How to effectively organise a smooth running business trip yourself
In business, time is money, so arranging a business trip that makes the most of time spent away from base needs careful planning and foresight. If you don’t have the services of a dedicated PA, then there are effective ways to plan and organise a trip without it taking too much time. There’s also outside help you can draw on if required.
Even a one day business trip out of the office attending meetings or functions in another city would require some organising. For example, a trip from Edinburgh to London might involve flight bookings, car hire or being met by a dedicated driver – so you’d need the services of a suitable London chauffeur car hire company, and maybe a hotel reservation if it’s a late finish.
A basic foundation for planning the trip, it’s important to map out activities during the time away.
What meetings or events are planned and whereabouts they’re taking place are the two basics to establish. This will influence what travel arrangements are required such as flights, airport transfers and possible onward travel and the return arrangements.
Where to book accommodation (obviously within easy reach of meeting venues and so forth) is a key consideration as are hotel facilities. For example, will you be hosting a meeting with a contact or client? If so, maybe you’ll need a hotel with basic conference facilities. Good wi-fi or even an Ethernet connection might be required if receiving or sending large documents during your stay.
Very important of course; along with hotel wi-fi and maybe Ethernet, what about mobile phone? Maybe your existing contract requires amending or changing to use it abroad without racking up excessive fees.
You’ll likely have to book at least some of the following; flights, car hire, train, airport transfer and perhaps a chauffeur driven car if you need flexible transportation while you’re away.
Make a list of your travel needs by ‘tracking’ your movements from initial travel to the city or country concerned and your movements thereafter.
Check times – once you’ve booked flights, keep tabs on the latest information as flight and check in times can vary between booking and the day of travel. Don’t risk missing a flight, being left stranded, or having to wait for long periods in an airport to board a flight that was previously put back several hours.
Airport lounge or hotel – you may be heading for your first meeting soon after landing, so access to an airport lounge or nearby hotel even if staying for a mere few hours could be worthwhile to ensure you’re rested and fresh after a flight.
Refundable tickets – purchase refundable tickets if possible as your plans may alter. Perhaps a meeting is rescheduled or you find you need to be there a day earlier than planned? Planning ahead like this will save money on abandoned travel purchases.
Regulations in countries being visited
Ensure you know the rules and regulations for where you’re headed. Do you need a visa or inoculations? Could certain customs trip you up? For example, in countries with strict alcohol laws you could be held up at the airport in Dubai for something as innocent as bringing in a box of chocolate liqueurs, so check what can and can’t be brought in through customs.
Find out what the weather will typically be like when you travel. For example, New York in the summer can be very warm yet for a business trip in December or January it can be extremely cold with snow and ice common.
Balancing practicalities with appropriate business attire is obviously important, but don’t be stuck with the wrong clothing for the conditions.
Documents and insurance
It may seem obvious, but check your passport hasn’t expired – easily done with current ten year passports if you haven’t travelled abroad for a while. Are you insured? Your company may have a blanket travel insurance policy, but check carefully.
A good travel insurance policy will cover everything from unexpected medical bills, cancellations, lost baggage and more.
Making lists under various headings is a basic yet effective way to ensure you think of everything and don’t leave something out. Lists under the following headings are worth making:
- Documentation – visa, passport, inoculation certificates (if applicable)
- Travel – what flights and other transportation is required? Identify and book accordingly
- Clothing and equipment – need to buy anything? Maybe lighter business wear if going to an especially warm country. Require a travel bag for the laptop or new tablet?
- Business materials – itemise everything required such as reports, briefings and presentation files (for example Powerpoint). What backup materials such as memory sticks and hard drives are required? Mobile Internet such as a dongle?
A helping hand
If you prefer or don’t know if you’ll have time for the above ‘DIY’ approach, there are travel management companies (TMCs) who can take some or all of the planning off you.
They’re particularly adept at organising travel and hotel bookings based on your requirements, and some can save you money as they’ll know how to secure the best prices. Usually an account handler or manager is assigned to you and they’ll put together a suitable travel and accommodation package. They mostly charge for their services by adding their fees to the booking costs.
You can choose from larger TMCs to smaller, specialist types. A good starting point is with the GTMC, a membership body for the travel management industry; their member companies account for some 80% of managed travel booked in the UK.