Business travel is a little bit like an all-you-can-eat buffet. It looks good from afar but the reality can be exhausting, overwhelming and a little uncomfortable. Working interstate or overseas often means that you’re cooped up in an office, missing the best parts of travelling. If you travel for work, try using these tips to get the most out of your next business trip.
#1 Do your research
Make sure you do a bit of homework before you go so you’re not left out of pocket once the trip’s over. Review your company’s travel policies until you’re 100 percent clear on what is and what isn’t covered. Does your organisation prefer to give a per diem, or are you expected to claim expenses when you’re back on the ground? If you’re visiting somewhere that requires travel vaccinations, will you be compensated for these? Double checking whether cab rides, mobile data or minibar usage is coming out of your account or theirs means you could avoid a nasty surprise when you get home.
#2 Maximise your weekends
Sometimes work travel means being in an amazing part of the world and not having any spare time to check it out. Be clever with your trip planning and you might be able to spend a weekend exploring the place you’ve been working in. If you’re finishing up in the office on a Friday, many organisations will happily fly you back home on Sunday, so long as you cover your weekend accommodation costs. This can be a great way to take a mini-break in a place you might not have travelled to off your own bat, and a way to dip your toes into travelling alone if you haven’t done so before.
#3 Tap into that local knowledge
When you travel for work you have an opportunity to meet people you’d never meet if you were travelling for pleasure. The people you’re working with will have the best tips about where to eat, shop or go sightseeing, all from that elusive local perspective. Often, you’ll be lucky enough that co-workers would love to play tour guide and show you around after you leave the office. Once, on a work trip to Malaysia, my colleagues took me to a hawker centre in the suburbs that I never would have found on my own, and I still fantasise about the watermelon juice and popiah (a kind of fresh spring roll) I ate there.
#4 Do you future self a favour
Do as much life admin as possible to make it easier for yourself when you get home. If you need to file expense reports, use an app like Expensify (individual use free for iOS; Android) to keep track of your receipts. Carry a plastic bag in your suitcase for your laundry so it’s ready to chuck straight in the washing machine. Turn on an Out of Office reply with a clear alternate contact to avoid as much inbox shock as possible.
#5 Give your co-workers a little space
If you’re travelling with a co-worker it’s nice to debrief together in the hotel bar at the end of the day, but make sure you give each other a little space. Spending too much time together can leave you both feeling like you’ve been working 24/7. Try to avoid sitting together on the plane too, unless you desperately need the flight to prep for a meeting. If you sit next to each other, you’ll end up talking shop for the whole journey, and the passengers sitting around you definitely don’t care about your marketing strategy as much as you do.
#6 Keep up your routines
When travelling for longer periods of time try to keep things as normal as possible. Make time in your work schedule for a sweat session if you usually exercise a couple of times a week. Business traveller hotels often have a gym or a pool that you can use free of charge, and there’s an entire genre of hotel room workout videos on YouTube. If you take regular medication or supplements make sure you bring enough supplies to last you for the duration of your work trip. Also, if you have time, visit a supermarket and grab the foods you regularly eat to stock in your hotel fridge.
#7 Keep calm and carry-on (sorry)
The wait at the baggage carousel is painful when you’re walking out of the airport to begin your dream holiday, let alone when you’re leaving the airport to go to the office. If it’s possible, sticking to carry-on baggage will make you a lean, mean travelling machine. Navigating the airport with one bag is much more efficient, and you’ll have less things to keep track of in an unfamiliar environment when you arrive.
#8 Make bank on your loyalty programs
Travelling for work can be a serious opportunity to fatten up your frequent flyer miles. Make sure you’ve signed up as a Qantas Frequent Flyer (AWOL readers can sign up for free here) and provided those details to your work travel agent. The time you spend in the air for work can start earning you personal Qantas Points, which you’ll be able to spend on your next holiday. Score!
Ally Garrett is a Sydney-based writer and performer. Her writing has been published on The Cusp, The Wireless and The Guardian. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @allygarrett.