In a recent report on corporate travel, our team found that the switch to remote and hybrid work environments has ushered in a new era of work, travel, and meetings – one in which the expectations for business travel have changed dramatically for both employees and managers.

But while we might be living in the age of Zoom, there are times when nothing beats a face-to-face business meeting – whether it’s an internal summit to get remote team members together, a client meeting to close deals, or a conference to network with your peers and prospect for new clients.

But making solid travel arrangements takes time, and planning a successful business trip is about much more than just booking a flight and hotel room: it requires lots of careful groundwork to organize a detailed itinerary for a productive trip.

What are the biggest concerns of business travel?

Flight delays and cancellations. Missed connections. Lost luggage. Weather-related emergencies. While vital to your company’s success, business travel is not without its drawbacks.

And it’s not just being on the road that’s a stressor. The upfront time you spend planning a trip can be overwhelming: you have to coordinate flight arrival and departure times, make sure your travel plans are in line with your company’s corporate travel policies, keep to a defined travel budget, and schedule meetings carefully so you have enough time to get from meeting to meeting…without too much wasted time in between. International travel opens up another set of challenges: you need to get the right visas, make sure you have all the necessary vaccinations, familiarize yourself with local customs and traditions, and prepare for language barriers and unfamiliar business practices.

That’s why it’s imperative that you carefully plan out every detail of your business travel arrangements to minimize potential risks and maximize your productivity.

So, if you’re wondering how to prep for your next work trip, we’ve put together a corporate travel planning guide that sets you up for success and helps you optimize your time away from the office.

How to plan your business travel

Whether you’re new to traveling for work or are a seasoned traveler, these corporate travel tips can help make your trip planning faster, easier, and more efficient:

  • Know your goals: Before you start planning, think about your objectives. Are you hoping to close a deal? Attend a conference? Meet new partners or clients? A clear understanding of the purpose can help you structure an itinerary that allows for the time you need to get the job done and prioritize every item on your agenda.
  • Coordinate schedules: Finding times and dates for meetings can be complex, especially if you’re making plans for multiple people across different time zones. Check key players’ availability and lock in meetings before you book flights and hotels so you’re not stuck with a ticket and no one to meet with.
  • Research your destination: Travel restrictions and requirements can vary wildly from country to country so be sure to understand the necessary travel documents you need to avoid delays and cancellations. And be informed about vaccination recommendations, travel advisories and COVID risks. You should also spend some time getting a handle on your destination so you can be sensitive to local customs and traditions.
  • Assess your risks: Health and safety are top priorities for business travelers. Explore any potential risks and familiarize yourself with areas that are safe and those to avoid before you arrive.
  • Plan your itinerary thoughtfully:
    • Start by reviewing your company’s corporate travel policy to understand the guidelines for work-related travel, such as how to book flights and accommodations, what expenses are covered, and how to request approval for your trip.
    • When booking travel, look for flight times that are convenient and give you plenty of time to get where you need to go. Pick a hotel that’s in a convenient location and offers the amenities you need to stay connected and be productive – like complimentary Wi-Fi, meeting rooms, hassle-free check-in and check-out procedures, and other conveniences.
  • Arrange ground transportation: How will you get around during your trip? Is public transportation safe and easy to navigate? Are cabs and ride-sharing services readily available for airport pickups and drop offs? Or will you need a rental car? Look into local transportation options, especially if you’re traveling to an unfamiliar destination.
  • Stay connected: Make sure you’ve got the devices you need to keep in touch with your office, co-workers, and clients while you’re on the road. Don’t forget chargers for laptops, cell phones, and other electronic devices. If you’re traveling abroad, make sure your phone plan includes international coverage or plan to purchase a local SIM card upon arrival so you don’t rack up expensive roaming fees or get stuck in a foreign country with no cell coverage. You might also want to download a reliable back-up messaging app, like What’s App, in case you run into issues with your cell phone carrier.

If your company provides corporate travel services through a travel management company, you’ll have access to better rates and deals than if you were to look for them yourself. In addition, a travel management company can help you create a streamlined itinerary that complies with your company’s corporate travel policy, facilitate the purchase of travel insurance, and book last-minute flights without blowing your budget. It can respond quickly if an emergency comes up and you need to change your plans quickly. Many services can also streamline the post-trip expense report process, making it easier to file for reimbursement of any out-of-pocket expenses.

Make a business trip checklist

Packing can be overwhelming, and nothing derails a business trip more quickly than arriving at your destination and realizing you left something vital – your phone charger, your presentation, your shoes… While a comprehensive packing list varies from person to person, your travel essentials should include:

  • A copy of your detailed itinerary.
  • Travel documents, such as your passport and driver’s license, plus a physical and digital copy of these important documents that you pack in your carry on.
  • Back-ups of presentations, sell pieces, brochures, and other important business materials.
  • Extra business cards.
  • Credit cards and cash.
  • Laptops and other electronic devices and their chargers.
  • Phone charger and portable charger.
  • Adapters (a must if you’re traveling overseas).
  • Headphones.
  • Clothing and toiletries.
  • A first aid kit and medications.

How to make travel arrangements for others

The same corporate travel tips apply when overseeing travel management for others. Before you get started, make sure you have a clear understanding of the objectives of the trip and know the dates, times, and locations of the event they’re attending or meetings they’ve scheduled.

You should also familiarize yourself with their travel preferences, such as preferred airline, hotel, or car rental company. Keep a list of their frequent flyer numbers and hotel rewards programs so they don’t miss out on any perks for being a loyal customer – like upgrades, exclusive access, or early boarding. If you have access to a travel management company’s services, it can make all this easier by storing traveler preference information in its database so it’s always at your fingertips.

Plan a business trip that works for you

Careful planning can make or break work-related travel. But once you know how to plan a business trip you’ll be prepared to take on any corporate travel challenges, safely and successfully.

Get rid of the stress of business travel planning and let American Express Global Business Travel help you plan your next business trip.