Saturday, November 16, 2013

Travelling on work- smart way to pack

This post shares my thoughts on smart ways of packing while travelling on work.

Travelling on work has its own merits and de-merits. Younger executives, who've entered corporate world recently eagerly wait for an opportunity to travel at company's expense- often onsite trips are offered to them as an appeasement strategy to keep them happy. But a decade later, the same executive who now has enough experience but also has a family and other commitments, looks for excuses to avoid official travel. His/her priorities in life would have changed and his/her managers will have to request him/her if he/she can travel on work.

What about you? Would you jump in at every travel opportunity that comes your way or are you picky?

That apart, how do you pack smartly for business travel?
One of the primary difference between business travel and leisure travel being the financing. With most of the expenses taken care by the company, focus will not be on choosing cheapest airline or hotel, but on traveling with comfort and convenience, so that more work can be done in less time and business traveler gets enough rest.

Following considerations go in while packing for official travel:
  • Company's travel policy
  • Client you're dealing with
  • Duration of the trip
  • Destination city (cities)
  • Season at destination city (winter/summer)
  • Facilities available at the hotel
  • Personal objectives to be accomplished, if any
Let us look into few of them in detail

Company's travel policy: This plays a key role in helping you decide what to do and what not to do. Some companies reimburse every expense, while others will have a policy on what kind of expenses are reimbursable and what are not. Few examples:

1) Cost of laundering a vest or brief at a start hotel could be more than the cost of dress itself. If these expenses are not reimbursable, it might make sense to carry more of those and dispose off old ones.
2) Making a phone call from hotel room is likely to cost you a bomb. Buy a local SIM card or carry one from home country, from operators like Matrix. (Holiday Inn hotels in US and Canada are an exception, as they offer free local calls)
3) Similarly, with airlines charging extra for excess baggage, knowing your company policy on the same will help you decide if you should carry some extra stuff or buy them at the destination.

Knowing the list of approved vendors, hotels and operators can save lots of trouble later.

Patronizing your client: This is a fundamental requirement. if your client is an airline, try to fly on their airline, even if it is not the most convenient flight to you. Similarly, where possible use their products and services. Do not walk into a meeting with nokia flashing your iphone or samsung.

Duration of the trip: This factor governs the amount of dress and other materials to carry. A business trip could range from few days to few month or sometime get extended in the middle.

Destination city and season: What to pack is also governed by the destination city and climate/weather there. If it is winter then weight of your baggage can go up significantly. If you have a heavy jacket, it might make sense to put in on you than packing it in and wasting baggage space and weight.

Facilities available at the hotel: This also helps in smart packing.
1)If the hotel can give you a travel adapter, then you won't have to carry one.
2)If the hotel provides a bathroom chappal, then you needn't pack extra footwear and one pair of shoe might be enough.
3)If the hotel offers wi-fi, then you may not need a data card
4)If the hotel offers express laundry service at reasonable cost, you can carry a few pairs less clothing
5) If the city airport is too far from city centre or where your work will be, selecting a hotel which offers airport pickup-drop can save money.
6) Food: After few days away from home, most of us start craving for home food. Knowing that your hotel can serve something close to your taste would save time and effort going out and searching for a restaurant.

This is where hotels like Holiday in Express prove to be effective. With their express laundry service, free breakfast and wifi and extensive care, smart stay is much easier. Express brand from Holiday Inn offers relatively cheaper rates, without compromise on service or quality. With over 2100 properties around the globe, you're unlikely not to find one in the city you're heading to. Do check their site for details.

Personal objectives:
1) If you enjoy sightseeing and photography, you might wish to pack a camera. But big cameras like DSLR are not always convenient on business trip, as they command a bag for themselves and make it inconvenient to carry around. A good mobile phone with camera or a small digicam comes handy to click quick snaps. Hotels located closer to a metro or one which is closer to city can help save on travel time.
2) Some travelers take time out to meet their friends and relatives in destination city. You might wish to pack some gifts or home made food items for them.
3) If you don't want to skip your fitness regime or have strict dietary demands, choosing a hotel with good gym would help.
4) If you're expecting to have lots of meetings all through the day, a hotel with conference room helps save on travel time.

With most of business trips getting confirmed only in the last minute, it is very easy to miss packing important things and then regretting it. Because of this, having a pre-defined travel checklist always helps. One of my erstwhile managers was very proud that he could leave for US in 20 minutes notice. Few other people I know of also maintain checklist by country, by duration of travel etc. Such checklists, when cross verified with colleagues who've already completed similar travel, will be extremely helpful.

Happy Journey!