how can I make my first business trip go smoothly?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

What should I expect from my first ever business trip? In terms of lodging, meals, travel, the really basic scheduling stuff that may seem obvious after one or two of them but would surprise a first-timer — I just want to get a mental lay of the land.

My manager invited me to go to my industry’s largest conference on the other side of the U.S. from where we work. It’s far enough away that I’ll have to fly there. One other colleague is joining me. Any advice you can share would be great so I can mentally prepare!

Readers, what surprised you about business travel? What advice do you have for a first time business traveler?

{ 621 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Daniel

    Do you have a per-diem? If so, check company policy to see whether you can keep any leftover money–some places allow it, some don’t.

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      1. Amber T

        Keep all of your receipts regardless – if you’re paying for anything out of pocket that you expect to be reimbursed for (conference fee or hotel, transportation, anything that wouldn’t fall under the “per diem”), you’ll need to submit your receipts. Good companies will work with you if you lose one or weren’t able to get one, but make everyone’s job a little easier and save the receipts (my company is dealing with this nightmare right now).

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        1. Stuff

          Not only keep them but be really organized with them. Keep some notes about exactly what they were for. You’ll be surprised at how confusing a big bag of receipts is at the end of a trip if you don’t

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          1. Becky

            If your company has an app where you can submit expenses (my company uses Concur) then you can submit your receipts immediately and keep a running expense report rather than having to figure out what that one receipt on Tuesday night was for.

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        2. Aveline

          Also, ask your point person if you can take a photo of the receipts. Some companies want the original receipt, some want your credit card statement, and some want them scanned/photographed and emailed in.

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          1. The Man, Becky Lynch

            My head just exploded at the companies just wanting a credit card statement.

            But yes, know the expense reporting and reimbursement procedure before doing anything.

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            1. Not a Blossom

              My company takes receipts for meals, but for the hotel and airfare (which I pay out of pocket and then get reimbursed), I need my credit card statement.

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              1. Faith

                My company is the opposite – I don’t need receipts for anything other than hotel because I need to break out the portion related to room charge vs. various taxes.

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              2. OfOtherWorlds

                What if you don’t use credit? Because of certain bad financial decisions in my past I have no credit cards and use a debit card when I can’t use cash or a check. I have a bank statement but no credit card statement. And would be reluctant to give the company an interest free loan until my next statement comes out.

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                1. Darury

                  Check with your company on travel advances. I was in the same condition for a long while and I’d get a cash advance for any travel that was required. I typically estimated what the trip would cost, add about 30% buffer and request that. When I returned, I had to send in a check for whatever I didn’t use, but at least I wasn’t stretching my own limits for company travel.

                2. yasmara

                  @OfOtherWorlds, it should ideally be charged on your company’s corporate credit card. When I started traveling for business, I was issued a corporate card to put my travel-related expenses on. As others have said, I have to reconcile my expenses with the card data (our system tries to automate that for us).

                  A number of years ago, we moved to a per diem system so I no longer have to keep track of any food-related receipts. I can actually charge my food to my corporate card as well and then during the expense reconciliation process I redirect the correct amount of the per diem payment to the corporate card instead of to me personally. I try not to do that, however, because it’s complicated and I’d rather just get the per diem paid directly to me.

                3. M from NY

                  In this case you would print receipt generated when you purchased travel. For example if you buy plane ticket and use debit card you get same type of receipt (only showing last 4 digits) that is suitable for accounting purposes. You don’t have to wait for credit card statement.

                  Eventually I’d suggest looking into getting a prepaid Amex card that you can add money to and use that instead of debit card. It will help you rebuild credit and keeps a buffer between potential abusers (if your debit card was ever compromised) and your bank account.

                4. Flash Bristow

                  Argh, this happened to me in First Proper Job when I was on a low income. Sent to Amsterdam for a week, first ever overseas trip alone.

                  Company left it so late that the only place they could book me was the Krasnapolski, which was uber plush (to the extent I felt uncomfortable) and charged accordingly. Then on arrival, they needed to actually see the card. Work hadn’t given me the one they booked with so after failing to resolve over the phone, I had to give my own credit card… just damn lucky I had one! Work did repay on return when I produced receipts, and it didn’t incur interest as it was paid the same month but… Check out how everything will be paid. I had to pay taxis and get receipts, but was given a flat rate towards food each day. However if they’d been doing food “up to x , with receipts” you can bet I’d have gone to places at the top end of that budget (it wasn’t, £10 or so? But I was getting cheap stuff from supermarket or takeaway to save money given I’d get the allowance anyway.

                  Please don’t feel awkward checking how the money side will work.

                  Also, my flight was businessmen from the city, and me in jeans looking lost. Guess who they stopped to question on arrival? And I got nervous, didn’t know if it was ok to name my company, wouldn’t get details of the course til I reached the hotel… So be ready, be confident, answer questions if security ask!

                  Hopefully you’ve flown before and know how airports work and rules on luggage, but do check just in case. I wish I had!

                5. AnnaBananna

                  CC statements are “generally” used if there’s a discrepancy with what you’re asking to be reimbursed (eg, you’ve lost a receipt). All of the companies I worked for only required statements when we lost a receipt or if it was a corporate card and Accounting wanted to know what was on the balance at the time of expense reporting.

                  I concur on getting a corporate card if your company allows that. Quite handy. Be careful though – if you screw that card up it WILL go on your credit history (though it’s not tied to it before this happens, so you’d get approved for it regardless of your current financials).

            2. Chinookwind

              I have done expense reports with credit card statements for one of two reasons – 1) to show the currency conversion (which is the only way to do it accurately for reimbursement) and 2)person forgot/lost their receipt.

              I do insist, though, that they blackout/whiteout their credit card number on both sides of the paper so you can’t see it by holding it up to the light and verify that it doesn’t show up in a photocopy of it.

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            3. YetAnotherNerd42

              I’d have some serious privacy issues around handing my employers a statement from a personal credit card. That gives them a whole lot of information about what I spend my money on that is NOTB.

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                1. NotAnotherManager!

                  Yep. On the rare occasion my credit card statement is the best representation of what I need to be reimbursed for, I’ve redacted all other transactions and account summary info. The expense reports people were grateful to only have the relevant info provided so they didn’t have to dig for it.

            4. Antilles

              In most cases, you don’t really need the full statement, you can just give them the printout of that particular transaction. I tend to do this for items like parking fees where you can pay with a credit card, but don’t automatically get a receipt.

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        3. Snowglobe

          Don’t forget to track expenses for which there are no receipts, like tips to the skycap at the airport. I used to forget tolls on the way to the airport-I have an electronic pass in my car so I don’t actually have to do anything, easy to forget. I make sure to write down all cash expenses daily and keep that list with my other receipts.

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          1. Chinookwind

            Find out the company policy about tipping – some won’t reimburse tipping because it doesn’t show on your receipt.

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            1. Sally

              My previous employer tried this, but I said that I wouldn’t have been tipping housekeeping if I wasn’t on the trip and staying in a hotel, so they needed to reimburse it. They were always nickel and diming us, even when the client was paying. It wasn’t worth a fight, so I finally started calling it “miscellaneous” and indicating that I had lost the receipts. Then they just paid it without comment.

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              1. Amy Farrah Fowler

                Speaking of a client paying – Make sure that you are clear on what the client will and won’t reimburse. For example, if you’re travelling on a government contract, they will pay a per-diem for food, hotel, incidentals, but they will not pay for alcohol if you drink. (and will require food receipts to prove what you ate).

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        4. Gerald

          It depends upon the policy. My large employer knows how much effort it takes to track receipts, so gives us a per diem for each meal and a daily $15 for ‘whatever’. Maybe they pay slightly more per person, but they also save quite a few salaries’ as no one has to spend their days sorting out minute details.

          They also have an electronic booking system for planes and trains, and do their best to book hotels centrally, so on some trips I don’t have to save any receipts at all!

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        5. Your friendly neighbourhood EA

          And keep the detailed receipts, not just the card transaction ones. If you don’t automatically get one from the vendor, ask.

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        6. Lavender Menace

          I would amend that to say ‘check your company’s policy about receipts.’ My company, for example, doesn’t require receipts for any expenses that cost under a certain amount.

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      2. TootsNYC

        Organizational note: Set up a place to keep your receipts, before you leave.
        Even it’s just as simple as saying, “I will put all my receipts in this pocket of my wallet.”

        It’s not a secret that the FIRST part of that maxim is “a place for everything”–it’s chronological, that advice is.

        Then once you’ve created the spot, you will find it easier to follow your “rule” than if you have to decide every time where to put the receipt.

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        1. Cascadia

          Yes! I have a slot in my wallet that is just for work receipts. Everything goes in there, always, and when it’s time to reconcile receipts at the end of a trip or the end of the month, I automatically know where all my work receipts are. I also make sure to not put any personal receipts there so I don’t get them messed up. It’s been super helpful!

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          1. Sally

            And, as someone mentioned earlier in this thread, it’s really helpful to write on the receipt what each one was for. Sometimes receipts just have the credit card info, and it’s hard to remember the week after the trip, when I’m creating the expense report, what each receipt was for.

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      3. MN HR gal

        Yes, I used to do a lot of traveling (more like 3 months on the road) and needed to keep receipts, and have itemized receipts for restaurants (you often have to ask for one) as my company did not pay for alcohol. I would travel with a coupon holder or make sure I had a separate money section of my wallet to keep all my receipts in order and in a place where I wouldn’t accidentally lose one or turn it into a crumpled mess. Made my life easier later.

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        1. I Go OnAnonAnonAnon

          Even having just a specific envelope with you, into which you put all annotated receipts (notes on receipts is a great tip!), is a huge help. Also, if you are getting electronic receipts, have an email sub-folder for this specific trip and move the electronic receipts in there as soon as you can — set up a rule to do this automatically if you can. Then you won’t have to trawl your Inbox when you get back.

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          1. NotAnotherManager!

            Yep, when we had to submit original receipts, I always put an envelope in my bag specifically for receipts, jotted notes onto the receipts, and wrote any expenses for which there was no receipt on the outside of the envelope.

            Now, we use an expense program where I an take pictures of my receipts and upload them directly to the platform through an app, so I do that instead.

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      4. Not a Blossom

        And if you eat out, keep the itemized receipts, not just the final one at the end. My company won’t pay for alcohol, so they need to see the itemized receipt from the restaurant instead of the final copy that I sign.

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      5. Hillary

        If you have a receipt where the meal wasn’t just you (my company the most senior person present expenses it to prevent fraud) write on the receipt who was there when you get the receipt. It’s very confusing to go back a week later and try to remember who was attach lunch and dinner.

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      6. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway

        As an addendum to everyone’s great receipt advice — for the love of all that is holy be sure that whoever is issuing the receipt is putting a date on it and some kind of indication of the vendor / what is was for. I once went through an audit from hell by our expense software provider over a 7 euro taxi receipt that they could see was handwritten in haste because the surly cab driver did not put enough information on the receipt (I paid for myself and 2 other colleagues to go from our hotel to an office location, as requested by our manager vs. taking the much slower bus route!). If they handwrite it and it does not include the basics, most accountants will have you write-in the date and sign your name as an affidavit, but check with your company to see how they process that kind of thing if a vendor won’t budge or it would burn a bridge for your company. You do not want an outside accountant from the expense software company (if applicable) flagging you because they may never tell you how to correct it and it will be a nightmare once you’re home.

        And get hotels to itemize each day! Even if they average it out. Makes things loads easier. Especially if they add breakfast or something as a separate charge, all itemized, all the time!

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      7. iglwif

        If there’s a way to put expenses (especially big ones like your airfare and hotel) on a company credit card instead of on your own card, do that, so that you (a) aren’t out the money until you get reimbursed and (b) don’t encounter the embarrassing thing that happened to me on my very first business trip where my credit-card limit was really low, my last payment hadn’t gone through (this was back in the days of paper statements (!) and telephone banking (!!) because I am An Old), and there wasn’t enough room left on my card to cover my hotel bill. (I threw myself on the mercy of my boss, who was on the exec committee and thus had a company card. OldJob didn’t issue them to people who travelled only occasionally.)

        If you’re able to get receipts by email instead of on paper, do that. Then make a folder in your email client that’s specific to expenses for the trip. For paper receipts, SAVE EVERYTHING (if someone asks you if you need the receipt, say yes; try and get in the habit of always asking for one if they don’t offer). Put them all in the same place, and if a receipt doesn’t make clear what the amount is for, write it on the back or write it down in a notebook or on your phone or something. If your company uses any kind of expense-tracking software like Harvest or ClickTime or Concur, get the app on your phone (just for the trip!) and upload receipts at the end of every day, or when you get them.

        There’s one exception to this, which doesn’t sound like it applies for your current trip, but in case it applies later: when you’re in a foreign country, if at all possible, don’t submit your expenses until they’ve posted on your card and you can see what the actual amount is in your home currency!!!

        If you’re going to a conference, chances are you won’t have a lot of small incidental expenses like meals and coffee, because the conference will probably mostly feed you. But sometimes conference food is … not great. I also have a lot of bizarre food allergies, so I generally pack some relatively non-perishable snacks just in case. If you do have allergies or food sensitivities or whatever, IT IS OKAY TO ASK WHAT IS IN A DISH. If someone gives you the stink-eye for doing that, they’re being the jerk, not you.

        Are you an introvert? I am, and the best piece of advice I have ever gotten is that it is OK to take time out of a busy conference! There will always be at least some people sitting somewhere out of the way, and while they may be checking their email or whatever, they might also just be reading a book on their phone or something like that. It’s okay! Also, it is okay to not go out for uproarious vendor dinners every night and to skip a big group breakfast in favor of eating fruit and yogurt quietly in your room. Because you’re traveling with a more senior person, you may not get to set your own agenda entirely, but a good colleague will understand that people need down time in order to be “on” during the day.

        A pretty general rule for travel expenses is that when 2 or more colleagues are doing something together (like sharing a cab to the airport or eating dinner out), the more senior person pays. Remember, it’s ultimately all on the company! Don’t order the most expensive thing on the menu, but also don’t feel like you have to be super cheap.

        If you’re at all like me, business travel will probably involve staying in significantly nicer hotels than you’d stay in on your own dime. Enjoy it! But also, tip well and don’t trash your room. I’ve heard service-industry folks recommend leaving a smaller tip in your room each day rather than a big one at the end. (Tipping in the US is the one thing I *always* need cash for. That said, I use cash a lot more in the US than I ever would at home in Canada, because the myriad ways credit-card payments work in the US can be very weird and I get twitchy when a server takes my card away in a restaurant.)

        I loathe packing and find it stressful, so I have developed a bunch of systems for coping with that. One of these is actually planning out my outfits for the trip, in writing, to minimize the amount of stuff I’m taking while making sure I actually have enough stuff to wear. I also make sure to take an extra top for the inevitable tomato-sauce spillage. (YMMV.) If you can get away with just one pair of nice shoes, do! Shoes and boots are suitcase hogs. But also, be comfortable on the plane. If you’re traveling *with* your colleague, don’t wear ratty sweats or whatever, but don’t feel like you have to dress up to the same degree as when you’re actually at the conference! It’s important to note that the weather in most places will not matter as much as you think, because you’ll be inside the hotel a lot and hotel meeting rooms are about 80% FREEZING COLD and 20% BOILING HOT, and there’s no way to know which it will be. PACK LAYERS.

        At a lot of conferences I go to, vendors have fishbowl prize draws where you basically give them your contact info in return for a chance to win something like an iPad or a Kindle. I once won an iPad mini! It was great! But before you do that, check your company’s policies on vendor gifts, because it would really suck to win something cool and then be told you couldn’t accept it.

        Things to have on you at all times:
        – a writing implement (although if there are exhibitors at this conference, you can be pretty sure that some of them will be giving out free pens)
        – business cards, if you have them, to exchange with people
        – a small notepad or notebook, so you can write stuff down without getting out your phone, because that will inevitably look antisocial to some people (can you see me rolling my eyes over here?)
        – tylenol or ibuprofen or whatever, in case of headaches
        – one of those little packs of kleenex
        – lip balm, because indoor air in hotels is usually hella dry

        If you can get away with not carrying a laptop everywhere with you, your shoulders will thank you :P

        If your company is sending you to a conference, they expect some reasonable expenses! These include
        – airfare
        – taxis to and from the airport at each end
        – hotel room (if they want you to stay somewhere cheaper than the conference hotel, they should tell you that; otherwise, book there)
        – any meals not provided by the conference, including any meals you have to eat while traveling
        – buying lunch for a customer/client

        The probably *don’t* include
        – pay-per-view in-room movies
        – the exorbitantly priced contents of hotel mini-bars
        – more than one or two alcoholic drinks with a meal
        – taking local family or friends out for a fancy dinner
        – ordering room service instead of eating the conference food

        Traveling with a colleague has both benefits and drawbacks, but the biggest benefit IME is that you have someone with you who has done this stuff before and can be a kind of model and guide for you. Some conference etiquette varies by industry, so it’s great to know someone who knows things and people. Also, if there’s any kind of newcomers’ meeting or breakfast or whatever, go to it! You’ll meet people who haven’t done this yet either, and that can be a great way to get more comfortable :)

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      8. square eyes

        If you have any federal funding, keep both the itemized as well as the credit card receipt. Some places do not reimburse that wine/beer that you had with dinner. Where I work, if you don’t have the itemized, you get reimbursed a nominal amount that likely doesn’t cover your meal.

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    1. Frequent Flyer

      To add to that, definitely read your company’s entire travel policy and in particular, what are their requirements for receipts? I’ve also had more and less lenient receipt policies where sometimes they wanted everything and sometimes it only had to be if it was greater than a certain amount. I even heard of one policy where they had to keep their boarding passes as proof they took the flight! The more you can collect those along they way rather than trying to track them down, the better.

      Also, check if they put limits on which hotel you can stay at, can you choose your own at a certain price, or do they not have any regulations at all? Same goes for rental cars and airlines. I’ve had policies that gave me complete control and ones that narrowed my choices.

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        1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night

          Or if they do, there may be a limit. My company will pay for two alcoholic beverages per person, but only as part of a meal. If I just want a drink at the airport bar that’s on my own dime.

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        2. JSPA

          And maybe don’t indulge at all, on this first trip. You can always loosen up on later trips, once you know the parameters (and won’t get stuck holding the tab for the entire room, by accident, or miss a signal, or enter a gray zone of “he said / she said.” If all goes well, there will be plenty more trips.

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      1. Amtelope

        Yeah, our company requires itemized receipts for meals, because they don’t pay for alcohol (you can expense the rest of the meal if you have a drink, but have to deduct the cost of the drink). Sometimes you will need to ask a restaurant for an itemized receipt if they just hand you a copy of your credit card slip – they should be able to provide you with something that shows what you actually ordered.

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        1. WellRed

          If your company doesn’t pay for alcohol and you want a drink with dinner, restaurants are asked all the time to put the drink on a separate bill.

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          1. Sleepytime Tea

            I had to do this, but seriously, you would not believe how many times the wait staff was confused by my request, even when I explained it. It even happened to me at the airport. (Come on, people have to request this all the time, right?!)

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          2. Jadelyn

            That’s what we usually do – ask for the drinks on a separate tab, pay for the meal with a corporate card, pay for the drinks with personal cards.

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            1. Amtelope

              I would do this if we had corporate cards, but we don’t, so we have to pay and get reimbursed. Which isn’t great, but is what it is.

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      2. Katie the Fed

        and there might be things you can claim that you didn’t realize – hotel internet, taxis to/from dinner, etc.

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        1. Squeeble

          Yes! For me it was the checked baggage fee. I was prepared to just eat the $25 each way because theoretically, for a 3-day business trip, I could have done carry-on and it felt like a personal expense. But nope, my policy covers it.

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          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

            I traveled last year after not having traveled for business in many years, and had to expense my first ever baggage fee. OP, get those receipts right away. Getting them a week after the fact was challenging.

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          2. yasmara

            The baggage fee is an interesting one because my company won’t pay for that if it’s a short trip unless there are extenuating circumstances like you’re bringing conference materials that are too big for a carry-on bag.

            There are all sorts of nuggets of info in our travel policy, like the company will pay for hotel laundry service if your trip is a certain length of time (I think 2 weeks), but not if it’s shorter. They will pay for postage if you need to mail something ahead to a conference or client.

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        2. ArtsNerd

          Right, I would say one thing I had to get used to is getting reimbursed for actually everything. (Except alcohol.) But food! Snacks! Taxi to the airport! These all seemed the height of luxury to me, though now I understand that they are basic business expenses I don’t need to shoulder.

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          1. TiffanyAching

            Yes, I was surprised when my boss told me to put EVERYTHING on the company card: snacks, travel to/from the airport, a bottle of water, Starbucks, etc. Even the stuff that I typically buy when not on work travel (like the snacks I typically bring to work) could count, if I bought them “for the trip.”

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          2. yasmara

            My company doesn’t include lunch as part of the per diem. I guess they feel like employees provide their own lunches no matter what? It’s so weird to me because buying a lunch while traveling for business is ALWAYS going to be more expensive than my subsidized corporate cafeteria or my lunch at home when working remotely. And when I submit expenses, I have to deduct from the per diem if the hotel provided breakfast (the system does it for you when you check the box). The per diem is also adjusted for travel times – so if I have an early morning flight I might get the full per diem but if my flight to my destination is after dinner time, I would get nothing (and vice versa on the way home).

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      3. Prof. Kat

        The state university where I went to grad school went wayyyyy overboard in travel reimbusement documentation. We were required to submit the following:
        -boarding passes for every single leg of every single flight
        -our name tag from the conference
        -receipts, *even if we were claiming per diem*
        -the full program for the conference or workshop we attended, because if any sort of food was supplied for any meal, our per diem was reduced.

        The crazy thing is my reimbursements weren’t coming out of state funds…it was grant money! And obviously they need to be careful about following grant disbursement rules, but none of this was required by the grants I was funded by. Which my advisor and I explained to them, at length, including sending along documentation from NSF showing it was unnecessary. It was…frustrating.

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        1. Jadelyn

          Boarding…passes…why???

          And especially in this day and age, I never have physical boarding passes, I just have it on my phone. What even would be the purpose of that, vs just having the receipt or itinerary from when you purchased the tickets?

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          1. Jessica

            The boarding pass is meant to show that you actually took the flight. But yeah, now that that too is electronic, I don’t see what use it is.

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            1. Lavender Menace

              I always assumed that was the case, but it’s also really easy to print out a boarding pass at home. So theoretically I could supply a paper boarding pass for a flight I never took.

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          2. Baby Fishmouth

            I’m in a role where I do expenses for faculty members, and I’ve literally had to argue with the people in the Finance department that it’s INSANE and also *not actually a policy* to require boarding passes for a flight. If a person also has hotel, food, or taxi receipts from X city then obviously they took the flight to X city…

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            1. Asenath

              If they’re like our Finance people, they’ll still insist on a paper boarding pass! Finance rules are extremely arcane, and, worse, change periodically.

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            2. JSPA

              Usually you can print out the boarding pass that you get electronically, and that’ll count. But yeah, you’re now in the land of “yes, I do need a receipt for the airport parking and the train and that pack of oreos and everything else I never wanted a receipt for, before.”

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          3. Swivel Servant

            Some organizations (where airfares are paid separately from other travel expenses, but still by the employee’s CC) have had issues where a flight is booked under one class, and the traveler cancels the ticket and rebooks in a lower class and pockets the difference. The boarding passes ensure that the traveler took each leg in the correct class for reimbursement.

            My current organization had airfares centrally paid, so refunds would accrue to the centre, not the traveler, and it *still* requires every boarding pass from every leg. [shrug]

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            1. hah!

              Haha, I also work at a state school – the thought that I could book a flight where I (a) don’t have to provide documentation that I took the cheapest one and (b) that I could actually book a flight not on the lowest class *blows my mind*.
              I still have to provide boarding passes and receipts for everything, with a rubber stamp if possible.

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            2. SarahKay

              Rebooking a ticket more cheaply wouldn’t be a problem for us, we’re only allowed to travel in the cheapest class, even when flying long-haul (eg US to Europe). :(
              On the other hand, I had significantly increased respect for the US VP for our division who recently visited us over here in the UK when I realised that he, too, flew economy – because I bet he’s high enough up the food chain that he could have flown business-class.

              OP, definitely get a copy of your organisation’s requirements for receipts, and also it’s worth asking around what program is used for submitting expenses. Some of them are a lot easier to use than others – is there someone in the office that can talk you through likely sticking points?

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            3. Shrugged

              But how does having the boarding pass actually ensure that someone doesn’t cancel and take a lower cost flight? Or, for that matter, that they even got on the plane?

