For most of us, traveling on the government’s dime can be pretty exciting. These days, most of us don’t get to travel much anymore. So when we do, we like to make the most of it. Like most things, there is a right way and a wrong way to travel on business. Here are some tips to make sure your next business trip is handled like a pro.
- Don’t shortchange yourself! Make sure you understand your travel policies before you go. If you don’t get to travel much, consider taking a copy of it with you. Be sure you know what you need in terms of receipts and documentation, how much your per diem allowance is, acceptable charges and how to submit your claims for reimbursement.
- Put together an organized folder with all of your travel information. Include things like hotel addresses, transportation options at your destination and copies of your itinerary and confirmation numbers. Don’t forget a copy of your meeting agenda and location in your folder as well.
- Prior to leaving, jot down the goals for your trip. Whether your goals are to learn new skills, share your agency’s achievements, or to participate in strategic planning groups, you should have specific goals for yourself. Don’t forget to connect with your supervisor regarding what their goals are for your trip.
- Outsmart your fellow travelers by having the number of the airline and hotel already programmed into your favorites on your contact list. If you miss a flight, call immediately to get rebooked and avoid the madness at the airline counter. Sometimes you can get faster service by contacting the airline on Twitter.
- Bring along work you can do on the plane or train. Even though we are in travel status we are still being paid for a day’s productivity. Who couldn’t use an extra day to get caught up on back-burner work? Put the extra time waiting between flights to good use by returning some phone calls.
- Hold yourself to a professional standard. When we are traveling for business, we are always representing our agency, whether we are technically “off duty” or not. Avoid dressing too casually for travel, and avoid any behavior that may be considered unprofessional, even after hours.
- Practice your elevator speeches! You never know who you will meet while you are traveling for business. Have your speeches ready about what your agency and program does, as well as a brief speech you can give about yourself. You will be meeting with many new people and this is an excellent time to make great connections. Don’t forget your extra business cards!
- Prepare for everything. You never know what might happen when you travel. Plan ahead so that if something gets lost or ruined, you are OK. Bring extra copies of your presentation material. Make sure you have all the contact information for anybody you may need to reach at the office. Make yourself an emergency kit with stain removers, a needle and thread, and eyeglass repair kit.
- Be sure you have some great stories of your agency’s successes to share at your meeting. Ask others for testimonials or things to share. Travel is a great opportunity to promote your program and agency.
- Make the most of your networking opportunities while you are at your meeting. Do your best to get around to meeting as many people as possible rather than limiting yourself to a small group. Gather business cards and make notes on the back so you remember something about each person. When you get home, be sure to follow up with a quick email or connect on LinkedIn.
Traveling on business can be an excellent opportunity to get refreshed with new ideas, new connections and just a good change of scenery. By planning ahead, you can take the stress out of travel, and leave yourself to get the most from your trip. What are your strategies for business travel? Let us know below!
Brenda Dennis is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.