Surviving the Business Trip, Part 2: Making it Work

So you’re packed and prepped and waiting for your plane. Your trip begins now. Not “now” as when you arrive at the meeting, but “now” as in now. From the moment you check in at the airport or hotel, until you arrive safely back home, you should be prepared to be “on.” Just because you’re not in the office doesn’t mean you’re not technically at work, so stay on your game. Keep these tips in mind as you venture off into the magical world of business travel:

Look sharp and behave professionally

If there are a thousand people arriving in Omaha on the same day for the same event, there is a slight chance some of them might be on your flight, so be on your best behavior throughout the trip. As much as you may be tempted to wear something old and comfortable while traveling, keep in mind that you may not want the company president to see you schlepping into the hotel lobby wearing your Batman pajama pants and a pair of crocs. You’re there for work, so always dress appropriately, pay attention, and be engaged in the experience.

Stay upbeat

To a large degree, the success of your trip will depend on your attitude. There are a thousand little things that can go wrong when traveling, so tackle each problem as it comes, and everything will work out fine. No one likes to travel with someone who whines and complains all the time, so don’t be that guy. The restaurant had a mix-up on your reservation? Walk down to that little burger joint everyone raves about and take in some of the local flavor. Problem solved. The little glitches will only be a big deal if you make them a big deal.

Be sociable

Not all of us are in our element in a crowd of strangers, but whether you’re attending a small client meeting or a large convention, try to come across as friendly and approachable, even if your instinct is to skulk off to your room and watch “Seinfeld” reruns, alone. This is not to say you should be fake, because insincerity will not help your cause, but sometimes you have to force yourself to come out of your shell. Make the most of the opportunity to make valuable connections, expand your professional knowledge, gain new clients, or whatever else your purpose is for being there.

Know your limits

Almost inevitably you will run into a cocktail hour, or be invited to gather at the bar after the day’s festivities are done. These activities can be fun and can help everyone to relax, but be cautious of the fine line between loosening up and falling apart. Sometimes the only difference between being remembered as “Carol, the impressive go-getter who was a lot of fun” and “Carol, the hot mess who threw up in the hotel pool,” is two shots of Fireball and some questionable life choices. That’s not to say you can’t have a couple of drinks, but now is not the time to test your tolerance for tequila – just assume it’s low, and order a ginger ale.

Business travel falls into that weird gray area between your work life and your personal life. It can feel like leisure or vacation time, but it’s always best to keep it more business than pleasure. In the end, you should return home with some professional knowledge and great new business connections, not a massive hangover and a suitcase full of regrets. So stay sharp, behave professionally, and leave the Fireball at home. Safe travels, everyone.

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