              I can receive my boarding pass on my phone, take a screenshot, and email it to anyone, the night before my flight. There’s nothing to stop me from driving, taking a train, or changing my ticket after I already have the boarding pass. I don’t know why anyone would do any of those things, but really, having the boarding pass doesn’t prove that someone’s being honest.

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              1. Swivel Servant

                Heh. Back in the day, one had to actually show up at the airport to get a boarding pass. :)

                It’s not a great control these days, but I’ve encountered the problem it was meant to address. Pocketing a refund on a $10K fare to Singapore can drive folks to do some silly things…

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              2. Mephyle

                In the cases I’ve seen, a self-printed boarding pass is a useless piece of paper to the university. They insist on an airline-printed boarding pass.

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        2. KayDay

          Ugh, we need to submit boarding passes too. We are an NGO and most of our funds are from governments, and so our overarching policy is meant to capture the strictest of donors, rather that having separate policies depending on which donor is paying for the flight. Fortunately, they don’t have any restrictions about needing airport printed boarding passes (not because they are trying to be reasonable, but just because the policy is based around travel circa 1988 and that was the only option then).

          Reply
        3. Flash Bristow

          Ew, that sucks. My course provided a buffet lunch of meats, cheeses and bread on a tray, etc… I’m vegetarian and the caterers didn’t understand that I won’t pick cheese out from between slices of meat, but will gladly eat if it is kept separate.

          I ended up day 1 hungry, and the rest of the week I snuck in extra croissants etc from brekkie so I wouldn’t go without…

          So if you’re not the type to eat anything and everything, take some snacks (and keep the receipts!)

          Reply
      4. Ama

        Yes, read through it and then, if possible, either have a chat with your manager or whoever handles expense reimbursement for your organization before you leave and make sure you are interpreting the guidelines correctly. Before I ever had to go on a business trip myself I was in charge of processing expense reports and there was nothing worse than having to go back to a coworker and let them know that some large charge on their report could not be reimbursed because they had just assumed something was covered that was clearly stated as not reimbursable in our policy.

        One big one we ran into a lot at my old employer was that they would not reimburse for prepaid hotel rooms until after your trip — they actually preferred you didn’t book prepaid rooms at all because they didn’t usually allow you to cancel them if you needed to cancel your trip. Because those are usually cheaper, a lot of my coworkers had a hard time wrapping their heads around the company preferring you spend more on hotel until I explained the cancellation.

        At my current job we have had to do a lot of altering of our travel policy in the last couple of years due to all the new nickel-and-diming by U.S. commercial airlines. We have had to specify that you do not have to book the basic economy tickets that don’t let you have a carry on or select your seat — you are allowed to book what used to be considered economy, and we’ll reimburse one baggage fee each way, but we won’t cover other charges like upgrades, early check-in, etc. If this isn’t detailed in the OP’s policy yet she should confirm with someone what exactly is permitted.

        Reply
      5. Retiring Academic

        I was wondering if anyone would mention ‘keep your boarding passes’! I’ve had to do this for reimbursement from a US institution and was really surprised – I’ve never had to do it in the UK or Asia. I think the idea is that someone could pay for an expensive flight with their credit card, then cancel it and book a cheaper flight, then use the original credit card bill to be reimbursed for the more expensive flight? Honestly, who has time for that?!
        I once worked for a European company which had the most complicated rules about what you could and couldn’t claim for on a business trip, e.g. you could only claim for a meal on arrival at your destination if the airline didn’t provide food on board – even if it was inedible, as it often was back in the day on airlines in China! They must have employed dozens of accountants and internal auditors to check on these things, costing far more than they saved by catching out the occasional dishonest or careless employee. That wasn’t the only thing wrong with their management, either.

        Reply
    2. Free Meerkats

      The city I work for figured out all the receipt handling for meals was costing them as much as the reimbursements. So now we get a set amount for each meal that is authorized. For travel times where one would normally be eating a meal, we get paid for that meal; if the conference provides a lunch, we don’t get paid for that meal. And it’s reasonably generous, daily total is $64, and I can eat on the road most places for a whole lot less than that.

      Anything else, like taxi/uber/bus, airport shuttle, hotels, needs a receipt. All airfare is centrally booked by the city, thought they are flexible on airline and flight selection. And they let us provide our frequent flyer numbers, so my flight to Vegas last year for the SCCA National Convention was mostly covered by my miles from work travel.

      Reply
    3. Wendy Darling

      I’ve worked mostly in companies that reimbursed expenses and all of them have had a number that’s our daily limit… but also a lower number that was the expected daily limit if you weren’t in an outrageously expensive city. Like we’re allowed to expense up to $70/day for food but unless you have major extenuating circumstances you will get serious side-eye if you spend more than $50/day. Which is a terrible practice, but good to know!

      Also MY company doesn’t require receipts for transactions under $30 but we do billable travel for clients and some of our clients DO require receipts for all transactions regardless of cost, which I did not find out until I’d neglected to save my coffee+breakfast receipts for four days.

      Basically if you know someone who’s traveled for your company before, get the inside scoop from them.

      Reply
      1. Flash Bristow

        Oh, receipts reminds me… Company phones. I had a company mobile. I had never taken a mobile overseas. I used it to check in with my colleagues every day and also to call now-husband goodnight – he was also a colleague at the company, it’s how we met.

        A few weeks after the trip I was presented with my mobile bill and told I had to pay any calls from when I was overseas, and people should have called me instead. I was blindsided by this as basically I was constantly on call and given a phone so I’d be available 24/7 and never been told off for using it. Perhaps naively, I had no idea of the cost of overseas calls even just briefly. My manager had never even mentioned it. So I really didn’t know. I just assumed all calls were included in the plan.

        Whereas hubby, in a different dept, was fine to call me from his work mobile, and to use it overseas when he joined me for a weekend after my course. His manager was much more reasonable in general!

        So if you have a work phone check that out too, before you get hit with a bill…

        Reply
    4. Kelsi

      This! On my first business trip I was super focused on keeping receipts, keeping my costs low, eating free breakfasts/chips/finger sandwiches from the convention instead of paid meals whenever possible. It wasn’t until nearly the end of the trip when I mentioned something about a receipt that my boss realized my misunderstanding and explained to me that at our agency, you keep the leftover money if there is any, and I didn’t need to worry about showing receipts. And also that a finger sandwich with all the veggies picked off is not lunch, and saving company money is great but not at the expense of me eating a real lunch!

      Reply
  2. Marie

    Unless you’re the kind of person who is energized and excited by interacting with strangers, expect that you’re going to get very tired and very mentally wiped out every day! Plan some time to recharge, take breaks when you need them, and try to keep your evenings as free as possible so you can go back to the hotel and go to bed early if you need to.

    I was surprised by this the first time I ever went to a conference, as I found myself absolutely completely and totally wiped out at the end of the day, even though I wasn’t very physically active and moving around all day. Being “on” all day, meeting new people, making sure to be super professional around them all… it was exhausting!

    Reply
    1. Detective Amy Santiago

      I will whole-heartedly second this.

      I also suggest packing some snacks and drinks that you can keep in your hotel room (or stopping at a nearby grocery store if possible) so that you don’t have to go out every time you want something or pay ridiculous hotel vending prices.

      Reply
        1. Chinookwind

          And make sure they are healthy snacks. You will be surprised about how you start craving raw fruit and veggies by the end if all you eat are restaurant meals and vending machine food.

          Reply
          1. Gatomon

            Or protein-rich snacks, if you’re doing a lot of walking. The last conference I attended was in a massive space and had tons of fruit and veggies provided, but NO PROTEIN! And I did so much walking that the internal processes probably would’ve been fine if I hadn’t touched a plant the entire week!

            Reply
      1. MN HR gal

        Yes, snacks! I always traveled with some staples in my bag, granola bars, mixed nuts, sometimes apples and cuties. You never know what the food situation will be like and it’s nice to have a back up. I usually travel with a travel coffee mug or water bottle as well. The travel coffee mug is great because it can do double duty so you don’t need to bring multiple drink receptacles with you.

        Reply
      2. Anonandon

        Agree with this. When I’ve had to travel for business, I always scope out the area as I’m driving from the airport to my hotel, looking for restaurants, grocery stores, drug stores, etc. My company’s corporate office is very near a Target, which was a major score for anything I might have needed during my stay (and in California, the Targets also sell alcohol, which was a nice surprise! I grabbed a couple of those little mini wine bottles to take back to my hotel along with healthy snacks, etc.).

        Reply
      3. Seal

        My go to is protein bars. I always bring enough so I can have at least one a day and stash a few in my bag whenever I leave the hotel room. They’re good for a quick breakfast if there are no cheap alternatives around or quick snack. I also bring a refillable water bottle just in case. I used to bring a big one but find a smaller one is easier carry around.

        Reply
        1. cleo

          Yes! I also always carry energy bars and a small water bottle. In fact, I ended up buying a nice over the shoulder bag with the express goal of being able to carry my water and snacks and notebook while still looking and feeling professional.

          Reply
      4. BenAdminGeek

        Agree 100% on snacks. I pack enough for the flights out and back, and usually for the hotel evenings/mornings as well. When I’m nervous prepping for a big presentation, I don’t want to add to that by having to wander around near my hotel looking for Starbucks or order a heavy breakfast from room service that makes me feel ill all morning.

        If you don’t get jittery nerves, it may not matter. But for me, it’s invaluable.

        Also, don’t buy the jumbo bag of Skittles if you have poor self-control….

        Reply
    2. Linda Evangelista

      Yep! By the end of the week, I was a whiny little baby about how tired I was and skipped end-of-conference activities that should have been great. Its exhausting, so you definitely need to take care of yourself.

      Reply
      1. Overbooked

        Absolutely this. Be selective about what’s essential and what’s optional. It’s tempting to feel you should fill every minute, but not everything will be equally worth your time and attention. Also, if there are conflicting workshops, sit on an aisle near the back so you can slip out and switch if the first one isn’t engaging. Over a multi-day conference, there might be a whole morning or afternoon where nothing demands your attendance. Take advantage in a way that’s enjoyable and meaningful to you – shopping, a walk, a matinee, a museum, or, my favorite, a couple of hours once on a sit-on-top kayak. There was a BABY OTTER. Lastly, an expert traveler in the family always said, “Never pass up an opportunity to pee, drink water, or lie down.”

        Reply
    3. Anonysand

      This is a really great tip. If it’s at all possible, I would suggest finding times during the day to take little breaks by yourself. Even if it’s just 30 minutes in between sessions or before dinner, it will help a ton.

      Reply
    4. Escapee from Corporate Management

      And that’s even before jet lag. If you are shifting three time zones by going cross-country, plan on having your body clock be off for at least the first day. If you are going West, you may want to avoid late-evening events. If going East, you may find breakfast meetings to be tough. Plan your schedule accordingly, if you can.

      This applies to going home as well. I learned the hard way that an 8:00am meeting on the East Coast is VERY rough if I’ve been in California for several days.

      Reply
      1. Jadelyn

        I’m in California, and I spent 2 weeks at our HQ on the east coast in December. I had almost no issues adjusting going there…but man, when I came home, THAT was a rough adjustment.

        Reply
      2. Bee

        When I fly out from NYC to California for trips that are only 3-4 days, I usually just try to keep living on East Coast time. It means that getting up at 7AM feels like sleeping in until 10, I love it so much.

        Reply
    5. The Cosmic Avenger

      I liken the conference floor to a shopping mall in mid-December. Busy, loud, unrelenting…it’s just draining for me, too, although not as much so as it is for others.

      Reply
    6. Drew

      Also take different environments into account. I did a two-day conference last summer that I expected to be a total breeze – but I’m from the plains and the conference was up in the mountains in Utah. I’ve been at altitude before, but never for three days straight; I was very tired and a bit incoherent by the time dinner rolled around each night.

      Reply
    7. ursula

      YEP. I often try to pack myself one indulgence I can look forward to, alone in the hotel in the evening, to intentionally make myself recharge. Sometimes it’s a face mask, or a bath bomb if there is a tub in the hotel room, or some special chocolates, or an article I have been looking forward to reading, or a special short game I am excited to try (I love video games and there are some great short ones on hand-held consoles). It helps me so much.

      Reply
    8. The Ginger Ginger

      Yes! Expect to possibly do some low key socializing after con hours with your work group (like dinner) but plan now NOT to be up late, try to commit to being in your room at a reasonable time for downtime purposes. You will be 100% wiped out. Don’t compound that by going out drinking or something like that. It’s not worth it, and it will totally wipe out your energy reserves for the next day. Think of the week as an ultra-marathon. You gotta pace your self or you’ll be too tired to function.

      Reply
    9. Stephanie

      Yes! My boss and I had to drive four hours together for a trip (nice guy, but we have very little in common outside work) and made small talk the whole way and then ate dinner. I just got back to my hotel room and stared at the wall after that. Had to drive back another four hours and just stared at my apartment wall afterwards.

      I say this as someone who is regularly described as an extrovert.

      Reply
    10. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway

      To this effect, bring antacids, b12 vitamins (if drinking is expected) and probiotics — there is one brand of probiotics I will not name here in case that would be flagged, but they can be kept at room temp and are generally sold very near the pharmacists counter in the US. Especially if you are traveling internationally, it helps so much. You will be surprised how much your digestion can take a hit from jet lag and change of routine when you have very full working days outside your control (moreso than usual), in my case it wrecks my whole sleep pattern even worse. Most of my trips are to another country with much heavier food on offer than what I am used to, and there is often not a lot of choice on my trips.

      If it is not a customs violation, seconding bringing healthy snacks. Also find out what the water situation is, if people in that country do not drink out of their taps, will there be bottled water on hand? Will your company reimburse for that? Does the hotel offer it gratis? Knowing where water and bathrooms are in the various settings can do quite a bit to keep you comfortable.

      Also pack the cold medicine regimen of your choice, I learned this one the hard way a long time ago. Better to just cart some blister packs of pills back and forth in your bag than to be caught without any relief if you get sick.

      Reply
    11. seller of teapots

      I’m a total extrovert, and even I get to the end of a conference day and feel completely wiped out! Having time carved out to recharge is so key.

      Reply
    12. Lavender Menace

      YES. Unless I am on a trip with a bunch of other coworkers, I plan to eat dinner alone. It’s so relaxing. I also skip out a couple things in the middle of the day so I can take a break.

      Reply
    13. Pizza Manager

      Totally agree! My first few shows I went to with my company I was not prepared at all for how exhausting it was. I’m used to sitting at a desk for most of my day, but standing and talking to be people all day was draining (in a good way). I’m lucky that it’s always restaurant related shows and I can eat pizza all day if I wanted (!), but I prefer to have healthier snacks on hand if I need a boost.

      Reply
      1. Kat in VA

        Reading all of this greedily as I’m traveling for business for the FIRST TIME EVAR at the end of the month. It’s just a two day conference, but we’re flying out the day before and leaving the day after and spending some time at the home office so I can meet everyone. I’ve traveled many times in my life, but for business, it’s a little different. Also the very first time EVAR bringing *just* a carryon and nothing else, so I’ve gone a bit wild with the under-three-ounces rule with regard to toothpaste, face cream, and the like. Fortunately I do expenses for my bosses so I know all the rules for that. I’m a hella introvert so this will be draining for sure. At least I’ll get the weekend to recover!

        Reply
  3. Ree

    -Make sure you block your calendar for travel time to/from the airport if you’re leaving from work or going to work after.
    -KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS. Or take photos of them. That’s better.

    Reply
    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      YES. I use the GeniusScan app on my phone (I’m sure there’s a better one), which converts my receipts to pdfs. I use it immediately after buying anything. Learned my lesson when I lost a Starbucks receipt and got chastised for it (which was stupid, that kind of thing happens all the time).

      So I should also add, if you do lose a receipt, do not panic. This happens all the time. Try not to lose them, of course, but if it’s a small purchase, don’t sweat it. If it’s a bigger purchase, you can almost always get a duplicate if you need one.

      Reply
        1. College Career Counselor

          All good advice, but I have worked places where they wanted *the original* receipt for all expenses. Ridiculous, but that can be the case.

          Reply
          1. AvonLady Barksdale

            I scan AND keep the paper, just in case. I like having the security of the scan. Then I forget about the paper and finally throw everything out six months or so later. But it makes me feel better.

            Reply
          2. Shades of Blue

            Actually, my work wants the originals too, grr (I forgot about that for a second). I use CamScanner to upload them for the report and I mail the originals. Hope you enjoyed my 34 inch long car rental receipt, work!

            Shout out to Not I said the fly – I just throw my receipts in my bag and then panic search for them when I get home. A small envelop is one of those, duh!, great ideas!

            Reply
            1. Wendy Darling

              I was briefly responsible for expenses for an out of town university research team I was on where we could expense everything to our grant, and I bought one of those little plastic accordion files people use to organize coupons and kept all our receipts in there. It was the size of a fat wallet so I just kept it in my work bag and filed everyone’s receipts as they handed them over.

              Now I just carry one of those huge wide clutch wallets that’s big enough for unfolded paper money and put my receipts in one section when I travel. The only hard part is remembering to get receipts from all the places that use one of those tablet-based point of sale systems that doesn’t automatically print you a receipt, because I’m so used to saying I don’t need one.

              Reply
        1. Wendy Darling

          My company has that rule but some of my travel is billable to clients and some of the clients require that ALL expenses, even my $3 coffee, require a receipt.

          I ended up paying for a lot of my own coffee one trip. I wasn’t really bothered, though.

          Reply
    2. JJ

      “Or take photos of them. That’s better.”

      Quick word of caution – it’s not always better, it depends on your employer.

      Reply
      1. Ree

        It does depend on the employer, but a printed photo of a receipt is better than no receipt at all. Kind of like a back-up plan if you lose the original.

        Reply
        1. Rachel

          I usually put an empty envelope in my bag when I start to travel and every receipt or stub goes in there until I get back to my desk :) It never hurts to have the originals, and I’m WAY less likely to lose them if they’re in one spot

          Reply
    3. Anomalous

      If you take a personal car to the airport, you may also be able to claim costs for that (typically in the range of $0.50/mile in the US).

      Reply
      1. Lucy

        At Spouse’s OldJob they were expressly prohibited from driving their own vehicles to or from the airport – never properly explained but perhaps to avoid insurance issues?

        It is almost certainly appropriate to take a taxi/Uber to the airport at each end, unless public transport is excellent and you are travelling in daylight hours.

        Restaurant food gets old really quickly. If you’re eating just for fuel (not business dinner) then you might prefer room service. This may seem extortionate but is often cheaper than a restaurant and comfortably within your limit, and it’s easier to wind down on your own with a mac&cheese in your sweatpants than with a fully curated plate at a table in a restaurant.

        Netflix (etc) subscriptions work on laptops/tablets away from home so you don’t have to fight unfamiliar channels on an unfamiliar tv – just pick up your binge where you left off. You may need to use a private device depending on company policy.

        Check your specific policies but on longer trips you can protect your own time in this way.

        Reply
        1. Wendy Darling

          For very short (1-3 days) trips I’ve sometimes been able to expense parking at the airport because it was actually cheaper than getting a taxi there and back.

          Reply
          1. Lucy

            Worth looking into if it works for you, though it isn’t your responsibility to prioritise cost over convenience – if your flight is very early or very late then it might be safer not to drive, or perhaps you share a vehicle with a spouse. It is reasonable for you to decide what’s *best* even if it isn’t always *cheapest*.

            Reply
          2. yasmara

            I always expense airport parking. In my old location, airport transportation was cheaper than a week in the parking lot so I’d take a shuttle or Uber/Lyft/taxi, but here I’m 45 minutes away from the airport & the parking (even in the close lot) is affordable. I would spend more on transportation (plus more time) than I do on parking, even up to a week.

            As a woman traveling alone, I also only park in the close lot here. I wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t affordable, but often I’m traveling late at night or early in the morning and taking a shuttle to an unstaffed remote parking lot (it’s all automated, no people) is not worth it to me. My boss doesn’t care at all, but my husband was reprimanded at a past job for not parking in the park and ride vs the close lot. Then again, at our old airport there was a train from the remote parking and it all felt more visible and safe. Here it’s literally an unstaffed open-air parking lot.

            Reply
      2. dunstvangeet

        At least for Federal Government, you can actually claim twice the milage (since the person taking you to the airport has to get home).

        Reply
      3. Stephanie

        I usually expense personal vehicle mileage from my office to the airport (our system makes us deduct our commutes), which feels goofy as it only ends up being $13 for the round trip, but those $13 reimbursements add up.

        Reply
        1. yasmara

          I don’t do this, but that’s because the airport is only 10 minutes from my office so technically I think I would have to expense the difference between the office & the airport, not my house and the airport?

          Expensing mileage is not really done at my company. For a driving trip, they would rather we rent a car vs drive our personal car. I’m sure things are different if you are a regional sales person…

          Reply
    4. was I cheated

      There are lots of expenses you do not receive a receipt. That was particularly common in Israel even with the border tax police.

      Reply
      1. yasmara

        Oh, Israel was a fun one to expense as an American. I definitely wrote on the back of each receipt because almost all of them were in Hebrew. I had to conform to the letter of the law and submit all my Hebrew receipts, despite the fact that none of them were readable by the American HR people. And then the exchange rate changed so I had a random $3 amount on my corporate card that I had to figure out how to expense. I eventually called it something like “currency exchange fee” because the system wouldn’t take anything else.

        Reply
  4. Former Librarian

    Make sure you know what has been paid in advance and/or what you’re expected to pay for and get reimbursement. Maybe it’s just academia, but I’ve been stung by a few hotel bills I wasn’t expecting since they’d been reserved in the name of the institution. Also what receipts or paperwork you may need to keep and submit later.

    Reply
    1. Ree

      Piggy-backing on this – all hotels will email you a receipt if you don’t get one when you check out. Just call hotel directly and give last name, date of stay and the email you want it sent to. Takes 2-3 minutes, tops.

      Reply
      1. College Career Counselor

        If you’re traveling with a corporate card, make sure that the overall limit AND the daily/per expense limit are all sufficient to book your travel, lodging, food, etc. Found that out the hard way when my card was declined (because I had paid for the conference and airfare the same day) as I was checking in to the hotel.

        Reply
        1. Creed Bratton

          Along these lines: get the number for someone useful at the home office “in case of emergency.”

          Working as part of a large group things can change between an email on Friday and check in on Sunday. I once spent two hours in the lobby of a hotel tracking down the person to authorize our account for what would have been almost $11K I was NOT going to put on my personal card.

          In the case of fraud, cancellations, or just miscommunication it’s helpful to be able to text the right admin to get things back on track.

          Reply
        2. Jessen

          If you’re traveling with a corporate card, also check to make sure you know what it will allow to be expensed automatically. Used to work in the travel industry and I’ve seen cards declined because someone set it up to allow airfare and hotels but not ground transit or something.

          Reply
    2. The Ginger Ginger

      Also, if you DON’T have a company card, be aware that some hotels require a credit card at check in, and figure out how that’s going to work. I had to put down my own card to check in on a trip, and the room ended up being charged to it. I was able to get reimbursed, but that was VERY unplanned.

      SAVE ALL RECEIPTS. If you paid, if the company paid, whoever paid. If you handed over the payment, you keep that receipt.

      Reply
      1. No Tribble At All

        Seconding on verify whose credit card the hotel will use! Nothing like maxing your first credit card in a foreign country.

        Reply
      2. Former Help Desk Peon

        YES, I was going to say this. I’ve known many people who get burned by this on their first trip. If I don’t have a company card of my own, I ask someone who DOES who is traveling with me to use their card. The hotel will tell you it’s for “incidentals” like long distance calls and pay per view movies—not sure who actually uses those anymore lol.

        Reply
        1. Wendy Darling

          It’s also so they have something to charge if you burn the room down and steal their lamps or something.

          And minibar food and wifi. I’ve noticed that business hotels overwhelmingly charge a stupid amount for wifi because they know most of their customers are just expensing that crap.

          Reply
          1. Elmer Litzinger, spy

            People buy movies all the time. Long distance calls on hotel phones still happen.

            If you don’t put a card down most places won’t let you sign meals to your room. Or gift shop charges. If the hotel has a mini bar you won’t be issued a key. It’s also in case of smoke damage. Even though we don’t allow it, people still smoke in their rooms.

            My hotel won’t let you check in without a credit card on file or a cash deposit of $250. That gets mailed back to you.

            Reply
    3. LilyP

      Make sure to get a receipt from the hotel when you check out just in case! I always figured finance would have that receipt since they booked the hotel but the “final” version is different and it’s easier if you don’t have to call and get it later.

      Reply
      1. Chocolate Teapot

        Oh yes, I have told the story on here before about having to give my credit card to hotel reception when checking in as a guarantee, and being cheerfully informed it had been declined. I think it probably made me look bad in the eyes of my boss, who was standing next to me at the time.

