As the Founder of BNI® I have been fortunate to travel extensively for business and for pleasure, meeting many wonderful people from dozens of countries. These global opportunities have resulted in an accumulation of numerous tips about international traveling.
Most people know that business travel in your home country requires planning and organization. However, many businesspeople fail to realize that traveling abroad for work has unique challenges. So today I am sharing my tips for business travel which I think can be helpful for anyone taking a trip, domestic or international.
Before You Travel
- Research your destination – If you are going to conduct business in another country, learn about the local culture and customs. Read the local news to be informed about events that could cause delays during your trip. This advance planning also allows you to schedule time to complete all of the work you need to do AND have time to relax and see the sights.
- Your Passport – Check the expiration date on your passport. If you need to renew or apply for a passport, allow plenty of time for processing and shipping.
Check with the country you are traveling to as some have a requirement for a passport to be valid for a certain amount of time beyond the date of entry into their country.
- Visa – Research the Visa requirements to enter the country to which you are traveling. Be sure to carry the minimum currency requirement to enter the country.
- Exchange Your Currency – You may find better exchange rates by ordering foreign currency from your local bank or credit union a week before you leave.
- Medical Requirements – Find out if visitors are required to get any special inoculations or show certain medical documents to enter the country.
- Mobile Phone – Contact your service provider for information about an international travel plan that will fit your needs. Other options are country-specific or region-specific SIM cards for phone and data access.
- Weather – Check the weather forecast for your destination the week before you travel to help select climate-appropriate clothing.
Important Items to Pack
This list is my answer to the question, “What should businesspeople take with them on a business trip that they may not normally think about?”
- Business cards: You never want to run out of business cards while traveling. I make sure I have enough by packing extras in my suit pockets, wallet, briefcase, and luggage.
- Name badge: If you do business networking while traveling, take your own professional name badge. Don’t rely on the hosting organization to do your name badge and do it right.
- Extra pens: Make sure you have a pen with you during all meetings.
- Phone and laptop or tablet: Remember to bring the chargers for your electronic items. Bonus tip: fully charge all of your devices the day before you leave.
- Phone battery power bank: Bring a portable power bank that will allow you to recharge your phone when electricity is not available.
- Power adapter/converter: Research the type of electrical adapter you need for the country you are visiting so you can obtain it before you travel.
- Batteries: Bring a spare pack of AA and AAA batteries for your devices.
- USB Drive / Memory stick: These are very helpful when you want to give a copy of a file or a presentation to someone. I always carry one or two with me.
- Specific tools for your business: For me, that includes many printed copies of my bio for introductions whenever I speak. Another item I pack is a PowerPoint remote clicker for the projector to be able to control the slides during my presentations.
- Hand sanitizer: We often shake many hands when we travel for business.
I carry my own hand sanitizer and use it frequently and tactfully.
- Breath mints: As obvious as it may sound, I can assure you from experience that many people have no idea they need them.
Tips to Avoid “Jet Lag”
When we travel to other countries, we need to adjust our sleep and mealtime schedules. I attempt to eat my meals at the same time that I eat at home. However, I also pack some healthy protein snacks for when I’m feeling hungry. It is also important to stay hydrated, especially while flying – drink lots of water.
This is what I do for my sleep schedule to help with jet lag when I am flying across several time zones:
If I will arrive at my destination in the morning, I force myself to sleep on the plane even if I’m not tired. I’ve found it best to sleep as much as possible to avoid feeling completely exhausted upon arrival. I am then able to have a full first day of my trip, awake and alert.
If my destination arrival time is at night, I do whatever I need to do to stay awake as much as possible on the airplane. A short 1–2-hour nap is inevitable, but I try to limit it. Doing this makes it much more likely that when you arrive you are so tired you will just fall into bed and sleep.
If you follow one of these approaches, you’ll flip your internal clock quickly and minimize the effects of jet lag – it has worked for me for decades. If you have a travel companion, ask them to do the same so you are in sync during your trip.
I hope you find these tips helpful as you plan your next business trip.
I’d like to hear your thoughts and any additional tips you have to share.