A common mistake many people make is to ignore or shy away from the importance of social customs overseas. Be open to accept hospitality and engage with respect and patience and understanding of the challenges inherent to life in their country. Try the local food, seek out conversations with varying members of the community, and take the time to sit and listen. This type of focus on business trips has helped me learn about the culture and people with whom I would eventually manage an international charity empowering hundreds of women.
Some people will want to take advantage of you, but the vast majority of people you meet when you travel are good, decent, and will want to help you. Don’t let bad experiences prevent you from trusting anyone again. As long as you have your wits about you, expect that tuk-tuk drivers or anyone who comes up to you with amazing English and wants to be your best friend for no reason at all is out to scam you, and be most wary of the people in the most touristy places, you’ll be all good.
1. Pack for today’s overhead-bin reality. Since airlines started charging for checked baggage, travelers have resorted to extreme measures to ensure their bags make it on the plane. But most people get it wrong. Look around the boarding area. Almost everyone has a big roller bag and a briefcase. But one roller bag can fill an entire overhead bin. If your flight is full and you aren’t among the first on the plane, you will have to gate check that bag. A better strategy is to take two more equal-sized bags. One should be the maximum size that will fit under the seat and the other should be flexible so it can fit into any odd space available between roller bags in the overhead bin. Using this strategy, I have never had to gate check a bag in 20 years of travel. An added bonus–you can save the extra fees airlines charge you to board early in order to cram your huge bag on first, which is just a rip-off. For a list of what this luxury and other “premium” services will cost you, take a look at airline services fees on Kayak and SmarterTravel.
8. Manage your money. If you plan on using your debit and credit cards, make sure to notify your bank in advance that you’ll be abroad, or you may find your card blocked for suspicious activity. Research beforehand where are the best spots to exchange your money into local currency as ATMs might be scarce in certain places. When out and about, always carry a small amount of cash with you.
As a productivity trainer, I travel quite frequently. Sometimes, there can be quite a bit of downtime. It could be long delays between flights or canceled flights requiring you to rebook on a later flight. This often causes travelers a great deal of stress. But, don’t fear downtime. If your flight gets delayed, you might default to checking your email or doing other work. However, it may be more productive to use this unexpected time to meditate or just let your mind wander. This kind of mental break boosts your productivity and creativity.
The one thing I really have to disagree on though, and think you’re mad for not doing, is collecting points and airmiles. I cottoned on to this a few years back and every single trip I’ve taken since then has been by using airmiles and reward flights. I’ve travelled to Thailand, Finland, Croatia, Italy, Spain, South Africa, Germany, Norway and more – all with points and just paying the taxes in cash. It saves a tonne of money and even if you use budget airlines most of the time, if you pay with a points-earning credit card then you can still collect points to use on airlines where you may want a better quality experience, for a longer flight for example. I would seriously recommend American Express – I’ve had the Amex Gold, BA Basic and BA Premium Plus cards. I’ve also just applied for the Lloyds Avios rewards visa and mastercard combo for when we spend a year abroad, which also comes with 0 fees on foreign spend and earns you points. If you want more info, I find this really useful:
"Unless you're traveling super long haul, you don't need a $50 neck pillow or $300 noise canceling headphones. Bring some foam earplugs if you want to sleep on the plane, and roll up your jacket for a pillow. Same comfort for a lot less money," says Hester, a writer at Our Next Life early retirement blog, and veteran of "100+ flights a year and 80+ hotel nights."
If you are constantly visiting the same location, find a hotel you like and make that your go-to accommodation on each trip. This way, over time, you can negotiate the rates of the hotel; if you know you will be staying in this city for at least two weeks throughout the year, that’s two weeks that hotel needn’t worry about their rooms being empty. This gives you grounds to negotiate some sort of special rate in advance of your trip. Many hotels are famous for giving corporate rates and discounts for loyal customers, so it can’t hurt to ask. Furthermore, returning to a hotel you know you will like will seriously help to reduce your stress levels. You know what you’re going to get, and you know you like it.
But what about work trips? Suddenly, the inconveniences of travel are mixed with the potential awkwardness of spending 24/7 with your co-workers. Like it or not, though, you’re bound to have conferences, client trips, or company meetings on the calendar at some point. So before you pack your bags, here are a few tips on making it tolerable and even—dare we say it—fun.
So many travellers preach that it’s all about experiences not possessions, but you know what? Sometimes possessions can offer beautiful reminders of the experiences you’ve had. I only started buying souvenirs from every country I visited in the last year, and I wish I’d been doing so from the start of my trip. And if you’re worried about space in your backpack, just mail them off to a friend or family once you’ve bought them and your pack will be none the heavier. My friend Jaime collects magnets from every place he visits and I’m so jealous of his collection!