        Reply
  5. Linda Evangelista

    If its anything like my org’s yearly conference, you’ll be tired! But it sounds like you’re going to attend rather than work at it, so it’ll be supremely rewarding and cool.

    Definitely get a good sense of your org’s policy re: expenses; what they will cover, what they won’t, that good stuff. Preferably have a company credit card for these things.

    Are you getting a hotel room to yourself or will you have to share? Ideally the first one – the one thing that allowed me to decompress during conference week in a different time zone was a hotel room I could go to without anyone else in my space.

    Reply
    1. do not overspend

      Learn the official and unofficial rules. Breaking official rules may lead to official punishment, breaking unofficial rules may lead to your colleagues being angry to you and denial of further trips. That is essential if your career depends on the trips, typical in R&D work.

      Be prepared to pay from your pocket whatever cost that may incur, including those that your administrator forgot to pay (like conference fee).

      Do not rely on anyone there to help you any more than obligatory. As a junior participant, be prepared to be treated as air. Assume that your colleague will have her own business and you will be alone. Do not expect to get a chance to speak to the Big Shots, not even Middle.

      If you do not know the dress code, be prepared to everything.

      You probably know already that most of the conference talks will be very boring. Liked or not, you are supposed to clap you hands after the talks to show your colleagues that you were not asleep. Don’t ask questions unless you know the topic and followed the talk.

      Remove your conference badge when outside. It is an invitation for trouble. And remember to but that again when entering.

      Before and after, do not make too much noise on your trip among colleagues who do not have a chance to travel.

      Otherwise, normal travel advice applies.

      Reply
      1. SafetyFirst

        You should be able to ask more experienced colleagues what normal dress is for the conference. I find that at technical and academic conferences, the dress runs pretty casual but more business oriented conferences may be different.

        Reply
  6. Not I said the fly

    Bring a Manila envelope and put all of your receipts in it. Don’t forget receipts for paid checked luggage, airport parking, and travel to/from the airport.

    I’m currently scrounging through all my pockets and bags trying to locate these papers, and cursing myself for skipping my one envelope rule, “just this time”

    Reply
    1. Sloan Kittering

      Ugh, receipts – and it’s usually the smallest ones that get me. At most orgs I’ve worked for, that $2.50 bagel is still going to need substantiation if it’s on my work credit card and it’s a big hassle if I can’t come up with the receipt. (Some orgs have per diem or exceptions for small amounts, but I was usually charging to Federal grants).

      Reply
      1. Liberry Pie

        I tend to forget to ask for receipts from taxi drivers. Try to remember those! Also, taxi receipts won’t always include the tip, so I’ve missed out on being reimbursed for that. Not sure anything can be done about that.

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          the new electronic taxi payment system in NYC taxis now includes the tip, whether you’re paying by card or with cash.

          Before that came into being, I tended to just write the tip amount on the receipt myself and submit it. My company never balked, so that worked out.

          Reply
          1. Sally

            If I don’t have any other way to make note of the tip, I take a sheet off the notepad that is usually in the hotel room and put all of the tips on it. I keep it in the same wallet compartment as the receipts, so I don’t lose it and so I don’t forget to submit the expenses for reimbursement.

            Reply
    2. Anonysand

      This is going to sound weird, but I always use a smaller and clean/empty makeup bag for my receipts. That way it fits in my purse easier and is more durable than a paper envelope. It would require folding the full-size paper receipts but it wasn’t that big of an issue. I used to subscribe to Ipsy and would always use one of the bags I got with the monthly box, just because they were the right size and I had so many on hand. When I’m not traveling I keep it in my car for errant work receipts while I’m out.

      Reply
      1. PhyllisB

        Great suggestion, Anonysand!! When I used to have to do hand-written expense reports I found an adorable little leather envelope that was called a receipt holder. I carried it in my purse/tote bag and stuffed everything in there. Now I no longer have to do this, I use it during holiday shopping so when my adult daughters pull the old “I love it!!” Um, do you have the receipt?” I can give it to them.
        Of course, you don’t have to purchase anything, but if you are going to use an envelope, I would suggest a padded manila envelope like you would send small items in. It’s sturdier than a regular business envelope, and if it accidentally falls out of your purse in a puddle of water, less likely to be a disaster. (Ask me how I know this!! :))
        Also, keep receipts for EVERYTHING!! Even the $1.00 bottle of water. When I traveled, my company reimbursed everything. We could even buy alcohol; up to two drinks. If we went over that, we had to pay it.

        Reply
      2. Jules the 3rd

        I use a ‘pencil pouch’ for several travel related things. Zipper, see through, durable they’re good for everything from receipts to carry-on liquids in security. Some are even water resistant, in case the shampoo leaks. The receipts one snaps into a travel binder, where I also keep any larger travel papers like boarding passes or car rental agreements.

        Reply
    3. AdAgencyChick

      I use a regular letter-sized envelope for receipts (the hotel will usually give you one if you ask) so that it fits in my purse.

      Reply
    4. TootsNYC

      I find that it’s easier to keep the receipts if I designate a spot in my wallet for them, because then I can tuck them there WHILE I am paying; it becomes part of the same motion.
      Usually “against the back wall of the bill pocket,” though once I had a wallet with an extra pocket, so they went there.

      Then at the end of each day, or if they built up, or if there was a little one I was afraid would get lost, I could move them to an envelope in my suitcase.

      I find it important to keep the initial “keep this” instinct linked to the “pay for this.”

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        One time I even folded a piece of heavier paper in half and cut it down to fit inside the pouch of my wallet, and taped the ends. That created a “manila folder” type effect that I could keep in my wallet. If it had been a long trip, I’d have had to shuffle things into a second container of some sort, but it worked pretty well for the length of what I had.

        Reply
      2. Jadelyn

        My org is fine with images of receipts, and I’ve really struggled with keeping track of all my receipts til I get home in the past. So this last trip, my rule became: once I had paid and they’d handed me my receipt, I wasn’t allowed to do ANYTHING with it – not stuff it in a pocket, not put it in my wallet, NOTHING until I had whipped out my phone and taken a picture of it. No matter how awkward it was trying to juggle things and hold onto it. Once I had the picture, I usually just tossed the original, but by forcing myself to do that before I could regain the use of both hands, it made sure I didn’t miss anything. I just submitted my expenses for a 2-week trip and last year, that same trip, I had fully half my receipts missing (I found them later in a pocket in my travel purse, just not the pocket I remembered having put them in); this year, I had every single one.

        Reply
    5. LQ

      Yes! And I start that envelope with all of the travel documents I might need. Hotel reservations, corporate/etc authorizations, flight details. Have them all in your phone (assuming you have a smart phone) but also having them all in the envelope made everything smoother even when I didn’t need them because I knew just were it was when I started.

      (And actually I kind of prefer the interoffice mail envelopes that are meant to be reused with the string to close it rather than a manila with a clasp that breaks.)

      Reply
    6. JessicaTate

      This, or something like it. When I started regularly traveling for work, one of the most useful things I did was start carrying a second (small) wallet in my bag. I still do it to this day and it makes my life so much easier. That wallet holds (primarily) my corporate credit card and is where I put all business receipts from the trip. When I get back and have to do the expense report, everything is there – and not intermixed with random personal receipts.

      Reply
  7. giraffe

    Conferences can be really overwhelming when you first start going to them! It’s very tempting to go to every single activity, eat every meal with the new friends you make, hang out in the bar every evening. That gets exhausting! Don’t be afraid to say no to the extra invitations. Have dinners and happy hours if you want to, but you’ll also want to reserve some time to decompress and rest in your room alone. And *definitely* don’t stay out late enough that you can’t wake up in the morning for the stuff you need to do!

    Also, this is not something everyone does, but I find it important for myself — I leave the hotel and take a walk at least once a day. Being indoors for days on end is really rough for me and if I don’t make a plan to get some fresh air, even if it’s just a walk around the block.

    Reply
    1. giraffe

      Also, make sure you’re clear about your reimbursement policies before you go — does your company pay for alcohol? Is there a daily maximum or a per-meal maximum? Also KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS. I’m terrible at receipts and my expense reports can be a nightmare to piece together.

      Reply
      1. giraffe

        Also — I keep thinking of more things to say. Don’t be afraid to use up your whole per diem / reimbursable amount on things! Business travel is expensive and if your company does allow you to expense things like coffees, beers, a taxi to the airport, etc, you should use those benefits. You might not pay for an airport taxi for a personal trip, but that expense is included as a part of doing business and you should make use of it. Be sensible and don’t order room service steaks 3x a day, but don’t be afraid to use what your company has budgeted for you.

        Reply
        1. Anonymousaurus Rex

          Definitely this. If your per diem allows it, I’d also recommend going to a grocery or convenience store right when you get in to get snacks and drinks for your hotel room. It makes it so much easier to have some things you know you’ll like when you’re tired and needing to decompress a bit in your room. I usually buy a pack of either sparkling or still water, plus some healthy things like hummus and veggies if there’s a fridge in my room. It’s nice not to always rely on granola bars etc.

          Reply
    2. Jadelyn

      I always reserve 1 evening of any conference longer than 3 days to be my “hermit evening”. I will hide in my room and have room service and go to bed early, usually on about night 4 of the event.

      I also locate the nearest Lush store when I go on trips, and on my first day there find some time to pop over and get a bunch of bath bombs. I only have a shower at home, no tub, so a colorful bath with scented water and glitter becomes an end-of-day self-care ritual that’s actually really restorative for me, since it’s so novel. (I do try to rinse the glitter off in the shower before the next day, though…not sure it would help my professionalism to show up looking like a disco ball.)

      Also: no matter how much you like your colleagues, after a few days of being around them ALL. DAY. LONG. including breakfast, lunch, dinner, evening events, etc. – you are going to be tired of being around them. And they’ll probably feel the same. It’s not personal, you’re just used to dealing with each other in 8 hour doses rather than having all your meals together, then also evening events, etc. Try to split up some during the day if the conference schedule allows. A group of 4 or 5 folks from my company goes together to a particular conference each year, and I’m usually one of them – we split up as much as possible for the breakout sessions, and just meet up for meals and main sessions. It really helps.

      Reply
      1. Prof-elsie

        Along these lines, if the hotel has a day spa, I schedule a mani-pedi or a facial to pamper myself on the trip. I don’t do much vacation traveling, but a spa visit helps work travel feel less grueling. A friend will schedule a foodie tour at some point in her trips.

        Reply
  8. Sloan Kittering

    I’d say it took me a beat to mentally separate work travel from vacations. Before I started taking trips for work trips, I mentally associated planes and hotels with time off because I’d only ever experienced them that way. I had to course-correct several times on my first big trip to remember that I was basically “on the clock” the whole time, until I was actually shut in my own room in the evenings at least. (Meaning, even after-meeting cocktail hour or evening drinks in the bar were still part of the work). That means work travel is quite tiring, since it’s basically a super-long shift. Put in some structured downtime and expect to need more sleep than usual.

    Reply
    1. deets

      This is interesting because I think I’ve developed the opposite problem – over the last few years the overwhelming majority of my travel has been for work, and most non-work travel was to visit family (so no hotel). I’ve noticed that I feel like I need to be “on” while in airports/hotels, even for fun reasons, because I subconsciously associate those settings with work. I don’t travel much in my new job so I’m hoping I can reverse that and have an easier time relaxing during personal travel.

      Reply
      1. Lavender Menace

        Me too. I’m at the point now where I travel more for work than for leisure (partially because I prefer to spend my leisure time not traveling very far), and I tend to prep for even vacations the same way I prep for work trips. It’s not relaxing at all, and has the interesting effect of making me want to travel less.

        Reply
    2. NW Mossy

      Same – I travel very infrequently for work (think twice in ten years), and it’s weird to be in an airport without my husband and kids! Being responsible for only myself means I have to think about stuff my husband normally captains, but also that I don’t have to think about whether someone else has their stuff or needs a bathroom break.

      Reply
    3. Dr Wizard, PhD

      >That means work travel is quite tiring, since it’s basically a super-long shift.

      At least my work considers it that way! I’m salaried but our hours are tracked for time in lieu purposes (European, not US) – on all of my business trips I claim hours from ‘leaving my house in the morning’ to ‘returning to my hotel in the evening’, and ‘leaving hotel’ to ‘walking in my front door back home’, and there’s never been any issue with that.

      Reply
  9. Laura H.

    General travel tips… carry a set of clothes with you/ in easy reach. Pack enough that you can afford to have an accident of any nature re your wordrobe- for me, that means extra bottom pieces. Basic things sometimes get overlooked.

    Enjoy it for what it is, network as appropriate, and don’t go overboard. I hope your first trip goes well.

    Reply
    1. Coffee Bean

      Agreed. Also I would add a pair of comfortable shoes. I have been to some conferences where you sat in one room the entire time, and others that were over 3-4 hotels in a few block radius, bring shoes encase you do need to be walking around.

      Reply
      1. Bostonian

        AND SWEATERS/SUIT JACKETS.
        No matter what the location or time of year it is, those conference rooms tend to have the AC BLASTING.

        Reply
        1. your favorite person

          oh this! cardigans and blazers that match each outfit. I generally pack light, but I actually pack heavy for conferences. I always bring two outfits for each day because I often want to change after the conference part into more comfortable clothes for the ‘after hours’ part.

          Reply
        2. Lavender Menace

          +1 million. I’m at a conference now in a part of the country that’s below freezing and the AC was on full blast.

          Reply
      2. gmg22

        Very much co-sign the comfortable shoes advice. The industry conferences I attend 1-2 times a year for my work are a)big, with far-flung conference rooms in a large hotel center, and b)have a dress code that errs on the more formal/businessy side. My flat, buniony, mid-40s feet need pampering. I get intimidated at times when I see women in suits and stiletto-adjacent heels, and have to remind myself that a comfy wedge or even a flat, with the right dressy pants, is JUST FINE.

        Reply
    2. Nea

      Pack by outfit, not item. 1 day’s tops, bottoms, undies, jacket/cardigan, accessories, etc., all in one bundle; the next day’s all in one bundle. That way you can’t miscount by accident.

      That said, choose outfits where everything goes with everything, just in case something horrible happens to Friday’s shirt and you need to wear Sunday’s twice.

      Pack an extra set of underwear (and at least 1 extra tie if you’re a guy). You never know.

      Reply
      1. SarahK

        This. I highly recommend organizing your outfits into days. I usually write out my schedule – (e.g., Day 1 = travel day, evening event; Day 2 = meetings + dinner reception; Day 3 = meetings; Day 4 morning meeting, afternoon travel) and assign what I’m wearing and what special items I may need (e.g., is it a laptop day, do I need to have snacks on me, business cards, etc.). I often throw in an extra day casual outfit in case plans change.

        I pack by outfit all in one bundle and have it written down. It makes one less thing to think about at the conference and lets me sleep in a little longer before that 7am meeting.

        Definitely pack an extra pair of underwear (or two) and socks. I recommend at least one underwear on your carry-on (no fun than having a late night missed connection and no change of underwear) .

        Reply
    3. Sleepytime Tea

      Fun story – my first work trip to see a particular internal client that I haven’t worked with before. I’m going to California, where I haven’t been since I was a child. My coworker and I even got the ok to fly in the day before we needed to be there (unusual for that cheap-ass company) and we spent the afternoon walking the beaches and drinking cocktails. It was fantastic times. Until I tripped and fell in the water. I had brought exactly one pair of paints for our 3 day trip and now they were soaked in salt water and covered in sand.
      The hotel had a washer/dryer and I was able to save myself before having to go pantless or soaking to the office the next morning, but I was panicked.
      And so now, I ALWAYS bring an extra pair of pants. I don’t care if it’s an overnight trip. Depending on space available in my luggage, this has also turned into an extra pair of shoes (because while not nearly as visible, I also had wet shoes still the next day).

      Reply
      1. Cascadia

        OMG, My dad travels a lot for work and one trip he just forgot to bring pants. A 5 day work trip and the only pants he had were the ones he happened to be wearing on the plane. He didn’t realize until he got to the hotel, and then he had to do some last minute shopping before the conference started. Don’t forget pants!

        Reply
        1. Lavender Menace

          To that end, one of the things I do for work travel is scope out all the nearby convenience stores. I’m pretty good about packing these days – I travel often, so I actually have a travel toiletries bag with travel-sized stuff packed all the time – but I always forget something. So I try to do a maps search to see where the nearest drugstore, Target, clothing store, etc. is and I try to book my hotels in places where I can reach them by public transit or walking (or a short Lyft drive, if necessary).

          Reply
    4. Ginger

      Yes! Also, pack a carry on bag. I travel a lot, I never check a bag. If you do, that’s fine but bring a carry on with a set of work appropriate cloths and you basic necessities. You don’t want to land and have your bag lost with nothing to wear.

      For conferences, I recommend bringing layers. I find temperatures to either be freezing or too hot.

      Be prepared to say your name and what you do over and over. Maybe prep a little elevator speech for how you’ll answer questions about yourself. Prepare questions to ask other people, do some industry research so you’re up to date on everything going on. If there is an attendee list, see if there is anyone you especially want to connect with.

      Be prepared to come back to your home office and share what you learned/experienced.

      Have fun and good luck!

      Reply
      1. Le Sigh

        Yes, pack a carry on, and if you have anything you can’t afford to be without — documents, laptop, etc. — put that in your personal bag and/or carry-on. That way you have enough clothe and work materials to get by if a checked bag gets lost.

        Also, make sure your plane/travel clothes are presentable, esp. if you’re traveling with your colleagues. You don’t need to wear a suit or nice pants (unless you’re going straight to a meeting or something), but don’t wear PJ bottoms either. Wear something that if you were with other colleagues or ran into your boss, you’d at least feel presentable (so maybe comfy, presentable pants, a sweater or cardigan, or presentable shirt and causal jacket).

        Reply
      2. Quackeen

        Yes, in my old old old job, one of my colleagues checked every item of clothing he had in his luggage, on the way to a conference where he was a presenter. Of course, his bag was lost and he was stuck in a t-shirt and jeans. He was a rather frugal type, too, and didn’t want to purchase anything on the road, so t-shirt and jeans it was for a few days.

        Reply
      3. Delightful Daisy

        I travel about once a month for work and I have a c-pap so I always check a bag. It’s usually not that big a deal since you need to go through baggage to get to the shuttles/Uber & Lyft/taxi’s etc. If you are just bringing a carry-on, check to see what size plane that you are on and know what you’ll need to remove from the bag if you have to gate check something.

        Snacks are important, both for traveling and while at the conference.

        I would also pack a pillow if you can and if you like firmer pillows. I’ve found that almost all hotel pillows are too soft for me and I often end up with headaches or stiff necks. So I always make sure to pack a first aid bag of sorts with pain killers, band-aids, etc. I am an essential oil user so I pack those as well.

        Remember to bring business cards if you have them.

        Know the hours for conference registration and plan accordingly. Registration can take longer than expected on the first day.

        I carry a backpack instead of a different kind of bag as it is better for my back/shoulders/neck/

        Good luck and enjoy your first conference!

        Reply
        1. Delightful Daisy

          P.S. if you are checking a bag, purchase a TSA approved lock in case someone grabs your suitcase by mistake. (Learned this one the hard way when someone accidentally took my suitcase and didn’t want to return it until the next day.) Make sure your luggage has at least your cell phone number on it.

          Reply
    5. PhyllisB

      That reminds me of another suggestion. Lay out all clothes/accessories ahead of time and make sure you have everything you want to take. (If you’re more organized than me, you could even write a list.) This may seem like a no-brainer, but I flew to a wedding, and when I got ready to dress for the evening, realized I had forgotten the sweater that was supposed to go with my skirt. Luckily, I had brought things that would all go with each other, so I wore the sweater I had worn to the rehearsal dinner.
      Also on the clothes front: if you buy something new to wear on your trip, TRY IT ON!! I bought a new pair of slacks in my usual size to go with a jacket I was carrying on a work trip. Got there, got ready to dress, and couldn’t get those pants over my knees!! Luckily, I had a plan B, but it’s better to be prepared. That kind of thing can knock you mentally off your game.

      Reply
    6. bookends

      Seconding this! I’ve had luggage delayed before, so if you’re flying and checking a bag, definitely have a conference appropriate outfit in your carry-on.

      Reply
  10. Important Moi

    Surprised me:
    -In my industry, the work day doesn’t end you go to your hotel room the night.
    – Even friendly dinners are WAY TOO LONG.

    Advice:
    – Don’t get drunk if alcohol is allowed and you choose to partake.
    – Whatever the dress code, wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
    – You don’t know who is listening and who know who. No gossip and complaining about anything work related.

    Reply
    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      Ugh, yes. It is the rare conference trip where you have any downtime. For me, that’s a big part of why conferences are so exhausting. If you’re the type of person who gets drained by being “on” all the time, try to find 10 minutes to recharge (a short walk or a long bathroom trip), but know beforehand that you may not get too much downtime until bedtime.

      Reply
    2. Amber T

      Whatever you think your drink limit is before you start to get a little silly – drink that many drinks minus one (or two). I get super talkative and silly when I have 3+ drinks, which is perfectly fine with friends or family. But I wouldn’t want to make an impression on coworkers as that chick that giggles at everything and gets tongue tied super easily.

      Reply
      1. Ama

        And make sure you don’t drink (or just sip slowly) if you haven’t eaten in a while. When I’m running a meeting I sometimes don’t get much time to eat — if I then I have to go to a dinner/cocktail reception, I try to make sure I get some food in me before I get through a glass of wine.

        Reply
      2. Lavender Menace

        I was going to say the same think about drinks. I always drink less than I know is my tipsy limit. Sometimes when you’re in a new place and a new environment, the alcohol can hit you harder than it does when you’re in familiar spaces. (I was a drug and alcohol researcher in a past life – it’s true!) It’s more predictable to stay shy of your limit.

        Reply
    3. periwinkle

      AND… don’t discuss anything sensitive with your colleague while in a public space including planes, Ubers, restaurants, and seemingly empty conference rooms. By sensitive I mean proprietary information, confidential data, or even opinions phrased in “normal honest” language.

      If you’re going to criticize a speaker, use “business honest” phrases. “What a %£€&$ windbag, I thought he’d never shut up” becomes “I really wanted to learn more about ProductX, I wish the speaker had spent less time on anecdotes and more time on the features.”

      Seems silly, but while on business travel you ARE your organization.

      Reply
    4. Sins & Needles

      Related advice:

      At a work conference in Las Vegas, a large number of fellow conference goers went to a strip show together. Do not do this!

      And I agree, be really careful with mood-altering substances, such as alcohol.

      Reply
    5. ProductManagingMaggie

      This is great advice. I think the thing which surprised me most when I started traveling for work is that some people take it very, very casually (not showing up to all conference events, getting more-intoxicated than I would’ve expected at events, etc). Sometimes it can feel like there’s a peer pressure to let loose, especially if it’s a conference with events that feature free alcohol, and it was really jarring to me to experience that feeling of peer-pressure from mid-career professionals (vs 21-year-old college students).

      Work travel – especially conferences – live in a weird world between “extra-friendly-casual-time” and “definitely work time.” For me, the greatest things to remember are:

      1. One of the benefits of travel like this IS to get to build a more personal, social bond with your travel companions and people you meet at the conference. Be friendly, be personable, be relaxed enough to get to know folks on a personal level BUT –
      2. To “Important Moi”‘s comments, make sure you don’t forget you’re working – don’t gossip/complain and make sure you’re regulating your alcohol intake to what feels appropriate and comfortable for you.

      Then, to echo the “work doesn’t stop when you get back to the room” – make sure you understand the expectations about checking/responding to e-mails/requests while you’re away (I always ask the folks I know might have genuinely urgent concerns while I’m traveling to text my personal cell phone if they have to flag something urgent – that way I can sift through my e-mails once at night, but know that I wasn’t letting an urgent matter hang until I get back to the room at 10:30pm).

      Reply
      1. Jadelyn

        “make sure you understand the expectations about checking/responding to e-mails/requests while you’re away”

        Ooh, yes, this. Make sure your email has an auto-responder turned on that explains you’re out of town and gives an alternate person to contact for urgent issues. Record a voicemail greeting that says you’re out and when you’ll be back, and gives that same alternate person (and don’t forget to re-record your normal voicemail greeting when you get back! I once had a voicemail greeting that still said “I’ll be back March 26th” in like…August, because I forgot to change it back). Check with your boss on their expectations – do they expect you to skim email once a day? Check it on your phone between each session or event? Just let it pile up til you get back? Are there any work tasks they want to have you keep up on while you’re out?

        I don’t usually give out my personal cell # outside of my immediate team, but since my teammates have it, I just set my auto-responder to have people contact one of them for urgent issues, and if my teammate feels it’s urgent enough to warrant it they can text me and relay the message so I can get in touch with the person needing immediate help.

        Reply
    6. AdAgencyChick

      “Even friendly dinners are WAY TOO LONG.”

