10 Tips For International Business Travel

International business travel is a different animal when compared to a quick domestic trip. Flying for extended periods of time alone presents its own unique challenges for those who have not done it before. Still, international business travel does not have to be the grueling sort of ordeal that first-timers anticipate by following a few simple guidelines.

For our purposes here, we assume a) you do not have a huge corporate travel department taking care of the details for you, b) you care how much elements of the trip cost and c) can accept a seat in coach.

  • Booking airfare– Book air far in advance for the best seat selection. Keep on top of fares by registering flights with AirFareWatchdog (before buying) and Yapta (after). If the price goes down later, a refund or credit for future travel may be possible. Also, reduce travel stress by insisting on a minimum of 2 hours between connections, especially on the return flight to the U.S. If the arrival airport is not your final destination, you’ll need time to recheck luggage and go through security screening again.
  • Periodically check reservations– Once flights are booked and seats assigned, return to the airline website to get a feel for how flights are filling up. You may wish to pay more closer to travel day for an aisle seat. SeatGuru can help with this. Also, be sure reservations have frequent flyer numbers on them to get credit for long flights. Be extra safe by saving boarding passes as proof later that you were on the flight.
  • Know what documentation is required– In addition to a valid U.S passport that expires a minimum of 6 months after your international travel, you may need to satisfy other entry requirements. The U.S Department of State‘s Smart Traveler Program offers all the information needed to enter and experience any given country in the world. Registering travel plans with Smart Traveler brings travel alerts and background information in advance of travel too.
  • Explore communication options in advance– Molding options on a cellphone plan to fit where your destination can make using your cellphone abroad a viable option. On extended trips a new sim card to match your destination might work best, but simply customizing options can work well too. Adding an international data plan, for example, will let you use smartphone apps that can be invaluable navigating foreign soil. Another option is to “Cheat On Your Cellphone Service With Tep Wireless.”
  • Fly in a day in advance of important meetings- Have some plans in place but have International business travelthe flexibility to spend the first day overseas adjusting to the time difference and getting used to new surroundings. If everything goes well, you may be able to hit the ground running. If a few parts of your travel plan don’t come off as anticipated, all is not lost, just a bit behind schedule.
  • Start focusing on getting plenty of rest and eating right several days before the flight- Unless you’re headed to Canada from New York, most international travel translates to some long flights. Sure, maybe we can’t “bank” sleep but starting a long flight with a full tank of rest is always a good idea. Also see: “How To Deal With Jetlag.”
  • Consider the allowed personal carry-on item your “flight bag”- and have everything that might be needed during the flight in it. Having at hand, under the seat in front of you, is huge and a must-do for all international flights. Also, finish packing (at least preliminarily) a week in advance. That offers the opportunity to be sure critical items are packed and allows time to source those items not packed first time around.
  • Enjoy the experience that international flights can offer in and of itself- Flight attendants or other passengers have wonderful stories to tell that can add a richness to our travels. Engage the world with smartphone apps like HipGeo and FourSquare to share your experience and record your journey step by step. Bringing along the new app TagWhat is almost like having a personal travel guide along for the ride.
  • Know a little of the language- While you’re apt to kick yourself for not knowing more once on the ground, basic words and phrasing is a must. Questions like “How much?” and “Can you help me?” go a long way, along with: “Please,” “Excuse me” and “Thank You.” A smartphone app for translating languages is a good idea.
  • Money matters- Like language, have a good idea of how the local currency converts to dollars, not that you can do anything about that but just so you will have an idea of value and maybe not pay the equivalent of $10 for a Coke. Onanda’s Currency app for iPhone is a good one to have handy. Use a credit card that will work internationally (not all will) and does not charge an extra fee for doing so. Be sure to notify card companies when you will out of the country too, otherwise they may shut you down, thinking your card has been stolen.

There are plenty of other tips for international business travel, including Gadling’s International Travel Tips In 100 Words Or Less, but these have helped me quite a bit and some were hard lessons to learn.

One more: do not forget a power converter. I spent the good part of a day in Venice on my first international business trip, looking for a device that would allow me to stick my U.S. plug into the odd-sized electrical outlets in our hotel. Since the only Italian words I knew were from working at the Olive Garden decades ago, I walked around the city with a hand written note from the hotel desk clerk to help. I assume that note said, “This man wants a power converter,” but it might have said, “Laugh at this silly American,” because most people I presented it to did.

