By the time you land your first job, you’ve probably done a little bit of traveling — meaning you’ve had some time to develop a few bad habits. You might be an expert at finding a cheap flight, but maybe you have a tendency to over pack for even the shortest trip, or you can’t seem to get to the gate on time for a flight.
While your friends might think it’s funny to watch you running down the jetway as the flight attendant closes the door, when you’re traveling for business, your chronic lateness isn’t going to be quite as amusing to your boss. In fact, some bosses evaluate your skills in business travel as part of your annual performance review.
If you’re headed out on your first business trip — or maybe you’ve had trouble on the road before — keep these ten tips in mind to make a good impression and still get the job done.
You Are Not on Vacation
It seems almost unfair when organizations schedule conferences and meetings in spots like Orlando and Las Vegas. Who wants to sit and watch a PowerPoint when there’s so much to do? While your meetings might be dull and the outside world is calling, resist the temptation to overindulge or go sightseeing. If you really want to see what your destination has to offer, schedule a few days of vacation time at the end of the trip; otherwise, stay focused on work.
Avoid Checking Bags When Possible
You do not need a 50lb suitcase full of clothing for a three-day business trip. Learn how to efficiently pack a carry-on bag, and only bring what you absolutely need. Not only do you save time on arrival when you don’t have to wait for your bag, you won’t have to worry about a lost bag holding you up.
A flight with your boss is not the time to wear your sweats. Even on a long or overnight flight, you want to maintain a professional and polished image, so wear comfortable but stylish clothing on the flight. Bring a carry-on containing a soft throw and a travel pillow if you want to catch a few winks. And if you’re sharing a room with a colleague, wear appropriate sleepwear.
Confirm, and Reconfirm, Your Arrangements
Even if you’re company has a travel department, ask for copies of your itinerary so you can confirm your arrangements yourself. If you get separated from your traveling companions or something goes awry, you’ll know where you are supposed to be and when.
You should certainly have a (not maxed out) credit card with you, but carry cash as well. Keep small bills on hand for tips, and have enough cash to pay for a taxi if needed, as not all cabs take plastic.
Limit Personal Calls
When you’re sharing a hotel room with a colleague, he or she does not want to hear your lovey-dovey conversations with “Pookie Bear” before bed. If you must make personal calls, do so in a private area, or wait until you have the room to yourself.
Do Your Homework
Before heading out, check the weather at your destination and pack appropriately; don’t assume others will have umbrellas. Likewise, do a little research about top restaurants near the hotel or meeting site. When everyone is debating where to go for dinner, mention a well-reviewed spot to impress your boss.
Let Go of Your Schedule
Before leaving, ask your colleague or boss what time she plans to be at the airport, and then arrive a few minutes before she does. Likewise, if your first meeting is at 8 a.m., plan to be ready to go at 7. You do not want to be the person that holds up the group.
Make a List and Check It Twice
Your boss put you in charge of the presentation, so you don’t want to get settled into your set on the plane and realize the handouts are still sitting on your desk. Double-check that you’ve brought everything you need, including materials, power cords and chargers.
Follow Others’ Lead
You might be desperate for a martini at dinner after a long day of meetings, but if your clients or boss order soda, save the cocktail for another time.
Business travel can be one of the more enjoyable aspects of your career, allowing you to see new cities and meet interesting people. If you don’t let your excitement about getting away from the office get the best of you, you’ll have plenty more opportunities to take your show on the road.
About the Author: Maren Walker is a career counselor and etiquette expert. She writes a blog for new college grads and career changers who want to improve their professional images.