      OMGGGGGG you’re not joking. The last client dinner I had at a conference was FOUR F’ING HOURS. I wanted to die by the end.

      Reply
    7. SarahK

      The alcohol thing is definitely something to pay attention to. I would also add that it is easier to set a personal rule ahead of time than in the moment when you are with others who aren’t paying attention to amounts!

      It can be helpful to set a bed time too. I have a rule that no real business happens after midnight (particularly when drinking). Therefore, I make sure to be back in my hotel room by midnight … which usually works fine (except for the occasional dinner that lasts 5 hours and started at 8 or 9 pm… it happens).

      Reply
  11. Elizabeth Proctor

    The first time I traveled for work was also the first time I ever had my very own hotel room. It was lovely. Enjoy the trip!

    Also make sure to find out what the reimbursement policy is for meals if the conference also provides them. You may not get reimbursed if you decide to go out for lunch when you could have gotten it for free.

    Reply
    1. BenAdminGeek

      Oh man, this. I love having an entire hotel room just for me- I take everything out of my suitcase and take up one of the beds with all my luggage and prep materials and shoes and everything! Of course, I find myself trying to do it on family trips now, which doesn’t go over so well with the family.

      Reply
      1. Quackeen

        I do the exact same thing! That other bed makes for great storage…until you’re on vacation and someone’s expecting to be able to sleep there!

        Reply
  12. Elisabeth

    If you have a fridge in your room and a per diem, stock it with basic breakfast food/snacks (yogurt, hardboiled eggs, fruit). I find it’s essential to eat first thing in the morning, and it’s even better if I can do it quickly!

    Reply
    1. Christy

      Yes, this might not be true for your very first business trip, but by your third or so, you’ll just want to eat regular food! Try to eat as normally as possible. Your body will thank you.

      Reply
    2. LKW

      If it’s a conference they may be supplying all of the meals and the company may have an issue if the OP is using per diem and getting free meals. Just be sure you know you’re company policy.

      Reply
      1. Amtelope

        Yeah, this may not be reimbursable, but if what’s being provided is a Continental breakfast as part of officially scheduled meeting time, it’s often worth it for me to buy breakfast snacks or find a place where I can have a quick breakfast early in the morning even if it’s on my own dime. I don’t like eating sweets in the morning, there is often no high-protein option available, just pastries and fruit, and when I’m one of the meeting facilitators, I may not be able to sit down during official breakfast time.

        Also, coffee is usually provided for morning events, and frequently tea as well, but if you require soda or an espresso-based coffee drink to become human in the morning, take the time to grab that before you start the day.

        Reply
        1. Chinookwind

          My mother taught me the value of splurging on a simple room-service breakfast if you are not a morning person (which she isn’t) and can’t/don’t bring your own breakfast food. That way, you can get dressed at a more leisurely pace during/after you eat instead of having to look professional before you eat.

          Reply
        1. gmg22

          Yep. I was enthusing to a colleague yesterday who is attending our main industry conference next week, not about the agenda … but about the fact that someone had finally woken up and added steel-cut oatmeal to the continental breakfast menu. I feel like a complete slug after the sugar-and-carbs breakfast they usually serve.

          Reply
          1. Delightful Daisy

            Also be aware to plan if you have any dietary issues. I am gluten free but also have other food intolerances that are too numerous/difficult to explain so I always try to have something on me in case the modified food provided still doesn’t work for me.

            Reply
        2. Stephanie

          My friend does conference planning for her job (she works at a professional org) and says she always feels terrible ordering those breakfasts for attendees. “My budget sometimes can only afford low-quality danishes!”

          Reply
    3. AdAgencyChick

      YES. Restaurant breakfast food is so much heavier than what I normally eat, so I always keep cottage cheese around for mornings.

      Reply
    4. WomanOfMystery

      VEGETABLES! I once snuck off with half a platter of snacks because it was the first time I’d seen broccoli or carrots in 3 days.

      Reply
      1. Chinookwind

        As someone who has planned the catering for these events, it is surprising how popular raw fruit and veggies really are. I now recommend including a bowl a fruit and a platter of raw veggies at all larger meetings regardless of the crowd. Even the manliest of carnivores starts craving greens after a day of carbs.

        Reply
    5. Sally

      I always ask about getting a fridge in the room because I have food allergies/sensitivities that mean there’s a lot of food I can’t eat, and it’s annoying to only be able to have salad at every meal. A lot of times, it’s just a matter of the hotel wheeling in a fridge from another room and not a big deal. I can’t always get one, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

      Reply
    6. Ghost Town

      very much this. Pack and bring some hearty snacks/meal replacements, or schedule time to get to a grocery store at the beginning of your trip. Work travel, especially conferences, can be exhausting with tight meal breaks and limited options. And you don’t always want to pay out the nose for three grapes and a strawberry to hold you over to the next meal. Plus, some dietary regularity will help you feel better, overall.

      Reply
  13. Sharpshooter

    Norms can vary so much from company to company! If you can, ask someone you work with who has been there for a while. Needing help learning your company’s process for business travel is a totally normal question. I’ve worked places where we did all the booking ourselves and places where admins were the only ones authorized to book travel.

    One thing I learned the hard way was that my company wanted copies of my boarding passes to prove I actually took the trip. Southwest airlines doesn’t hand back your pass after you check in so I was out of luck! I learned to print two prior to boarding from then on.

    Also, find out if you get to keep your frequent flyer miles or if they go to some company account. I earned so many free flights…before the policy changed :(

    Reply
    1. Psyche

      Yeah, there is a ton of variability. Definitely check whether you make your own travel arrangements, hotel reservation or if the company does. Also if there is a per diem or if food is reimbursed.

      Reply
    2. JessicaTate

      Agreed. I imagine if you asked someone in your accounting department to walk you through the process of travel policy — all of the money and paperwork and documentation stuff — they’d probably be happy to do it. It saves them headaches when you do things the right way, and then you’d know in advance and be a super-star your first time out of the gate.

      Reply
  14. Anny Mouse

    Stay hydrated!

    Know what your company is paying for, what will be reimbursed, and what limits are in place. Don’t forget tipping!

    Have comfortable shoes.

    Keep a charging method on you for electronics, they die so much faster when you’re traveling for some reason. :-)

    Reply
        1. Marni

          I’ve never experienced an issue with taking my little charger on planes. I’m pretty sure I bought it in an airport gadget store.

          Reply
    1. TotallyNormal

      +1 to the tipping! Find out how your company tracks tipping, especially for non-receipt tips like the few dollars to the bellhop or housekeeping staff.

      Reply
  15. R

    Don’t over pack. Take stuff you can mix and match. So tops that can work with work pants for a business casual look but also dress down with jeans for evening events such as sponsored happy hours or dinners. Take business cards to distribute. They will usually provide notebooks and pens at conferences so you probably don’t need to take your own.

    Reply
    1. Scarlett

      Agreed! And I try to coordinate my clothing to EITHER go with black or brown shoes so that I limit the total number of shoes I need to pack. Remember to keep one set of business/professional clothing in your carry-on luggage in case something happens with a checked bag. I also didn’t realize the first times I was on business travel that I would want some casual clothing for the evening (for low-key dinners with colleagues). Depending on how your conference works, you may want to have some “fancy casual” clothing packed too.

      Reply
    2. Lavender Menace

      Not only does this help cut down on your packing, it also makes it really, really easy to get dressed. Sometimes all the time you have between the conference and dinner with your colleagues is like 15 minutes, and it’s nice to run up to your room real quick and just switch your dress pants out for jeans. (And if you wear makeup like me, it also means you don’t have to worry about your makeup not matching your evening outfit.)

      I will disagree about the conference notebooks and pens, though – most of the conferences I’ve been to don’t provide them, and most of the ones I’ve been provided with aren’t very good. I’m not trying to just be snobby – I mean pages would fall out of them and I’d lose half my notes. So I always bring my own.

      Reply
    3. SafetyFirst

      I find it is beneficial to pack light, which means wearing things more than once and mix and matching. One of the things that greatly simplifies business travel is not having too much luggage. If you can get it down to a carry-on, that is ideal, especially if you are junior or new, since it will give you maximum flexibility. However, be prepared to gate check even a carry-on on full flights or small planes.

      If more than 2 or 3 days, it’s probably fine to check a bag, but put one complete change of clothes in your carry on in case your checked luggage is lost. That will get you through the first day while the airline finds your bag.

      Reply
  16. CatCat

    Try to stay at a hotel where a good breakfast is available on site since it will save you a lot of hassle in the morning.

    Reply
    1. TechWorker

      +1 – if you’re out of the way and don’t know the area a hotel with a restaurant for dinner is even better. Even if you want to go explore sometimes, having the option of being lazy (especially if your trip is long) is best. (Someone who’s currently on a 16 day business trip, first hotel came recommended but everything (gym/bar/restaurant) was shut for renovation, this one claims it has a restaurant but really it’s just a weird (though free!) buffet in the early evening. Don’t make that mistake haha)

      Reply
      1. Sally

        Yes! They don’t usually tell you there are renovations going on unless you ask. And it’s not easy to remember to ask, but you could be better off if you do.

        Reply
  17. Frequent Flyer

    Bring a comfortable outfit to travel in and change at the airport. Also, no matter what city you’re in, conferences are always freezing and require a fair amount of standing/walking, so bring layers and comfortable shoes.

    Reply
    1. LKW

      Don’t travel in sweats and pajama like clothes though. Although your travel time is yours – depending on the nature of the conference and the services set up, you don’t want to be sitting on a shuttle bus in your pajamas next to the CEO of a big client or standing in the hotel lobby looking like you just got off of a 12 hour flight whilst all of the conference attendees are milling around.

      Jeans/leggings in a business casual outfit is the most casual I would go.

      Reply
      1. Name Required

        Second this. I know there was an article recently about casual leggings being okay to travel in, but I wouldn’t for a conference where you are likely to be traveling alongside potential new contacts. There are plenty of comfortable, smart clothes; it’s embarrassing to realize that the person you sat next to on the shuttle in your sweatshirt and messy bun is actually the keynote speaker.

        Reply
        1. LSC

          I fully agree. For work trips, I’d avoid wearing anything that looks like PJs or work-out clothes. Plenty of comfortable but nicer-looking options out there – I usually go with comfortable slacks, round-toed flats (which are also easy to take off at security screening), a not tight, but still reasonably fitted top, and a cardigan. This also helps in case your luggage is lost or delayed – between a nicer travel outfit and the extra in the carry-on, it can buy you some time in case you can’t immediately go shopping.

          Reply
    2. Student

      Oh, yes. Bring sweaters/jackets/etc. In my experience conference rooms are kept absolutely freezing, and I’ve had to buy a wrap in a hotel lobby to keep my teeth from chattering. It is always much colder than you expect.

      Reply
    3. LadyByTheLake

      Second the observation that conferences are always freezing. If you are female, a pashmina will save your bacon! Men usually rely on sportscoats for layering.

      Reply
  18. Nep

    Can’t speak to the going, but as for the getting back:

    Keep. All. Your. Receipts. Together. And do your reimbursement as soon as possible when you get back to work.

    Reply
    1. Amber T

      Yes, please don’t be that person who finds receipts from a year ago and submits them. Of course you’re entitled to your money, but your making your accountants workload a pain in the butt.

      Reply
      1. NewJobWendy

        Haha, THIS. I had an employee leave the company and submit 6 months of expenses for $55,000 as her “final expense report.” Since policy required a COMPLETE AUDIT of every employee’s final expense report before cutting a final reimbursement check, this was a nightmare for everyone involved.

        Reply
    2. TootsNYC

      Regard your expense account as “part of the trip.”
      Set a deadline for it of three days after you get back.

      I used to feel guilty about filing for expenses (it felt like I was taking advantage*), so I’d put it off. Then I got more experience as a manager and realized how important it was to have that information travel into the accounting system rapidly.

      *I didn’t have a job in which expenses were expected–I was taking interns out to lunch, etc., which felt like a favor the company was doing for me.

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        i.e., it’s not about you getting your money right away (though that’s important)

        It’s about getting the accounting information updated as soon as possible.

        Reply
  19. hermit crab

    If you are paid hourly and/or if you have to track your time for billing purposes, ask how to account for things like travel time, time spent at the reception/networking parts of the conference, etc. It’s way easier and less awkward to get clarity on that stuff the first time you encounter it, rather than finding out that for years you’re been violating a company travel policy that you had no idea even existed (not that I’ve, uh, ever been in that position…).

    Reply
    1. KR

      To piggy back on this, if you’re crossing time zones I recommend keeping a running timer on your phone for the day. I’ve found with flight and travel time in the airport and drive time to the airport and time zones I always get confused on how many hours I actually worked that day. Your travel time counts as work time generally minus your “normal” commute. Example, it takes an hour and a half to drive to the nearest airport and my normal commute to the office is 15 mins. So I start the timer 15 mins into my drive to the airport and turn it off once I get to my hotel, subtract a half hour for a lunch and I have my hours for the day.

      Reply
  20. Rezia

    Have a system for business cards. I usually wear a blazer with pockets, I keep my own cards in the left pocket and put cards I’ve received in the right.

    And bring a charging bank for your phone if you have one.

    Reply
    1. Aglaia761

      I have an app I use called CamCard. I purchased the paid version because it allows you to batch business cards. Basically it take a picture of the business card, parses it and saves it. If it parses incorrectly that’s ok, because it keeps a tiny copy of the image for you to look at again. I very rarely walk away with business cards anymore.

      I love it. When I’m at a conference I’ll create a contact list called (conference name + year) and add everyone’s contact info to it.

      Highly recommend it.

      Reply
    2. ArtsNerd

      Oh yes. Don’t. Forget. Your. Business. Cards.

      (Ok many people always do but you will be asked for them! A lot!)

      Similar to the receipt tip above, write a quick word or two about the context of the cards you receive. For me, more recent ones are “rental?” “Diaspora” and “older” and I immediate remember the faces and core content of those convos, despite having a million conversations over the course of the week.

      Reply
      1. higheredrefugee

        You can also stash your cards in the back of your nametag from the conference so you always have clean ones there, and stash your accepted ones elsewhere. My major conference also always has a wallet size schedule that most of us keep in the back of the nametag too. Check to see if others do this though, we do it in the legal field all the time so no one bats an eye.

        Also, I snag the laundry bag from the closet for my dirty clothes so I can quickly drop those in the laundry room when I return home. To keep myself amused during travel, I also download both ebooks and audiobooks to my tablet and phone before I leave. I also pack knitting, but again, I’m in the legal field, so no one bats an eye as I knit through sessions. I wouldnt do that this first trip.

        Reply
      2. Jadelyn

        Oh man thank you for reminding me. I’ve got a trip coming up and I ALWAYS forget to take mine, it’s so irritating!

        Reply
    3. Bee

      I wound up buying what is actually a cigarette case on Etsy for my business cards. It’s got two flaps, so my cards go on one side, other people’s on the other. It makes it SO easy to keep track of them, plus it’s so durable and lightweight that I can just carry it in my purse all the time. And everyone oohs & aahs when I pull it out! One of my best under-$20 purchases.

      Also seconding the suggestion to write down where you met the person & a bit of what you talked about on the back!

      Reply
  21. Ptarmigan

    Don’t be afraid to submit receipts. Meal at the airport? Submit it. Uber ride to the airport? Submit it. Obviously follow your own company’s policies, but in the beginning I was always shy (“Is $25 too much for dinner??”) and the truth is, at least at my company, nobody cares as long as you are within the limits they set.

    Reply
    1. BenAdminGeek

      Yes, on my first business trip ever I found a neighborhood store and bought cereal and milk because I didn’t want to “overcharge” the company for breakfast. Agree that the truth is -no one cares unless you’re being unreasonable.

      Reply
  22. Writerboy

    If you have kids and/or a significant other, make time to contact them. Their support on the home front is what makes it possible for you to travel for work.

    I also write notes to my wife (and my son when he was at home) and left them on their pillows, one for each night that I was away.

    These conferences can go from sunrise until late at night. If you have to, sneak up to your room before supper and call them then. After supper there will probably be speeches that you can’t just walk out of without being notices.

    Also, be prepared to feel a bit disoriented when you arrive back at home to your normal routine.

    Reply
    1. Christy

      Yes!!! Make time to call your partner. Even if it’s five minutes. Don’t be like me. (I learned eventually, and now I just make my call when my coworkers make their calls home.)

      Reply
    2. Rhymes with Mitochondria

      I’d completely forgotten that when my kids were little I would hide a note for each day around the house, and when I called home at bedtime I would give them clues to help them find them. They loved it!

      Reply
    3. metonomie

      My dad always sent postcards to my mom and me and my siblings from his conferences, and he’d do them Burma Shave style with a line of a (very bad) poem about his trip on each card. Now he sends them to all of us where we live (four different cities) and we have to text each other to figure out the whole poem.

      Reply
  23. Anonymooos

    Bring snacks (from work, if possible). :)
    Prepay for WiFi if you have a job that requires you to be “on” and internet connected
    Compression socks!!!
    Check the limits for what you can expense (my company has a cap on the cost of flight/meal and requires approval if those get exceeded)
    If you end up paying for meals for a group or your colleague, make sure to note that when it’s expensed (per the above)

    Reply
    1. Lavender Menace

      As for the Internet, many hotels will actually give you Internet free of charge if you are a member of their rewards club (and often the membership is free). I’m a member of Hilton HHonors and Marriott Rewards, neither of which cost anything, and means that I don’t have to pay the $14.95/day or whatever they charge for Internet. 95% of the time I’m staying in a Hilton- or Marriott-owned hotel when I travel.

      Reply
  24. Cordoba

    1) Read and understand your company’s travel policy fully.

    2) If your company expects you to pay for airfare/hotel/meals upfront and then apply for reimbursement make sure your credit card has a limit sufficient to cover all of these expenses with margin. If you’re using a debit card make sure you have enough cash in the account that you can front the trip and not run into a cash flow problem.

    3) For the most part, it’s OK to decline group dinners or other evening activities. In the absence of a scheduled event or a outlier company culture it’s usually not a big deal to do your own thing after work if you prefer.

    4) In my experience “Work hours” tend to get more flexible when traveling. The first few times I traveled for work doing field testing I didn’t fully realize that I could just leave the site for the day when I was done instead of hanging around until 5. Nowadays if my site work is done earlier I’m gone. I’d rather do emails/calls/analysis from my hotel, or even just do some site seeing.

    5) Don’t feel bad if you have a work trip that is so fun and easy that it doesn’t even seem like work; if you keep traveling you’re eventually catch a hellacious long-hour slog of a trip that will re-balance the scales. Probably sooner rather than later.

    Reply
    1. BenAdminGeek

      Yes, #5 is so true! A coworker and I had a lovely time at a client visit, did some site seeing with the client and just had a wonderful time. 3 weeks later I went to a client visit where the client didn’t show up for 2 hours, so we all just sat in a conference room with their lawyers making small talk. Super awkward and the whole trip was a mess.

      Reply
  25. merp

    I keep some filling snacks and things in the hotel room for breakfast or the inevitable nights that eating out again sounds unappealing and I just want to eat a sandwich in bed while watching HGTV.

    Bring a sweater or something warm everywhere. Conferences are freezing, in my experience.

    Also, if this is relevant to your area (nonprofits, universities, etc) bring your tax exempt form if you think of it. Not an emergency if you don’t, but it’s easier.

    Reply
    1. Detective Amy Santiago

      Bring a sweater or something warm everywhere. Conferences are freezing, in my experience.

      Layers are your friend. Big rooms can be drafty and chilly. Smaller rooms can get crowded and stuffy.

      Reply
  26. AvonLady Barksdale

    Make sure that, if you need them, you have snacks. You probably won’t be able to eat when you’re hungry or at your usual time. Schedules get wonky. I usually take some almonds with me from home and shove them in my work bag.

    At a conference, if there’s food, I take it. Also, a lot of conferences will allow you to bring food and/or beverages into the presentations/panels/what-have-yous, so don’t feel like you have to chug your coffee.

    Reply
  27. hanners

    My mom gave me a great tip about traveling for work (which can be fairly different from traveling for fun). She suggested that I bring a few things to make my hotel room “home” to ensure that I get a good night’s sleep before a long day of work. Now I bring some herbal tea that I like and I make sure to set out my toothbrush/toiletries on a face cloth and make sure the bed is made the way I like it right when I arrive in the room. It helps me feel at home and less stressed in a new environment.

    I also advise you to speak up if things aren’t great in your hotel. You’re there for work on the company’s dime, so it is worth requesting a quieter room or other things that will make your stay more productive. I would never complain about relatively minor things on my own personal trips, but when I’m traveling for work I want to do everything I can to stay productive.

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      make sure the bed is made the way I like it right when I arrive in the room.

      This is interesting! Right away when you walk in is probably when you’ll have the most time to deal with it. and it marks your territory right away. And at night, you can just go to bed.

      I don’t travel for work, really, but I may start doing this for vacation! I never like how the bed it made (not enough covers up at the top; tucked in WAY too tight at the bottom and sides)

      Reply
    2. Val

      This
      I always bring a sleeping pillow sheet with me. It smells like home. Plus sometimes the bed linens from hotels smell washing products really strongly. If you are sensitive to that kind of smell, it can ruin your night.

      Reply
      1. Elmer Litzinger, spy

        If you’re sensitive to scents, contact the hotel beforehand and let them know.

        As a hotel employee I suggest:
        -double check your reservation.
        – Double check who is paying.
        -Please don’t argue about things with the front desk staff like resort fees and gratuities added automatically like housekeeping that are in the contract your group signed. If your meeting coordinater is not passing that information along, that’s not the hotel’s fault.
        -Most, if not all, hotels can put room and taxes on a different folio than your food and drink upon request. Some can even separate out further than that.
        -Double-check what amenities the hotel has. If you’re at a remote location with no vending machines, you’re stuck.

        Double-checked the day before about transportation back to the airport. For example, in Tucson, book taxis the day before. We don’t have a lot and it can take 40 minutes if you’re not lucky at 4 AM.

        Reply
  28. (Former) HR Expat

    Check how your company expects you to pay for expenses. My company required that everything be done on a corporate card. When someone forgot theirs, they used a personal card and had a hell of a time getting reimbursed. I’ve also seen trouble getting reimbursed for cash payments when taxis wouldn’t take card payments.

    Reply
  29. JJ

    Take a notebook and have it with you. Also it can be really helpful to take photos of slides rather than trying to copy down what’s on them.

    Reply
    1. Not that Anne, the other Anne

      Whether this is allowed depends on the conference, so check the code of conduct/guidelines/whatever they call it. Some conferences specifically ban taking photos of the slides unless the presenter says it’s okay.

      Reply
      1. BookCocoon

        Also, sometimes (not frequently, but sometimes) all presentation materials are posted on the conference site afterwards so you don’t have to try to copy everything down.

        Reply
    2. Government Mule

      This really freaked me out when people did this at a conference in Europe. I had never seen this in the U.S.

      Reply
  30. coffee addict

    Like pretty much everyone has said before, keep your recipes. I use an old wallet to keep mine organized because I’m a lot less likely to lose that as opposed to an envelope. My company actually recommends an app to keep track of receipts, so I would look into that as well!

    Work trips can be really tiring, so I like to bring something to pamper myself during a little bit of down-time (like a sheet mask, a really comfy pair of socks, slippers, and PJs, and treat myself by buying a movie or something like that). I find that this really energizes me as well as gives me something to look forward to mid-trip.

    Finally, definitely over-pack. You don’t want to be caught in a situation where you need to run out and buy a new top, a pair of pants, or a jacket!

    Reply
    1. LilyP

      Yeah, with the company covering taxis and checked bag fees, why not bring it just in case! You can always pack lighter on future trips :)

      Reply
  31. Four lights

    For the conference: If there are smaller, multiple sessions going on at the same time, consider dividing these with your coworker, taking notes, and then comparing later.

    Travel: Download the airline’s app. You can often use it to check in and it will give you updates departure times, gate changes, etc.

    If you don’t fly often, review the TSA guidelines for checked baggage.

    Reply
    1. Chinookwind

      And if you are using a company supplied travel agency, download their travel app and record their contact information somewhere easy to find in your carry-on. Especially at this time of year, a storm on one side of the country can mess with airline schedules everywhere and having the travel agent deal with rebooking your flight and hotel is much easier than dealing with it yourself (and that is what they are paid for).

      If your flight/hotel was booked by an admin. assistant, have multiple ways to contact them in case there are issues. The only time I ever gave my home number to a colleague for after hours contact was when they were travelling because it was easier for me to rebook stuff in my home than it was for them at the airport.

      Reply
  32. Hermione

    Talk to someone at your org around the norms for travel & expenses. I had no idea it was normal to get a taxi to the airport rather than walk 20 minutes to the airport bus stop (total taxi ride is under 20 minutes so not too pricey and I don’t have a car). That kind of thing.

