10 Do’s & Don’ts of Business Travel Management

May 29, 2017

When helping organise or participate in business travel management there are important factors to consider for smooth corporate travel. From packing your IT luggage and business documents, to coordinating travel and researching your destination, there’s crucial aspects to discuss, before embarking on a business trip.

Aside from the usual guidelines for carry-on luggage (like flight luggage restrictions, including flight luggage weight and maximum luggage size, keeping in mind international flight luggage limits do vary from domestic flights), there are other underlying implications and potential complications. Whether you’re venturing interstate or overseas for business, corporate travel management etiquette applies, so we’ll investigate the do’s and don’ts that are suggested. Excel in your career, and enjoy the perks of being a corporate traveller.

1) Offer to help with business travel management, planning and booking

In some companies, there are specific staff members (such as PA’s) whose duties encompass organising business travel for the team. In others, these features may be outsourced to external companies, such as a travel agent, where only a small amount of liaisons are necessary. Whatever the case, small or large companies can benefit from the guidance and efficiency of external corporate travel services. Look for ATAS accreditation to ensure authorised travel professionals are handling your complete business travel needs.

There’s heaps of aspects to consider before taking off, and being part of the planning process, guarantees there’s no surprises. Offering assistance shows your commitment and eagerness, particularly when there’s lots to be done. It also ensures you’re across all aspects, to reduce any awkwardness or confusion, regarding responsibilities.

It’s important to ensure that all travel companions know their itinerary and any regulations of the airline, or provider you’re travelling with. You could find this other blog article useful when it comes to content rules to know, and aspects to verify in advance, regarding check-in luggage size and carry-on luggage size (including carry-on luggage rules and dimensions of carry-on luggage).

2) Coordinate schedules

At work, you may operate pretty independently, however, on the road or in the field dynamics can change, especially when travelling with small or large groups of colleagues. If you’re involved in organising travel aspects, ensure all parties have a contacts list. Plus, if you’re a smaller group exchange mobile numbers to stay in contact, if you’re not travelling directly, or in case you become separated. Not only is this a good tip for safety, but it also encourages the need for a quick planning session, before or during your trip. Such initiatives guard against rogue colleagues, or those who have a tendency to roam off track, so all are goal oriented and up to speed on directives.

3) Keep receipts if you share expenses

Always keep your receipts, whether for company reimbursement or tax purposes. Even if you have a company credit card, the accountant will appreciate physical receipts where possible for their records, in case there are any questions or anomalies. Keep these organised, in an envelope or diary, to help make your expense report fast and simple. This also lessens the likelihood of error. Additionally, always check in advance with a supervisor or HR, if you need clarification on employer reimbursements.

Many businesses may not reimburse employees until their return, others may be provided a limited budget. But either way, even if you can expect a refund from your company or through tax, it’s best to be prepared with the cash or access to funds needed, especially if exchange rates are involved. So, be sure to avoid making assumptions that things will be covered. Offer to pick up the bill, or discuss expenses, so that all parties are comfortable in advance. 

4) Be practical and take into account everyone’s preferences (especially the boss, and remove your own personal preferences)

If you’re in charge of organising the hotels or the travel times, be sure to consider all parties, within your arrangements. Consult your management and colleagues for guidance and recommendations, particularly for choices like standards of travel, including where to stay and when to fly. Your preference may be to rise early and beat the traffic, but the company may prefer the reduced cost of red-eyes, or your boss may have specific preferences, so always clarify first and double check. Communication and compromise are key. Establish that all parties are happy before things are locked in. This safeguards everyone being comfortable, and reduces any likelihood of drama, whilst also showcasing your negotiation, team player mentality and issue resolution skills.

5) Avoid aspects that could trigger inappropriate behaviour (including over-sharing or being overly casual)

Don’t get swept up in the excitement of being in a different more relaxed environment, or socialising outside of usual office hours. Be careful letting your  guard down, or worlds align. Avoid over consumption and things you wouldn’t be comfortable saying or doing around the office, including steering clear of overly controversial or personal topics.

6) Don’t be late or get distracted by devices and personal issues

Domestic or global business travel can involve lots of organisation and cost, so the last thing you need are individuals throwing out schedules. The unexpected can arise, with cancellations or delays, both inside and outside of your control, so back-up plans must be in place. However, ensure each person does their part to arrive early, if not at least on time. Maybe tweak the schedules in advance to allow for this, so expectations are slightly ahead of reality, to cover yourselves. Don’t miss a flight or meeting due to your co-workers letting the team down. Be proactive, or under promise and over deliver. Use the early arrival for an impromptu coffee debrief, and be set to impress.

7) Get involved and avoid being antisocial

Your work trip is a great opportunity to bond with your team, as you may have lots of time to spend with your colleagues or superiors, in a more casual environment. Make the most of this time to nurture relationships on a personal front. Don’t feel compelled to talk about work only. Explore common ground, likes and dislikes, to see what you have in common, to make the adventure more enjoyable. Try to socialise where you can, as avoidance can lead to isolation, and ill-conceived impressions. Depending on the length of your travels, a night or two here and there to yourself, may be fine, but suss out your travel partners’ preferences. Aim to catch-up regularly at meals, or daily to recap or sync itineraries.

