I’m lucky enough to have clocked up a lot of miles travelling for business as well as pleasure. Of late, I’ve been working away a fair bit, and this prompted me to think about what makes for a good planning and packing experience when setting out on a trip.
Business Trip: the Practical stuff
Let’s begin with work. Firstly, do you have any instructions about the event that will inform your packing list?
- Is there a dress code?
- Are there any events associated with the trip that need specific attire?
- Do you need to bring a work laptop?
- Are there papers, and do you need a hard copy?
- Do you need to bring samples, publications, work-based ID, things you’ve promised to colleagues?
Once you’ve teased that out, I’d suggest you start by assessing if anything particularly heavy needs to be shipped. When I ran a lot of training programmes, I would ship any manuals, heavy documentation, and sometimes other props in advance. In those circumstances, you might also want to consider asking a local colleague if they have any of the items you need to save you hauling them a distance at expense.
Business Trip: Destination Mojo
Now’s the time to start looking at the destination. If it’s not somewhere you’re familiar with, then you can find average temperature and rainfall online. This will give you a starting point until you check out the immediate forecast just before you pack.
If your trip is international, don’t forget to check if you need any visas. You should also be aware that you may need to consider customs declarations for work samples traveling across borders. Always do this research well in advance. Is there someone in your organisation who can handle this for you? Or colleagues who have made similar trips before? Maximise the expertise of others where you can.
Business Trip: Check out the venue and your accommodation
If your trip host is arranging your venue and accommodation, then it can be really useful to check this out online beforehand. If you are going to walk across a busy city to a conference venue, you may need a backpack rather than a slim laptop case. If your hotel has a gym or pool, this may also affect what you pack. So think about how you are going to use the hours around the event and pack accordingly. We’ve put together a guide for packing light here.
Also, don’t forget to check out the travel arrangements. Are you traveling with colleagues or managers? If so, does your organisation have a dress code for traveling? Everyone I’ve worked with has traveled in normal attire, but I’m aware that’s not always the case. Some companies like their teams to travel suited and booted. And while I don’t want to cramp your personal style, you might like to choose something comfortable and in line with your professional image.
Business Trip: Planning your own time
Depending on your arrangements and the nature of your business commitments, it may be possible to have some time to yourself as part of the trip. Many organisations will recognise the need to allow you time to recuperate after a long journey. Don’t forget we’ve got you covered for managing your long haul flight here. It may also be possible to extend the trip at your own expense to enable you to have a little time in the city.
So do consider your work schedule, and see if it is possible to make those arrangements. It may even be feasible to have a partner or family fly out to join you and explore a new place. Many employers can be very flexible about these opportunities. If you are working for yourself, then again consider your other commitments and whether you can squeeze in a day of explorations. There is so much of this beautiful world to see, and a work life balance is a very good argument for making the most of your trip.
Business Trip: Working on the road
Getting stuff done while you are out of your normal working environment can be a challenge. Unfamiliar spaces, a sense of being unsettled, connectivity problems and slow wifi can all add to the burdens of working on the road. So here are my tips for doing the best you can along the way.
Get as much as possible done before you go
I know that is so much easier said than done. Especially when you have the trip itself to look forward to, and all your home arrangements to put in place too. But arriving at the airport with a bunch of post-its stuck to your phone, each outlining something you need to sort before you board, is no way to begin the trip with a calm mindset. I know. It was me. So knuckle down before you buckle up. It’ll be so worth it.
Be realistic about what you want to achieve
I’ve got three days in Brussels coming up. I’ll be at an event between 10 and 6 for two of those days. So I know I’ll have about four hours on day 1, three on day 2 and none on day 3. Now I need to get real about what I can do in that time. And I’ll resist the temptation to schedule more than I can do; that’s disheartening, and destroys the pleasure of the trip.
Check the working environment before you go
As you can probably see an example of your accommodation before you leave, you can decide how much work is possible and of what type of tasks are likely to be feasible. Hotel chains vary considerably in the facilities they offer, and from time to time you will find a gem with copious desk space, fast wifi and great task lighting. (Bristol Marriott, you’ve restored my faith in working in hotel rooms.)
Leave yourself some down time
You are not a machine. Travel can be energising, but it can also be extremely tiring, and occasionally frustrating. So remember to leave space to unwind, and (shock horror) enjoy your destination if possible. Research upfront if there’s anything in particular you’d like to do.
My very favourite thing to do when away on business is to get up early, and, instead of the gym, just walk the awakening city. It’ll be newly washed, showing off its face to the sun (hopefully) and giving you a view of how it lives its life. Stop off for a coffee or breakfast, and really let the place sink in.
Download this checklist to Help Plan your Business Trip
I’ve created this downloadable checklist to help you prepare for your next business trip.