Ever hear the saying “fail to prepare, prepare to fail”? This motto will never ring more true than when you are planning your very first international business trip. Not only will you have to represent your company in the best possible light. You will be doing so in a new country, surrounded by a new culture, and possibly with a new language to have to translate.
However, don’t let all that intimidate you. With hard work and preplanning, you can tackle your first business trip like a seasoned pro.
1. Prepare a Detailed International Business Travel Checklist
Whether or not you are confident about your upcoming trip, don’t let that confidence fool you into thinking you don’t have to plan ahead. There is a lot of preparation that goes into leaving for a business trip abroad.
Make sure you know ahead of time exactly how many days and nights you will be at your destination. If not, you could end up under (or over) packing. Notify your bank that you will be leaving the country and give them exact dates for your departure and return. If you don’t notify them, your bank could think your identity has been stolen and freeze your accounts while you’re abroad.
These and other small tasks are essential when planning to leave for a trip. Write out a detailed business trip checklist and go through the tasks one by one until you’re confident that you’ve done everything you can to prepare.
2. Understand Your Company’s Travel Policy
Most companies that send their employees abroad will have some sort of detailed travel policy. Do your best to learn all you can before you leave for your trip. If your company provides you with a debit/credit card for expenses, make sure you have a special billfold or other place to hide it away. If they don’t, make sure you know where and how you will save your receipts.
Make sure you also know exactly how much your company is allowing you to spend while you’re abroad. Some companies only allow for food and lodging, while others allow for entertainment and international phone plans.
3. Expect the Unexpected
A good mindset to have when traveling is that, if things can go wrong, they will. No one can control whether or not their plane is cancelled due to bad weather or if the traffic jam of the century makes them late for their business meeting. Always expect the unexpected.
This travel tip isn’t only useful to keeping you flexible and prepared. Blindly relying on your itinerary can leave you an emotional wreck when things go sideways. Then, once the first domino has fallen, your attitude can negatively affect the rest of your trip and even your work performance.
Always give yourself time to bounce back after a long flight. The worst thing you could do for your first work-related trip is book a flight that lands the same morning as your business meeting. You’ll likely be tired, hungry, and ready to sleep off your crowded flight. If your company allows you to, book your flight the day before your big meeting. That way, you will be able to get plenty of rest and be at the top of your game.
Most importantly, give yourself some grace. The unexpected is just that, unexpected. Some circumstances are beyond your control, and each mishap should be celebrated as a learning experience.
4. Get Enough Sleep
As we mentioned above, take every opportunity you get to catch up on your sleep. The last thing you want is to be so tired that you perform poorly and create a negative reputation for your company. If you are changing time zones, you will need to take extra care to remain rested and alert while switching.
Another way to get enough sleep is to research the local social practices of your destination. Some countries don’t expect employees to socialize outside of work, while others will find it extremely rude if you don’t go out late with fellow coworkers. If this is the case, be prepared with a plan B that will get you all the rest you need outside of these work events.
5. Create a Detailed Itinerary
This fifth tip is good advice for any traveler but is essential if you’re traveling for the first time. Your itinerary is your compass, and it will keep you focused and not overwhelmed, Make sure you include your flight information, local transportation, hotel information, meetings, event or conference information, and what your day to day will look like.
If you follow this itinerary to the letter, it will be that much easier to make sure your business trip runs smoothly. It will also allow you to relax more in your free time and take your mind off work.
6. Remember You’re a Guest
Whether you are visiting a company in the same country or half way around the world, make sure you are on your best behavior. Do your research ahead of time to understand the country’s local traditions, customs, and social norms.
The last thing you want is your company finding out that you embarrassed your coworkers by doing or saying something that wasn’t appropriate. Your company’s future dealings with this client could be at stake.
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