At this point, airports are a second home for many members of our team. These top 10 business travel tips for consultants are ones we live by, and contain classic and – hopefully – some new tricks as well. (Yes, international business travel tips too!) Over the course of your career, it is inevitable that you will travel to client sites. While many aspiring consultants envision itineraries filled with glamorous destinations, it does not always work out this way. Consultants know that to be successful in this business you must be equally prepared for days, and sometimes weeks, spent in more mundane locations (think Canton, OH, not Paris, France).
So how do you implement best practices for every kind of business trip you’ll take?
It’s absolutely true that travel will be one of the most exciting aspects of any top-flight consulting job. Being prepared for all of the uncertainty of potential domestic and international trips is integral to ensuring both your personal sanity and on-the-ground job performance.
This article will aim to give you the key tips and tricks to ensure that your business travel is as painless as possible from booking to baggage claim!
Before You Go
Tip 1: Sign Up for Rewards Programs
So this is a no-brainer, right? One of the primary perks of business travel is racking up rewards points for free personal flights and hotel stays. So, the most important first-time business travel tip is to make sure to preemptively sign up for each of the major travel rewards families for both air travel and hotels. These include:
- Star Alliance (United, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, Air Canada)
- One World (American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific)
- SkyMiles (Delta, Air France, Korea Air)
- Hilton Honors (Hilton, Doubletree, Embassy Suites)
- IHG (Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn)
- Marriott Bonvoy (Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Sheraton)
Obviously, this isn’t a comprehensive list, but it’s certainly a good place to start. There is a very good chance that the preferred vendors for your travel department will include many of these brands. However, if you do end up getting booked with an airline or hotel that isn’t on this list (paging Southwest!), be sure to sign up for their rewards program to begin earning points with them, too. Lastly, make sure you provide all of your rewards program information to either your in-house travel department or keep it somewhere easily accessible for yourself when directly booking business travel accommodations.
Tip 2: Set Your Preferred Travel Vendors
Now, tip number two may be a level two business travel tip, but once you’ve been with your company for about 12 months and completed at least a half dozen trips, consider reaching out to your travel department proactively to share your own airline and hotel preferences. Do a little bit of research to determine where you’ve been going as well as which hotels and airlines you’ve been using in your travel. Then, see if that rewards program has a good package of partners that can be used in the widest variety of future destinations and share that information with whoever books your travel.
Often, you can even set these travel preferences using an internal booking system and then you’ll be able to pool your points with one or two vendor groups to really begin racking up points for later personal trips!
Tip 3: Pack a Carry-on Backup Outfit and Toiletries
It is a rite of business travel passage: travel enough and your checked baggage will get lost, so this is one of the most important business travel packing tips. Every veteran business traveler knows that while everything may not fit in a carryon, especially for a long-term assignment, it is imperative to have at least one backup outfit including socks and underwear in a bag that you have on your person at all times. This way, once you arrive at your destination, particularly after a long-haul flight, you can still shower and dress to make your first meeting, or at worst, head to a department store to get replacement clothes.
Also, make sure to always carry at least a travel size toothpaste, anti-perspirant / deodorant, and toothbrush just in case. Travel delays are a fact of life and if you must rush to a meeting on no sleep, at least you are guaranteed to be clean and smell good on arrival!
Tip 4: Plan Your Departure Transportation in Advance
It is completely up to you how you want to get to the airport. Some folks prefer to take a cab, others still enjoy the control of driving and parking on site. Either way, just make sure that you have the arrangements made in advance. If driving, know which parking lot is in the budget, and how long it takes to get from the lot to the terminal and then the gate. And with your Uber or taxi ride, ensure that it is reserved to arrive at a certain time. You don’t want to be “hoping” that an Uber or cab will show up in the next five minutes when you’re already running late for your flight.
Similarly, if you are planning on taking a cab or Uber upon your arrival or return, know the exact method for meeting your Uber or catching a cab. Each airport is different, so a little bit of scouting can save a big headache, if, for instance, you arrive at an airport that doesn’t allow Uber pickups at arrivals.
Once You’ve Arrived
Tip 5: Buy the Rental Car Insurance
The most important difference between traveling for work and for pleasure is that there is no time for unanticipated adventures, so one of the best travel safety tips for business travelers is to always get the insurance for your rental car. The extra $20 per day might have seemed like an unnecessary expense when you road-tripped to Myrtle Beach on Spring Break your junior year, but now it is well worth the piece of mind it buys knowing that you won’t be responsible should a reckless driver in a F-350 tear off your side view mirror in an Applebee’s parking lot. The company will be expecting a standard daily insurance charge, but they won’t be expecting the bill for rental car repairs.
