International Business Travel Tips, From Business Travelers

After posting our 10 Tips For International Business Travel, readers responded with some engaging comments. Chiming in with additional tips that work, their ideas for international business travel have an undeniable common sense. Based on their personal experience, with some lessons learned “the hard way,” readers shared not what they heard would be a good idea, but what they did that worked. Take a look and see if you agree.

Bring Local Currency With You
“Take foreign currencies with you,” advises Rosie in her comment, adding “In France, you cannot go to a bank to change dollars, you need to go to the Post Office, but they will NOT exchange $100 bills unless they have been verified as genuine by the French Banque de France. And this could take a minimum of 3 weeks. Apparently, a lot of fake $100 bills ‘manufactured’ in Russia have been floating about.”

Notify Credit Card Companies In Advance
Annie recommends, “notifying your credit card company(s) of your itinerary. Also if on a cruise notify them of the name of the line & where they bill from. My card co. did recognize the name of the billing co. & it was really annoying as the card co. doesn’t have 24/7 call service. Also check your medical insurance! Medicare participants especially need to check their supplemental as most only cover $10,000 out of the country (except emergencies in Canada).”

Scan Documents, Be Prepared, Know What To Do
“In addition to carrying copies of your documents and cards and leaving a set with family, scan copies to your email account,” commented reader brinniewales. “This helps considerably in case everything you are carrying is lost or stolen and/or no one is available at home to respond to your immediate needs. Internet cafes are available around the world, so those copies of documents and cards are just a few clicks away.

If your passport is lost or stolen, and if possible, check the government website to determine the requirements for a replacement passport before going to your embassy or consulate. You may be able to complete the form online and print a completed copy to submit. Photos are necessary so, if necessary (if not taken at the embassy), take the appropriate number (and size) of photos.”Have A Backup Plan and Know The Rules
Lou had a bunch of comments including, “Leave a complete list of the contents of your wallet and valuables home with someone who can immediately report these items to credit card companies, law enforcement, US Customs or insurance companies.

Business travel may require a VISA where tourist does not. Business travel laws and rules vary in most foreign countries. Also items you travel with may be considered for tariff. It’s smart to have a letter of invitation from [your] client stating your business.”

Better Than An App For That
“Here’s a good idea for protecting your valuables and keeping track of your iPhone, your iPad, your laptop and even your camera, keys, luggage and passport,” wrote Gordon. “Two years ago, I found Okoban and obtained tracker tags for a free global lost and found service. I put them on all of my valuables.”

It paid off in Rome. I left my passport at a restaurant at lunch. That afternoon, I received a text message from Okoban saying that my passport had been found. I did not even know it was missing.”

Know Your Cards And Don’t Assume
Hanky wanted us to know that he “just returned from Europe a few weeks ago, so my experience is fresh.

  • Be sure you have a credit card that can be used internationally, i.e. Citibank cards in the US are not used in Europe, call for the upgrade at least one month early and they will send a new card that can be used in all locations.
  • Be sure you call all your banks and credit/debit cards to tell them your travel dates, so they don’t reject a bill.
  • Be sure you take the appropriate electric converters, we stayed at the Ritz and even they did not (have any to loan)”

Share Your Story, Work The Maps
Reader Joy has multiple suggestions too, advising:

  • Give someone at ‘home’ your complete itinerary, and numbers where you maybe found.
  • Take foreign money with you, and be ready upon landing to get where you need to be.
  • Do not assume anything, so be prepared. Maps help too. (show and tell cab drivers).
  • Take all medicines with you, in your possession, and not in luggage.

Thanks to all who commented, these are great tips we think others can use too. You lived and learned and we benefit. See more comments at “10 Tips For International Business Travel” or add yours here.

