Monday, February 1, 2016

Making the Most of Business Travel

Once upon a time, or so I hear, people considered business travel a perk of certain jobs. Most people I know now, though, consider it a chore or just a necessity. Maybe the global nature of business has increased the frequency of travel for some.

Certainly industry changes towards service and consulting in areas has created a need. Combining an increased frequency with increased cost-cutting on the parts of airlines and others has put a damper on the experience. Still, if you approach it with the right attitude, travel can be not just a necessary part of business but an enjoyable one.

Savor an Experience

Some business travel may take you to more prestigious locations than others, but that doesn't mean that you can't look for opportunities to find out the most interesting thing about the city you are visiting and try to experience it. Is there a food there that you can't get at home? Do you have time to run out and see one thing while you are there? What should it be? For me, I can almost always find a craft beer somewhere that I can't experience at home. And every now and then, I find one or two other gems as well.

Max Out Your Points

Do you have frequent flyer miles or hotel points you've been looking to rack up? Now's your chance. The one benefit of forced travel for business that still hangs around is the fact that rewards programs still exist to hook you up with free or discounted travel in the future for vacations or other personal use. Make the most of these both by joining programs for any airline or hotel chain you use, and also by focusing your travel whenever possible to utilize your preferred chains or airlines. I know several people who use all kinds of different offers to get bonus points and travel for free, but even if you don't carefully manipulate credit card offers on a monthly basis, you can still take efforts with business travel to make sure you are getting credit.

Take Advantage of the Breaks

Sometimes, you travel to a meeting that takes the entirety of the time you are away. We've all been there, where the nine hour meeting gets followed by happy hour or dinner that lasts another three, and then all you want to do is go back to your room and crash. But if you do get a break, you can use that to your benefit. Whether you spend the time just catching up on all of the emails that you have missed during the day or actually getting ahead, you can leverage several quiet hours in a hotel room to be more productive. Don't waste them sitting in front of the television.

Build the Network

Travel to a new place offers one opportunity you will never get staying at home: the opportunity to meet new people. Whether your paths cross with others on the plane, in the hotel bar, or at the meeting itself, travel gives you the opportunity to speak face to face with people that you may have never met before. Try to understand them and their needs. Sometimes, you will find nothing out of it. Sometimes, you will get to hear an interesting story. And sometimes, you will make a connection that increases the value of your personal network tremendously. Don't miss out.

Let's face it. Travel is a necessity for many of us in today's interconnected business environments, but it does not have to be a burden. You can take advantage of some bright spots and find ways to leverage your trips to your benefit. Are you a road warrior? What tips do you have that can make the mundane business trip valuable? I'd love to hear (before my next trip). Let me know.