Tip 6: Get to Know Your Front Desk and Concierge
You already know that communication and people skills are two of the most important talents to display while working somewhere unfamiliar. Why wouldn’t they be equally important to display while staying somewhere unfamiliar?
Introduce yourself to the front desk upon check-in and get all of the basic details regarding your temporary home. How long is the front desk open? Is there an after-hours arrival procedure? Where is the gym and when is it open?
Then also ask them for recommendations for food, drink, and local entertainment. If you’re staying longer, ask about dry cleaning or laundry services. Your hotel staff can be your greatest resource, so get on their good side immediately and impress your hosts when you can recommend a new Thai restaurant for the Wednesday business dinner.
International Business Travel Tips
Tip 7: Keep Petty Cash and Learn the Tipping Culture
The first of our international business travel tips is on gratuities. Americans are known for tipping, and it’s culturally expected most of the time in the States. However, cultural confusion abroad can cause unnecessarily awkward situations. Just to be safe, we recommend you have around $100 in small denominations of the local currency in case your bellhop, cabbie or waitress seems to be waiting on an expected tip from a Yankee abroad. However, also make sure to research your destination to ensure that a seemingly innocuous tip isn’t misinterpreted as an insult or bribe and be aware that in some East Asian countries, particularly Japan, tipping can be seen as rude.
What is the easiest way to find out about the local tipping customs? The answer is simple: ask your hosting company contact about the local tipping culture. Since, you will be visiting as a welcomed professional guest, your point of contact will be able to provide good insight as to how to navigate these potentially fraught little interactions.
Tip 8: Consider Global Entry
If you are a frequent international traveler, this international business travel tip is for you! We highly recommend you sign up for the US Global Entry program. It provides all of the benefits of the domestic TSA Precheck program, while also allowing for expedited processing at customs upon re-entry to the United States – and only costs $15 more than TSA Precheck!
While the process does require an in-person interview with a Customs & Border Patrol officer, the benefits to a regular foreign flyer are significant. You avoid much of the standard re-entry line wait times by gaining access to the Global Entry-specific automated kiosks and a much shorter customs line. Additionally, you even get access to shorter dedicated customs lines in some foreign international arrival terminals including destinations like Auckland, New Zealand.
Pro tip 1: Many of our favorite credit cards, including the Platinum Card from American Express® and Chase Sapphire Reserve, offer Global Entry reimbursement as part of an impressive stable of travel perks.
Pro tip 2: If you don’t want to spring for Global Entry, U.S. citizens and Canadian visitors should at least download the Mobile Passport app. It’s completely free, and grants you access to a dedicated Mobile Passport line at 26 major U.S. airports and 3 cruise ports.
Once You Return
Tip 9: Fight Jet Lag Immediately
The best way to fight jet lag is to engage it immediately and stay up until your body is supposed to go to bed in your home time zone. While it can be enticing to collapse directly into bed as soon as you cross the threshold into your own home, that usually ensures that jet lag will linger longer than it would otherwise. Fight the urge, do some likely needed errands (grocery shopping, catch up on emails, pick up the dog or the kids) to busy yourself and then go to bed at your normal time to force your body into the correct circadian rhythm. Otherwise, you can find yourself to be an unwitting night owl for a week! Trust us, this international business travel tip will pay dividends if you follow it!
Tip 10: Promptly Submit Your Expense Reports
It’s always easiest to remember all of your expenses if you submit them immediately upon the conclusion of any work trip. Likely, you will have a corporate credit card for most of your purchases while away, but of course each firm has different expense reporting procedures. Make sure to learn yours before traveling and then to take care of the reporting immediately, and especially before your next trip. One of the least liked people in the travel department is the consultant asking for new accommodations before he’s submitted the reports for his prior ones. Don’t be that consultant and your travel department will make your next business trip as comfortable as possible, while booking you on your preferred airline, too!
The glamour of traveling wears thin when you do it all the time. Yet, the above tips can make your 13th trip to Timbuktu a little bit more enjoyable, especially when you get to take your special someone on a trip just on points earned from your work trips!