8) Schedule some fun team building activities and ‘down’ or ‘me’ time

Sometimes a little excitement may need to be infused within your travel business itinerary. Whether this is team building activities, ‘down’ time or ‘me’ time exploits, this is where using the expertise of a travel agent is useful. They know what’s available and suitable within a region that you may not be familiar with. They can help ensure all your corporate travel needs are met, whilst scheduling in suitable group options. Search this list for one in your area today!

Free time during local, domestic or international travel can be rare, so you want to pack in as much as you can, when these moments arise, particularly if you’re in a new uncharted destination. Check with your travel agent or hotel on local attractions or quick tours, to break up those work meetings, and see the sites.  

Remember, business travel can get stressful navigating unknown territory, especially with back-to-back meetings to condense your work commitments into short time frames. Take a timeout where appropriate for yourself, and pre-book a massage at the hotel spa, or order in with room service to negate burn-out, if it suits your colleagues. Pencil in some down time or me time too.

9) Bring headphones, pack appropriately and ensure company policies are followed

Always be prepared for unforeseen accidents and situations. Pack a small emergency supply bag that covers all the essentials from stain remover pens, to tissues, floss, pens, notepads, Aspirin, sanitiser, and mints, so you always appear professional. But don’t overdo it on the packing, as that can slow you through customs and baggage security checks, finding overhead luggage spots on the flight, or at the other end hailing cabs, renting cars or jumping on transport.

Travel light, or below your luggage requirements where you can, for getting about quicker, and for simpler suitcase packing on the road. Don’t be seen as a rookie corporate traveller. Consider purchasing a business travel case to look the part. Professional black four-wheelers (that stand up themselves and roll in any direction easily) will streamline your transit, and fit best into overhead storage. Plus, review this article for more great travel product ideas.

Many employers have policy guidelines or rules for corporate travel, so whether it’s a junket or solo travel, be sure to familiarise yourself with regulations. Don’t feign ignorance, but aim to seek out procedures to be ready in advance. Ask your manager, and cover yourself.

Ensure your business laptop, mobile or other devices are up to date with security measures (including all software and virus / password protection) to avoid any potential threats, and that all travel companions are aware of any company policies in that regard. Aside from this, check on attire or actions considered acceptable, from unspoken curfews to thank you cards, or gifts and drinks policies, so ask around to avoid embarrassment and make the right impact.

Likewise, consider investing in noise-cancelling headphones whether it’s for the flight, shared rooms, or the gym at the hotel. If you’re out of time zones, or sleep regimes are disturbed, they can help you catch much needed sleep, or entertain you without disturbing those around you.

10) Research your destination to ensure cultural sensitivity

Finally, refrain from embarking on your business trip without brushing up on the proper etiquette in your host country. Aside from cultural sensitivities, there are varying rules for business etiquette, based on each destination.

Speaking loudly during meetings may be the preference in certain areas like the UK (where they don’t expect gifts or like to rush), whilst the volume of your voice could be interpreted as insensitive in others, such as France (where punctuality is sometimes more casual, lunch meetings are enjoyed, and apologise if your French is poor). France tends to be more familiar with breakfast, lunch or dinner meetings, however, in China business should not be conducted during meals, and bowing, nodding plus applause are custom. (Use both hands when presenting a business card, and avoid personal contact unless initiated.) Avoid wearing jeans, heels, too much skin, plus the host should leave first, and several copies of documents may be needed for business in China.

Regions like Argentina may require prior appointments, rather than drop-ins, and business meetings can last up to 10pm (with gifts appreciated), whilst in South Africa they don’t like to be rushed and prefer times after 9am. In Germany, meetings can be quite time-intensive, age is given precedence over youth, avoid gum, excessive drinking and don’t be late. Whilst in Italy, 17 is considered bad luck, gifts and being well-dressed is appreciated, suitable conversation (not religion or politics) is highly regarded, and decisions take time.

Also, review if your destination has been identified as one of high threat for cyber intrusions, or otherwise, via sites such as smartraveller.gov.au which can provide advice and insight into what to look out for. Keep in mind, that other countries have very different policies, even when it comes to internet access, customs and corruption.

For other useful recommendations, be sure to check out our other blog articles to give you some smart travel ideas.

Be mindful that knowledge is power. Research all areas of your business travel, and prepare your IT/luggage accordingly, to give yourself an edge over colleagues and the competition. For more information about domestic or overseas travel and packing, review these tips for further handy reminders.

Additionally, if you’re seeking corporate travel advice, or wish to make a booking for your office, consider the benefits as to why you should use an ATAS accredited travel agent for your business travel management plans.

Social etiquette can sometimes leave you in murky waters, so it’s always best to use your gut, take the lead from your superiors, or seek advice from your colleagues. It can be stressful, but travelling with companions for work can be less lonely and easier, as long as you make a good impression. Avoid the boardies and thongs, unless that’s your office culture, and keep in mind that different locations have various expectations, and you’re representing your employer. They too may have different policies or unspoken requirements, so prepare by determining the norm prior to travel, then good luck! Happy travels…

Want to set travel plans? Learn more about ATAS accredited travel agents, and what they can offer today, to avoid the impact of any changes for you.

Search for a local ATAS accredited travel agent here to clarify any aspects that may be concerning you, and put your travel plans in motion. Travel the world with ATAS travel agents as your personal guide to travel.


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