    Reply
  33. D

    Unless your company policy says otherwise, you don’t have to share a room with your coworker (and shouldn’t).

    May seem obvious, but for me, my only experience with travel and hotels were family vacations where there were 4 people in a room. The first time I realized I had the room to myself and therefore could set the thermostat to whatever temperature I wanted…. life-changing.

    Reply
    1. Delta Delta

      My kingdom for a hotel room that can actually maintain a consistent temperature. Somehow they go from meat locker to sauna no matter what I do to the thermostat.

      Reply
  34. Delta Delta

    Depending on which way you have to cross the country, be prepared for the time difference and use it to your advantage. If you’re going east to west, you’ll be up before the birds – I always use this time to do a little exploring (when possible), and that kind of gets me into a good mindset for the rest of the day. If you’re going west to east, you’ll be sleepy in the morning but probably up for socializing at the end of the day.

    Stay hydrated. Somehow conference centers are Sahara-dry. Take water, hand lotion, chapstick. Also take a sweater/shawl/wrap, etc., because if you’re there in the summer, there may be air conditioning and it may be set to “polar” wherever you are.

    Know the lay of the land in terms of sustenance. I’ve gone to certain conferences where the organizers were prohibited from providing any food, etc., because of how it was funded (I’m looking at you, federal grants). Maybe stash some quiet snacks in your bag in case you need them and there aren’t any around.

    Take an external phone charger. Death By Powerpoint = endless games of Candy Crush (or two dots or whatever your mindless game of choice is). You’ll want to keep your phone charged.

    Keep a file or take photos of (or both) your receipts so that when you get back you can do your expense request right away.

    Reply
  35. aoinoue

    I’ve had an account with TripIt for over 10 years and I love it – I just forward all of my reservations (flight, rental, car) plus any activities I’ve planned and it keeps all my itinerary consolidated with the relevant confirmation numbers (and loyalty numbers), plus it regularly gives me updates when flights are delayed, etc.

    Reply
  36. Sunshine

    Take clothing made from jersey / non wrinkle clothing.
    If you wear makeup, pack tinted moisturiser, powder and a multi use makeup stick.
    Take multiple chargers and if you can a portable power bank (you will use your phone a lot).
    Take a laptop / e-reader for entertainment in the evenings.
    Flat shoes, plus slippers for the evening, and foot cream (you’ll likely do a lot of walking).
    Check out websites for solo women travellers; they’ll flag up good places to eat and visit alone if you get any downtime.

    Reply
  37. AdAgencyChick

    If you’re in a client-facing role and your clients will also be at the conference, talk to your boss so there aren’t unspoken expectations you don’t know about until you’ve failed to meet them. In my field there are conferences that both agency employees and clients attend, and depending on your role at the agency, partying with the clients (BOY do some of them go nuts when they’re away from their home and family) may be even more expected than attending conference presentations! Also, if the clients are going out with the agency, the agency foots the bill, so if you’re the person who has to put out the credit card and fill out the expense report later, best to know that ahead of time.

    Don’t assume you’ll have time to sightsee or meet friends in the city you’re going to, unless you take time off before or after the conference. There are always dinners and other events outside of conference hours, and you may have to and/or want to go to those.

    Food in conference centers tends to be crappy, overpriced, and have long lines of people waiting to get it. If you have time to step out quickly for lunch, check Yelp and see what else is in the area. Unfortunately, in my experience a lot of people have started to figure this out, which means that the cute little restaurant near one conference that I have to go to every year, which used to be empty when I went there, has been packed the last couple of years I’ve gone. But still, there’s probably SOMETHING that doesn’t suck close by.

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      And remember that you can have food delivered–and probably groceries too, if you want cottage cheese for breakfast.

      Reply
    2. Lavender Menace

      I’ve actually generally decided not to try to sightsee at all when I am traveling for conferences. I almost never have time, and it’s usually far more exhausting to try to fit it in around all the conference activities plus client dinners or whatever else is going on. The only thing I do commit to is eating somewhere really nice and local at least once.

      Reply
  38. Tasha

    1. Pack light, but take more than one pair of shoes.
    2. Take a sweater/jacket for the conference room.
    3. I love to take or get yogurt/fruit/cheese/jerky/granola for breakfast in my room rather than deal with hotel dining room slowness, or hotel room service expense. Also instant oatmeal packets, with water heated in the room coffee pot. YMMV, of course. It’s less an expense issue, and more just having time to myself in the morning, and control of my own timetable.
    4. Take a pair of jeans/casual pants for travel or evening meals.
    5. Look for interesting casual food places near the hotel for evening meals. Try to have at least one meal on your own.
    6. When doing your expense report, don’t forget to include tips you left in cash (concierge, housekeeping, etc.).
    7. I find Uber to and from the hotel to be the most convenient, but again, YMMV and depends on the city.

    Reply
    1. 867-5309

      I love the tip of having one meal on your own. What’s the point of travel if you can’t do at least one local thing!

      Reply
  39. BRR

    One mistake I made my first conference was to not bring anything to change into at night. I brought a button up for each day of the conference thinking an outfit a day but didn’t consider that I might not want to be in business wear all day.

    Reply
    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      That’s a very good tip. On my most recent trip, I did a client meeting and then changed into jeans and a top. I would have hated to walk around and go to dinner (just me and a colleague) in my un-comfy business clothes. I also brought lounge-y pants for when I was hanging out in my room.

      Reply
      1. Collarbone High

        I keep a pair of cheap flip-flops in my suitcase so if I need to go grab some ice or a coffee during hangout time I don’t have to put on my formal shoes with my lounge-y pants.

        Reply
    2. 867-5309

      Another very good tip! I’ve been a little bummed to be in business attire when other people are in jeans or the opposite, dressed up. It’s definitely a good idea to understand how the tone of the evening events.

      Reply
  40. Mary Dempster

    This feels like too broad of a question to ask the readers, as it’s completely different at every workplace. Do you have a per diem, or is it just “acceptable” expenses, and what does that mean? Do you have your own card for all expenses, do you use a personal card and get reimbursed, or are things booked by an admin/manager ahead of time? Do people try to sit together on flights, or sit separately for space? Are you expected to buy wifi on the flight and work, or is it your time? Does the day end at 5pm or when you go to bed? Do you go in to work before a noon flight, or stay at home and go straight to the airport? Do you rent a car, or take Lyfts, or do whichever is cheaper? Do you use an accounting software like Abacus, or do you manually copy and send someone your receipts, and fill out a physical form?

    Yeah, way too many variables. Ask someone at YOUR company.

    Reply
    1. Mary Dempster

      And I am absolutely shocked by the amount of people giving advice on how to physically keep a receipt. Take a picture and upload it to the appropriate app for your workplace, or just save the images in your phone and email them to yourself when you return. It’s 2019!

      Reply
      1. 867-5309

        Believe it or not, I worked for a company that made us copy our physical receipts, in addition to scanning them into the system, so it’s not a bad idea to keep them if you aren’t sure of the company policy.

        Reply
        1. Mary Dempster

          But its a copy and a scan, so its the same as an image?

          I know there are some companies that want an original receipt, but I would think its in the 90%+ that dont need them. I’ve been an exec assistant for years and have never worked at one that required an original receipt, and most prefer you using the app.

          Reply
      2. AvonLady Barksdale

        See above. Some companies still require paper. Also, it’s not just about company policy or norms. There are a ton of things that my company wouldn’t think to tell me or wouldn’t have outlined in a policy, and a bunch of things I wouldn’t even think to ask. So… many think back to the first time you ever traveled for work and be kind to the person who asked the question, because very few of these things start out as second nature.

        Reply
        1. Mary Dempster

          I don’t understand your comment? I don’t believe I was being unkind to people asking questions, and I think that the comments are showing the sheer number of variables there are in work travel, and to me it feels like it would be significantly more valuable to ask someone within your organization how things work – expenses, meals, travel, hotels, dress code, and an open ended “anything you think I should know?” questions, because going through all these questions when they don’t apply to your company and your business travel feels fruitless.

          Reply
          1. AvonLady Barksdale

            Because I don’t think it IS fruitless, and I think calling the question “fruitless” is unkind. I absolutely agree that there are a ton of variables, but I also think the LW wrote in because she hasn’t considered all of those variables, and we can help her with that.

            Reply
            1. Mary Dempster

              No, the question wasn’t fruitless, just in reading these comments I realized “wow, there’s so many different types of business travel and so many company policies, I’d probably just ask people in your organization.”

              Reply
              1. feministbookworm

                but I think the issue is, *what* should OP ask the people in her organization? People aren’t necessarily good at remembering what’s surprising about traveling for their org, particularly if they’ve been there a while (kind of like organizational culture in general, you don’t realize something you assumed was universally understood is actually an unspoken rule in your org until someone inadvertently violates it). So I think the value in all these varied experiences from commenters is for OP to realize “oh, different orgs do things differently about receipts/reimbursements! I should make sure i’m clear on our policy before I go” and “I should ask somebody what the expectation is for being responsive to normal work email while I’m out of the office” etc… All the questions you list in your earlier post, which aren’t necessarily super obvious when you’re starting out.

                OP– ask your coworkers how long it takes for that process to work itself out and whether its possible to get an advance/expedite processing/use a corporate card to book travel. It sucks to be an entry-level or lower-paid employee and have to carry ~$1500+ in hotel/flight expenses on your personal credit card (if you even have one) if it takes the org over a month to process reimbursements. All the while, the people making reimbursement policy make several times your salary and/or have corporate cards.

                Reply
                1. Chinookwind

                  If you are a lower-paid employee, ask your boss about getting an advance. It won’t cover all the expenses but it should help.

                  If the hotel is prepaid by the company, you may still need to show a credit card as a security deposit. They may or may not put a hold on it. That is up to the hotel policy, so be kind to the poor front desk person who asks for it.

                  As well, if you are travelling with people higher in the food chain than you, a good rule of thumb about who pays is it is usually the highest ranking person, even if it is just for an after hours meal. You/They can claim meals for other people when they submit their reports.

                  But, if it is a client, you pay for them (and claim accordingly).

                2. Amber T

                  @Chinookwind agreed, and don’t be embarrassed by asking for either an advance or another accommodation. Half of our office travels pretty regularly, and most people put travel on their personal credit cards and get reimbursed. There’s only one corporate card that few people (none of the travelers) have access to – however, there are cases (especially with newer employees) that can’t/don’t want to put that large of expenses on their own card, so they get approved to put it on the company card.

      3. Lynca

        That doesn’t work for the system we use. Not everyone uses an app or is using photos for upload. I still have to scan/upload copies and generally I can’t do that until I’m back in the office. So it is still valid advice since a majority of places still exist that don’t give you digital receipts.

        Keeping whatever original you get until you get reimbursement is also just extra insurance that you’re not caught having to eat a reimbursable expense because the copy you submitted has something wrong with it. It’s not that much more work to throw them into a manila folder.

        Reply
        1. Mary Dempster

          I know not everyone is using an app – but I still don’t see how it makes sense to keep a physical copy if they don’t require you to have a physical, original copy. Again, it’t 2019 – take a photo, email it to yourself, save as a PDF when you’re at the office, and print and fax if you need to – but that just seems easier than holding on to 20+ pieces of paper, most of which are the size of a matchbox!

          Reply
          1. Mary Dempster

            And again, this is coming from years of EA experience, and how incredibly obnoxious it is to be handed a stack of 20 receipts, vs someone emailing me photos of said receipts.

            Reply
            1. WellRed

              So do you then need to download and print the receipts for tax purposes? Genuinely curious ahead of my next trip (and I always lose one dang receipt!).

              Reply
              1. Mary Dempster

                Tax purposes for your or the company? If they’re expenses you’re not being reimbursed for, then do whatever you’d normally do with receipts (again, for me – scan/photo and save to a file on my computer, then back up to an external hard drive). If it’s for the company, that’s generally not your ballpark I’d assume, so just do what they ask and send in expenses as they require!

                Reply
            2. ArtsNerd

              It’s a LOT less work on my end to just keep receipts in a little envelope that I keep with me vs manually taking photos of each little one and emailing them to myself. Different people have different styles and priorities *shrug*

              Reply
              1. Mary Dempster

                Fair point, and I will never understand that point of view! What if you loose the envelope? What if your bag gets stolen? What if one slips out? How does hitting one button on your phone to open the camera and another to take a photo more work than making sure you don’t lose them up to several weeks if its international travel after the purchase, getting them home, getting them to the office, taping them all down onto paper, copying it, then faxing and/or scanning?

                Reply
                1. Lynn Marie

                  So much easier to save the receipt and process them in batches at my leisure than constantly fiddling with a phone. Different strokes, my dear.

                2. Mary Dempster

                  Of course different strokes! Isn’t the nature of advice that you advise what works for you?

                3. Wow

                  Wow! You just won’t let anyone else have a different point of view!
                  My work requires the actual receipt. We also have instances of our work phones being wiped for various reasons, which means all the photos are lost, and no we are not connected to the cloud and for security reasons can not be.
                  So, keeping the original receipts is necessary for some. And yes, you don’t agree – got it.

      4. Laura

        My company doesn’t have software for travel receipts as it isn’t a frequent occurrence and specifies origanals. As an Internal Auditor, if someone was using photos for something other than a one off Starbucks receipt, I would have to look more closely at all the expenses to make sure they were legit.

        Reply
        1. Mary Dempster

          How is that different than a scanned copy though?

          If you require original copies, then fine. But if you just scan or fax them in, then I just don’t see why its worth keeping up with little pieces of paper.

          But then again, I haven’t even printed a boarding pass in 5+ years.

          Reply
          1. Silence Will Fall

            I understand that your experience is different, but it is certainly not universal. Some companies require the original receipts, as silly as it is.

            My last company required us to tape each original receipt to a form and annotate it in a specific way. Then we had to scan those forms and attach them to our electronic expense report. We also had to mail the original forms to accounting.

            It was a ridiculous amount of work for everyone, but it was the only way that would reimburse expenses.

            Reply
      5. Lady Kelvin

        I have to submit my original receipts (and boarding passes!) taped to a piece of paper, and so yeah, I keep every receipt. If I don’t have one and the cost is $75 I am SOL. For what it is worth, I work for a University with 1000s of employees, so its not just a “small business that’s how we do things” thing. So the advice about receipts is good.

        Reply
        1. Mary Dempster

          I was just surprised, I didn’t say it was bad advice – and if your company requires that, it’s pretty easy to find out quickly, and if they don’t, it saves you a lot of time!

          My comment was not an attack on those who have to keep their physical, original receipts! Goodness. My experience is that it’s not that common, that’s all.

          Reply
    2. Detective Amy Santiago

      This is an oddly hostile response.

      Yes, things vary wildly which most commenters have noted. The good thing about getting a wide range of opinions is that someone may bring up something that hadn’t even crossed your mind. And if you ask someone at your company who is a seasoned traveler, they may also forget some small thing that “seems obvious” but isn’t.

      Reply
      1. Mary Dempster

        I didn’t mean for it to be hostile, just giving more examples of questions and things that vary, in an effort to show that there are so many differences company to company that it’s best to ask people at your organization.

        Reply
  41. OtterB

    I am trying to think of a combination of my own experiences and those of the graduate students my organization funds to attend workshops, which may often be their first professional travel.
    1. Ditto whoever said to keep receipts. I recommend a manila or plastic envelope that you can just slip things into. Otherwise they end up in my wallet, my pockets, my laptop bag…
    2. Check your company policies about meals – are you paid per diem or reimbursed for actual expenses? Is alcohol (e.g. a glass of wine with dinner) reimbursable? Are there any constraints? (e.g. at my organization meals are paid, except that if your conference registration included a meal, you can’t file for a separate time for that meal if you skip it and eat elsewhere)
    3. Also policy check – I think most places you make your own travel arrangements but some still have you go through a corporate travel desk.
    4. Conference lodging: There will be information about special rates at the conference hotel. Unless your employer says so, don’t feel like you have to reserve the cheapest hotel. In my experience it’s worth being at the one closest to the conference area so you have a chance to rest between sessions.
    5. Have all your reservation information organized in one place. I guess most people do this electronically these days but I’m a dinosaur and am still happier carrying printed copies of hotel reservation, conference registration, etc.
    6. Airport transportation. Balance policy, cost, and convenience to decide whether to take a shuttle (do you need an advance reservation), a cab, or public transit from the airport to the hotel.
    7. If you arrive earlier than your room is ready or checkout time comes before your conference is finished, you will usually be able to check your luggage with the hotel bell desk.
    8. Plan on tips for bell hops (usually $1/bag) and housekeeping (usually $5/night)
    9. Some conferences have “first timer” sessions or special ribbons for your name badge or some such. Those are often worth while.

    Reply
    1. Collarbone High

      For tips – get a bunch of $1 and $5 bills from a bank or store before you leave, so you don’t get into a situation where you want to tip but don’t have cash on hand.

      I read somewhere that housekeepers prefer to have the tips labeled so it’s clear that it’s a tip and not just money you left lying around your room. I write ‘housekeeping’ on envelopes and keep a few in my suitcase for that purpose; if I’m really organized I’ll pre-fill them so I can just pull one out each morning.

      Reply
      1. Detective Amy Santiago

        I’ve always just tipped housekeeping at the end of my trip, not on a daily basis. Am I doing it wrong?

        Reply
        1. PhyllisB

          Amy, I would tip daily because you may not have the same housekeeper every day. And the one who cleans on Friday will be getting the tips you intended for Mon-Thurs. They might share, but I wouldn’t count on it. I do what Collarbone says and keep a bunch of one’s and five’s. About the envelopes; a lot of hotels now have envelopes for tips. Usually by the coffee maker. If they don’t and I don’t have any with me, I prop a $5.00 bill on the coffee maker, or on top of the basket where the shampoos and soaps are. Never had any confusion from Housekeeping that this was meant for them!! :-) Also, if you see your housekeeper, tell them thank you!! I know this seems like I’m straying into Mother territory, but hotel housekeeping is not easy, and everyone like to be appreciated. (Not that I do this for this reason, but it’s paid off in getting extra goodies, too!!)

          Reply
      2. OtterB

        I’ve read that too, to make it clear it’s a tip. There’s often a notepad and pen by the phone and I’ll write “Housekeeping, Thanks” on a sheet and leave it with $5.

        Reply
    2. gmg22

      Your comment about room rates reminded me of something I’ve noticed flagged by organizers of several conferences I’ve attended: that there are shady companies out there that will contact attendees claiming that they are officially in charge of reserving lodging for a given conference, and most of the time that is simply not true — and if you book with them you will be price-gouged. Some of the conferences I’ve gone to make their attendee lists password-protected to avoid stuff like this, but others don’t for various reasons (I think the main one we go to has to make everything public because of government transparency rules).

      Reply
    3. stupid European

      Did not know I have to tip the housekeeper. I only had one dollar notes for taxi, restaurants etc. That many times been in business trips in the USA…

      Anyway, tips were never reimbursed when I worked in Europe and were to be covered by fixed per diem that were usually higher for the USA.

      Reply
  42. Antilles

    You probably need receipts for everything and you’ll be collecting a ton of them, so figure out a good system to keep it organized – nothing is more irritating than having to frantically search because you can’t figure out where your receipt from Thursday dinner ended up.
    My personal strategy is to empty my wallet of receipts while packing at home. So I go into the trip with no receipts whatsoever and every single receipt I get goes immediately into the wallet. Then when I get back to the office, I immediately pull up our expense report forms and go through them. It makes it much less likely to miss something or forget an expense or lose a receipt when you know everything is in the same spot.
    I’ve also heard of other people who do a similar thing with an envelope in their suitcase or (if your expense reporting technology allows) immediately photograph every receipt. You can find a system that works for you; just make sure you’re not doing the ‘just toss receipts in a jacket pocket or maybe your suitcase or maybe your wallet or maybe…’ strategy that makes you hate yourself later.

    Reply
  43. Plain Jane

    It’s a good idea to try to save money if you can, but don’t be pound-foolish. Don’t feel like you have to take the 5 AM flight to save $100 or that you have to spend a lot of time finding the cheapest place to eat.

    Act like you would in a business meeting. Don’t spend a lot of time on your phone during presentations or monopolize Q & As

    Reply
    1. AdAgencyChick

      “Don’t feel like you have to take the 5 AM flight to save $100 or that you have to spend a lot of time finding the cheapest place to eat.”

      Unless you work for that crazy company where the OP got dinged for ordering extra guacamole from Chipotle. (To be fair, that was one rogue person, not the whole company. But that story will stick with me forever!)

      Reply
    2. Stephanie

      Yes, this. Although my boss one time did have us park in the off-site economy lot. We get off the freeway and he turns onto the road to go to offsite parking (instead of the terminal) and I’m thinking “Why is he trying to save MegaCorp $15?” I’ve definitely parked at the premium lot and he hasn’t said anything, though…

      If you’re using a software like Concur, it will automatically book you on the cheapest flight, however…

      Reply
      1. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway

        Sometimes Concur can be programmed for different policies though; my company’s is least cost “logical” airfare, so if the flights are within a certain amount of each other, you can pick the most sensible time or a nonstop over a multi-leg journey to save travel time. This can also be overridden if your boss has approval to do so. But it’s entirely up to the company how they set it up.

        Reply
        1. Dee

          Yeah, my company uses Concur and we’re still given a ton of leeway to choose flight times and even specific airlines.

          Reply
    3. funded by government

      My boss would have gone mad if I were paying $100 extra to get a more comfortable flight, unless justifiable by some definite contraint. We had to be prepared to show at least three offers to select the cheapest.

      Eating cheap was irrelevant for the bosses as we had fixed daily allowances and that was kind of my saving.

      Reply
  44. Pat

    At my old company we could get our per diem in advance which was a lifesaver. I cashed the check and then had a set amount to use for meals, etc. Get small bills so you can tip hotel housekeeping, bell hops, or others as needed. Keep track of these tips if you need to submit an expense report. I also make a single page word doc with a detailed schedule (flight number, hotel or car rental confirmation info, address of hotel to give to taxi drivers, etc) so you aren’t scrambling through several documents or emails to find details. The more technically inclined will want to keep this document digitally, but I prefer the comfort of paper. Take quick notes at the end of each day on who you met and followups you want to make. And, as others have said, pace yourself, bring snacks, and try to get outside of the conference center or hotel for quick walks around the block to get some fresh air! Enjoy!

    Reply
  45. MLB

    *Find out what you’re allowed to expense, and if there’s a max per day.
    *Find out your boss’s expectations and what you’re supposed to get out of this. In my experience, it’s not necessary to attend every single event and seminar. I personally hate networking, and in my line of work it’s not all that necessary, so I generally skip any after hours thing because making small talk with strangers is my least favorite activity, but it may be necessary based on your job
    *You don’t need to hang out with your colleague or others associated with the conference 24/7 (unless you want to). I need alone time, especially on a business trip, so allow a night or 2 to grab dinner alone and hang our in your room or some other equally relaxing location.
    *If you’re going to new city, try and make some time to check out the local attractions
    *Take comfortable shoes & clothing, a water bottle and any device chargers you need

    Reply
    1. ArtsNerd

      Talking to your boss about expectations is a great one.

      At an old job, I was diligent about attending sessions, but I gradually learned that they were a sort of secondary benefit and I was mostly there to form relationships and set up a lot of meetings. At my new job, my boss wants me to attend every session I possibly can (and we divide and conquer to get more sessions under our belt as an org.)

      Reply
  46. Wendy City

    Even if your company pays for the hotel room, you will probably be required to put a credit card on file for incidentals and the hotel will probably place a hold on the account for 50 or 100. There have been times where that was a non-issue for me… and times where I sheepishly had to alert our travel organizer that that wouldn’t be possible. The latter is more embarrassing, but do whatever you can to avoid being stuck at the front desk panicking because you don’t have a card that can handle the hold.

    Take a reusable water bottle with you! As others have mentioned, traveling for work can be super draining, and staying hydrated is key.

    Reply
  47. Seifer

    Know the expense report policy before you leave. What dollar amount do you have to hit before you’re required to provide a receipt? What can you charge and what can’t you charge? I’ve returned reports before because some of my coworkers just throw everything in there to see what gets approved. I’ve also approved full per diem rates in lieu of receipts.

    And then flying, how high of a level can you book (economy only, business class okay, etc)? Are you responsible for booking your flight or will the company do it? If you’re responsible and you can’t float the cost, can you borrow someone’s corporate card? Same thing with the hotel. My coworker was gracious enough to let me borrow his corporate card the first year.

    Also check what the climate is like in your destination. My first conference was in Las Vegas. I know that it’s a desert climate but it didn’t click in my mind that that would mean that it’s, you know, a desert climate. I pretty much bathed in lotion, wore my contacts all of twice, and got buzzed a lot faster because I didn’t realize that I needed to drink much more water.