[Flickr photo by _tar0_]

Business Travel On The Rise With Focus On Personal Value

Results from the fourth annual Embassy Suites Business Travel Survey show that while the recovering economy is still holding down the number of business trips taken, those who do travel are mixing business with pleasure more often than not. The report also highlights a keen interest in value – perhaps a lesson learned from tough times in the recent past.

“This year’s survey shows us that while people are traveling more for business; those guests want to get more – literally – out of every trip,” said John Lee, vice president, brand marketing for Embassy Suites Hotels in a release.

Noting the value of “face time” with customers, business travelers surveyed reported cutbacks on travel due to the economy down ten percent less than last year. Rather than skipping travel to meet customers face to face, some business travelers are cutting back on other travel expenses like meals and incidentals. The survey indicates that overall, business travelers are looking for better value in the hotels they use.

“Despite all the great technological advances, there is still no substitute for meeting someone in person,” says Cynthia Good, CEO & founding editor of Little PINK Book, a leading digital platform for businesswomen.

Going a step further on maximizing value, business travelers are getting more into bleisure travel by extending their business stay for personal travel time. Of those surveyed, 61 percent reported an average of three additional days added on to business trips for personal reasons.The logic is sound too as the company is already paying transportation costs to and from the destination. If business takes travel to a desirable destination, why not stay a while and enjoy some quality vacation time? Why not have a family member join them for the “leisure” time after the “business” time is complete?

Where do business travelers most likely extend their trips? The top cities to turn a business trip into a bleisure trip are San Diego (60 percent), Seattle (39 percent) and Denver (36 percent).

Across the pond, bleisure travel is a popular option in the UK with the Sunday Times summing it up nicely and calling it “a blending of business and leisure – which is the ideal compromise between the conflicting demands of a busy career and a balanced homelife.”

[Flickr image via stanrandom]

Five good business habits that suffer when you travel

Business travel isn’t easy. In order to make the most of the money you’re spending, you wind up sacrificing sleep, cramming in as many meetings as possible and adopting a pace of life that you’d never be able to maintain at home. It’s severe, it’s unpleasant and it’s a simple fact of life on the road. Your personal well-being tends to be the first casualty. Diet and exercise are cast aside, as you sacrifice them to business objectives. Sleep doesn’t last long, either – I can’t count how many six-hour nights quickly slipped to three.

What often gets overlooked, however, is the impact that business travel can have on your business habits. We all lament the personal effects, but we tend to miss those that matter most to why we’re on the road to begin with! Hectic schedules and long lists of business needs can ultimately cause your performance to suffer.

Let’s take a look at five good business habits that are jeopardized when you’re on the road:
1. Preparation: with a crammed schedule, you aren’t as likely to have time to review your notes, reflect on meetings you’ve just completed and get ready for those still on the agenda. Even with the most rigorous note-taking, you’re bound to miss something. Instead of packing your agenda, protect your results by building in enough time to prepare and reflect.

2. Visibility: part of making an in-person visit is to be seen. Otherwise, you could get a lot done through phone calls, email and video conferencing.

3. Communication: cram your schedule, and you won’t just miss out on being seen – you also won’t be heard. Even if you throw etiquette to the win and work your BlackBerry feverishly during meetings, you still won’t be able to communicate effectively. Your over-ambitious agenda will cause your day-to-day work to suffer, and it will also impact the people you work with. Leave a little time to make sure you give the folks back at the office what they need.

4. Collaboration: if people can’t see or hear you, they certainly won’t be able to share ideas effectively with you. A travel agenda that’s too busy will cost your company your perspective, and that’s part of why you were hired. Make sure you leave some room to work actively with your colleagues back at the office to keep existing projects on track – and share your ideas with people who want them.

5. Common sense: related to fatigue, hunger and everything else … you do stupid things when you aren’t at your best. Basic decision making and judgment calls suffer, which can cost you anything from an embarrassing moment to the rest of your career.

