By Liz Nardozza
I fall into one of two categories when I travel. Sometimes I have a printed copy of my itineraries and have already reviewed maps of the city. Other times I have to remind myself of the country I’m visiting after boarding the plane and I need to Google the currency exchange rate in the airport. This means I’ve done a lot of things right and a decent amount of things wrong over the years. Here are my top 8 tips for international business travel:
1. Bring cash and more than one credit card.
- Have at least $100 USD cash on hand and exchange it for local currency before landing in a new country. Inevitably, ATMs won’t work, exchange desks will be closed for service repairs, or your patience for standing in lines will be non-existent after a 12-hour flight.
- Carry more than one credit card. Credit Union cards can be finicky abroad and not everywhere takes American Express. Whatever your preference, make sure to have a back-up.
- Tell your banks that you will be traveling abroad. Otherwise, I promise you they will freeze your cards.
2. As much as possible, avoid arriving at night and don’t depart too early in the morning.
- Confirm how late an airport is open and plan accordingly. For example, if you land in Shanghai at 9pm and don’t know ahead of time that most taxis have already made their last trip, you might have to take a questionable “car service” from an unknown airport hotel. Trust me, I would know.
- Ask the concierge about the best time to head to the airport for your flight before the day you leave. What is the morning traffic like? Is public transportation preferred? Do they need to schedule a taxi the night before? The concierge will be able to give you all the details.
3. Fight the urge to over pack.
- I once landed in Barcelona for Mobile World Congress with my giant roller suitcase and Tom Haverford (the name of our hard shell carrying case for signage. Named for being fancy, but also a little high-maintenance) at 9am in the morning. We were staying in apartments and I didn’t have anywhere to put my luggage. I thought it would be easy enough to navigate to the nearby tourist locker rental, but after dragging those two giant suitcases several blocks on cobblestones and drawing the attention of every single passerby, I gave up and begged the owner of a closed Irish pub to let me sit and wait for a few hours. This brings me to my next point.
4. Stay at a chain hotel.
- We have some internal debate on this one. Some team members prefer an Airbnb experience to get to know a new city, but I am staunchly for the 3-5 star chain hotel and I could probably write an entire blog post just on this topic. Here are my main reasons:
- If you are a frequent traveler the rewards points are worth it.
- A good concierge is clutch in a foreign country. Making reservations on your behalf in the local language, helping you find a copy shop, directing you to a pharmacy to get medicine for an eye infection, and crediting cash when the ATM wasn’t working are all things I’ve had to ask a concierge for help.
- The value of a restaurant and bar in the building is huge. Quick, convenient breakfasts and simple dinner options are my heaven on earth.
- The front desk will hold your luggage if you arrive before check-in and if your departing flight is after check-out.
5. Enable international data before you leave.
- Make sure you have mobile coverage internationally and enable a data and voice package. It’s incredibly easy on AT&T and I imagine just as easy on any other carrier. Don’t forget to bake this into the budget for travel costs. It’s a reasonable cost and I personally won’t go anywhere without being connected.
6. Take a self-defense class once a year.
- Better to be prepared and never use the skills than the other way around. Know the closest local hospital and how to dial for emergency services in that specific country.
7. Stay hydrated.
- Seriously, bottled water should almost be a separate line item in your budget. I recognize bottled water is expensive and sometimes the only bottles you can get your hands on are in the minibar or the airport, but you’ll lose your wits and have no chance of fighting jetlag if you don’t stay hydrated.
8. Share your itinerary.
- Make sure your coworkers, family members and/or friends have a copy of your itinerary.
What are your must-haves for travel? Or, better yet what have you had to learn from trial and error? Share your stories in the comments below.