    Oh, and have fun! Business travel is a whole different beast, but I managed to have fun by doing things like getting a whole dinner brought up to my hotel room from one of the restaurants in the hotel and eating it by myself and having dessert in the tub. And playing blackjack after hours.

    Reply
  48. the_scientist

    This may seem obvious but: review your company’s travel policy before you leave! Some orgs (especially anything in the public sector or grant-funded projects) have very strict reimbursement rules, so make sure you know these.
    *keep all your receipts, like everyone else has said
    *wear comfy shoes, because you’ll be on your feet A LOT. This is not the time for your cute heels.
    *in a lot of fields, everyone knows everyone, so be careful what you say and to who…..but also, these meetings can be GREAT networking opportunities!
    *consider bringing snacks/emergency rations……sometimes breakfast/snacks aren’t provided, or are limited, and it’s nice to be able to toss a granola bar in your purse/shove one in your face as you run out the door of your hotel room
    * bring a water bottle!

    Reply
    1. Chinookwind

      One strange but practical policy around is that many companies won’t allow a majority of employees to fly on the same flight. If there are only one or two of you going, it won’t be an issue but, if it is the entire office, you may have to ensure that you are all on staggered flights. This is so that one plane crash doesn’t cripple a company (which has happened).

      Reply
      1. the_scientist

        Yup. My org has a rule where only the most senior person can expense things like a cab. Which obviously makes sense; they are more senior, better compensated, better able to handle the out-of-pocket expense until they get reimbursed. But it is a weird quirk.

        Reply
  49. anna green

    When I travel for business it all kind of feels like one loooong day. So be prepared to be tired at the end.

    Stay hydrated! Stop at a convenient store/grocery store if you can when you arrive and buy some bottled water/gatorade etc. to keep at the hotel for night/morning.

    Keep receipts like everyone else said. Make sure you understand your company policy on expenses when traveling, especially on whether you should get the extra insurance on the rental car. I never know what to do about that.

    Reply
  50. 867-5309

    Here my tips – I hope they aren’t too redundant:

    – First, if you drink alcohol, watch how much you consume. It’s easy to be away from the office and feel insulated, especially as other people might be drinking heavily, to join them. I’ve unfortunately missed or felt ill the next day after imbibing too much.

    – Also, if you’re a woman who wears heels, bring “tradeshow shoes.” Comfy flats that you can stick into your bag.

    – Don’t be embarrassed to introduce yourself, even when two people are talking (unless it’s private, in a corner) or when joining strangers at the lunch table. I usually just introduce myself and say I’m trying to meet new people. I’ve yet to have someone rebuff the attempt.

    – Make a plan before you get there – what sessions do you want to attend, what dinners can you skip, etc. It will be far less overwhelming once you’re there if you’ve identified the “not miss” items.

    – Understand from your boss what the expectations are for being available and working. I’m pretty senior at this point in my career so it’s expected that I’ll be readily available on mobile. Also set expectations for reporting back – some organizations might want you to prepare a highlights presentation or your boss might want an email recap to see if the investment was worthwhile.

    – Lastly, have fun! I love to network and met some of my dearest colleagues at a conference early in my career – we’ve never worked at the same company but stay connected and frequently text each other about what’s happening in the industry and with mutual connections.

    Reply
    1. 867-5309

      Another thought – if you aren’t sure of the conference norms around dress, join the discussions on group LinkedIn or Facebook posts and ask. Someone will be happy to give you their thoughts.

      Reply
    2. AdAgencyChick

      “Also set expectations for reporting back – some organizations might want you to prepare a highlights presentation or your boss might want an email recap to see if the investment was worthwhile.”

      Yup! And if you have to do a highlights presentation, maybe stay in your last night at the conference, order room service, and do your slides then. It’s very likely you’ll be asked to give the presentation very soon after you get home, and doing the prep work on top of your regular work (especially if things have been piling up while you were out at the conference) can be…a lot.

      Reply
      1. Meera

        Yes, the re-entry to normal work and home life can be unexpectedly tiring. Work things might have been piling up; if you have a family or kids then home stuff might have been piling up; plus you might be tired from travel and being “on” for much longer in the day.

        If your spouse has been handling young kids then they need a break too – I’ve done both, and while conferences/work travel is tiring it’s not as tiring as dealing with young kids solo.

        If it’s possible, it’s great to get back late in the week, so you either have a weekend to get back up to speed and get everything in order again. It’s also good to do as many notes as you can while you’re there if time allows; and keep up on work email for any projects happening while you’re away.

        And give yourself some slack for the first day back after!

        Reply
  51. iceclown

    I travel maybe once or twice a year for work so I’m not a professional, but here are some things I picked up along the way:

    – Your flight is prepaid but the hotel reservation might not be. If you don’t have a credit card, ask about a travel advance to cover at least that much. That was a really unpleasant surprise the first time.
    – Get a copy of your company’s travel policy to see what their requirements are re: class of travel, cabs vs. rideshares, etc.
    – Check for a shuttle between the airport and your hotel before you leave. If there is one, it’ll be cheaper than a cab even if it’s a paid shuttle.
    – If you’re making appointments for after you land (like I do when I go to trade shows), get the name and number of a contact person who will be in the booth for every appointment. Don’t book any appointments for at least an hour after your plane is supposed to land. The wiggle time is for getting to the hotel to change and also to CYA in case your flight’s late.
    – If you have to wear dress shoes for the event, wear sneakers in the airport and put your dress shoes in your personal bag or carry-on so you can change when you get to where you’re going. (Not your checked bag, in case the airline loses it.)
    – Everyone who has recommended bringing snacks is 100000% correct.
    – If you use a CPAP at night, it needs distilled water. Buy some in the airport when you get to your destination and use it only for refilling the water tank. Then you won’t have to rely on the hotel to carry suitable water in the vending machine.
    – Stick to two drinks at professional events where alcohol is served (or whatever your personal limit is – if you wouldn’t feel comfortable driving, stop).
    – Get some of those cheap power bricks for when your phone is dying but you can’t get to an outlet. Charge them before you go and keep them in your bag always.
    – All your receipts go into an envelope or your wallet.
    – Make a paper copy of your schedule even if you’re planning on just using your phone. Otherwise you’ll be screwed if your phone dies or you drop it in the toilet or something.

    Reply
  52. kittymommy

    I work in government, so this may be a little more rigid than your company.
    – If you want reimbursement, keep receipts. My finance department requires actual hard copies, so an envelope is great for that.
    – Check into per diems and what the rules are. Depending on when the conference ends, or when the flight lands, some per diems may not be applicable. Example, if the conference ends on a Friday at 11am and my flight lands at 4pm, we don’t get a per diem for Friday dinner, even if the ride home from the airport takes a couple of hours.
    – Thoroughly know what you will need to submit any receipts. I once had to hunt down a schedule for a conference my boss attended that he didn’t keep in order to get expenses paid.

    Bring professional but comfortable clothing but know any special dress codes ahead of time. You don’t want to be hunting for cocktail attire at a local store for a dinner in two hours because you didn’t check the dress code ahead of time. (I know this by personal experience).

    Having an coctail with other attendees after dinner is one thing. Bar hopping until 3am is entirely different. I think there may be some letters about the latter in AAM archives.

    Personally, I love attending conferences although I know a lot who don’t. Go in with an open mind – you never know you might have a great time (and then we can sit at out very small table together)!

    Reply
  53. Love to travel

    See if your conference offers a newcomers’ reception, or can pair you with an experienced mentor, which can help you learn the ropes and meet people. Definitely seconding the comfy shoes too! If your employer accepts this, keep a log of any cash payments (gratuities, sodas from machine, etc.) by date and what it was for; it’s easy to forget to get reimbursed for these when you get back. A small spiral notebook is great for this and doesn’t take up space. Do your best to pack in a carry-on bag, or if you must check, make sure you have at least one spare outfit and anything conference-critical in your carry-on, just in case. And finally, bring plenty of business cards, and make notes on the backs of cards you collect, as it’s easy to forget the details. Please come back later and let us know how it goes!

    Reply
  54. ZSD

    Ask what hotel (or level of hotel) the office would prefer you use. I travel often for university work, and on a recent trip, I learned that others from my university were staying at hotels that cost about $100 more per night than the ones I picked out.

    Reply
    1. 867-5309

      I also try to stay at the conference hotel and if it’s above the normal corporate rate, try to get an exemption from my manager.

      Reply
      1. Detective Amy Santiago

        Staying at the conference hotel saves you expenses on travel (cabs, uber/lyft, rental car) so that is something to keep in mind. It may end up saving money for your company to pay more for your hotel if they can eliminate expenses elsewhere.

        Reply
      2. Becky

        I took my first business trip last fall. The conference I was going to was hosted at the Disneyland Hotel which was definitely not an option in my company’s travel booking software. I asked my manager about staying at the conference hotel and he said that was fine and he would approve the exception. The group rate for the conference actually brought it into the range that was offered for hotels in the area by the booking software (it was at the higher end of the range, but still within it). It was SO convenient to be able to run up to my room if I wanted to drop off some swag or packets and not have to lug them around until I got back to a different location.

        If you can stay at the hotel hosting the conference, do it.

        Reply
  55. periwinkle

    Oh yeah, clothing choices…

    Conference halls are often strongly air conditioned. Plan to wear layers that mix and match, and include cardigans or blazers.

    It’s better to wear comfortable shoes than cute ones. There’s a lot of walking in your future!

    My standard pack for a 3-day conference for a business casual event:

    Suitcase: 1 pair dark trousers; two bright shells or tank tops; two neutral cardigans or shrugs; nice but casual shoes; appropriate sleepwear and undergarments.

    Wear on the plane: dark trousers or jeans; lightweight top; pashmina or blanket scarf; ankle boots because I have PreCheck (slip-on shoes if you don’t).

    And bring a Tide To Go pen or wipes!

    Reply
    1. Shark Whisperer

      I second the layers comment! I had my first business trip this past fall. I ended up having to go to H&M on the second day to get some extra sweaters because the conference room was freezing.

      Reply
    2. tab

      I like to pack a couple of scarves too. They make the same outfit look different, and they hide any accidental spills…

      Reply
  56. Urdnot Bakara

    I travel a couple of times per year for work and here is my advice:
    – For travel arrangements, figure out if you need to be on-site at a specific time. Be aware of the check-in and check-out times for your hotel so you can plan accordingly and don’t have to hang around working in hotel common spaces if you don’t want to. Book nonstop flights if at all possible!
    – Seconding everyone above who recommended figuring out the financials beforehand. Are you paying for all your travel arrangements and then getting reimbursed? Do you have a budget for airfare, food, etc.? Are they giving you petty cash to pay for your on-site expenses, and if so, can you keep the change? Either way, keep your receipts. And figure out when you need to submit your expense report.
    – If you are non-exempt, figure out when you should clock in and out. For example, I’m allowed to clock in while I’m in-transit to a work event (in addition to on-site), but only in specific circumstances.
    – Also seconding the people above who said to dress warmly. Without fail, we always receive complaints about how cold the rooms are at our events. There’s only so much we can do about it.
    – If it’s a big conference and you’re not expected to be at certain sessions, figure out which sessions you want to go to and where they’re located ahead of time.
    – Get enough sleep while you’re there! This is my biggest struggle personally. Conferences often have early sessions and often require you to dress more professionally than you would at the office, so you may have to wake up earlier than you would at home. Plan accordingly!
    – Figure out if the sessions you are attending provide food. Does the first session of the day have breakfast, or do you need to grab some at your hotel beforehand? Is there free lunch somewhere, or will you have to leave the conference to get some?
    – Take business cards if you have them and keep them handy.

    Reply
  57. Tech-Anon

    * When you at the conference, you represent the company. Even when you are traveling. Do not do anything to embarrass the company.
    * Get the phone numbers of the people you are traveling with — important if you usually communicate with people in the office over IM or email. Phone numbers are better for traveling, especially if you need to get ahold of someone quickly.
    * Save all receipts, and understand what your budget is beforehand so you’re not surprised.
    * Wear comfortable shoes
    * Bring business cards — write details of where/how/why you met the person on the back of them so you don’t forget, because you will not hold it all in your head.
    * Make an effort to socialize — generally interpersonal connections are more valuable than listening to talks and being passive.

    Reply
  58. Kenneth

    Give yourself a buffer around the conference.

    I went to a conference a couple months back in Dallas. The conference was Tuesday through Thursday, but I drove down to Dallas from Kansas City on Sunday (about 8 hours) and drove back up on Friday, giving me the weekend before I went back to work. This gave me Monday (PTO day) to relax and take in the city ahead of the conference. My employer reimbursed me for the entire hotel stay and didn’t deduct the PTO day, but your mileage may vary.

    My colleague, on the other hand, was in the office on Monday and flew down to Dallas on Monday night. Then flew back to Kansas City on Thursday night after the conference was over. And was back in the office on Friday… It wasn’t lack of PTO days he did that. He had plenty of vacation time to take. He just… chose to not take any around the conference. I guess “relax and unwind” isn’t in his vernacular…

    Reply
    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      I don’t think that works for everyone. My employer wouldn’t cover a hotel stay beyond the business need, for example, nor could I get away with not taking a PTO day. Also, people have different ways of unwinding; sounds like your co-worker preferred to wind down at home. It’s great that you took that option for yourself, but I would amend it to say not so much that one HAS to take buffer days, but that one should consider the option, especially if it’s a nice city with stuff to do.

      Reply
    2. gmg22

      I’ve taken days off for vacation around conferences on the thinking that “hey, work paid for me to get all the way here, I should take advantage of that,” and our organization supports this as part of the bigger picture of work/life balance. They wouldn’t pay for extra hotel nights that aren’t directly adjacent to travel days, but otherwise it’s pretty flexible. I’ve done a couple of conferences in California (I’m in New England), and after one I stopped off in Colorado on my way home to see friends and the other I did a little trip up the CA coast by train to catch up with other friends there. If you’re doing this by tweaking a flight itinerary, how our finance dept handles it is you show them documentation of what the round-trip without the stop would have been, and then they reimburse you for that amount. (Unless of course that amount is actually MORE than the multi-city trip, which once in a weird while it can be.)

      Reply
      1. Kenneth

        That’s one good thing about driving to a destination, if your company reimburses for mileage. I didn’t log the day-to-day mileage of getting between the conference venue and where I stayed, since that would’ve amounted to only $10 per day additional reimbursement. Not a trivial amount for some, I’m aware, but not enough of an incentive for me to log every mile. I was more concerned about getting reimbursed for the mileage between my home residence and the hotel, along with the hotel, since that was the equivalent to reimbursing everything and meant I only had to submit just the hotel invoice. Now had I picked a conference more than a day’s drive away, I know my employer would’ve not only insisted I fly out, but likely would’ve booked the flight for me, and I wouldn’t have been able to travel with my wife.

        On the flight reimbursement, I’m surprised they wouldn’t just handle the non-reimburseable days by just averaging the cost, rather than you having to submit a separate quote. In my instance, the hotel invoice actually showed how much was being charged for specific days, so if they wanted to deduct from the reimbursement the day that wasn’t a conference day or travel day, the invoice clearly showed how much that would’ve been.

        Reply
  59. Katie the Fed

    1) When you get to your room, unpack and iron your clothes so they’re ready to go
    2) Go out for drinks/dinner with your colleagues if invited, but don’t get drunk
    3) Have a back-up waking plan, like a wake-up call in addition to your phone alarm. Jetlag is no joke.
    4) order room service at least once. It’s the best.

    Reply
    1. Sneaky Ninja for this one

      Ohh, we don’t reimburse for room service. It’s considered unnecessary. It’s cheaper to wander down to the hotel restaurant.

      Reply
        1. Chinookwind

          And room service is worth it if you are not a morning person. Sometimes it is better to feed the beast before getting dressed.

          Reply
  60. Sneaky Ninja for this one

    Expenses. Know who is supposed to pay for what. If we travel with our superiors, they are expected to foot the bill and expense it back if we are dining with them. No splitting the check 15 ways. They pay, they expense it. We don’t have limits other than “reasonable.” Also of note, we reimburse for breakfast/lunch/dinner, but not snacks. So if you hit the 7/11 for an afternoon snack, it’s on you. We also don’t reimburse for room service, it’s unnecessarily expensive.

    Our rental car contracts already include the gas, so don’t hit up the gas station before you return it. It’s already paid for. Our Accounting Gods will also come down off their high perch and smite you if you book short notice travel. It has to be booked more than 2 weeks out, unless it is an EMERGENCY. Also, if you book a hotel outside our preferred network and it’s more expensive than one inside our network, you have to pay the difference. Unless there is a GOOD REASON.

    In short, know your policies.

    Reply
  61. Jen

    Check with your colleague on how they travel. You can often arrive together, which is helpful.

    Check the program for the conference beforehand. Is there a banquet or awards dinner? You might want something nice to wear for that.

    One of the best parts of this is meeting people. You can schedule meals to meet people you’ve been emailing. I also chat while in the coffee line or lunch line (badges make it so you know they’re part of the conference).

    Stay in the conference hotel if you can. You’ll be closer to the events and it makes it easier to slip out if you need a quick break.

    Have a great time!

    Reply
  62. irene adler

    business cards: You’ll probably end up with a bundle of business cards. It can be difficult to recall who was who. So, find a way to jot down some words to trigger your memory of which card belongs to which person. NOTE: some folks get offended if you write anything on the card itself. So do that discretely.

    Also, for international travel: my boss suggests a pre-emptive hit of Pepto-Bismol prior to the first meal. And regularly throughout.

    Reply
  63. HarvestKaleSlaw

    Your company almost certainly has an expense policy and/or a travel policy. You can usually grab these from HR or accounting. These are deadly dry, but read them completely before you take your first trip. That’s what they are for!

    Reply
  64. AnotherAlison

    If you pack workout clothes and shoes, you will be busy and exhausted and won’t use them. If you don’t, you will have some downtime and wish you had.

    Reply
    1. Chinookwind

      Or you can compromise and bring a swimsuit (plus shoes to walk to the pool in). I love hotels with hot tubs to unwind in at the end of the day.

      Reply
  65. ArtK

    I agree with the recommendations to read the whole travel policy and to always keep receipts.

    Different organizations do things differently (d’oh); I’ve worked for some where I booked my own travel and others where it had to be done through the company agent. Review any travel plans that someone else has made to make sure that they’re doable. I’ve had 45 minute layovers that required sprinting across an airport (see below about checked baggage in those situations.)

    Make sure you know how you’re going to get around at your destination. Taxi, Lyft, rental car, bus, subway? If you’re driving yourself, research the routes you’ll need to use.

    If you check bags, make sure that you have a toothbrush and change of clothing in your carry-on. It took my luggage being “lost” twice before I learned that particular lesson. It’s extremely important if you have a plane change during the trip. That’s where those short layovers can really make for trouble.

    Find out if your boss has some specific sessions that they want you to attend. Or a breakfast meeting. Or client/colleague dinner.

    Reply
  66. LKW

    If you are flying to the conference – evening flights and first flights in the morning are typically filled with commuters and not families/vacationers. These flights are efficient and quiet. Mid-day and weekend days are family traveling days. There will be babies and it takes so much longer to complete boarding.

    Reply
  67. MK

    Make sure you understand what the weather will be like where you are going and pack accordingly. If you are booking accommodation yourself, being near the venue is more important than almost anything else. If you are paying for expenses and then getting reimbursed, keep in mind that it might take months. Play it by ear when it comes to meals, sometimes conferences ply you with food (at my first one, I realised ERA’s definition of coffee break was basically a lunch buffet) and others you can barely find coffee.

    Reply
  68. Freed Lab Rat

    My favorite part of conferences is meeting people! I’m not crazy about ‘elevator pitches’ per se, but I do think spending some time reflecting on how you want to describe what you do and what you want to do in the future would be beneficial, also having some business cards and being ready to use them as appropriate for your field may be a good idea.

    I also like to have a plan/goals for who I want to meet and what I want to ask people so that I can make sure to use my networking as strategically as possible. In this same vein I also usually have one or two default questions handy in case I run out of small talk, I usually end up really enjoying hearing a bunch of opinions on the same topic (like a recent article in my field) and people are usually more impressed than just “so where are you from”

    Reply
  69. CommanderBanana

    I find it easier to take pictures of my receipts and use those for reimbursement (esp if you submit through an online reimbursement portal and are attaching JPGs or PDFs), since a lot of receipt tapes start fading immediately.

    Bring a business outfit (or wear something on the plane that can double) if you are checking in case the airline loses your luggage. You don’t want to roll off the plane in sweats and find out the airline lost your luggage and you have to go straight to a meeting. I always travel with or in clothes that could go into a business meeting.

    LAYERS, especially if you’re a woman. Meeting rooms are usually freezing cold. As in, you may need a blazer and sweater even in the summer. It sucks.

    I always make myself a little program binder with my own agenda and all the related stuff organized by when I’ll need it. I’ve been traveling for work for 15 years and still do this.

    Reply
    1. BelleMorte

      If your receipt tape fades, get a hair dryer and run it over the receipt a few times. Many receipts are heat printed so when you run a hairdryer over them they re-activate for lack of better word.

      Reply
  70. BTL

    It’s worth thinking through your packing in advance – how many days of everything you’ll need, with a bit to spare (and clothes for any evening events, if that’s the kind of things you’ll do – and ensure that everything is cleaned and ironed beforehand. Also, check your luggage, it’s astonishing how much space business clothes plus something casual and/or for they gym take up – you might need to grab a bigger suitcase.

    On clothes, it may seem obvious, but always check the weather – it’s the worst thing to land somewhere and have the wrong kind of clothes.

    Receipts are always a pain – my personal system is to force myself to go through everything at the end of the day and log it in a spreadsheet (our expenses are low-tech!) I’ve found this much quicker than my colleague’s model, which is to try and do it all at home.

    Finally, I’d say try and spend some time exploring if you can – you can feel pressured to be always on, as a few people have noted, at a conference or business trip, but it’s always nice to get the lay of the land somewhere you haven’t been before.

    Reply
  71. CRM

    1) Be extremely diligent about tracking your purchases and hanging on to your receipts. This is really the most important thing. Also if you don’t have a company credit card, now is the time to get one.

    2) Look up your company’s per-diem policy. The first time I traveled for work, I spent too much money out of my own pocket because I didn’t realize that the per-diem covered everything (except for alcohol), including snacks and water purchased at the airport.

    3) Get ahead of your work before you go, and don’t expect to get much done while you are there. You’ll want to be completely present at the conference, and not preoccupied by what you left behind at the office.

    4) If you have friends/family in the area that you want to visit, schedule time with them outside of the days that the conference is happening. Your evenings will likely be taken up by conference events, networking, and rest.

    5) Have fun!

    Reply
  72. Sophie before she was cool

    If you have a work laptop, take it to the conference with you the first day. If you need it, you’ll have it. If you don’t need it, you’ve learned that and can leave it in the hotel safe (if you’re comfortable with that). It’s better not to be the person who didn’t realize she was supposed to bring her laptop to the meeting room.

    Also, try not to leave the charger for your laptop in the hotel room when you check out. Not that I’ve ever done that.

    Reply
    1. AnotherAlison

      Or your wireless mouse. That’s the only thing I’ve ever left behind.

      I had a former boss who seemed to leave things behind regularly, including an iPad.

      Reply
  73. ArtK

    Hit “enter” and thought of some more.

    Along with being careful about alcohol, be aware if there are other restrictions. When I worked for Big Blue, we had a regular conference in Vegas. Folks who ended up in the casino wearing anything that identified the company would get sent home and possibly fired.

    If they have a mass conference lunch, don’t always sit with just your colleagues. Seek out tables with other folks and sit with them. Introduce yourself and talk about what they do. It’s a great opportunity to meet people.

    Reply
    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      I get that policy, but man, that’s mean. The irony of Vegas business! Hotels rooms are plentiful, conference spaces are large and flexible, lots of options in the resorts. But don’t play a couple of slots while you’re waiting for your co-workers to show up for dinner.

      Another argument for packing extra clothes. And for remembering to take off your lanyard.

      Reply
  74. Stella70

    You’ll think this is a joke, but….a small jar of peanut butter and a spoon in your luggage. I got this tip from a very well-traveled boss. A “hit” of protein if you get hungry overnight, or a spoon or two when you are getting ready in the morning really helps keep hunger at bay. You never know if breakfast will be delayed or if you will have too many interruptions to even eat it.

    Reply
    1. kittymommy

      LOL, I actually take a little baggie in my luggage on every trip (business and personal) with sugar as I never have enough sugar packets in my hotel room for the in-room coffee pot. I also take a set of utensils that breakdown into interchangeable pieces. It consists of a fork, spoon, knife, and chopsticks. I think I got it at Old Navy. It is fantastic!

