Having now traveled to several countries around the world, Daniel Durazo, Director – Communications, Allianz Worldwide Partners USA, still remembers the challenges he faced while preparing for his first international business trip. Speaking from his experience, he will give you some tips to best pack, plan, and prepare to make the most out of your overseas experience.
As a savvy business professional, you have probably conducted business via email, made plenty of phone calls, and have maybe been dispatched on a few domestic business trips. But when it comes to international business sojourns, your first experience as a corporate traveler can be slightly unnerving and exciting at the same time. Regardless of your destination, there are tried and true tips, tricks, and techniques that may be applicable wherever you may find yourself.
A logical place to start when planning an international business trip is with your luggage. You may want to travel light, but since you’re traveling as a corporate representative, you may be bogged down by equipment, samples, or other business necessities. Regardless of what you need to take, when it comes to packing your suitcase, the process to maximize space and minimize potential damage has been boiled down to a science.
I find it easier to pack clothing belonging to one particular color scheme (preferably dark, as the darker the colors, the easier it becomes to hide stains, dirt, and other unprofessional blemishes), which allows you to maximize your potential matching combinations. Instead of folding your clothes, roll them. This will help you pack more efficiently and decrease wrinkles. If you plan on bringing collared shirts, roll up the belt that you plan to bring and place it inside the collar. This will keep it crisp, fresh, and wrinkle free.
Placing a few dryer sheets in your luggage will keep your clothes, luggage, and other belongings smelling fresh; even if you wear your socks a little longer than might usually between washes. Smelling good always leaves a good impression, but you do not need a full bottle of cologne or perfume, and you certainly do not want to risk broken glass in your luggage. To get around this problem – and to be TSA compliant – all you have to do is transfer the liquid into a smaller plastic container. Breath spray or anti-septic spray bottles work great for this purpose.
Glasses cases are great for holding cords and cables, while binder clips can be used to wrap headphones around – avoiding a knotted, tangled, mess – and keep razor blades sharp by clamping the clip around the blade head. It is also advisable to bring a portable battery charger to keep your mobile devices up and running.
Investing in a discrete travel pouch that can be worn under your clothing is a good idea – the kind that can be worn around your hips and under your shirt is particularly safe and efficient. By keeping your valuable cards, money, and documents inside, you mitigate risk in the event of a mugging or pick-pocket incident.
During your preparation, it is prudent to scan and notarize important documents such as your identification card, driver's license, passport, and birth certificate. This will make getting a new passport easier if the original gets misplaced or stolen.
Finally, you should pack some food and a water bottle, as airport food is expensive and may be unhealthy and water can be obtained free from drinking fountains. Just make sure that your bottle is empty when you go through security.
Fending off jet lag
Eating healthy and drinking ample amounts of water are good ways to lessen the effects of jet lag. If possible you can also shift your daily routine to correspond with your destination’s time zone. For example, if your destination is five hours behind your current location, you can gradually start going to bed and waking up earlier, acclimating to the time change. You can shift your eating schedule back as well. This will make you less hungry and give you more energy during the first days of your business trip.
It is also wise to avoid alcohol and caffeine, as these substances tend to dehydrate the body. Exercising before a flight can help, as it reduces stress and promotes restfulness. Cannot sleep on planes because of the turbulence? Try booking morning flights when weather patterns are calmer or sit over the wings where it is less bumpy.
Mixing your business trip with pleasure
Since you are already traveling internationally, you should try to add some leisure activities to your trip. A common way to capitalize on your corporate trip is to schedule a few vacation days around it. Once you’ve finished with your work, take some time to decompress, see the sights, and enjoy a new culture. If you have holiday time or sick days, now is the time to use them.
On a similar vein, you can also consider a free layover (or stopovers). Many airlines find it cost effective to allow free or low-cost stopovers in their hub cities. These stopovers (usually only a day or two) not only allow you to visit different cities to or from your destination, but they also give you a chance to relax and wind down after hours of strenuous air travel. Turkish Airlines, Icelandair, and Air France are among the airlines that offer free stopovers on round-trip tickets.
Every destination has something worthwhile to see, visit, or do – check in advance for activities, sporting events, concerts, plays, or whatever you are interested in. If you have the corporate clout, schedule meetings in local restaurants or cafes to absorb the culture and gain novel experiences. You can also space meetings out so you can find time throughout the day to explore the city. If you are not very pressed for time, take a slower mode of transportation, you can see parts of the country you would have otherwise missed while having time to prep for your meetings.
Getting the right insurance
Whether you are attending a tradeshow, making a sales pitch, or co-operating with your foreign partners, it is always best to expect the unexpected when in a foreign and unfamiliar place. Like in business, though, when traveling, it is impossible to anticipate everything; and to even try may prove disastrous, distracting you from the task at hand and compromising the main purpose of your business trip.
Herein lies the importance of travel insurance. No matter how careful you are or how much preparation you have done, there are always circumstances that are out of your control. Maybe your outbound flight was delayed, causing you to miss your connecting flight. Or perhaps you fall victim to theft, leaving you without a passport in a foreign land. Whatever happens, finding the right coverage is key. If you are traveling off the beaten path, purchasing a plan that covers higher potential medical expenses might be prudent.
Travel insurance comes in a number of shapes and sizes. With regards to business travel, there are plans available that cover employees during corporate trips. The time-old proverb “better safe than sorry” always seems logical in hindsight. But being proactive and considering the possibility of potential future events is not one of humanities’ strong suits. In many cases, it is smart to pay more now to avoid paying more lately.
Of course you need to know what the policy includes, but you should also consider what the policy excludes. For corporate travelers, it is especially important to know the dollar limits for coverage for cancellation, interruption, delays and medical emergencies. Another thing to consider is what kind of documentation you might need when making a claim. Read your policy carefully and contact your insurance provider if you have questions.
Hopefully you won’t need to file an insurance claim, but there are always occurrences that are beyond your control, so having that extra peace of mind when traveling can turn the experience from a worrisome, stressful, situation, to a relaxed and tranquil one. Especially when you have business to conduct, the last thing you should be worrying about is not rolling your ankle when walking down an escalator in the convention center.
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