Business travel for everyone
I am reposting, supplementing, an article (originally published in Travel for Business) to share some tips for organizing and managing “do-it-yourself” business travel.
These are trips of a certain complexity, not simple point-to-point “round trips”; a standard mission of mine always touches at least 3 or 4 locations, often secondary cities, in different countries, as for example was this trip-in the return from which I am writing to you-which lasted 16 days, touched 4 countries, 8 airline flights, totaling 28,677 km.
I believe that with the digital tools currently available, it is far preferable and more convenient to make our own arrangements, and thus be able to handle changes and unforeseen events on our own, rather than to turn to a travel agency on which we then have to depend (perhaps closed due to time difference at the time of need).
After an initial survey with contacts to meet, I set the time limits of the trip and proceed to purchase international tickets.
I purchase the intercontinental leg separately from the individual trips in the area because it can be better managed in case of unforeseen changes to work commitments (at most I will lose a ticket on a domestic flight).
Flight choice is critical in business travel. Choose the company/network that best covers your area of interest to enjoy the benefits of frequent traveler status. As for me, I have done many years traveling Lufthansa / Star Alliance which is an excellent network, but for some years I have been flying only Emirates, because it is without any doubt the best choice for the Asia-Pacific area, in terms of destinations served and frequency, service, and also price.
Traveling is stressful anyway, and all intensive travelers develop cravings and idiosyncrasies, it’s normal; always using the same airline and always the same stopover, already knowing where everything is located helps you travel more relaxed.
After defining individual appointments and commitments, I move on to purchase “domestic” flights where I am, on the other hand, flexible and choose primarily based on schedule and price but always avoiding, if possible, airlines that are too cheap; it is one thing to travel with Ryanair (which I use often and frequently in Europe) another with an unknown low-cost airline from the far east…be safe!
I can generally cover all travel with Thai Airways and Air China (both Star Alliance); I definitely recommend Vietnam Airlines, which has a recent fleet.
On hotels I am not “faithful” and choose based on the quote at the time and the location, both in relation to work commitments and the possibility of taking an evening walk to get a sense of what the place is like. Generally, travel preparation takes place several weeks in advance so try to prefer hotels that have free cancellation; you are never sure of the schedule.
One feature to pay attention to, in addition to the must-have wi-fi, is that there be spaces to work in and meeting rooms for possible appointments. Some hotels have business category rooms by taking them in which you are entitled to certain services reserved for business travelers such as, precisely, separate breakfast rooms and business lounges where you can work or receive someone. If time and location permit, the roof bar is also a good place to work ?
Baggage and accessories
Regardless of the limits, the lighter the better. I leave with 2 pieces, a large hard one that I try to fill no more than 50-70% and a carry-on trolley in which to keep in addition to the pc, underwear and shirts for a couple of days in case they lose the checked suitcase (no need to keep the beauty case, it only creates problems at security checks and in any hotel you will find everything you need for the 24/48 hours it will presumably take to receive your luggage).
A change of clothes on hand is also needed in case you stop: a shower and fresh clothes work wonders. Even if you do not have access to the lounge of the airline, because you are not traveling in business or are not yet frequent flyer, look around, in almost every airport there are lounges fee and if the duration of the stop is long it might be worth it (I am precisely writing during a 10-hour stop…).
I’ve always seen the backpack as a vacationer’s accessory, but for a while now I’ve changed my mind and use a trolley backpack, which I find convenient: it can be useful to be hands-free; it’s not very popular, but with a brief search on the Internet you can find several models.
Having a dedicated “office” part, it can also be used to go to meetings or is if “excursions” of a couple of days are planned with return to the same place, it allows travel by leaving the large suitcase at the hotel luggage room.
When required by the nature of the meetings , in the hard case I put a 24-hour canvas suitcase, durable and lightweight.
An always useful accessory is the maxi travel wallet, the male equivalent of the handbag. Equipped with adequate pockets for currency, business cards, passport, boarding passes and various cards, it is a convenient travel companion. I pair it with a mini credit card holder; I then leave the maxi in the safe in the hotel and take the mini with me.
Business travel clothing
Dress code is personal and dependent on the field of work, however, it is indisputable that the dress code in the far east, where the weather is almost always hot and humid, is informal at virtually all levels.
Therefore, I find it appropriate to wear cotton chinos (blue and beige), a blue or white Brooks Brothers non-iron jeans and shirts, a few polo shirts; garments that are mixable, comfortable and easy to wash in hotel laundries. The tie is all but gone, but a blue blazer is worth wearing, perhaps in Fay’s travel jacket version, made of crease-resistant fabric and equipped with convenient interior zippered pockets for boarding passes and passports.
Always have a sweatshirt, sweater or light jacket on hand, even in summer; air-conditioning “storms” are frequent and sudden.
Rather than lose it in constant foreign exchange, I keep some local currency from each country, roughly the equivalent of 10 to 20€; useful on arrival to have it in my pocket, if only for tips and cab fares.
Nearly all the countries in the Far East have very expensive roaming rates, and there are no promotions or subscriptions with our operators that hold. Until not long ago this was a big problem, which fortunately has gradually been solved with the spread of VOIP services such as Skype, Whatsapp and WeChat.
The best solution is to take out your SIM on departure (sometimes just connecting to the network or one text message will activate a daily charge) and buy at the airports of arrival a local DATA SIM (before leaving the airport, there are them everywhere); just choose not to have the settings changed (be careful!) and that’s it, you will use whatsapp as if you were on your domestic number.
Health on the road
Regardless of age, it is always good to have some self-medication medicine; it may be difficult to explain to a Vietnamese person that you need an anti-diarrheal or a headache pill. Without overdoing it, but a few aspirin and an antineuralgic, something for stomach aches and intestinal discomfort, and an eye drop will not be an unbearable burden and may save you from unpleasant situations.
For tips on the best apps essential to a professional traveler, I refer you to the article “The Best Apps for Business Travel.”