      Reply
  75. Escapee from Corporate Management

    On checking bags:
    1. Don’t check if you don’t need to. Saves time, saves money, reduces risk of lost luggage.
    2. If you do need to check, have a change of clothing in your carry-on. Often, lost bags take a day to find. I know too many people who, due to lost luggage, have either (a) shown up at meetings in the casual clothing they wore on the plane, or (b) made a very expensive rushed purchase of appropriate clothing after landing.
    3. Never, never, never check your work materials. If they are small enough, carry them on. If not, ship them in advance from your office.

    Reply
  76. LadeeDa

    How exciting for you! It is great to get to go to your first conference, and know that your company believes in developing you.
    One thing I always do when going to a conference is I pick a topic that we aren’t doing/want to do better at, etc and I make sure to focus my attendance on that topic. There are a few reasons for this- 1, conferences can be overwhelming and you really want to attend everything- but you can’t. 2. It is hard to gain enough knowledge from one session on one topic, 3. it allows you to meet and network with people who have either already implemented it or people who want to implement it, and 4. you will learn more resources for your own research on how to do whatever it is.
    Once I return from the conference I put together a short session on what I learned- this is to show your leaders you did really gain knowledge from the experience, and it allows you to share the knowledge with those who didn’t get to go- giving your company a bigger bang for their buck, and finally, it might even help put you in the position to lead a project.

    So at the conference take lots of notes, talk to vendors who offer suport/products whatever about the topic you are focusing on.

    And my final advice is- if the conference organizes dinners or evening events go to at least a couple of them. It is fun to not have to worry about where to go or where to have dinner.

    Reply
  77. cactus lady

    This one might be obvious, but don’t drink too much! At my first conference, I was young and the alcohol floweth freely. I didn’t do anything too bad (besides get a little drunk in front of my colleagues, who were also drinking heavily), but some other folks there did, and those stories stuck around for a while. What happens at the conference doesn’t stay at the conference, it gets around your industry!

    Reply
  78. MtnLaurel

    For flying: pack an extra pair of undies in your carryon, just in case. I always take everything I have to have for the night (contact solutions, medications, etc.) in the carryon.
    If you can, arrive a day ahead of time to allow for flight delays and let your body adjust to the new time zone a bit. You won’t completely, of course, but it can help.
    Join airline and hotel rewards programs, even if you don’t travel often. That helps if there are any problems.
    Stay as close to the conference area as possible, in the hotel if possible.

    Reply
  79. SnoBunny036

    Make sure to understand your company’s rules on taxi cabs. I don’t drive regularly, so I prefer to use cabs to get myself to and from the airport, or around town when need be for work travel. But make sure your company would allow that, or if they would prefer you use public transportation or an airport shuttle. If they do allow cabs, make sure to know if your company has a preferred cab company both at your home location and your conference location. I know my current workplace doesn’t have a specific preferred company, but prefers us to use Uber over other ride hail apps if we go that route.

    Also, make sure to scope out coffee places close to the hotel. Personally, I find it difficult and overwhelming to be “on” before I’ve had my coffee. Most people attending the conference will likely be at whatever coffee place is closest to the hotel. I’ve always found it worthwhile to walk a little bit further to have some peace in the morning :)

    Reply
  80. MizzDobalina

    Bring cash, and make sure you tip everyone! In fact, just have cash on you, even a little bit, at all times. $1 per bellhop trip, $5 per night housekeeping, 20% to your servers, and at least $1 per drink to your bartender. When in doubt, tip!

    Reply
      1. Seifer

        Yeah, the only time I do $1 to bartenders per drink is during an open bar. If you’re sitting at the bar rail, they are your server and you should tip as such.

        Reply
        1. Mary Dempster

          Yes, I should say I agree – at an open bar, $1/drink is fine, but if you’re at a restaurant bar, then nope, 20%!

          Reply
      2. Former Bartender

        Former bartender here-

        $1 per drink is fine if it’s a simple wine or beer pour. For cocktails, especially ones that have more than two ingredients and take time and skill to make, then yes please tip 20%.

        Reply
  81. Christy

    Okay I have a lot of advice.

    Flying: Don’t kill yourself to get to the airport too early, but don’t get there late. If you have to check a bag, get there earlier than if you’re just doing carry-on. Try not to sit next to your coworker on the flight—flights are sacred time to yourself, and you want to be able to zone out and watch dumb tv without feeling like you need to interact. (Related: if you’re flying Southwest, never sit next to an unaccompanied minor. They don’t understand socia cues (like having earbuds in) and they may need more attention from you than you want to give.) Download Netflix shows to your phone/iPad. I like to bring a craft—cross stitch or knitting.

    Hotel: I bring my pillow from home when I travel because I like a foam pillow and the hotels I’ve stayed at don’t have them. I unpack right away. I also usually pack my chrome cast so I can watch Netflix on the big hotel tv. You probably won’t have time for that during a conference but it’s a good option.

    Packing: make sure you bring casual clothes for after work and pajamas. I also always bring a workout outfit and sneakers because exercise keeps me human even when I barely have time for it. I usually only take one pair of comfy work shoes. If possible, try to keep all your clothes in one color family. I’ll only wear stuff that goes with black. You are more able to overpack on work trips but don’t do it! There are stores in every city. Do bring a light outer layer with you to the conference every day. I will pack my duck boots if crazy rain is predicted. Definitely bring an external cell phone battery. Don’t bring a personal laptop or a work laptop if you can get away with it. Consider shipping your conference materials home instead of putting them in your luggage.

    Food: try not to change up your diet too much. Try to eat relatively healthy, too. Travel is stressful on your body. If your room doesn’t come with a fridge, you can request one for $5 a night usually. It’s worth it even if it’s not reimbursable.

    Schedule: you will likely have much longer days. Try to find a good balance of spending time with people/networking and having enough time to yourself.

    Reply
    1. Christy

      Make sure you bring your prescription meds in your carry on, and bring an extra day’s worth in case you get stranded. Also have some ibuprofen, Dramamine, pepto bismol just in case. I also bring along my Xanax, which is a sometimes drug for me, just in case.

      I definitely bring my shampoo and conditioner and soap from home. I also bring laundry soap to do sink wash of necessary. (Soak brand—no rinsing or agitating!)

      Bring a reusable water bottle and drink from it often.

      Reply
  82. CrazyJ

    Bring your own entertainment for the evenings – books or tablet with favorite TV shows or movies. You can’t count on the hotel to have a mix of TV channels that will be suitable. Pre-download things because you never know if the hotel wifi will be reliable.

    Reply
  83. NYC Redhead

    Make sure you have two phone numbers saved in your phone:
    – Tech Support, if you’ll be using company equipment
    – Travel Services, if you use one. Ours will rebook by phone if a flight is cancelled or significantly delayed

    Reply
  84. LCS

    If you’re a coffee or tea drinker, bring your own large insulated mug. Conference center coffee cups tend to be super tiny and it’s awkward to get up for a refill in the middle of a longer training session or presentation.

    Bring a book. I need some downtime at night and don’t always want to engage with others but get claustrophobic in a hotel room for too long by myself. Hotel bar + book + glass of wine is a great way to unwind at the end of a long day and still feel a little bit social without having to participate in any actual interactions or feel like I have to ward off advances from those looking for more than just a professional connection (especially speaking as a younger-ish woman in an almost totally male dominated field).

    Reply
  85. insert pun here

    This may or may not appeal, depending on your personality, but: consider staying at a hotel that’s not the conference hotel. This allows you to “go home” at the end of the day. (But, depending on your schedule, might be more of a hassle.)
    Everyone who is saying “keep snacks in your hotel room” is entirely correct. You should also throw some disposable silverwear into your suitcase. I also usually keep a can opener in there.
    When you get a receipt, write on it what the expense was and who you were with (if your company needs this information). You will thank yourself for this later.

    Reply
    1. LKW

      That’s very dependent on the conference though. Often the package includes hotel room, so be be sure you’re not booking a second room if you book a separate hotel!

      Reply
    2. OtterB

      “Who you were with” is a good point, since you said a coworker was also going. Another thing to check policy on, possibly. My current employer is fine with one of us picking up the tab and expensing it if several employees eat together (especially nice because a few manager-level coworkers have company credit cards and the rest of us don’t), but at a previous place I worked we had to get separate checks and each pay/expense our own meal.

      Reply
    3. SafetyFirst

      The flip side of this is that if you are staying in the same hotel as the conference or close enough to walk, you can much more easily duck out of an unimportant session for a nap, stop by your room for more cards or just to take a break, etc.

      Reply
  86. Foxy Hedgehog

    Okay, I travel every week. When I first started doing this, the most inconvenient thing by far was dealing with rental cars. Be prepared for a long wait in line if you don’t have any “preferred” programs–and I’m guessing you don’t. For some reason, it takes a customer service representative more keystrokes to rent you a car than to write the next great novel. If you’re taking a cab/rideshare/hotel van, obviously, this won’t be a problem.

    Be aware of airport screening procedures. It seems like inexperienced travelers are just expected to know things about how it’s done, at least here in the US. Ask a more seasoned traveler that you know about what to do. You might be surprised when you find out that you have to take your iPad out of your bag when going through security, or something like that.

    Do you have a layover? If so, ask a seasoned traveler about that airport. If you’re flying 2 different airlines, be prepared for the fact that (depending on the airport) you might have a very long trip between gates, or you might even have to go through security a second time!

    Everything is going to take longer than you think, the first time through. Leave extra time so you aren’t scrambling. Join every single free “frequent traveler” program–airline, rental car, hotel–that you can. Those points do add up, and there’s no reason not to take them. You get special privileges just for belonging, even if you’re not a frequent traveler yourself. Almost any business will let you keep the points for yourself, even if you accumulate them on business travel.

    Use your phone to photograph your receipts. Know your travel policy. Don’t be shy about requesting reimbursement for any expense that you incur.

    Reply
  87. AnotherSarah

    Snacks! Make sure you carry something around that has some protein. Conference food is often really sugary/alcoholic, and I know for me that I really crash hard.

    On a similar note, if you’re going to be at early-morning sessions, I find it’s useful to get room service breakfast so that I won’t be ravenous all day. It takes me a while to get going in the morning, and if I can afford it (this might be something your org won’t reimburse for!), I eat breakfast in the room as I gear up for the day.

    Reply
  88. Mary Dempster

    Oh, also sign up for all frequent flyer/loyalty programs for everything you’re doing. For that hotel chain. For that rental car company. For that airline. Most of them will have some benefit for signing up right away (like rental cars) but even if they don’t, it’s amazing to me how many people I book travel for who have don’t have these. They fly one airline every time, but haven’t bothered to sign up? It blows my mind – even if they don’t travel a lot, there’s a good chance most of the people I book for would have at least one free flight by now.

    Reply
  89. spek

    Some random tips:
    1. Stay hydrated. Planes, conference halls and hotels means a lot of dry recycled air. Drink lots of water and take care of your skin. Nasal spray/saline, eye drops and chapstick are handy.
    2. If the company pays for a checked bag – take advantage. Much nicer to stroll around the airport and board a plane without a huge carry-on.
    3. Leave a few bucks for the hotel cleaning staff your first night, and a buck or two every night. Not only is it goo karma for people who work very hard, your level of service will improve greatly.
    4. It’s impossible to drink too little at a work function or working dinner. Avoid alcohol until you get some seasoning. Don’t even drink alone at the hotel bar – you never know who might turn up.

    Reply
  90. Student

    I’ve found grocery delivery a godsend for longer trips when I have a fridge in my room and I get a per-diem that doesn’t require receipts. I can eat what I actually want for breakfast and lunch, and then maybe have a nicer than usual dinner.

    Reply
  91. Amtelope

    Definitely wear comfortable shoes. Even if your daytime shoes are reasonably comfortable, consider bringing super-comfy shoes for wearing after the events you have to dress up for have ended.

    If you are checking bags, pack something that you could conceivably wear to your meeting/conference in your carry-on bag. If you have a connecting flight in the evening and are checking bags, consider putting something you could sleep in and at least a change of underwear/shirt in your carry-on bag — if you get stranded somewhere for the night as a result of a missed connection, your checked luggage will usually go on without you.

    And if you are a person who could conceivably need tampons/maxipads, bring a generous supply with you, especially if you will be stranded in a conference hotel with no transportation; most hotels have a tiny convenience store for emergency needs, but they tend to sell terrible products at ridiculous prices.

    Reply
  92. CouldntPickAUsername

    This is the advice I also give for going on vacation. Before you leave clean your room and make your bed. You’re going to be tired and exhausted when you get back. Knowing you can just go straight to bed and not have to worry about making it or stepping on something is just so much gold.

    Reply
  93. Ann Furthermore

    Find out if your company uses a third party system for expense reporting, like Concur. I’ve also worked with Nexonia and Expensify. Any decent expense reporting tool will have an app you can download, and then you can capture images of your receipts and import them to attach to your expense report. Do this as you go along, if you have time. It’s so much easier than having to deal with a big pile of receipts after your trip is over.

    Find out what airline uses the airport in your city (or the city closest to you with a major airport) as a hub, and then sign up for their frequent flyer program. Then always fly that airline, or one of the partner airlines in the network. The miles add up, and you can use them for vacations. Also sign up for the airline’s credit card, and you can accumulate miles that way too.

    My go-to airline is United, and I always fly with them. I’ve got premiere status, so I don’t have to pay to check a bag, and I can board early and get other benefits too. I also have a Chase United Visa, which I use for just about everything. Plus if you don’t have premiere status but book with your Chase Visa, the bag check fee is waived too. My husband and I went to Australia and New Zealand on frequent flyer miles for our honeymoon years ago, and we were able to use miles more recently for the entire family for vacations to Hawaii and Orlando.

    Do the same thing with hotels. Sign up for the rewards program with Marriott, Hilton, Sheraton — whatever one you like best, and then always try to stay in one of their hotels. The points there add up too. And the same goes for rental cars, although anymore, I prefer to just use Uber or Lyft to get around and skip the hassle of having to pick up and drop off a rental car.

    Have fun!

    Reply
  94. KitKat100000

    1. It’s good you’re traveling with another person, so you can follow their lead.
    2. At my job, we don’t have a per diem. We are expected to use reasonable discretion and then we submit all receipts. This usually means taking an Uber instead of parking at the airport (unless it’s a shorter trip and then the airport expense is fine) and not spending more than $75 on dinner for one person. I usually try to have a less expensive lunch so that I can spend more on dinner. We are also client facing, so I don’t get premium rental cars. If you’re renting a car, do not forget your driver’s license!!
    3. Bring a carry on bag – don’t check!
    4. Plan to be pretty exhausted by the end of the week – especially if your colleague wants to have breakfast and dinners together. It’s ok to say no to meals in some work cultures, and others it’s not. How well do you know this colleague?
    5. Do you have a corporate credit card? Keep receipts!! Find out about all processes for reimbursements if you don’t have a corporate credit card.
    6. Most offices would expect for you to go to networking events in the evening. BRING BUSINESS CARDS.
    7. Bring extra outfits – you never know what’s going to happen!
    8. Try to put yourself out there and make introductions to people, even if they’re older and more established. Make connections (see #6 above). Then follow up on these connections the following week!
    9. Find out from your boss if they want a memo or report based on what you learned at the conference.
    10. Make sure that whoever books flights and hotels has your frequent flyer and hotel rewards numbers. Collect those points!!!

    Reply
  95. Golden Coin

    – Since it’s on the other side of the country, start to adjust your body’s schedule to the time change. If you’re going from California to New York with an 8am start time, it is technically 5am at home.
    – Plan for random dinners with colleagues and don’t miss them.
    – Prepare your poker face. You might find out some things you didn’t know about your company.
    – Don’t forget a nice bag to walk around with for the day.
    – Plan to wear business casual at all times. You’ll see other conference goers even if you’re just going to the ice machine.
    – Snap a quick pic of your receipts in case you lose them.
    – Depending on the size of the conference, it will take a while longer to get a taxi/Uber.
    – Be mindful of who may be in the room next to you before you start badmouthing anything.

    Reply
  96. Boredatwork

    1) Keep receipts, brush up on your company’s travel policy. Make sure you’re okay with fronting things like the cost of the hotel if necessary.
    2) Since you’re going with a co-worker, find out their flight time, and get a general sense of how much “togetherness” they expect/want. I’ve gone to conferences where my co-worker expected me to be attached at the hip and others who I only saw when physically at the conference.
    – Make sure you’re not expected to be on the same flight/share airport transportation costs, like a rental car.
    – If sharing a room, pack PJ’s that are “fire alarm” appropriate
    3) Make some friends! If you are a person who likes doing things after, like dinner or exploring, it’s great to trade numbers with people who seem nice, so you have someone to go out with.
    4) Make sure you know the start/stop times of the conference, including evening socializing.
    5) Know your limits – some people are PRO drinkers and 3 drinks for them may not be the same as 3 drinks for you.
    6) Nothing good happens after mid-night, keep your “stranger danger” feelers up. Just because someone is in your field from a prestigious organization does not mean they cannot be an absolute creep.

    Reply
  97. AnonResearchManager

    Ask for and set expectations with your boss before hand on exactly what deliverables you’ll be responsible for coming back from the conference. Will they want you to give a presentation on the material you learned, write up notes on all the sessions covered, gather competitive intelligence, make X number of new business contacts, meet and network with a top executive from a client company?
    Knowing what your company expects you to bring back from the event is super important to ensure you use your time there effectively. Even if its just to enjoy the conference and visit what looks interesting to you.
    It can be very stressful to return and find out your boss wanted a full set of notes on every session that was conducted, when you didn’t end up taking notes; or that you focused on notes when your company wanted you to be networking with potential clients.

    Reply
  98. js

    Prepare before you get there! I work on a large show and that’s the #1 thing i’d say.

    if there are exhibitors, review them and figure out who you want to visit. if there are sessions, note what you want to attend and plan your time (some conferences also require ‘pre-registration’ for sessions to reserve your spot, so don’t get left out onsite).

    If there is a conference app, download it and put all of these things in your app.

    At networking type events, it really is okay to strike up conversations with people. Ask about what they do! that’s the whole point. i know that can be uncomfortable (i’m an introvert, and i’d love to stand there never talking) but it really does get better with practice, and you have a whole shared interest.

    Reply
  99. LadyByTheLake

    Plan ahead for what you will wear — decide on a color scheme like “blue, black, cream” “grey, red, white” and plan around that so everything mixes and matches. Think about it ahead of time and jot it down so that you don’t have to stress about it once you are there. Don’t overpack.
    If you might travel a lot create a little “packet” of things that you should always have that you can just toss into your suitcase every time — mine has floss, aspirin, allergy medication, a sewing kit, antacid, q-tips, feminine hygiene products, safety pins etc. I have a separate packet with travel size moisturizer, toothpaste, facial soap etc.
    And finally, I support everyone else who warns of the exhaustion — just being “on” for the entire day, meeting new people, no matter how fun and interesting, is completely exhausting.

    Reply
    1. MtnLaurel

      I do this too…I call it my “everything I’ve ever needed at 3 a.m.” pack. :-) It’s saved me on several occasions.

      Reply
    2. scmill

      When I was traveling almost full time, I bought duplicates of everything (meds, cables, shampoo, hairbrush etc) and let them live in my suitcase. At the end of each trip, I refilled anything that needed it and put it right back in my case. That saved so much time when I was packing for the next trip.

      Reply
  100. MTUMoose

    First and foremost pack your patience with other people. Smile at everyone from the Gate Agent to the TSA guard to the flight attendant and fellow passengers. Having a good attitude will make the travel better. Remain calm and remember that people are not out to get you as you travel.
    Pack a set of essential medications in your carry-on (obviously also any meds you are on for your health):
    I would recommend Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Antacids, Pepto pills as a minimum. You don’t need a whole set of pills but enough for two or three standard doses. That way you have it handy.
    Even if you don’t need them you have them for your coworker when they eat spicy food or drink too much.
    Keep a pen with you. Always handy for when you need to write down that address of where everyone is meeting at or the name of the new contact who ran out of business cards.
    Pack your electrical chargers for your phone, tablet, computer, etc. Also buy an outlet converter even if you don’t travel internationally it might help someone else out.
    Pack an emergency toothbrush so you can make your mouth feel clean if you are delayed somewhere.
    Pack a small book or magazine so you have something that is not a computer screen to look at while in the airplane.
    Good luck and enjoy your travel.

    Reply
  101. canary

    *I stock up on conference snacks (bags of chips, fruit, yogurt, granola bars) to eat in my hotel room later.
    *Plan your agenda ahead of time. I usually try to find some time in the day to get out and see something in the city where I’m going. Typically there’s at least one session time where none of the sessions are relevant to me, and I’ll sneak out then.
    *COMFORTABLE SHOES
    *Layers! I always find conference centers to be freezing so I always bring a cardigan. Also boots and/or leggings if I’m in a dress or skirt.
    *Try to get a room at the conference hotel. I’m always much happier if I can run up to my room between sessions and freshen up/lay down/use a private bathroom.
    *If you’re an introvert, and your business culture is such that you are expected to spend dinners/evenings with your colleagues, try to eat lunch by yourself. Sometimes this means leaving the conference and having lunch on my own dime, but it makes it a lot easier to be social later if I’ve got some time to myself in the middle of the day.

    Reply
  102. lurker

    I just want to say as someone who is also coming up on my first big work trip, these comments are incredibly helpful. Thank you so much, everyone!

    Reply
  103. Collingswood

    Sometimes conferences (depending on the industry) will send out an attendee list or provide one on check-in. I like to scan those and be aware of folks I may know or may want to try to meet. Maybe scribble down a few notes about folks you do meet (not in front of them!) to help you remember them later.

    Bring business cards.

    I agree with everyone about picking a “color” (black, brown for shoes) and having outfits that go with them to reduce packing. Having mix and match tops for a few pairs of bottoms can also help in case you need to rewear anything.

    If you drink, keep it to a minimum and stay hydrated.

    A lot of the benefits of conferences are the networking opportunities. So try to attend at least some of those. Approach people standing alone, if you are uncomfortable and don’t know who to talk to. Ask them questions and just treat the interaction as a getting to know you type thing. Offer a business card, if you want to keep in touch.

    Know your company travel policy and stick to it.

    Check in with your colleague if they’ve been to this event before about what you can expect. What may be most valuable to participate in.

    Reply
  104. Collingswood

    Also, bring a sweater!! Those rooms can sometimes be super cold.

    Don’t be afraid to get up to stretch/walk a little (at the back of the room) or get coffee/water. Sitting all day can be rough.

    Reply
    1. The Ginger Ginger

      OMG yes. Dress in layers that are easy to remove. You’ll boil alive in one room and think you’ve been dropped onto the arctic tundra in the next.

      Reply
  105. Ferris

    What I learned is that, at conferences, at least in my field, attending presentations is *not* the most important thing you will do there. The most important thing is (1) making new connections, and (2) interesting conversations you’ll have with those connections. Make sure you prioritize those things, even if it means you skip some of the meetings.

    Reply
    1. feministbookworm

      +1. In my field, the most useful aspect of the conference is that you’ve got a bunch of people you’ve been trying to track down about various things for months all together in the same city. Everybody picks a few interesting sessions to go to, but spends the vast majority of their time in side meetings.

      Reply
    2. OtterB

      +1 At the conferences I go to (sciences of one kind or another) I often find that interactive sessions – roundtables or poster sessions (which are like science fairs for grownups) – are more useful and more fun than sessions that are people presenting papers. Take the chance to talk to people who are doing related work.

      Reply
  106. wingmaster

    I have my first work trip starting this weekend! Perfect timing. I recently asked something similar to this in an Open Thread discussion a couple of weeks ago. Everyone had great suggestions!

    Reply
  107. Rich

    Some great advice here. I used to travel a lot. Business travel can sound glamorous to those who don’t do it, but in a lot of ways it’s a real grind.

    – Be prepared for days to be much longer. Nobody’s going home at the end of the day, so it likely doesn’t stop at the end of the day. Expect events (particularly at a conference like you’re attending) to go well into the night.

    – Be prepared for the presence of a lot of alcohol. It’s often freely available at organized events, and it’s easy to get carried away.

    – There will likely be nightly events, but not all of them are likely to be important, and some may be solo affairs, some may be stick-with-your-team affairs. Talk with your boss ahead of time and find out what they think about this. You may have a night where you can skip an event, or meet up with folks who connected with at the event, or disappear and buy yourself dinner (on your own dime or not per your policy), or watch Netflix in your room and recharge.

