Anyone who travels frequently for work knows that business trips can be stressful. Between planning your itinerary, tracking your expenses and dealing with potential delays, it's often difficult to get everything done while staying connected to the office. But with enough preparation and forethought, companies and their traveling staff members can ensure that their trips go as smoothly as possible. Travel experts and business executives shared their best advice for how employers and employees can make corporate travel a breeze.
Tips for employers
Consider your costs. When you send your employees on a trip, airfare and lodging aren't the only costs you'll have to cover. Depending on where your employees are going and what they need to do during their travels, you may also need to compensate them for other incidental expenses, such as ground transportation, baggage fees and parking.
"Beyond the obvious lodging and transportation needs, many companies offer a travel per diem to compensate employees for the additional personal costs they incur from traveling," said Cory Jones, vice president of marketing and product at car-sharing and rental service FlightCar. "For example, business travelers typically eat out at restaurants rather than eating at home, and per diems can help cover that difference as well as gas, laundry and other small expenses."
Stacia Pierce, CEO of business coaching firm Ultimate Lifestyle Enterprises, noted that companies coordinating business trips should be aware of out-of-pocket expenses, and be clear about what they will and will not cover. Employees should understand the procedures and protocol for reimbursement so there's no confusion or complications on either end. [18 Great Jobs for People Who Love to Travel]
Sign up for business travel programs. If your company plans business trips regularly, you can significantly reduce your expenses by taking advantage of travel programs, such as frequent-flyer memberships, travel rewards credit cards and AAA. Booking your trips through a travel agency can also help you ensure that you're getting the lowest possible prices. Randall Warren, CEO of Global Travel International, said that some organizations are able to offer low rates by passing their group booking discounts on to clients. This can be especially helpful for smaller businesses that don't have large travel budgets.
"Large companies are often able to negotiate discounts [with airlines and hotels]," Warren said. "[Travel agencies] enable small businesses to achieve the same buying power larger companies have. Go with a known source to try and get the best deal."
Be mindful of employee workload and travel plans. Although mobile hotspots and Wi-Fi access have enabled workers to stay connected nearly 24/7, the reality is that your employees may be unreachable at certain points during their trip.
"The last cost that should be considered before sending an employee on a business trip is the lost productivity time that results when employees are on the road," said Tiffany Paul, founder and CEO of inflatable travel neck pillow Sleeper Scarf. "Although there are ways to help employees be productive while traveling, there will inevitably be productivity hours lost."
For this reason, it's important to not only adjust your expectations of the traveling employees, but also to know when and where they will be at any given time so you can pass any urgent matters along to someone back at the office if that employee won't be available.
Tips for employees
Plan ahead to save time. The best thing you can do to maximize efficiency and minimize stress is to plan as many details in advance as you can. These details include all the documents, files and devices you'll need, as well as your essentials for traveling.
"If you travel frequently, consider creating a business travel checklist," said Lais Pontes, owner of public relations and marketing agency The Pontes Group. "When in a rush or under pressure, it can be easy to forget the little things, and you don't want to be stuck without your phone or computer charger while away on business."
"From toiletries to technology, add it all so that nothing is left behind," Pierce added. "Include things like computer, headphones, toothbrush, hair products and proper attire. While it may seem tedious, the more you prepare at home, the more successful you'll be on the road."
For international travel, Pontes recommended applying for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Global Entry program to expedite the security process upon your return home. Domestic and global travelers can save time by ensuring that all their travel papers are organized and that their bags are ready to go.
"Saving time during the travel experience is key," Jones said. "Visit the TSA [Transportation Security Administration] site to get real-time info on security line wait times, and use services like Clear to bypass the lines entirely."
Clarify expectations with your supervisor. In the days leading up to your trip, set clear goals and objectives. Paul advised writing down these goals and discussing them with your manager beforehand to hold yourself accountable when you return. You should also do your best to stay connected when you can.
"Keep an eye on your email, and respond to urgent matters or delegate where necessary," Paul told Business News Daily. "This will not only be appreciated by your colleagues, but will improve productivity for your company and help keep you caught up on work while you're away."
Take advantage of downtime. You might feel like you have to always be available when your colleagues are, especially if you're traveling to a different time zone. But spending every single moment of your trip doing work will only add to the stresses of travel. Maura Thomas, founder of productivity training and time management company RegainYourTime.com and author of "Personal Productivity Secrets" (Wiley, 2012), advised using any short lulls in your trip to disconnect and rest.
"Downtime during travel — [such as when you're] waiting for the flight, taking the bus to the rental car facility and sitting on the plane before takeoff — are perfect opportunities to recharge," Thomas said. "Use these moments to let your mind wander; take in your surroundings; experience the world with your head up, rather than bent over your device. Take some time to be inwardly focused. Do some thinking, meditate or close your eyes."
If you wrap up your work early and have a little bit more downtime, don't be afraid to explore your surroundings.
"In today's sharing economy, businesses like Airbnb, Lyft and FlightCar enable frequent business and leisure travelers alike to have a better travel experience by 'living like a local,'" Jones said. "Travelers make personal connections with others to get local tips and advice, an insider's perspective on where to go, and where to avoid. Driving a local's car or staying in their home allows you the comforts of home and a warmer, less stressful experience."
Originally published on Business News Daily.