Five ways to lighten your load when traveling on business and pleasure

If you’ve gone on a long business trip, there’s a good chance you’ve tacked a vacation onto the front or back of it. Why not? You’re already on the road. If business takes you (or close to) an interesting place, it makes sense to get the most out of your experience – and the plane ticket you’ve already purchased. Unfortunately, this can be a pain sometimes. You wind up with a lot of luggage to drag around, which can be uncomfortable at best.

Don’t let this problem get in your way!

There are a number of ways you can change how you pack to make your business-and-pleasure combo easier to manage. Let’s take a look at five of them:

1. Get real about shoes: do you need footwear for casual, office and formal occasions? Try to consolidate. Getting down to one pair may be tough, but you should be able to find a pair of shoes that at least works from business casual through formal. It won’t be the best pair of shoes for any of these occasions, but it might be just good enough for all of them.

2. Recycle your wardrobe: use clothing form your business trip for nights out when you’re on vacation. It’s close enough. Maybe mix up the shirts and paints so you feel like you’re wearing something a little different from what you put on for the job.

3. Find a local laundry service: the hotels will gouge you, so don’t even think about using them. Try to find a dry cleaner with wash/dry/fold service at your destination. It isn’t as cheap as doing the laundry yourself, but it will be faster and easier. And you won’t have to pack as much.

4. Enlist your travel partner’s help: is your wife (or husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, etc.) going to meet you for the vacation portion of your trip? See if you can have him or her carry your vacation clothing for you. At least it cuts your load for the outbound side of your trip. Maybe the two of you could each carry half of what you need for the vacation part.

5. Stick to the essentials: wear the same suit twice. Skip the extra pair of jeans. You could probably get by on a lot less than you think!

Three good reasons why Monday-morning business travel is best

I just stepped through airport security on a Monday morning for the first time in a few years. I used to dread Mondays when I was a hard-core road warrior, because they came to represent the first step in a marathon, and I knew that agony was just around the corner. Also, it didn’t help that I had only been home for 48 hours, was still exhausted and had to get up at 4 AM to start the insanity all over again.

This time around, it wasn’t so bad. Sure, I had to get up at an awful hour to make my 7 AM flight, and I generally don’t enjoy the gauntlet that is air travel. But, if you have to contend with the airlines, the best time to do so, it seems, is Monday morning.

And it all comes down to people.

When you fly on Monday morning, you’ll be doing it with pros. This is when the road warriors – the poor souls who (by choice) travel every week – tend to dash off to their recurring client engagements. These guys know the drill, and they tend not to exhibit the annoying behavior of infrequent or leisure travelers.

Here are three reasons why Monday morning is the best time to step on a plane:1. Security is easy: on my most recent stroll through the checkpoint, everyone knew what he was doing. There wasn’t much stupidity, and the line moved quickly. Shoes came off before the conveyor belts, and laptops were already extracted from briefcases. There was no fumbling or forgetting at the moment of truth.

2. Fewer questions are necessary: you don’t see as many people hounding employees at the ticket counters or at the gates (unless there’s a delay or cancelation, of course). The passengers know what they’re doing, which ultimately means more elbow room for the employees to do their jobs. Things run smoothly. If you do have a question, you’ll have an easier time getting to someone who can answer it.

3. It’s easier to follow the rules: why? Well, because everyone else is! I’m not joking. On Monday mornings, most people seem to pay attention, know when to board and don’t bother trying to beat the system (e.g., by disregarding lines in front of gate agents). Since the environment’s a bit more orderly, you don’t feel like you’re getting screwed when you follow the rules. If you have to wait in line, you tend to suspect that the questions aren’t inane, and that you’ll get through it soon enough.

Now, if you aren’t a regular business traveler, you should pay attention to what’s going on around you. After all, you don’t want to disrupt the flow and invoke the ire of all around you! Plan ahead. Be ready for the security checkpoints. Listen for when your boarding group is called. You’ll be contributing to the easiest travel experience imaginable!

[photo by Jim Epler via Flickr]