You walk into the office and your boss stops you in your tracks: "Go home and pack your bag. Our European client needs you. You are booked on the 17h05 flight."
Are you thinking "Yeah!" or "Yuck!"?
One thing is for sure, questions abound in your mind.
Here are 10 guidelines to make sure that you broadcast positively as yourself but also as an ambassador for your company and our country.
1. Start with safety and security.
Do an online search to verify the travel advice and advisories on your destination. You are looking for information on: entry and exit requirements, security, health and natural disasters.
2. Print your: itinerary, boarding pass, hotel, destination and point of contact information.
Yes, your phone may carry it all, but what if your battery dies as you get to the check-in counter or when you are about to call your host...? Hard copies are best for the travelling must haves.
While you are at the photocopying machine, make extra copies and leave them at home with your loved one; just in case you lose your documents.
3. Manage money matters ahead of time.
Arrive with local currency to use for refreshments and tipping. Read this previous blog post for tipping practices.
Sticky situation: Lost or stolen corporate credit card.
Solution(s): Photocopy your company credit card, along with your passport and travel insurance information. Keep the copies in a safe place in case the originals get lost or stolen. Scanning the documents and emailing yourself or storing in the cloud is also a good option.
Verify that your debit card will function at ATM machines. If not, arrange for traveller's checks.
4. Show you care about your clients or colleagues by displaying local customs.
Inquire, observe and act according to local practices.
Punctuality, personal space, small talk, meeting participation, greetings, gestures to be avoided and business card exchange protocols may vary greatly from one culture to the next and a faux-pas could be embarrassing for you and your organization.
If travelling to a destination where another language, other than English, is used, translate your information in that country's language and have it printed on the reverse side of your card.
Learn and use the four local expressions for "Hello," "Please," "Thank you" and "Goodbye," plus the usual tourist phrases. Smiles will follow and doors will open.
Sticky situation: You are meeting your European counterpart for the first time. You've been emailing for months but have never spoken. You know how to spell her name but not how to pronounce it.
Solution(s): Ask the conference coordinator, an assistant or even the person. "I am not sure how to say your name. Please guide me to pronounce it properly." This direct approach is the most respectful and will be appreciated by the name bearer.
5. Wear attire that reflects who you are, where you are and what you are doing; conducting business.
Appropriate attire depends on the following factors: the weather, the activities including entertaining, plus the cultures of the country and the company that are hosting you.
You certainly don't want to appear disrespectful by being underdressed. And being way overdressed could make your look unapproachable, distant and even unfriendly. Do your homework; find out.
Your travelling attire should be comfortable, yes, but should also reflect who you are in the business world. Unless you are a yoga instructor, this means no yoga or sweat pants. Really. There are lots of comfortable business casual clothing options that will ensure that you can relax on board and still look like the title on your business card.
When you look more respectable, you will be taken more seriously. This could come in handy when you need a favour or if an upgrade is available.
If you are attending a function right after "touchdown," wear your workwear on the plane. Choose wrinkle-free fabrics.
Ladies, travel in shoes that you can securely walk in while carrying your luggage. Keep your professional shoes in your carry-on. Discreetly change once you get to your business destination.
Sticky situation: You will be attending a gala on the evening of your arrival and don't have space in your carry-on for your full outfit.
Solution(s): Send your gown or tuxedo and accessories beforehand. This way, if your luggage gets lost you will not be scrambling at the last minute and probably spending lots of money to find something semi-suitable and to your liking.
6. Your essentials should be set to go at all times.
No matter where you go, the first things to go in your suitcase should be: slippers, an umbrella and sleeping, lounging and/or workout wear. Some clothing can do double duty; from lounging to workout.
Sticky situation: Planning on shopping abroad and are concerned about space in your luggage for your return flight.
Solution(s): Pack used clothing that you will leave behind.
