Healthy and General

First Time on an International Business Trip?

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Avoid These 5 Mistakes


Traveling on an international business trip for the first time is exciting. Employees feel like official members of the jet-set club at last, genuine movers and shakers.

However, they must do the necessary prep work to make their trek successful. That includes the work they have to do in-office and the preparation they need personally to have a safe journey that makes the most of their time abroad. Here are five mistakes to avoid for workers going on their first international trip.

1. Not Notifying the Home Team

Suppose an employee lands in Istanbul in time to pick up dinner from a local restaurant — but their credit card declines the charge. Minutes later, a fraud alert appears on their phone. Now, they’re frustrated and potentially embarrassed in front of their colleagues. What are they supposed to do abroad without access to their money?

Before traveling overseas, they should notify their financial institutions, including their bank and credit card companies. Otherwise, these businesses may place a hold on what they deem suspicious activity, suspending people’s accounts and leaving them high and dry until they correct the error — which is trickier to do away from home. Furthermore, employees should write down their contact information in a safe place — they can’t always count on having internet access.

What happens if they get sick? If they’re an American landing in a destination like Iceland or France, they can likely obtain care much more quickly and affordably than they ever could stateside.

However, some people have specific medical conditions requiring their team’s touch or travel to locations without modern health care systems. Employees that fall into this category should consider arranging for emergency transportation to ease their concerns and have a plan B.

Finally, things can happen abroad. No one wants to think about it, but human trafficking is a problem, especially if they’re female. Such criminals often prey on distracted travelers. The best bet is to communicate with a point person back home and establish routine check-ins so someone can contact the proper authorities if they miss their appointed time and can’t be found.

2. Taking Too Much

When traveling abroad, most people have no clue where the nearest grocery or pharmacy is. They don’t want to run out of supplies, so it’s natural to overpack.

However, doing so can cause problems. Excess weight can cost them big time at check-in. They must ensure they know the limits their airline imposes.

They might be able to get by with a stylish carry-on bag filled with mix-and-match favorites if they’re only going for a short trip. They can also have their official suit shipped to their destination instead of checking it — they’ll have more assurance it arrives safely — and lug their socks, underwear and recreational clothes in a backpack.

3. Failing to Research Local Customs

This advice may seem odd, but employees need to carry a pen everywhere they go on their trip, especially at business meetings. They might need it to indicate key contract terms, and many Eastern nations consider pointing with fingers rude.

Conversely, it’s considered appropriate to point with the middle finger in some European and Middle Eastern nations, but an American would probably cringe at doing so. Travelers must keep this context in mind if they hope to seal the deal — people in other cultures might find daily habits we take for granted hopelessly uncivilized.

Whatever they do, nonlocals must not beckon someone with their fingers or palms up in Eastern nations, which find this behavior rude. People can be arrested for doing so in the Philippines, so travelers might want to keep their hands in their pockets.

4. Leaving Things Insecure

It’s a sad fact of life that thieves love to prey on travelers. Traveling employees should ensure their lodging is as secure as possible. Research the destination and read other customer reviews about the location — is the hotel in a safe area? What is the crime rate like in the target neighborhood?

No one can guarantee that their hotel screens its staff effectively to weed out the bad eggs, and many such employees have master keys. Guests can ensure their safety in their rooms by investing in a portable travel lock that no key card can open. Some slide under the door while others attach elsewhere on the frame — no tools necessary.

Travelers also have to safeguard themselves on the street, as it will be obvious they’re a tourist no matter how much they try to assimilate into the culture. Their best bet is a belt that keeps their passport, credit cards and emergency cash close to their flesh where no pickpockets can swipe them. They can also decide if they want to carry a decoy wallet to toss at would-be miscreants. Some safety experts swear by them, while others say they aren’t worth the risk.

Finally, they need to safeguard their online information. It’s a good idea to invest in a quality VPN if their organization doesn’t provide one, although most do. They should check with IT before departure if they’re unsure. They should never log into bank accounts or their work servers unsecured, lest unwelcome parties witness their personal or proprietary data.

The room safe is also a valuable resource. Housekeeping staff may have room keys, but they might not have the combination to this device. Better yet, travelers can always leave their valuables at home — impressing the brass with a Rolex isn’t worth risking someone swiping their prized possession.

5. Forgetting to Have Fun

Perhaps the primary reason for a work trip is business — but employees should squeeze in a little fun, especially if it’s their first trip abroad. After all, Big Ben and Parliament are sights to behold, and who wouldn’t want to witness the famous changing of the guard?

Employees should pad the trip if possible, allowing an extra day or two in their destination before or after their primary business. It’s also wise to add an extra day after arriving home and before returning to the office — jet lag is a real thing.

Always do an internet search for popular destinations, but don’t be afraid to get off the beaten path a bit. Visiting the Louvre is a rite of passage when flying to France, but so is finding a rustic little cafe where one can sip wine and enjoy a baguette as the sun sets over the Eiffel Tower.

Avoid These 5 Mistakes on an International Business Trip

Going on an international business trip for the first time is exciting. However, employees have a lot to remember besides their award-winning PowerPoint presentations.

A first-time traveler must avoid the five mistakes above during their first time on an international business trip. They will enjoy their journey more and arrive home with memories, not regret.