[Flickr image via || UggBoy♥UggGirl || PHOTO || WORLD || TRAVEL ||]

Stay Fit On The Go: Easy Hotel Room Exercises

Life on the road can be rough on the body. Not only do travelers often find themselves eating fatty foods and sitting in cars or on planes for long periods of time, but we also fall victim to falling out of our normal workout routines.

Although the number of hotels featuring fitness centers is on the up and up, every accommodation option doesn’t have the convenience (and in many cases, travelers don’t necessarily want to utilize the gym). Stay fit on the road with this easy 25-minute hotel room workout that utilizes an object found in nearly every hotel room: a chair.

Warm Up
5 minutes
First things first, get those muscles ready by doing shoulder circles, 15-25 calf raises, and 25-50 jumping jacks. Do all these exercises without a break and you should get your blood flowing.

Workout
20 minutesLeg Squats: With a chair behind you (or not if you are experienced), stand with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your abs tight as you bed your knees and slowly squat toward the chair. Hover above the chair for a few seconds and then lift back up by extending your legs until your back to a standing position. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Lunges: Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart. Step your right foot approximately two feet in front of you, lowering your hips while maintaining control and balance until both knees are bent at about 90-degree angles. Make sure your front knee is directly above your ankle and your back knee doesn’t touch the floor. Keep the weight in your heels and push back up to the starting position. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Elevated Push Ups: Place your hands on the edge of the bed (let’s face it, nobody wants their face anywhere near hotel room carpet). Scoot your feet out until you are in a diagonal plank position and proceed to do traditional push ups. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Wall Climb: Place your hands flat against the wall with your arms straight, leaning your body at an angle with your right foot forward. Quickly bringing your left foot forward while simultaneously kicking your right foot back. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Chair Step: Set a straight-backed chair (without wheels) against the wall or door of your hotel room so the chair seat faces you. Step up on the seat one foot at a time and then step down. Repeat for 1-3 sets of 10 repetitions.

If this is not enough of a workout for you, do another round of these exercises. Keep in mind that this simple workout is not a replacement for heavy-duty sessions, but instead a way to stretch out and break a sweat in the privacy of your own hotel room. And take caution: all exercises are attempted at your own risk. Always consult a physician before beginning any physical activity.

[Flickr image via sldghmmr]

How To Find The Best Food While On The Road For Business

Business travel tends to bring out the worst in a traveler’s eating habits. It happens for a variety of reasons. Most business district restaurants are built around the lives of 8 to 5 employees, crescendoing at the busy lunch hour and then buttoning up service at 6 or 7 when workers have gone home to their families. At the Comcast Center, where I occasionally work in Philadelphia, the underground food court is opulent and packed at 12:30 on a Tuesday. By 8 p.m. it’s a ghost town.

There’s also the mentality of being on the road for work. Out of one’s comfort zone it’s easier to splurge on meals that are more convenient or for special occasions. It also helps when someone else is paying. But the cost goes beyond the pocketbook – your health is also on the line.

We’re all frequent travelers at Gadling Labs, so we compiled our best tips for eating well on the road and put them into this handy list for business travelers.

1. Escape the room service blues. Wouldn’t you know it? Sitting Indian style in front the television isn’t the ideal posture for consuming your after-meeting engorgement. Moving over to the desk is a better approach, but an even healthier option is to get up, get out of your room and find your food. The exercise that you get on the way will do plenty to counteract the carbs that you’re about to consume. And you’ll probably find something better than what the room service is going to provide.2. App it up. Yelp is the number one resource for any business traveler who wants to eat healthy. Those stuck in central business districts may find that the only visible nearby options are big box franchises, with smaller, more thoughtful places scattered thin. A quick search on Yelp will show the best-ranked restaurants in the area and will give the traveler an idea of what sort of fare is best received. Tip: “Healthy Food” is actually a searchable genre.

3. Home cooked meals are always the best, because you know exactly what ingredients are going into them. Check out the components of this barbecue sauce (only three tablespoons of brown sugar!) and you’ll see what I mean. The problem, of course, is that it’s difficult to cook while on the road. You can get around much of that by finding a hotel with a kitchenette. Homewood Suites and Elements are two great brands that feature stoves and utensils in each room. Stop by the grocery store on your way home; pick up an onion, a zucchini and some pasta and you’re in business.

4. The grocery store is your friend. Even if you don’t have the time or resources to bring food back to your hotel, there are myriad opportunities to find ready-to-eat meals at your local grocery store. Most outlets have prepared meals made from their produce sections, and barring that option there are big-brand-curated meals. Just stay away from the salt-rich TV dinners and you’ll be in good shape. As an extra bonus, it’s also cheaper.

