For something a little more unique, pay a visit to www.RoadsideAmerica.com. This website lists unusual landmarks and tourist attractions by state. (Headed to Omaha? Get your photo taken in front of the city’s 6-foot bronze statue of Chef Boyardee!) Convincing your co-workers to do something silly or partake in the local culture will provide some surprisingly good team bonding time (not to mention photos for the break room).
If you’re travelling in a group or a pair, talk to your travel buddy about what you’re both packing so you don’t double up. For example, girls, if you’re travelling with a mate and can’t live without your straighteners, maybe one of you can bring a hair drier and one of you can bring the straighteners (although do consider going au-natural – it’s liberating!)
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.
Making sure that you don’t lose good business opportunities any time you are traveling is key. While in Nepal, I had to rely on a local coffee shop for a decent connection, as the wi-fi at my hotel was practically not working. It was annoying. I wish I had listened to those who had suggested how to prepare for business trips and said to take a portable wifi device.
All these tips are great, but I truly appreciate the perspective about Sunrise is better than Sunset. I know I am probably in the minority here, but the freshness of morning is a rebirth for me. And a dazzling sunrise does more for lifting my spirits than almost anything else. Whatever problems I had yesterday, now, with this new sunrise, I have a chance at a fresh start. (Don’t get me wrong…I love a romantic sunset too!)
4. Record room numbers. If you’ve been on the road for weeks on end, it can be very hard to remember if you’re staying in room 304 -- or if that was last week’s hotel. When I park in a numbered spot or check into a new room, I create an entry in the “notes” function of my smartphone, so I can quickly remember where I’m going. It may sound unnecessary, but it’s saved a lot of confusion and grief.
The number one mistake business travelers make is eating like they are on vacation. This type of lifestyle is unhealthy and expensive, especially if you eat out for every meal; however, convenient food service can seem like the easiest solution after a long day. To make your travel easier for you and your wallet, stock the hotel fridge with nutritious items that you can consume throughout your trip. Hard-boiled eggs make a great breakfast or snack option with protein to keep you full. A rotisserie chicken is another great option that allows you to reheat different size portions easily, storing the rest in the fridge for another meal. Also, try buying a veggie platter—they aren’t just for parties!—which will maximize your wallet by providing multiple days’ worth of nutritious snacks in one bulk purchase.
When I travel, I am often invited to stay with a local contact. I almost always accept the invitation. Staying in someone's home provides an opportunity to get to know them on a much more intimate personal level. Either I get a home-cooked meal or we eat at the best local restaurants. The closer connection allows for a deeper, more enduring relationship...or pretty fast clarity that it isn't a good match. In any case, it adds an interesting angle to the trip. (The photo is from a recent business trip.)
Money 5. Look up the monetary conversion before you go. Finding out that one Danish Krone is equal to just 20 cents could be a bad surprise. Make sure you do your math before you travel to get a sense of where the conversion rate is at. 6. Make sure your credit card will work in the country you’re visiting. European banks have switched almost completely to the more secure chip-and-PIN technology, and fewer businesses abroad are accepting the outdated magnetic-strip cards. 7. Go to a bank or ATM in the country you’re visiting. The conversion centres in the airport or around the city tend to be huge rip-offs. You won’t get charged as many fees at the ATM or the bank, and the conversion will be exact. 8. Always have local cash. Not every place takes credit cards. This is especially important if you're catching trains or buses. 9. Call your bank or credit card provider. Sometimes banks think that fraud maybe occurring if transactions are suddenly happening in Bali when you’re from Toronto, and they will turn off your card as a security measure. 10. Check the country’s entrance/exit fees. Some countries require travellers to pay in order to enter or leave the country. These fees are not included in the price of your airline ticket, and can range from $25 to $200. Local Research 11. Buy tickets now for attractions you know you want to visit or see. By buying in advance you’ll be able to skip more lines, and find more deals targeted toward you. 12. Get guidebooks. Guidebooks usually include maps, key words or phrases and provide enough detail on key sites that you won’t need to purchase guides at the venue. Download guidebooks and apps before you travel to avoid data charges on your trip. 13. Research events going on while you’re there. This will help you make sure that you’re not missing out on fun experiences and that you won't be surprised by crowds or closures. Also, be sure to research a few national dishes. You don’t want to leave the country without experiencing its specialties! Electronics 14. Bring a charger adapter. Countries have different size plugs and voltage, so if you want to use your iPod, make sure you can charge it. 15. Check the voltage of your electronics. From my own experience I know that nothing is worse than having an adapter and still not being able to use a blow-dryer or a straightener because the voltage isn’t high enough for that country. 