Tomorrow I leave on a four-week long business trip and I haven’t packed my suitcase yet.
When I met my husband in 2003 we knew life will get interesting: I had a business back home in Switzerland but we both agreed we wanted to live together in Canada. The lifestyle we chose still gets me to travel twice to three times a year for several week to Switzerland for work.
As exciting as it may sound – and is – to go on such a trip is also stressful, even after all these years. I guess this is because we humans don’t like change too much, we are creatures of habit and like to be surrounded by things we know and people we love and trust. And even though I go back to my home country, visit family and friends while working there, I have to leave behind my life here in Canada, my husband, the animals, all our ongoing projects inside and outside.
A lot of people I know get already a little stressed packing their suitcase for a vacation but when you go on a business trip you have to think of so much more than just your clothes and shoes. You basically need to bring your office in a box and make sure you are fully functional even far from your home and office.
I will be leaving home and office tomorrow for 4 weeks and I thought this is a good opportunity to talk about how to prepare for such a long business trip.
Before you leave for your business trip
Since this is not my first trip I have an established packing list and a good understanding what I will need. This is the reason why I can get be still unpacked less than 24 hours before. On the other hand, if you go on a business trip for the first time, especially a longer one than just a few days, you might want to brainstorm a little what situations you could get into and how to be prepared for them.
Here are some of the top things on my get-ready list:
Make sure your Passport is valid
Some countries require that your passport is still valid 6 months after you left their country, so make sure you know all the requirements and your Passport fulfills them all. Hand in hand with this goes, of course, to check on Visa requirements for your destination.
Buy Travel Insurance
Make sure you are covered for medical emergencies with a travel insurance. They are usually really not that expensive and give you peace of mind. If you don’t have a travel insurance that is valid all year round make sure you add a few days extra at the end of your trip in case your return date changes. It is way more expensive if you have to extend your travel insurance while you are abroad on your trip than if you just add a few days extra to be safe.
Make sure your debit and credit cards work at your destination
This is important since we all rely on this plastic money these days. It is not a given that your card will work where ever you go. It might work at a point of sale to purchase something but what if you want to use an ATM to get some cash? It is a good idea to call your bank or credit card provider and tell them about your trip, where you are going and how long.
A friend of mine came to visit me here in Canada a couple of years ago. It was not her first time in Canada and before she had never a problem, but this time when she wanted to pull out cash from the ATM, it wouldn’t work. We tried several different banks and ATMs, it was the same everywhere. A phone call to her bank back home revealed, for security reasons the use of the card abroad was disabled. Her bank could enable the use in Canada and all was good after that.
A call to your bank before you go on your trip also prevents that they shut your account down because they suspect a misuse. This happened to me one time on vacation a few years back. I used my credit card for a few days without any problem until all of a sudden it wouldn’t work anymore. I called the credit card company and they told me that their computer program had suspected a misuse of the card and as a safety measure they had disabled my card.
In addition, it might be a good idea to have some cash in local currency on you for unforeseen situations.
Have physical and/or digital copies of your passport and travel documents
This is in case your handbag or wallet with passport and flight ticket gets stolen. Make sure you carry a physical copy of your passport in a different but safe place, for example in your checked luggage. You can also keep a password protected digital copy of your password on Dropbox or Google Drive for easy access.
Backup your data from your computer
If you go on a business trip chances are you are taking your laptop with you. Make sure before you leave that you make a backup at home. I actually make two backups and use external drives for that. One external drive stays at home and the other one I put in my checked luggage while I have my laptop with me at all times. In addition, it is a good idea to have a backup of your most important client data for this trip saved on Dropbox or Google Drive.
Buy a power adapter for your destination
You want to make sure you can plug in your computer and charge your cell phone at your destination and often we need a power adapter for that. A small power bar can also come in handy when you want to have more than one device plugged in at the time.
Get a pencil case or pouch and stock it
A zippered pencil pouch with various pens, pencils, an eraser, highlighters, a small ruler etc comes in very handy during traveling and also at your destination. Mine includes also a shoehorn style staples remover, a white-out correction pen, and a USB flash drive.
External Mouse and Keyboard
I might be the only one doing this but I have a hard time using the keyboard and mouse on my laptop. So I carry with me an external keyboard and mouse. Also, what you might not be aware, there are different keyboards in different countries, on a Swiss keyboard for example, the letters “Z” and “Y” are interchanged and all the special characters (+, *, %, ?, $, to name a few) are in different locations. I can type blind and very fast but only on a Swiss keyboard, so I never travel without it to make sure I can work productively no matter where I am.
I also prefer an external mouse over the mousepad on my laptop, so my computer mouse travels with me where ever I go.
What to check and what to have on you
Besides the obvious things like passport, flight ticket, cell phone, handbag with wallet, travel insurance, these are the things I always have with or on me:
- iPad or Kindle Reader stocked with ebooks & podcasts
- Power Adapter
- Charging cables (for laptop, cell phone, ipad, kindle)
- stocked pencil pouch
- Clients paperwork
- house shoes or thick socks for in the plane
- a scarf (I always seem to sit in a drafty spot in the plane)
- LED book light (mine can be charged via USB)
- headphones and/or earbuds
- Rolaids, throat lozenges, ibuprofen or equivalent
- lip balm, hand cream, face cream (the air is very dry on long flights)
- A toothbrush, brush, change of underwear and socks (more than once my suitcase didn’t make it to my destination with me but a day late. A change of clothes in your carry-on will make this experience less stressful).
Checked in my suitcase with clothes, shoes & toiletries
- keyboard and computer mouse
- external drive with backup
- possibly a copy of important client paperwork
To end this post I want to introduce you to one other thing I started to take with me on trips, it is usually in my checked suitcase and that is my pillow. I learned that I sleep so much better at my destination if I can sleep on my own pillow. Especially if you are on a business trip and not on vacation a good night sleep is very important and my own pillow also helps me to get over jetlag so much better.
Now I want to hear from you, what are the must things that you are taking along on a business trip? What did I forget or what do I not think of in your eyes? Please leave a comment below.