Practical tips and thoughts on travel for the new insurance broker, underwriter, risk manager; or someone who is new to business travel.
Pre-Trip — Plan, Plan, Plan
- Understand that there are risks associated with travel. As an employee and representative of your firm, your responsibility is to take necessary steps to mitigate them.
- Read and understand your organization’s travel policies. Follow the policies on travel authorization, approved vendors and rates. The organization will only pay for the travel that it authorizes, and only at an approve rate. Check for spending guidelines or limits per diem on personal meals, etc. Do not expect to be reimbursed for failure to follow the written guidelines.
- Use the company travel agent and the company credit card if one exists. This is not just for financial information for your company, but often additional protections and insurances built into these resources should something go wrong.
- Get your travel documents in order. If your state-issued drivers license does not meet the ID requirements, you will need to have an alternative document such as your passport with you to travel beginning in 2018. For more information on compliant states, use the Homeland Security website: https://www.dhs.gov/real-id.
- If you are traveling alone, leave an itinerary with an immediate family member. Leave a copy with your manager if your company does not have a central travel agent. Ensure that your contact information is current at all times with your HR department and with your travel agent.
- If you are traveling with a group, put together an itinerary. The itinerary should include, who is traveling with you, their cell phone numbers; the flight information (airline and flight number); ground-transportation information (local phone contact); the hotel name, address, telephone number, and reservation number; meeting times and places — with telephone numbers, of host names, telephone and fax numbers, and e-mail addresses; meal arrangements; and scheduled entertainment.
- If traveling as a group, appoint a central coordinator to double check to make sure you are all on the same flights and staying at the same hotel.
- Travel costs escalate the closer to your date of travel. Wherever possible, make your travel and accommodation arrangements as soon as you know when you will be traveling. Follow your company travel policy on non-refundable tickets.
- As an employee traveling, you should always manage travel expenses as part of your overall budget.
- If an airline is checking your bag, always doublecheck the tag to ensure that it goes through to the right location. (There are a lot of San Juan and San Jose cities out there)
- Always have a spare set of underclothes and a toothbrush in your carry-on luggage.
- List what you want to take and practice packing it. Consider bringing your laptop, cell phone, reports, contracts, brochures, clothes and shaving kit toothbrush medication and your lens prescriptions if you wear glasses or contact lenses. If visiting foreign countries, make sure that you have the proper electronic conversion to keep your laptop and phones alive. 220 volts can wreak havoc with your stuff if you are not careful.
- Have a list of your medications and lens prescriptions where you can access them quickly in the event you need to replace while traveling.
See also: The Insurer of the Future – Part 6
- Be a smart flyer. You will have missed connections and missed meetings. In most cases, things will all work out. Anger does not help the situation. Do not stand in lines -– use your phone and call your travel agent or airline directly.
- If you park at the airport, take a photo of your parking space. It will save you from wandering around a parking lot following a long trip late at night when you are the most tired (especially if you return on a different airline than the one on which you left).
- Take a photo of your luggage with your phone. It will help you recover it if it is lost.
- Dehydration is caused by flying, and studies show that deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can be a risk for frequent flyers; drinking water on all flights and getting up to stretch are simple preventative measures that can be taken.
- Once you arrive at the airport, secure your car keys (other than on your person). Once you lock your car, you won’t need them again until you return. There usually are special pockets in backpacks or suitcases to use. That way, you always will know where they’ll be when you need them.
- Global Entry and TSA Pre work well. In time saved and travel friction reduced, the status is worth every penny. If traveling international, get Global Entry. It can take as much as six months to get an appointment for Global Entry.
- Enroll in every frequent flyer program whether or not you routinely fly a particular airline. Make sure that you have a spreadsheet of the programs and the security code to access them online.
- Check in early and review your seat selection. With equipment changes, the airlines may move you around without your knowledge.
- Determine if you are an aisle or a window person.
- There is a reason exit rows are premium seats. If there are upgrades to be had, it is likely that an “exit row” person will be moved to business class. Ask at the gate to get the open seat if one opens up.
- When things are blowing up at the airport, use the latest technology to re-schedule your flight and get a place where you can sleep for the night. Waiting in lines during these events can be a colossal waste of time.
Money, Money, Money
- The company credit card should not to be used for non-business expenses.
- Have the right currency on a foreign business trip. Take enough cash to cover your needs or to get you to the next cash machine. Some countries or places do not have cash machines.
- Watch when you are using the credit card to make sure it is not being used inappropriately. Keep it in sight whenever possible.
- Keep all of your receipts. Take a picture of them with your cell phone when you pay the bill. Document who was at the dinner. Be aware of what the company does and does not pay for. Submit your documented expenses as quickly as possible.
During the Trip – While There, You Are Not Here
- If you travel enough; you will eventually get a bug. They are not fun. Cancel your appointments. If necessary, go to a doctor or hospital. Do not be a dead hero.
- Drink lots of water. However, do it strategically. In inclement weather or remote locations, access to bathrooms can be problematic.
- Exercise upon arrival is a great way to “reset” your internal time-clock. Sunshine works wonders. Take a walk outside (no matter the time of year).
- Use the gym at the hotel unless the concierge has recommended a jogging route; running around in some cities is both dangerous and often a sign that a crime has been committed.