16. Activate your phone’s global capabilities. There’s usually a charge we doing this, but it is much less than the roaming charges you’ll get if you don’t. 17. Download the Travelzoo app. The Travelzoo app can help you find great deals in a variety of countries, and has options from local deals to transportation options. Luggage & packing 18. Pack an extra set of clothes in your carry-on bag. Don’t be one of those travellers decked out in "J’adore Paris" apparel because the airline lost your luggage and you have nothing else to wear. 19. To check a bag or not to check a bag. Each airline has its own set of guidelines as to how many bags can be checked or carried on for free. Make sure to look up your airline’s rules to avoid any incremental fees. If you're travelling with a companion, consider checking one bag between the two of you. 20. Bring snacks. Travelling abroad is fun, but eating in a foreign country can sometimes become a task. Bring small snacks that will tide you over until you find that perfect restaurant or food cart.
Keep your clothing organized in compartments based on outfit type or activity type by using packing cubes. These zippered organizers make it easy to keep your bag neat and provide quick access to all the different things you'll need during your trip. You can use compression sacs or cubes to reduce the volume of your clothes by up to 80%. This is especially convenient for bulky items such as sweaters and jackets. And folders are great for keeping dress clothing nice, neat and folded.
So, when it comes to packing personal items, it is best to keep it scant. Dark colored clothes are a plus because they hide stains well and can often be reworn. Shoes without laces are extremely convenient for getting through security. A Dopp kit or toiletry bag can be within your set of go-to’s to ensure you don’t show up to a meeting with rancid breath because you forgot toothpaste. Gather the essentials here and ensure that the rest is versatile.
8. Create an on-boarding routine. This is particularly important for long-distance flights. For example, organize all your reading material in a separate bag (within your carry-on) before you get on the plane. When you reach your seat, take the bag out and put the carry-on away. I am amazed by the amount of time wasted by people who arrive at their seat and start rummaging through their bags to find all the things they want for the flight, while fellow passengers steam in the aisle waiting for this ritual to end.
Want to speed through security? Want the desk clerk to give you a great room? Want the waiter to let you linger over your client lunch? Be nice. It's amazing how much more you can get accomplished on a biz trip if you are simply nice and polite to everyone you meet. Stuck in a line...happily share about your business. If you're enthusiastic, pleasant and open, you can turn line-ups and flights into relaxation time and "gentle touch" networking. A pocket full of biz cards is fine; a smile is better.
They know about everything going on in town. They can point you to free activities, special events happening during your stay, and everything in between. They even offer discounts on attractions and transportation. It is their job to help you experience the destination better. It’s amazing how many travelers skip this when they are visiting somewhere but, as a savvy traveler, you know to use this resource! This is probably one of the most underused travel tips in the world. Use the tourism board! Save money!
Recently, for example, a nursing mother was told by a TSA agent that she couldn't bring a breast pump with empty milk bottles on board the plane. (Legally, she could.) In 2007, the TSA lifted its ban on regular lighters, but many screeners still confiscate them. (Legally, they can't.) The moral of the story: Familiarize yourself with the TSA's rules and regulations, because you can't necessarily expect your security screener to be well informed.
Patrick Gray works for a global Fortune 500 consulting and IT services company and is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companion e-book The Breakthrough CIO's Companion. He has spent over a decade providing strategy consulting services to Fortune 500 and 1000 companies. Patrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you can follow his blog at www.itbswatch.com. All opinions are his and may not represent those of his employer.