Heading overseas for your first international business trip? You’re probably feeling a mix of excitement with a slight pang of dreading the unknown. Not to worry! Whether this is your first business trip, first trip overseas, or a combination of the two, I’ve got you covered with what steps to take before you go.
Consult Your Company’s Travel Policy
To get the most out of your international business trip—like, knowing exactly how much you can spend on meals, lodging and airfare—consult your company’s travel policy. There, you might also discover that you can get reimbursed for known traveler programs like Clear or TSA PreCheck, or entry fees to airport lounges.
Plus, if your company uses SAP Concur, you might be one of the many travelers with a complimentary subscription to TripIt Pro (normally $49/year). You can visit the SAP Concur App Center to connect your accounts.
Secure Your Passport and Visa
Packing your passport to travel internationally may seem obvious, but with just 42% of the US population possessing a passport, I’m not jumping to any conclusions. Plus, as a passport carrier, there are some important stipulations you should know. For starters, check your passport expiration date. Many countries require six months of validity upon arrival; a number of others require anywhere between one month and four months, with a remaining few allowing you to visit their country right up until the expiration date.
Next, do your visa research. Every country differs in its visa requirements, and a valid passport doesn’t always equate to guaranteed entry. Americans can travel to many countries without needing a visa for their trip, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes travelers may need to purchase a short-term visa at the point of entry; other times, you must apply for one well ahead of time. Variables such as the nationality of your passport, trip length, whether you will leave the airport, the nature of your trip (i.e., business vs. leisure), your point of entry, the areas you will be visiting and possessing a return ticket can all impact your ability to enter a country or need for a visa.
To determine whether you do need a visa for your business trip, visit your destination country’s visas and immigration website. For instance, the U.K. offers a quick online survey to help you determine whether your business trip would require a visa. The visa requirement for a short trip related to a work event—such as a conference or speaking engagement—would vary from a visa needed for a work assignment lasting longer than six months.
Still not sure whether you need a visa? Consult your Human Resources department for guidance with your company’s travel policy.
Check Your International Travel Tools
Ahead of a business trip to a foreign country, you’ll likely need to sort out details like: What’s the local currency? Where is the US Embassy located? Will I need an adapter for sockets and plugs? What is the appropriate amount to tip a server or taxi driver?
Fortunately, TripIt Pro makes this part easy on you—presenting all of this pertinent information in the International Travel Tools feature. There, you’ll find all of the answers to these questions (and more!), helping you to know ahead of your trip what plug you’ll need in order to use your coveted hairdryer and how much local currency you’ll need to tip the driver picking you up from the airport.
Order Foreign Currency
Speaking of tipping, obtaining some local currency ahead of your trip should also be on your to-do list. Not sure where to change your currency? There are a number of options here. To start, many banks allow you to order foreign currency at a banking center if you’re a customer. You can also visit a foreign currency exchange—ideally before you head to the airport, or you can visit a kiosk in the airport, as well.
Some restricted currencies, such as the Moroccan dirham and Cuban peso, are not available outside of their respective countries. In this instance, you don’t have a choice but to exchange your currency when you arrive at your destination or withdraw cash from a local ATM. Bear in mind that each of these options charge a fee per transaction. Try to take out exactly what you anticipate you’ll need to avoid multiple withdrawal fees and/or losing money on conversion once your trip is done.
Sign Up for Global Entry
You’ve probably heard of Global Entry by now—either from your globetrotting friends or veteran road warrior colleagues. And if you’re not yet a member yourself, here are a few reasons to sign up: (1) TSA PreCheck membership is included; (2) some travel rewards credit cards issue statement credits if you charge the $100 application fee to your card; and (3) that feeling of breezing through customs after a long-haul international flight.
Global Entry membership is good for five years. To sign up, travelers submit an online application, attend an in-person interview, provide fingerprints, and complete a background check. A complete step-by-step overview of the application process can be found on the US Customs and Border Protection site. As a member of this Trusted Traveler Program, you won’t have to fill out any customs paperwork upon landing back in the US and can head straight to Global Entry kiosks. There, you’ll scan your fingerprints and complete a customs declaration. Transaction receipt in-hand, you can then head to baggage claim or the exit—no waiting in line needed.
Brace Yourself for Jet Lag
Whether it’s a domestic flight to the West Coast, or a long-haul journey to the Middle East, crossing time zones gets us all. And while there’s no sure-fire way to defeat jet lag, there are a number of ways to prepare for and bear it.
For starters, get a good night’s sleep before you leave. This may seem impossible if you’ve booked an early morning departure, but the last thing you should do is pull an all-nighter right before you leave. This will only set your sleep schedule back. Get as many restful hours of sleep as possible, and you’ll be better prepared for the impending battle against jet lag.
Second, skip the wine on your flight. I know, it pains me to say it—especially when it’s free! However, the reduced air pressure in the cabin already places pressure on your body, and alcohol will only stress your body even more. It’ll cause dehydration, too—leading to disrupted sleep patterns, and a drowsy start to your trip. Pass on the wine and ask your flight attendant for water. Your body will thank you for it later.
Lastly, when you land, push yourself to take advantage of your destination’s daylight for as long as you can. While you might be exhausted after your flight, try to forego a nap and, instead, keep your body moving. This will help you get adjusted to your new time zone and sleep more soundly your first night—setting you up for success when your big meeting or speaking engagement rolls around.