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 ||]

Undiscovered New York: Times Square (?!)


Undiscovered New York is a series that investigates New York’s unexpected and off-the-beaten-path attractions. The places left off the “NYC tourist trail.” But like all good things, the series must come to an end. This week marks our final post. It’s not because we’re tired of the Big Apple – far from it. The effervescent shine and never-ending energy of New York will linger in our bloodstream for many years to come. But with the end comes a new beginning: there’s no better way to finish up than by helping visitors continue exploring this magical, one-of-a-kind metropolis on their own terms. And to prove it, we’re going to show how to visit one of New York’s most generic, overblown and monotonous tourist spots with fresh eyes. Lookout, we’re heading to Times Square!

Times Square is arguably New York City’s most famous tourist destination. Each day, thousands of visitors descend on this tiny pulsating strip of land, ebbing and flowing among Broadway shows and deep-fried chain restaurants, imbuing the area with a constant sense of energy. But this vitality has a way of robbing Times Square of all its fun. For an area that was once the city’s most notorious den of vice, it’s undergone a remarkable clean-up, morphing to a destination of squeaky-clean fun and glitzy nightlife. Yet for all these family-friendly charms, Times Square still retains vestiges of New York’s gritty charm and out-of-the-way attractions – you just need to know where to look.

Want to discover a forgotten gathering of magic and mystery in an old-school New York cafe? How about some of the city’s best BBQ north of the Mason-Dixon? Or perhaps some gorgeous vintage architecture from the days of old, hidden in plain view behind gaudy neon billboards? It’s time to leave your biases at the door – this week, Undiscovered New York is taking a fresh look at Times Square. Click below to see what we found…
The Magician’s Table – Cafe Edison

These days, magic is a dying art. The glory days of magic on Broadway are long gone and the craft has gone underground, finding favor at childrens’ birthday parties and the occasional Las Vegas casino. But if you’re looking relive the surprise and wonder of magic’s glory days, head over to Times Square’s Cafe Edison for the weekly Magician’s Table. The Society of American Magicians has held weekly meetings at this defiantly old-school cafe for over 60 years, dating back to the days when Times Square was a hotbed of New York’s flourishing magic scene. Magicians and regulars have been enjoying card tricks and the cafe’s top-notch Eastern European favorites like Matzo ball soup, Kasha varnishkas and blintzes for over 25 years.

Hidden Architecture
With all generic strip-mall restaurants and chain stores serving Times Square these days, it’s easy to forget the neighborhood is home to some of New York City’s most impressive architectural relics. Walk just a block or two from the frenzied movement of Broadway to corners like 46th Street and 7th Avenue, where visitors will find a the shocking remains of New York’s famous theatrical past, housing a facade with four statues from famous Broadway shoemaker Israel Miller. Just a few blocks south on 40th Street between Broadway and 6th Avenue are the “40th Street Philosophers,” a group of incredibly detailed building sculptures hidden in plain view. For all the flashy digital signage and gaudy lights in the area, it’s surprising to realize there’s plenty of historic New York architecture if you just stop and look around.

Killer BBQ
You don’t have to head to Texas, Kansas City or North Carolina to get some of the country’s best barbecue. It’s actually found near Times Square at Virgil’s Real Barbecue, which has been dishing up down-home favorites like pulled pork sandwiches and chicken fried steak to patrons from around the world. Considering your average dinner in Times Square involves some kind of cheesy nacho popper or fried shrimp, Virgil’s represents a defiant culinary stake in the ground for anyone who cares about quality well-made food.

With that, our odyssey here at Undiscovered New York comes to a close. Over the past year, we hope you’ve had a chance to explore New York’s five boroughs with fresh eyes, discovering all this vast, multicultural, history-rich city has to offer. Hopefully the next time you find yourself in the Big Apple, you’ll step off that well-worn tourist trail and head off in search of fresh adventure. Because in a city like New York, you never know what might be waiting for you around that next corner. See you soon!