5. Talk to the locals – the real locals. Think your hotel concierge has the best take on dinner options? Maybe. Or maybe he’s going to send you to the same Hard Rock Cafe that the tourists go to – or to somewhere that gives him a cut. Real locals, the ones on the street, have the best opinion on nearby food; you just have to work up the guts to ask them. Take a hint from Gadling’s culinary czar David Farley and ask a cab driver.

[Flickr image via Hamed Saber]

Where To Find Wi-Fi While Traveling

We all know the definition of ‘Wi-Fi’ these days, and that’s a start. The more nonchalantly we all refer to this wireless Internet connection we all seek fervently, both while traveling and not, the more likely it is that we’ll find it. Finding Wi-Fi today is easier than it has ever been before, but the search can still be tricky. In the future, every square foot of U.S. land will have lightning speed Wi-Fi access, but until then, here are some tips for finding Wi-Fi while traveling.

1. Transportation

The one thing every traveler does is physically travel, so the easiest way to find Wi-Fi while traveling is to utilize a network hosted by your transporter. Airports and even airplanes usually have access to Wi-Fi. You’ll have to pay for Internet on the actual plane these days, but before you cough up money for the wireless you use in the airport, make sure to do a check for free networks. You can also find Wi-Fi now on trains, buses and boats.

2. Lodging

Your lodging while traveling is often a good resource for finding Wi-Fi. Not only do most hotels, motels, inns, lodges and resorts have Wi-Fi these days, but even more surprising accommodation choices offer Internet access. You can often find Wi-Fi now at campgrounds, truck stops, hotels, vacation rentals, airbnb rentals and RV parks.

3. Work Space

If you need Wi-Fi while working on the road (which is when most of us actually need it, right?), you shouldn’t have too hard of a time tracking it down. Offices are naturally equipped with Internet access and usually Wi-Fi, but you can also find a connection in other places of work. I do most of my work while on the road in coffee shops and 75% of them seem to have Wi-Fi access. Also check for Wi-Fi at convention centers, shared workspaces and libraries.

4. Leisure Spaces

If you want to find Wi-Fi in everyday places, seek and you will find. Wi-Fi connections are available in many restaurants, bars, gyms and other fitness centers, malls and regular public businesses. I’ve found Wi-Fi in spas, bike shops and certainly computer/phone stores.

5. Everywhere Else

One of the easiest things you can do is what I do: pay a little extra every month to transform your phone into a hotspot. I usually do this before I travel so I can work no matter where I am, even if I’m in a car’s passenger seat all day long.

High-speed godspeed.

[flickr image via raneko]

How To Find The Best Souvenirs While Traveling On Business

Souvenirs are tricky for business travelers. It’s all too easy to be overwhelmed by work or a busy itinerary only to find yourself grabbing something in duty free in the airport – or stopping by a gift shop to purchase an anonymous object created 12 time zones away from your destination. A T-shirt of thin cotton made in Bangladesh that says, “I Heart Vienna” may be fun in a kitsch sort of way, but it’s not really a good souvenir.

To find a good souvenir, be guided by this question: What is produced locally? Think about “production” broadly – in addition to crafts and art objects, think of clothes, food, accessories, and housewares. If you’re in a destination where very little is made, move on to this follow up question: What is collected locally?

By frequenting flea markets and local arts and crafts stalls, you can find locale-appropriate souvenirs of great and enduring value. Guidebooks and hotel concierges can direct you to local markets, flea markets, galleries and other shops where items of local value can be found.

Lastly, by paying attention to the beauty of the incidentals of your surroundings, you might very well chance upon the most sentimentally valuable souvenirs of all – commonplace objects designed markedly differently than comparable objects at home.

1. Local products. Pricing, materials and goods vary radically from place to place. An item created by artisan producers local to your destination – assuming high quality, of course – expresses the culture of a place powerfully.

2. Flea markets. The strangest cast-offs can be found in flea markets. Sometimes these objects are prized antiques, and other times they have virtually no value, having just been dragged from a heap at the bottom of a closet. But there’s no better way to get a sense of a location than at a flea market or its local equivalent.

3. The incidentals of your surroundings. What actually triggers memories and nostalgia? The ticket stubs, paper menus and products that you come across on your travels. That glass yogurt container. That tram ticket. That theater program. These objects can be framed, used as scrapbook materials, or simply displayed at home. These objects permit a thoughtful, if passing, consideration of the fact that travel creates opportunities to reconsider the incidental trappings, the very packaging, of our lives.

[Flickr image via laszlo-photo]