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So, your boss told you get to travel to the customer’s site? Your first business trip! It’s exciting news. An employee who travels is often able to qualify for promotions and move up quicker. The world is pretty flat these days and business travel is simply a way of life.
But now what? Where do you start? What first time business travel tips do you need to know to make your first trip a success? I’ve pulled together 5 of the best travel hacks and travel tips that will be sure to get your first (and future) business trip off on the right foot!
- Register for frequent flyer programs. It’s probably too early to pledge allegiance to a specific airline, hotel or rental car company, but you should go ahead and sign up for a few – especially the ones you intend on using on this trip. All of these companies offer rewards programs based on usage. With usage comes points which can be redeemed for free trips, hotel stays or car rentals (all of which come in handy for that personal travel trip you might take). And with lots of usage you can earn status. Status will help ease future travel adventures by giving you better
boarding options, room upgrades, freebies like water and snacks, or even an upgrade to the convertible. For hotel options the two biggies are Hilton and Marriott. I am a Hilton guy, but honestly, they are both pretty equal. For airlines, you have a ton of options. For me it’s Southwest or Delta, but United and American offer good routes too and there are plenty of regional, smaller carriers as well. For rental cars, you have a lot to choose from and it’s likely your company will force one or two choices down your throat. Whatever you pick for your first business trip, sign up for the rewards program – even if it’s only for this one trip.
- Protip: Sometimes your company will have an arrangement with one of the travel orgs that allows you to jump start your status. For example, at my last company, they had an arrangement w/ National Rent a Car that allowed me to jump right up to the first run of the ladder – regardless of how many cars I’d rented. But, I had to sign up for it.
- Use your personal credit card. Your company might issue you a company card and if it does you may or may not get access to the points program. Either way, chances are you can qualify for a better rewards program w/ your own credit card. Sign up for one if you don’t have one and use it. Just make sure you get your expense report in quickly so you don’t have to foot the bill between paydays or something like that.
- Don’t check your bag. This is a major rookie mistake. And it stems from bringing too much stuff. You really don’t need as much as you think. Learn how to pack light, bring only what you need, and fit it into a piece of carry-on luggage. I use the TravelPro 11 Crew which I absolutely love! Checking your bag will only increase the risk of it getting lost, and will add time on the front and back of your trip while you wait for the bags to get unloaded. Go like a pro from the start and carry it on!
- Figure out your airline’s boarding process. Each airline does it a little different and since this is your first trip you don’t have status. Which means you might get screwed on the boarding process if you are not paying attention. For example, Southwest requires you to check in no earlier than 24 hours before your flight. If you wait much past that time you will wind up w/ a C Boarding Pass (hence the name of this blog. Haha). If that happens it may be hard to find a spot for your carry on and you will likely ride middle seat. Whatever airline you choose, go to their website and learn their boarding process.
- Show up to the airport a little early. It’s your first trip so you might be a little bewildered by the security process. Show up a little early to give yourself plenty of time to get through security. Go to the TSA’s website and learn the rules and/or ask a colleague for any of their tips. You can see my thoughts on the TSA line by reading my article on 101 Travel Hacks for the Business Traveler.
Bonus Pro Tip: Keep your receipts. You will have to fill out a pain-in-the-butt expense report when you get back so be diligent about keeping your receipts. Take a picture of them too for backup / easy uploading to your expense report system.
I hope these first time business traveler tips have been valuable to you. Don’t forget to enjoy your first business trip. It’s fun! And for a full list of business travel hacks and business travel tips, don’t forget to check out my article on the 101 Travel Hacks for the Business Traveler and level up your travel game immediately!