The Dos and Don’ts of Traveling on the Job
On paper, business travel sounds like a great deal: It's a chance to see the world on someone else's dime. In practice, however, it can be downright grueling. Following a few simple do and don'ts can help you ensure travel for your job is a bearable—and perhaps even enjoyable—experience.
Do: Stay Focused
Yes, you're working a conference in Las Vegas; no, you're not reenacting The Hangover. The key word in the previous sentence is working. Whether your destination is Paris, France, or Paris, Texas, your employer has sent you on a mission, and don't forget it. This doesn't mean you can't sample local cuisine or work in some sightseeing during your free time. Just finish your work first, and stay focused.
Again, you're on a work trip, not a vacation. Don't overindulge in food or alcohol like you might on a pleasure trip. You might even want to eat and drink more conservatively than you do at home to counteract the physical stress of travel. Not only will you feel better, your colleagues won't be able to gossip about your hangover back at the office.
Do: Understand Your Company's Travel and Reimbursement Policies
Before you travel for work, make sure you have a clear understanding of what expenses are reimbursable, your per diem limits, and any other travel-related company policies, such as whether you're allowed to book business-class tickets and whether you should add rental car insurance. Better to know ahead of time than to be stuck with out-of-pocket costs after your trip. (And don't be a jerk about spending as much money as you can. Just because you have a generous meal allowance doesn't mean you should use it at every meal. Your boss will notice.)
Don't: Forget Your Pajamas
If you're lucky, your company doesn't require you to share a hotel room with a coworker—but in some industries, such as the nonprofit world and academia, roommates are par for the course. Accept upfront that this is awkward, and do what you can to make it less so. For instance, bring modest pajamas or workout clothes to wear at night. Bring air freshener. And if you know you snore, offer a pair of earplugs to your roomie.
Do: Maintain Boundaries
Travel can create a false sense of intimacy among coworkers, but stay on your guard. Don't share personal or confidential information with your colleagues that you wouldn't want them to repeat back at the office. A business trip is a great opportunity to bond, but keep it within reason.
Don't: Hold Up the Train
Be considerate of your colleagues. If you're the type of person who generally runs a few minutes late or arrives during final boarding, make an extra effort to be early. You don't want to be the one to cause schedule or travel issues. Rely on two alarms, request a wake-up call, ask your spouse to call you from home—whatever it takes.
Do: Take Time for Yourself
Sometimes there's just too much togetherness when traveling with coworkers (particularly if you must share a hotel room). Build in opportunities to take time for yourself, whether that's to exercise, get some fresh air, grab coffee downstairs, or some other way to get some space. Your colleague is likely hoping to make a personal phone call or just be alone for a few minutes too.
Don't: Leave Your Patience at Home
Modern travel is frustrating enough with friends and family—let alone with coworkers you might not even like. Be sure to pack your patience. Go with the flow when it comes to restaurant choices, ground transportation, and other logistics. This isn't your dream vacation; it's a work trip. Don't sweat the small stuff, and you'll have a better experience.
Best-case scenario, you'll come home from your trip with a new appreciation for fellow employees and information about a destination you might visit during a future getaway. Worst-case…you'll be home soon. Hang in there.