Hot tub hijinks, hookups and hookers might be standard M.O. at a bachelor party or boys’ trips, but they’re definitely not business travel behavior. Although your boss may never find out about your foolishness on a business trip and call you out on it, it doesn’t mean you have a license to ill either.
Contrary to popular belief, business travel isn’t a hall pass to go buck wild or hook-up with that nena you met from the London office last year. Believe it or not, people are watching you – as in colleagues, supervisors and potential business contacts. Even though you’re out of the physical confines of your office, you’re still working and should act that way. That doesn’t mean enjoying a new place is out of the question, there are just a few cardinal rules to consider before you let the high of being away from your routine get the best of you. After all you want your career to be a marathon, not a sprint.
Rule No. 1: Keep your head in the game
Before you get too amped and assume you’ll get to live it up on the streets of New Orleans or the beaches of L.A., remember what the trip is about. While socializing with colleagues is important (as is your sanity after being trapped in a conference center), you’re there to get a job done. Set an agenda based on your work schedule, plan your meetings and even try to meet fellow clients or colleagues who aren’t attending the event but who are from the area you’re visiting. If you can, tack on a few extra days – either pre- or post-trip – to see the sites or catch up with friends in the area.
Rule No. 2: Be travel ready
Don’t be that guy who doesn’t make it on the plane, needs to borrow someone’s laptop or is pestering people for a pen (or tablet). Traveling for business means bringing along what you would use for work every day whether that’s your cell phone and laptop or business documents. Don’t forget things like tickets, passports or a travel visa – missing one could delay or derail your entire trip. Keep telephone numbers for a local cab company or the hotel where you’ll be staying is also a good rule of thumb. You actually can avoid the business trip meltdown. “It’s worth investing in a duplicate set of chargers for your tech devices and an extra assortment of toiletries that always stay in your travel bag,” according Entrepreneur magazine.
Rule No. 3: Be professional
Even when you’re attending a professional development conference or networking for your own good, you’re still representing your job, brand or company. It’s possible your boss picked you to be the “face” of the company or project you’re working on. Make your first impression lasting. Leave early for your plans or train (especially if you’re traveling with colleagues), be on time to meetings and come prepared whether you’re giving a speech or attending one.
Rule No. 4: Dress for success
Just because you wear futbol jerseys and jeans to the office everyday doesn’t mean you should dress that way for a business trip. The Road Warriorette, a popular business travel blogger, advises having a travel wardrobe with basics like a suit, slacks, jacket and several shirts that are interchangeable to keep your suitcase light and your look professional. It also doesn’t hurt to keep an extra shirt or tie, and even shoes in your carry-on bag. There’s nothing worse than losing your bag and being forced to wear scuffed sneakers or a stained shirt you wore on the plane the next day.
Rule No. 5: Don’t eat with your eyes
Yes, you’ll get reimbursed for your meals and travel and yes, it’s tempting to go all out on your boss’s dime. But remember, most companies have a cap on expenses and will have a budget for meals and miscellaneous items. Unless your job is to entertain clients or land big fish with cocktails and dinners, think wisely before you order that porterhouse or get a massage at the hotel’s spa. “Keep excellent records and annotate them where appropriate,” advised accountant Kelly Erb in a recent Forbes.com article. “You should include the date, purpose of the expense.”
Rule No. 6: Don’t party too hard
Most real business happens during non-business hours. That’s why planned activities like company dinners, dance parties and happy hours are actually important to attend. But cocktails at the hotel bar, trips to the local club (exotic and garden variety) or a pub crawl aren’t usually on the agenda. Resist the urge to get down too hard, even if colleagues are going out on the town. If your boss is down with the program you’ll probably have to go along. Just be sure to keep your wits about you and not be hung over for that 8 a.m. meeting you’re expected to join even though you were out until 4 a.m.