A woman’s guide to business travel
Business travel definitely has an upside, seeing exciting new places, meeting interesting people and being exposed to different cultures– while being paid to do it! It’s an empowering experience for any young female professional to embark on her first few business trips, however the reality is that it can also be daunting.
In honour of women’s month in South Africa, Claire Mitchell, director of sales and marketing at Radisson Blu Hotel Sandton, shares her top tips for business travel, aimed at female young professionals.
It may seem like an obvious tip but first always make sure your passport is valid. Many travellers overlook the fact that many countries require your passport to be valid for six months after your return home. There is no difference between the requirements for men or women when it comes to travel documents, however, women may choose to change their surnames after marriage. Therefore travel documents should be updated accordingly as it may present a huge challenge if your booking name does not match the name reflected in your travel documents. Often when travelling on business, letters such as host letters, letters of invitation, company registration and a copy of your host’s passport may be required. You must ensure that you have all of your flight and hotel confirmations– do this by emailing yourself copies of all of your travel documents as a precaution should you lose your passport while travelling.
Visas are a further travel consideration and are required for many countries that you may not have expected such as Australia and Brazil. Ensure that you allow sufficient time for the application and that the correct documentation is provided.
Most companies provide insurance policies for employees while travelling. However, should this not be the case, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your insurance policies cover your travel including any potential medical expenses which may occur. This is an important aspect to note, as some countries require confirmation of this insurance prior to your arrival.
Make sure you not only know what you’re covered for but also ensure you have a copy of your insurance policy and an emergency contact number with you while travelling both abroad and when traveling out of your province of residence.
Find a suitcase that fits all airline carry-on requirements. Being able to travel exclusively with a carry-on piece of luggage translates into no waiting at the baggage carousel and can save precious time, particularly on a short business trip. Don’t forget that any liquids, gels and aerosols in your carry-on luggage must be in containers that hold 100ml or less and should fit into one clear plastic re-sealable bag that is no more than one litre in capacity.
Investing in a laptop bag that is easy and comfortable to carry while on-the-go, will also make your life easier.
Currency exchange can be tricky- especially when travelling abroad for the first time. It is important to know the exchange rate of the country you are travelling to before you set off for your trip. Also explore options that eliminate the risk of carrying large amounts of cash. When it comes to carrying currency use your debit or credit card, which is the safest option, however, be sure to check local costs of the country in which you will be based. Don’t forget to alert your local bank that you will be travelling overseas so that purchases are easily authorised.
You want to be fresh and at your best when you arrive, so be sure to pack a neck pillow and eye mask to ensure comfort in transit. Use a good-quality pair of noise-cancelling earphones and if you want to maximise on-board sleep time, eat before boarding and ask the airhosts not to disturb you. If you have the option of a window seat, book one as it means fewer people walking past you to use the loo or stretch their legs. Most importantly, wear comfy clothes– you can change into something more ‘swish’ when you get to the airport or your hotel room.
Traveller safety and security is one of the most important aspects of business travel. As a traveller it is important to be aware of existing and potential incidents globally. Always scan your environment and respect the customs and traditions in each country as they differ vastly. As a business traveller, many women are often confronted with less liberal and more traditional mind-sets. Respect is the golden rule, despite what your personal viewpoint may be. That said, knowing in advance what to prepare for will make any situation far more tolerable so do your research.
Plan for fun
Lastly, you absolutely owe it to yourself to make the most of your trip while you’re away. Pack casual cloths and walking shoes and if you can steal away an hour or more of free-time, go and explore the country you’re in– eat the food, shop in the markets and have fun! It’s all about balance.
These tips should alleviate some of the pressure associated with travelling and help up-and-coming women in the business world make their mark effortlessly.
AUTHOR: Claire Mitchell, director of sales and marketing at Radisson Blu Hotel, Sandton