- If you are visiting an exotic location (such as Cleveland, Ohio) for business, take advantage of the experience. Tourist destinations are just that because there is usually something worth seeing. Avoiding tourist destinations usually results in not seeing the good things.
- Don’t be obnoxious, rude or inconsiderate; America has enough problems with our reputation in the world; in fact, lean the other way. Go out of your way to be polite, friendly and considerate. Learn enough of the local language to say “hello, good morning, good day, good evening, yes please, thank you, no thank you and two cappuccinos take away.”
- The Google translation program is amazingly helpful in reading menus and other written documents.
- Use the opportunity for international travel to open your eyes to how the rest of the world thinks, acts, lives and believes; Americans often think that choosing a latte is the toughest decision they make in a day.
- Take pictures (cell phone or full camera.) Anyone can get a picture of the Eiffel Tower. Get a picture of you in front of it.
- Follow the local signs concerning when not to take a picture. Do not take pictures of any military person or institution without permission.
- Never give money to panhandlers, beggars or street people; you are likely to be swarmed and possibly attacked. If you want to help the local poor, donate money to a religious institution.
- Always leave an extra donation in a church or museum that you have visited.
- Local guides are usually worth every penny.
- Carry 3×5 cards to PRINT the name and address of hotels and restaurants to give to taxi drivers who may not speak English or even the local language. NEVER leave a hotel in a new city without a card with the hotel’s name and address
- Try not to schlep your bags to all of your business meetings. Most times, you can leave them at the hotel even if you are checked out. If you do, always count the bags every time you move (in and out of taxi, in and out of business offices, etc.)
- Read up on the country you are visiting, and ask for advice from others who have been there. A little cultural knowledge goes a long way and can make the difference between a successful trip and failure.
- Embrace the culture of places that are different from the one you call home.
- Know how to dress for the culture and business you will be doing; most countries outside the U.S. tend to be a little more formal.
- Little things count. For example: Wearing a green hat in China means your wife is having an affair.
- Drink local wines and beer. Ask for advice from dinner guests or restaurant help. This could help avoid some weird stuff (cherry beer late at night with a sandwich at the Holiday Inn by the Brussels airport).
- In business situations, do not overdrink. Always be sober enough to get safely back to your hotel if you are somehow left alone.
- If you are with a group and get lost from that group, plan to meet back at the last place where everyone was aware that the group was together.
- When visiting certain countries, realize the potential for your technology to be hacked and any information you had in that computer to be used against you.
- If an alarm goes off, do not ignore it. Take stock and determine where you should be.
See also: Risk Exposed to Your Art Business
- Try to stay above the first floor of a hotel or motel. Also try to stay low enough for the fire ladder to get to your window (usually seventh floor).
- If you forgot a personal item, the front desk has it. Don’t pay for one in the little store.
- Pick hotels that have in-house gyms. Exercise, even 30 minutes on a hotel stationary bike, can help with digestion, sleep and staying awake in meetings in a warm room.
- Stay at places that include breakfast in the price of the stay.
- During a power outage, your phone and laptop can provide you with needed light.
- Tip the concierge if you get help from him or her.
Ground Transportation – Do Not Get Ground Down
- No matter where you go, take identification that allows you to drive. Consider getting an international driver’s license – https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0050-international-drivers-license-scams
- Uber and Lyft are a non-regulated means of travel available in most cities. There are increasing reports of violence from passengers using these forms of travel. Be cautious when using non-regulated transport.
- Purchasing auto insurance for rental cars is usually determined by company policy.
- Read the State Department warning on travel. If traveling overseas, enroll in the State Department’s STEP program and list all locations.
- Get your international travel documents in order. Passport should be current and not expiring in the next six months, or some countries will not allow you to enter.
- Keep your passport safe at all times. Keep a notarized photo copy of your passport separate from your passport and keep it safe, as well. This will allow you to get a replacement while traveling much faster.
- Use chip-enabled cards only while traveling overseas to prevent theft.
- Most international car rental locations may only have manual transmissions. Know ahead of time if you can’t use a stick.
- When you’re planning the dates of an international business trip, review local bank holidays and religious holidays, which could affect your ability to schedule meetings or access services that may be closed.
- Bring a full set of electronics (chargers, adapters, etc.) for the phone, laptop and tablet in your briefcase.
- Before travel, identify any recommended or required vaccinations in the countries where you are traveling. Ensure that your flu, pertussis and pneumonia vaccinations are up to date. Finally, in many countries of the world, TB is a common illness. If you travel frequently internationally, speak to your physician on whether he or she recommends an annual TB test.
Most of us travel with a laptop and cell phone at all times. Using your cell phone and getting Wi-Fi access worldwide is possible but can be expensive if you don’t pre-plan.
- You should download all local Google maps for where you will be visiting onto your cellphone. This will save you data fees and allow you to get information even if you have no signal.
- Before an international trip, you will need to activate international service on your phone.
- Data is VERY expensive overseas. You should turn off your roaming on your phone prior to your trip. Use Wi-Fi dialing and Wi-Fi access to get emails, texts, etc.
- Be very aware of the Wi-Fi provider and only use trusted sources.
- Make sure you are aware of your company’s international data and phone policy – it will be different from the normal usage.