Your toiletry bag musts may include: sewing and manicure kits, a shower cap, lint, wrinkle and static removers plus, of course, your favorites in travel sizes or replenishable bottles. It is a good idea to add an electrical adapter in there.
Sticky situation: You regularly forget toiletries, glasses or cables in hotel rooms.
Solution(s): Place these in zipper bags and add your business card.
7. Pack presentation and promotional materials in your carry-on bag along with your necessary techno gadgets and chargers.
Sticky Situation: The weight of your materials is too heavy for your cabin luggage.
Solution(s): Consider: printing on site, using e-versions or sending the materials ahead, This is efficient and productive; no more wait time around the carousel. Land and go!
8. Include energy snacks in your emergency kit and layer something cozy.
Whether your emergency kit includes pill prescriptions, headache relief tablets, needle and thread or other must haves for your abroad comfort, also add power snacks and a water bottle (purchased after the security check point) for on-board the aircraft.
Board the aircraft with a sweater or a scarf on your shoulders. Use for added warmth or roll to serve as as a pillow.
9. Show gratitude with gifts and notes.
If you have the space bring gifts and thank you notes with you. If not; make delivery arrangements prior to your departure or send gifts after your return home.
Here too, do your homework on gift appropriateness and cultural dos and don'ts.
10. Refill, replenish, restock and refresh upon return.
As you unpack your bags, get ready for the next trip.
Remember, you may be getting there by plane, train or automobile, but you're clocked in and on the job.
Bon "business" voyage!
You have a sticky situation at work or home? This is your forum. Write to Julie and she will reply promptly. Want more solutions to sticky situations? Go to Facebook, Twitter or order your autographed copy of Etiquette: Confidence & Credibility. Planning a conference? Julie happily travels coast to coast and beyond, to present customized activities. With Julie's help gone will be awkwardness, embarrassment and faux-pas.
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Make sure there will be wifi access at your hotel and conference area, and if there won't be, plan accordingly. If necessary, come prepared with a company data plan that you can use on your iPad, or a USB-powered portable router.
Save yourself long waits at check-in and baggage claim by packing efficiently and planning your outfits strategically so that they can fit in one carry-on bag. For maximum packing space without risking exceeding the size limits, try bringing two mid-sized bags -- one shoulder bag and one compact rolling suitcase. Jessica Herrin, Stella and Dot CEO, says she keeps air travel simple with two tried-and-true carry-ons: a basic tote and black Samsonite roller bag.
Make sure your cellphone has helpful travel apps, as well as a backup iPhone battery so that you never have to experience the dread of being stuck with 10% left and no charger. iFly Pro and TripIt can make air travel much more seamless and can help you stay on top of delays, food selection, and ground transportation options.
The CWT Travel Solutions research found that business flyers waste an average of nearly seven hours while traveling -- time that they're neither working nor resting -- due to stress. It can be easy to waste time waiting for flights or in the air, but these can actually be your most productive periods. Make sure you're equipped with these helpful products to help you unwind, and once you've de-stressed, take advantage of that time -- it's an opportunity to prepare for presentations and meetings, catch up on emails, and take care of any unfinished business.
To stave off feelings of burnout and jet lag, make sure to be even more mindful of your health than usual while traveling for work. Drinking lots of water, getting proper rest, making time for mild exercise can go a long way in making your travels -- and getting back to work -- more pleasant. "I try to adjust immediately to the local time and work through the day until at least 10p.m.," Katie Stanton, Twitter's Vice-President, International Sales & Development told CNN of how she avoids jet lag. "I also try to be extra healthy by working out, eating well and drinking lots of water."
Staying on top of your expenses is one of the most important ways to keep business travel stress in check. Know your company's expense policy before you leave to avoid surprise out-of-pocket costs, keep all of your receipts in a safe place, and file the report as soon as you return to the office for timely reimbursement.
Follow Julie Blais Comeau on Twitter: www.twitter.com/EtiquetteJulie