in your absence.
What did you do right (or wrong) on your first trip as a planner? Please share your stories and your advice for first-timers in the comment section below.