It’s no secret that business travel is a hot trend for many companies. As offices are increasingly spread out and employees are starting to work remotely, there’s an increased need for face-to-face connections. My business philosophy—built into the business travel tips below—is that people always come first. Beyond the business deals and team meetings, making the effort to visit others in person helps to form new relationships, build trust with clients and coworkers, increase productivity, and guide your company culture.
While some employees may feel comfortable picking up everything and hitting the road, business travel can certainly be intimidating for those who aren’t your average “road warrior.” Given that I spend most of my time on the road for work, I like to consider myself an experienced traveler—but I wasn’t always this way. When I was growing up outside Detroit and living on welfare, traveling was not something I got to do often. It first began as a commitment to service customers in Charleston, SC, after Hurricane Hugo in 1989. As I began to work my way up in my career to eventually become the CEO of BELFOR Property Restoration, the world’s largest property and restoration company, I quickly learned the ins and out of business travel and the benefits of proper preparation.
Travel has granted me the opportunity to be on site for hundreds of manmade and natural disasters across the globe to visit my BELFOR Family members and clients in their times of need. I have never regretted getting on a last-minute flight to meet someone in person, so it’s important to jump at these opportunities when possible—if you’re properly prepared.
Whether you’re an expert traveler or new to jetsetting, I hope the ten business travel tips below will help you maximize your business-related adventures:
1. Keep a to-go bag ready
CEO or not, you never know when you may need to pack up your bags and go. I always stress the importance of being prepared, and encourage employees and frequent travelers to have a carry-on bag prepped safely located with their passport, copies of travel documents (photos and digital records, too!), insurance cards, prescriptions, and a first aid kit accessible.
2. Always make your bed
When traveling, it can be easy to feel disconnected from your “home routine.” To help feel more settled while away, I always make my bed to start off the day feeling a sense of structure and immediate accomplishment.
3. Keep note cards/stationery with you
Having stationery with you when you travel may seem old school, but it’s very important to take the time when you have it to celebrate the people in your life by writing to them. Acknowledging a friend’s promotion or a coworker’s birthday is a great way to feel productive on the road and stay connected with loved ones.
4. Always bring a snack and stay hydrated
People don’t usually plan to be late for a morning meeting or stuck on an airport runway for two hours. But with chaotic travel schedules, anything is possible. Having snacks in your bag is crucial to avoiding unwanted “hanger” and to help stay alert. It sounds simple, but staying hydrated while traveling is important, too.
5. Factor in “travel time”
When meeting clients or distant colleagues, it’s important to always make a good first impression, and that starts with punctuality. Budgeting extra time to get to and from your destination is critical in the unfortunate event of unwarranted delays or traffic. With technology today, many apps can even predict traffic and travel times.
6. Prepare for your obligation
While you have the time, use it to your advantage to diligently go over your tasks and notes for your upcoming plans on the plane or long drive. Thankfully, most airlines now have Wi-Fi available, which you can use to assist with recovering work documents or researching the landmarks, history and culture of the destination to better understand your surroundings. I’ve learned that for both disasters and for life, you can never be too prepared!
7. Be accessible
Traveling for work doesn’t mean you can be mentally absent from your duties back home. I always try to go to extra lengths to remain accessible so employees can reach out to me when I’m on the move. I also like to keep my watch set (or at least some clock or device) to “home time” so I’m always thinking of my family in Michigan. Staying connected also helps ease the transition when you’re back into the office as you’ll already be up to speed.
8. Keep an eye on safety
The seasoned road warrior is no fool. Prioritizing health and safety, in addition to thinking ahead about emergency precautions and protocols, will be useful in your new surroundings. Locating all the exits, guarding your personal belongings, in addition to watching what you consume, will help you feel more in control and at ease on the road. Consideration for your safety in a new environment is several business travel tips in one. Check the weather forecast before traveling, know where airport storm shelters are, and pay attention—and practice—hotel and meeting place evacuation routes. Safety first!
9. Dress appropriately
While I don’t wear a suit (traveling or at home), I like to stick to my sportcoat and jeans to have an approachable and professional look when I arrive at a work site. Remember: When traveling for business you’re always representing your company, so you should be presentable and appropriate for your work responsibilities.
10. Be kind
Compassion goes a long way! It’s important to thank the people who help you get to your destination (flight attendants, hotel concierges, strangers, etc.) because being nice will not only put you in a better mood but can be beneficial as people will be more willing to assist you should you experience any problems. Also, you never know whose story is going to inspire the next “great idea.” (Editor’s note: Johnny advocates being kind to airline staff, as well.)