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The Art of Business Travel

 

By Ashley Collins, AgCareers.com Education & Marketing Manager and Erika Osmundson, AgCareers.com Director of Marketing & Communications

 

Business travel may seem glamorous to someone that doesn’t do a lot of traveling.  However business travel can be darn right stressful if you are new to it.  Below are common areas of business travel with pitfalls and tips.

 

Transportation

Transportation is probably the biggest headache of business travel!  Do you drive or fly?  Take a direct flight or a cheaper multiple connection flight?  Drive your own car or get a rental? 

 

The key to easing this headache is to plan ahead.  Not only does planning ahead typically mean more reasonable rates on flights, rentals, etc., it gives you the opportunity to weigh your options and seek input and approval from your supervisor if necessary.

 

To drive or rent often comes down to personal preference.  If your company does not have a preference and you are willing to put the extra miles on your car, run the numbers quick.  Figure the mileage reimbursement versus the cost of the rental -- don’t forget to add in a fuel charge.  The same can be used for the drive or fly debate, but don’t forget to factor in your time!

 

The direct versus connecting flight debate gets a little trickier.  There can be hefty differences in price between a direct flight and those with a connection or two.  As you evaluate your options, remember that a couple hundred dollars difference isn’t much in the grand scheme of things.  Taking a direct flight or one with a single connection could get you back to work quicker or give you the opportunity to squeeze in a breakfast meeting before leaving, for example.  Not to mention, a lower risk of travel delays and issues. 

 

Cash, Credit or Debit

If business travel is part of your job, many organizations provide a company credit card.  However, if they do not, you should seriously consider getting a credit card with an adequate credit limit, even if you only use it for travel arrangements or travel emergencies. 

 

While some rely on debit cards, they aren’t always reliable for business travel due to the hold that many places, such as hotels and gas stations, put on your card that can tie up your available dollars.

 

Also, consider carrying a small amount of cash for situations where a credit card is not accepted or for tips.

 

Speaking of tips, be prepared to tip a few key people.  Examples of those you should tip while traveling: the valet service, bell staff, wait staff and the concierge if they go above and beyond to assist.  Not sure how much to tip?  Pay attention to what others tip or ask your supervisor for guidelines.  Then base your tip off of this and the service received.

 

Business Meals

Some companies offer a set rate for meal expenses for the day.  Others reimburse at the actual expense.  To avoid a hassle, understand the policy up front as well as the expense documentation process.  Also, gain a clear understanding about what is acceptable meal expense.  For example, if you are of age, will your employer cover alcoholic drink expenses and to what extent?

 

Keep your meal selection within reason!  Don’t select the most expensive meal on the menu.  A good rule of thumb is to order like you would if you were spending your own money.  If you were out to dinner on your own dime would you splurge on dessert?

 

This should go without saying, but if there is a communal appetizer, chips and salsa, or something of this nature, don’t double dip!  In a family setting you may all share the same germs, but that is not the case at a business dinner and is unprofessional.

 

Bonus Tip:  If you are traveling a lot, see if your company has a policy on collecting hotel/airline points.  Many organizations will allow the employee to reap the benefits of reward programs as long as travel decisions continue to be based on what is in best interest for the company.  Most of these programs are free and offer some really great perks. 

 

Mastering the art of business travel comes with experience and even the most experienced business traveler runs into new situations now and then.  Hopefully, these few tips will help ease the learning curve!