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How to Survive Your First International Business Trip

November 9, 2015

4:35 pm

As an entrepreneur and business owner, you’re often required to travel around the country in order to pitch ideas, raise capital, and build partnerships. However, once your business begins to take off, you may find it necessary to take an international business trip in order to build relationships with suppliers or consider the possibility of global expansion.

While international business trips quite literally open up a world of opportunities, they’re rarely simple. Let’s review some quick, yet effective tips to ensure your first international business trip goes smoothly.

1. Get Organized Prior to Departure

Organization is the key to successful business travel. If you aren’t prepared, you’ll end up making major mistakes, forgetting important documents, or missing out on opportunities. Here are some tips for getting things organized prior to your departure:

  • Flight documents. All major airlines allow you to complete online check-in up to 24 hours before departure. Take advantage of this and print off your boarding passes. Place your boarding pass, flight itinerary, and passport in a pocket of your briefcase.
  • Tie up loose ends. It’s best if you’re able to nail down your trip itinerary prior to leaving. Ensure all appointment times are set, check on accommodations, and ensure your flight plan is still intact.
  • Set up an email alert. On the days you’ll be traveling, it’s a good idea to set up an out-of-office alert for your email. This frees up your time and allows you to focus on other things while you’re away from the office.

The more organized you are, the better. However, don’t expect everything to go perfectly. You’ll inevitably run into issues that cannot be prevented by any level of preparation. But, in most cases, you’ll find that doing your homework pays off.

2. Be a Smart Packer

When it comes to international travel, you have to be a smart packer. If there’s one thing that can hold you back on travel days, it’s liberal packing and disorganization.

However, the absolute worst mistake you can make is checking baggage on an international flight – especially if you have multiple legs. Not only does it cost you precious time in the airport, but there’s also a very real risk that the airline could lose your luggage. This can alter your entire trip. You get one carry one and one personal item, take full advantage of both, and avoid checking luggage at all costs.

3. Research Cultural Etiquette

If you’re traveling to a country for the first time, you should take time to prepare for the culture. The last thing you want to do is offend the people you’re trying to do business with. Here are some things to think about:

  • While Americans traditionally tip waiters, taxi drivers, and service providers between 10 and 20 percent, tipping etiquette varies in other parts of the world. For example, many European countries build in service charges and don’t expect additional tips. In Asia, tipping is frowned upon altogether and could be considered offensive.
  • While you may not think twice about wearing shorts, other cultures may find it unacceptable to expose bare legs in public. Many Middle Eastern countries are very strict about wardrobe, especially for women, so don’t assume what you’re wearing is okay.
  • Because you’re traveling for business, you’ll likely be meeting and interacting with a number of locals. Different countries have different rules for how introductions are made. Researching these international protocols can help you avoid some uncomfortable moments.

If you want to learn more about destination-specific etiquette, this guide is a great resource for international travelers.

4. Promote Healthy Habits

Staying healthy is one of the biggest challenges faced by business travelers. It’s important to be conscious of this. Continually wash your hands, drink plenty of fluids, and avoid touching your face with your hands. It’s also important to get as much sleep as possible. Traveling zaps your energy and can leave you feeling depleted.

5. Prepare for Loneliness

If you’re traveling alone on a long international trip, you need to prepare for the loneliness. When you’re staying in a country where you don’t know anyone and can’t speak the language, it’s easy to feel out of place. Make sure you’ve downloaded movies and apps to keep you busy. Having Skype installed on your phone or computer will allow you to talk with friends and family back home.

Putting It All Together

 International business trips can be extremely rewarding for entrepreneurs and business owners. They allow you to expand your reach and network with powerful people. With that being said, they’re far different than domestic trips. There’s a lot to think about and learn. If you’re unprepared, it’ll show. Reference the five tips in this article to prepare for any upcoming trip, and good luck!

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Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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