    – Understand your boss’s goals for the event. Do they want to get you into specific classes/sessions, meet future colleagues/collaborators/customers, present what you learned to the folks who didn’t attend the event? This may radically change how you approach your sessions and the event as a whole

    – Pack less than you think you need. You probably don’t need all the clothes you were planning to bring (I used to bring double what was required) but make sure you have backups — more than one pair of pants, etc. Plan your travel-day clothes around comfort and airport security where possible (e.g. easy to remove shoes, but socks so you’re not barefoot in the airport)

    – Really plan out your device charging requirements. Laptop? Phone? Tablet? Toothbrush? In-car vs in-room? I have spent a _lot_ of money on chargers because I left something at home.

    – Remind yourself that it’s work, not a vacation. This is probably the hardest part of being new to work travel, since most peoples’ travel experience is primarily recreation.

    Reply
  108. The Ginger Ginger

    Even if you don’t expect to have to pay anything out of pocket on the trip (eg you have a corporate card or something), still make sure you have a personal card with space on it in case of emergency. If your flight is cancelled and you need to rent a car, or something goes wrong with your hotel reservation, or who knows what.

    I mentioned this on a comment upthread, but I was traveling last year and ended up having to use my personal card to check into my hotel room. They required a card at check in. I don’t have a corporate card, so I had to put down my own, and the room was charged to it. I got reimbursed, but I was very lucky to have a card I had room for a large-ish unexpected charge on., and I could wait around to be reimbursed.

    Reply
    1. ArtK

      Bring some cash, too! A while back I found myself in a place where the taxis wouldn’t take plastic — cash only! That’s extremely rare now, but it did catch me by surprise. It’s also nice to be able to tip, if that’s the culture where you’re going.

      Reply
  109. University Minion

    Ooooh, so this is what I do – teach people how to travel and do expense reports!

    (This all applies to an able-bodied traveler with no special requirements)
    First, use the KISS method. Stay at the conference hotel. Don’t add any personal time or legs of travel to this trip (maybe later once you’ve got more travel under your belt). Log into your travel system, if you have one, update your profile, enter your frequent flyer numbers, enable e-receipts (disregard of you don’t have a travel system). If your employer uses a travel agent, find out what info they need (full name as it appears on ID, gender, phone number and date of birth are minimum) to make the bookings. If you’re booking your own travel, educate yourself on your company’s policies. Book coach fare unless specifically instructed to do otherwise. Try to avoid renting a car if possible. It’s an extra expense and many conference sites are fairly self contained, have free shuttles from the airport and charge insane parking rates.

    What’s your company’s culture around travel? Ask around. Some places want everyone on the same flight, others (including mine, thank goodness) don’t care. Get your own room. Even if some folks are doubling up, if it’s allowed, get your own room. Having a bit of space where you can be “off duty” is essential, IMO.

    Pack light if possible. I always wear something comfortable, but work appropriate on the plane in case my bag is lost or I end up in a time crunch and have to go straight to a meeting. Again, learn your company’s culture if you’re traveling as a group. You do not want to be the person holding up the group when they all have carry-ons and you’re waiting for your ginormous suitcase to turn up at the baggage claim.

    Have a few small-talk type scripts for the inevitable networking/social events. This doesn’t come naturally and I refuse to be one of those people who can *only* talk about work stuff. Be aware of any gift guidelines your employer may have. Most industry conferences are well aware of the norms for their industry, but it’s always good to double check. If you’re in a male-dominated bro-ish industry, you may see or be around some BS. Many conferences now have avenues to let someone know and deal with it.

    Save your receipts for everything unless there are specific categories where they’re not needed (ie, you get a flat rate for meals no matter how much or little you spend). If your travel system has an app for receipt handling, download it and test it before you leave. If you hate paper, that can make receipts a lot more bearable.

    If your travel is foreign, depending on what industry you’re in, export control regs may apply to you and any work electronics. If so, your employer will most likely tell you what, if anything, you need to do.

    When I travel, the last thing I do before crashing for the night is to add any expenses incurred that day to my report. I do it as I go, so it’s ready to submit the day I return (I want my money!) Don’t do anything sketchy, but don’t think you’re doing anyone any favors by taking less than your entitlement, either. Claim what the rules say you’re allowed – no more, no less.

    If someone else is processing your travel, ask them what they need and be polite, prompt and legible. Never assume they can read minds, know your flight was late or what time you left the house to go to the airport if they need that bit of info.

    In all that, try and save time for something a little bit fun whether it’s a run in the area to explore, a nice dinner out or even curling up in the hotel room watching TV on channels you don’t have at home.

    Reply
  110. soapiesteagle

    Make sure you pack comfortable shoes and allow yourself plenty of time to get to the conference on the morning of. Check with the person you’re traveling with to see if they expect to do breakfast or lunch together as some people like to take that time to recharge by themselves or go over a gameplan for the day together. I try and pack a little granola bar or something I can snack on if the day gets too drawn out. You will definitely feel exhausted from being “on” throughout the day so make sure you leave yourself enough time to recoup at the end of the day.

    Have your spiel ready so when people ask you who you are, what your role is, what your company does you aren’t scrambling for words and can be as clear as possible. Don’t forget business cards, and when you exchange business cards with someone jot down notes on the back about details from your conversations.

    Some companies ask for an overview of your trip so if that’s the case try and write up a little summary each night or take quality notes about sessions you attend and how it pertains to your business.

    Reply
  111. Lady Kelvin

    I travel mostly internationally, which can be different than locally, but here is what I do to make sure my trip is as stress free as possible:

    -I google where there are grocery stores nearby so I can pick up some breakfast foods and snack foods. (Unless your hotel offers free breakfast, than go eat a solid breakfast).
    -I take my own pillow. Its annoying to pack/take on the plane, but I sleep 100 times better with my own pillow and that makes a huge difference in the quality of my trip. Put it in a brightly colored pillowcase so that it is obvious it is different than the hotel pillows and you don’t forget it.
    -Expect to be exhausted, but try to spend as much time off the clock with your coworkers/networking as possible. I’m a pretty extreme introvert but I make sure I got to dinners, happy hours, etc, while I’m at the conference. I make great contacts and really build relationships during that time and it has really helped me in my career. I generally just pass out on the flight home because I am so tired from the week of non-stop doings.
    -I also eat salads as much as possible when I go out to eat. I just find that I would eat so much rich food in restaurants that I felt like crap, and eating salads made sure I was still eating relatively healthy and felt better in general.
    – Enjoy yourself. Work travel is exhausting and a lot of work, but I also find it to be somewhat pleasurable and there are always things that happen that make it pleasant.

    Reply
  112. Perfectly Particular

    Dress up more than you normally would for the flight out. If you will be traveling with others in you’re company, you don’r want them to all be in suits and you in sweats. One step down from your normal office wear should be fine. Bring workout gear if you are into fitness – it is really common for everyone to go for a run or hit the gym between the conference & dinner. Similarly – pack something that you can lounge in your room in and walk to the lobby if needed. It took me a few trips to realize that I needed something between work wear and pjs. And yeah, read the entire travel & entertainment policy and ask your manager to clarify any confusingly points before you go.

    Reply
  113. frida

    Try to schedule some time for yourself—walk around, check out a museum, even just get to breakfast early and drink coffee in peace. Make sure you remember to drink enough water. Bring comfy shoes!

    Reply
  114. Nesprin

    In my suitcase for all business travel: large powerbank and an extra cellphone charger, a small water bottle and a couple of granola bars (because I always miss one meal in the hustle and bustle), a pashmina scarf (cos conference rooms are always freezing), a tennis ball (for massaging out knots), swimsuit (because jacuzzis are great for sore backs), my most comfortable professional shoes (I walked 5 miles in one day last conference).

    I always carry peptobismol pills, UTI meds, and pain relievers.

    Reply
  115. ThatOneRedhead

    Most of my travel is international, but here are a few things that have helped:

    If traveling with a coworker:
    1. The car ride to the airport is good for general conversation. I like to have a couple of conversation topics (work – conference sessions or projects I’ll be working on, personal – recent vacations, if you’ve been to this city before) prepared in order to keep things steady.
    2. At the airport, don’t feel like you need to be glued to their side the entire time. I will generally eat a meal, then say that I’m going to stretch my legs. I pick up snacks at the airport and stash them in my carry on, in case I don’t like the snacks at my destination.
    3. Ignore each other on the plane. At most, make eye contact and a pleasant nod, but nobody wants to talk on the plane. (This means that I try not to sit next to coworkers on planes.)
    4. On the way home, I tend to be much quieter than on the trip there. I feel like after a few days of enforced closeness, there’s not much left to talk about. Headphones help a lot here, even in the car on the way home.

    General travel tips:
    1. Receipts have been covered to death, but the advice above is valid.
    2. Travel with a carry on, if at all possible. It’s stressful to worry about your bag arriving and quicker if you don’t have to wait.
    3. I tend to bring a backpack as my personal item that contains my work laptop and a clutch/wristlet that has my wallet-type essentials. You may want to put a small bag or tote if you’ll be at a conference and don’t want to carry everything.
    4. Take photos of your passport and credit cards (front and back).
    5. If you are going to be using your personal cards in a new location, consider calling your bank so that you don’t get a fraud alert placed on your account.
    6. My personal essentials: headphones, hand sanitizer, portable charger, chapstick, over the counter meds (pain reliever, antacid, diarrhea, allergy, cough drop), packet of tissues.
    7. Download the conference app and check frequently for updates. I’ve missed sessions that I was looking forward to because they were rescheduled at the last minute.
    8. If you’re at a conference, find a place where you can step out for 10-15 minutes and take a breather. Sometimes it can be a lot of stimulation and some quiet time helps. A distant bathroom has worked for me in a pinch.
    9. Get two copies of your hotel key. Put one in your wallet and one in your bag or pocket.
    10. At the end of each day, write down 1-3 things that you learned or that stand out as highlights. This will help them stick in your head and is useful in recapping the trip with your supervisor.

    Reply
  116. Polymer Phil

    Getting around may be different than what you’re used to on personal trips. Don’t expect to rely on Uber if you’re in a rural area, and that rental car might be expensive to park at a big city hotel.

    Be sure to sign up for points programs with all of the hotel chains, airlines, rental car agencies, etc that you’ll be using. It’s easy to skip this if you only travel once in a blue moon, but the points can get you free personal trips if you end up traveling on business often. Even if you don’t accumulate enough points to cash in, having a points account will identify you as a business traveler, which will get you better service than Joe Schmoe who goes on vacation once a year.

    If you’re going to a conference, try to stay in the conference hotel even though you can probably find something cheaper nearby. A lot of the value of conferences is in making friends and networking, and a random encounter in a hotel could be with someone who gets you a job in 10 years. Others have mentioned avoiding excessive drinking – know the norms in your industry and follow them.

    In general, I like to stay as close as possible to my destination, and I’m willing to choose a hotel I wouldn’t pick otherwise if it’s closer to where I’m visiting. In an unfamiliar area, picking a hotel 10 miles away because it’s your preferred chain could give you a miserable morning rush hour commute to your customer’s site.

    Arriving the day before versus early the day of is a personal preference. Taking an early morning flight to arrive just in time for a 9 AM meeting is asking for trouble in my opinion, but some people need to minimize their time away from home due to family situations. If flying out the day before is an option, I strongly recommend it. Even if that dawn flight gets you to the 9 AM meeting on time, you’re not performing at your best because you got up at 2 AM to go to the airport.

    Talk to a few veteran business travelers at your company to get an idea of the norms for expenses. A lot of companies are surprisingly loose on this, and inexperienced travelers are unnecessarily paranoid that they might get in trouble for ordering an appetizer with dinner. I worked with salesmen who habitually ran up $50 dinner bills for a sandwich and umpteen drinks at the hotel bar, so my $35 bill for a moderately fancy dinner didn’t raise any eyebrows.

    Try to walk around and explore your surroundings if you have some free time. More interesting than getting on a treadmill in the hotel gym and staring at the wall.

    Spend a little time beforehand researching places to eat. There are plenty of Applebee’s and TGI Fridays back home, and you can check reviews if you’re that paranoid you might get a bad meal.

    Reply
  117. The Ginger Ginger

    If you’re flying, try to just do a personal bag and carry on. It’s annoying to have to do checked bags. I know this isn’t always possible, but it’s always worth the effort if you can do it.

    Reply
  118. Sleepytime Tea

    I do not know if you are male or female, but if you’re a woman, DO NOT wear a dress to the airport. Story time: I wore a dress into the office we were visiting but thankfully decided to switch into jeans before heading for the airport. When I went into the body scanner it didn’t go off so I waited, and waited, and waited, and finally turned to look at the security guard to see if something was wrong. Which is when it went off, resulting in my entire body being marked as having to be searched. A full search (over the clothes) is not super fun, but it would have be WAY more awkward had I been wearing a skirt. So wear pants.

    Also – just reiterating making sure you know your company’s expense policy in and out. But adding on to this, know how to submit your expenses. Some companies have a person who has to sort through all this stuff, and people making lazy mistakes do not make them happy. If you want to be reimbursed in a timely fashion, know how to submit everything properly.

    Conference rooms are frequently freezing. Bring a warm sweater or something to wear because you may be sitting in those rooms for hours.

    Think about all the things you are going to want with you during the conference and then think about the best way to carry it all. In a perfect world, you limit the amount of things you have to carry around because that’s fewer opportunities to lose anything. Pen, notepad, laptop, wallet, etc. Now pick the appropriate bag to carry everything in and use that.

    If you’re traveling with other people, talk about if you plan on checking your baggage versus carry on (no one wants to be the one holding up the group because they are the only ones who checked a bag).

    Reply
  119. Foxy Hedgehog

    A couple more:
    * Checking bags is sometimes the right option. Remember that airlines only allow 1 carry-on plus 1 backpack / purse / briefcase, and will often enforce that limit. There’s also a size limit to a carry-on and airlines will occasionally enforce that as well. Since you will likely be boarding near the last group, there might not be any space for a carry-on. It takes a little extra time to check a bag, but it also saves stress when it’s time to board. Don’t check any company property (like a laptop), though, and obviously nothing you can’t afford to be without, even for a day. Consider checking, especially if your travel companion will be checking bags too.
    * There are many things marketed to travelers that you don’t need. You probably don’t need a neck pillow. You do need something (book, movie, game) to keep you entertained for your entire flight. You also need a charger for your electronics.

    Reply
    1. Lavender Menace

      Yeah, I know a lot of people have been saying don’t check unless it’s absolutely necessary. But I do the opposite – unless I am traveling in and out for a day or two, I always check. I don’t like dealing with having to fit all my toiletries into 3 oz. bottles in a quart-sized bag, I don’t like fighting for overhead cabin space, and I don’t like hauling the extra luggage though the airport.

      Reply
  120. Adminx2

    Hydrate hyrate hydrate. If flying that includes a water spritzer for your face. Sleep with a pillow under your ankles to keep them raised. Bring a snack and creature comfort you can look forward to in your room. Take a folder for receipts and keep it everywhere so you can just toss them in and organize later.

    Reply
    1. Lavender Menace

      +1 to the face spritzer. In fact, I use a hydrating face mask on planes, one of the types you don’t have to wipe off.

      Reply
  121. Dasein9

    Not to be gross, but. . . you’re traveling, probably eating a lot of rich food, schedule’s out of whack, exercising less or differently, so bring fiber capsules and have a couple before bed.

    Reply
  122. QED

    One thing I want to mention that no one else has yet is that if you have any dietary restrictions, even ones that you think are fairly common/easy to accommodate, plan ahead. If there are conference-provided meals, find out in advance if you can get one that fits your dietary restrictions. If the conference is in a hotel, they may use the hotel’s service for something like a continental breakfast buffet, so you may have to then check in with the hotel catering. It’s also a good thing to keep in mind for networking/socializing that may happen at restaurants–if you know where in advance, you can call the restaurant, and if you don’t, it’s worth going online and doing a quick search for nearby places that have stuff you can eat, so that you’ll be able to make suggestions when the group’s deciding where to go. I also bring plenty of snacks for the trip, and often pick up stuff once there for quick, packable lunches and breakfasts, just in case. If it looks like you’ll have difficulty getting by on what’s provided through the conference/hotel, you may want to let your employer know and ask if you can have an increased per diem/meal budget. Same with the flight, by the way–if you get a meal provided with your ticket, make sure to let the airline know in advance that you need a “special” meal (though bring food anyway).

    Reply
  123. A

    Congrats! First time conferences are a big deal! I just went to my first conference a couple weeks ago and here’s my advice:

    – If you can, make sure you only bring enough stuff to fit in a carryon.

    -Do as much googling as you can prior to leaving, especially for convenience stores, groceries/gas if needed, etc. I was fortunate enough to have a friend in the city I traveled to who had given me a lot of tips.

    -Also google fun things to do!

    -Book a hotel as close to the airport/your conference as possible. If the conference is at a hotel/they recommend a specific hotel, they may have group rates, but it may already be booked up. Stay at a reputable chain (I chose a Hilton property)

    -Keep a copy of your company expense and travel policy! There’s likely important contact information in there too (in the event of emergencies and you need to contact your company, etc)

    -Pack versatile, neutral clothes you can wear more than once. Overpack underwear,socks, etc.

    -Buy toiletries when you arrive (I..e. Razors)

    -Make sure the shoes you bring are comfortable to walk in… a lot.

    Reply
  124. Orange You Glad

    As others have said, check all your company policies first and if your boss is attending, check with them on what their expectations for you are.

    Break time is important – if you are staying in the same hotel as the conference or close by, take some of the lunch time to recharge in your room. Unless you have to schmooze over lunch, generally people can eat in a lot less time than is allotted by the conference (20-30 mins to eat vs. the 1.5-2hrs often allotted). I always take advantage of that time to lay down and rest.

    Be clear on what, if any, work you are expected to do while there. Are you expected to stay up to date with your work email and assignments? Can you complete some things before leaving in order to free up your free time?

    Watch your expenses (and again, check your company policy). Too many people assume that since the company is paying, they can charge up $100 steak dinners every night. Every company is different, but my experience is that your expenses should be reasonable for the region you are in.

    Also another tip for traveling alone – if you are heading to dinner by yourself, sit at the bar. That usually means little to no wait time for a seat and its generally filled with other solo people if you are looking for someone to chat with.

    If you are going somewhere interesting, take an extra day as PTO to explore the city/area. This may mean paying out of pocket for an extra hotel night, but I’m the type of person who likes to take advantage of any opportunity to travel to a new place. You never know when you’ll be able to return to that location. (My company doesn’t care what days/times we fly in or out of our destination as long as the price isn’t a huge difference. I usually fly in a day early or stay an extra day if I want to be a tourist.)

    Reply
  125. Silence Will Fall

    A couple of things I found helpful:

    1. Leave room in your suitcase to bring back swag, but also don’t be afraid to leave things. I always take some time before check out of the hotel to go through handouts and swag bags and throw away the things I don’t need. I’ve also taken advantage of the hotel business center scanner and phone apps to scan handouts I like without having to carry them back with me.

    2. Don’t be afraid to adjust your conference schedule. One conference, I signed up for a series of session that seemed interesting and relevant. It was clear 10 minutes into the first session that they weren’t what I was looking for. Instead of sticking it out, I found other sessions that were much more useful.

    Reply
  126. MaureenSmith

    Oh the joys of conferences.
    – Plan your travel so that you aren’t rushing to/from the airport. Most times, I fly in the day before the conference so that I am rested and ready for 8am on the first morning. Ask your college who is going with you which flight and hotel they plan to use.
    – Book your airfare and hotel in advance, reduce your stress as the conference approaches.
    – Ask colleagues about dress code. Then get some friends to help you plan. Layers that can be adjusted for the hall temperatures are best. Mix and match so you don’t have to pack tons of clothes.
    – Comfy, supportive shoes for tons of walking on a hard floor. I easily do 10,000+ steps at a conference. Oh, and pack some bandaids / blister treatement. Forget the super high heels or pinching toes. I usually get away with dark grey or black running/hiking shoes. Dress up shoes for a fancy dinner with minimal walking only.
    – Know your company travel expense policy. As many have mentioned KEEP RECEIPTS! If no receipts are given, keep notes in your phone, on the back of a business card, scrawled on a napkin. Date, place/purpose, amount.
    – Sign up for frequent flyer miles, hotel rewards, etc. Those can be handy later. Although some company policies prevent this, read your expenses policy in advance.
    – Pack/bring whatever you need for good sleep. PJ’s, teddy bear, medication, etc. You will need good sleep.
    – There are usually meal/evening dinners, networking, etc. Go to them, especially your first conference.
    – My conferences have both a papers/speaker component and a trade show. Explore both. Ask questions.
    – Bring a large purse, shoulder bag, backpack to carry stuff around. And a water bottle. If the conference gives out a bag (many do, but not all) that is appropriate to use throughout.
    – Schedule in a few breaks so that you can mentally process all the new ideas, people, papers, etc that you’ve just been exposed to.
    – Use and expense taxi’s if needed, with luggage to and from the airport.
    – Plan a day off at home when you get back, you’ll be exhausted.
    – If it’s an interesting or new city, see if you can take a few days of vacation and explore. Note that you will be responsible for any hotel/meal/taxi expenses when you are on vacation. Ask your boss if this is allowed at your company, it’s more common with small or flexible companies.
    – For your first conference don’t invite your spouse, partner, family, friends. You need to develop your conference skills first before complicating things. Later, maybe. Depends on the company. If you do invite someone later, make sure it does not interfere with your business obligations at the conference. You are ‘at work’ for the duration of the conference day.

    Reply
    1. Guacamole Bob

      Yes to planning to carry a large bag – I take a backpack. My most recent conference my backpack wasn’t quite large enough, which was annoying, but I was generally carrying my laptop, charger, change of footwear, snacks, water bottle, phone charger, notebook, random handouts and vendor swag, etc. With the laptop especially I was glad to have a comfortable backpack and not be hurting my shoulder and back with a purse or briefcase, because there’s a ton of walking around. As long as the backpack is reasonably professional-looking, it’ll be fine at most conferences.

      The footwear would have been easy if I were at the conference hotel that’s connected to the convention center, but I live locally and commuted in. The first day I just walked around in snow boots all day, but after that I commuted in sneakers and wore dressier ankle boots around the conference.

      Large conferences will often have a coat check, which can be a place to stash your luggage if you are going straight from the conference to the airport the last day – it’s a cash fee per item, though, so be prepared with cash. You can also just use it as a coat check, but the convention center is so huge that I didn’t want to have to keep heading back for my coat to go grab lunch outside the building, so I just kept it with me.

      Reply
  127. Lisa B

    Oooo, good question! Here’s some of the “wish I’d known” that I can think of…. Other than KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS and KNOW YOUR REIMBURSEMENT policies since they’ve been mentioned a million times already. :)
    1. Conference breakfasts are often all sugar and carbs. Take protein bars with you or pick some up at the location.
    2. Bring a water bottle, both for the flight (fill it up once you pass security) and for during the conference itself.
    3. The person sitting next to you might be an analyst, might be a CEO. Don’t forget.
    4. If you’re going with colleagues, get an understanding of how they intend the trip to be- some will want to get dinner together after the conference, some want to do their own thing. If a senior colleague is with you and wants to go out, even if you don’t, go JUST ONCE. There is great networking to be had with senior colleagues in casual settings that you won’t get back in home office.
    5. Keep a small satchel/bag with notepad, pencils, and your business cards.
    6. find the closest cvs/walgreen/target, especially if your trip will be more than a few days.
    7. Don’t forget your cell phone charger. Lots of hotels don’t have free wifi- check if your work will reimburse you to get it in your room, if they expect you to still pop on e-mail and such.
    8. LAYERS. Not just at the conference, but for your hotel pajamas too. If this trip is far, the weather you’re going to might be really different. I have spent a frozen night in Chicago in April because the heat had already been turned down – “because it’s so warm now!”
    9. All those books or articles at work you’ve been meaning to read “at some point?” Bring them on the flight.
    10. Make an effort to network, even if it’s not really your thing. Helpful skill to know, and a conference out of town where you might never see these people again lower the risk of embarrassing failure. :)
    11. Hairdryers in hotels are sometimes hidden in a bag at the back of the bathroom cabinet or on a high shelf in the front closet.

    Reply
  128. Oryx

    I’m going to end up repeating a lot of the others, but still:

    1) If you are checking a bag, pack everything you need for that evening in your carry on just in case something happens to your luggage.

    2) Make sure you understand your company’s travel policy regarding meals and keep receipts. We have an overall daily limit with “suggested” amounts for each meal, but as long as you don’t go over the daily limit, our accounting doesn’t really care what your per meal cost is. Sometimes that means we all end up ordering room service by the end and holing away in our hotel rooms after hanging out several nights in a row. It’s lovely.

    3) Credit cards at hotels can be tricky: our events team books all of our travel and, in theory, there should be a credit card on file so I don’t have to even put down a card for incidentals. Sometimes, though, there is missed communication between company and hotel and so when I g o to check in I have to put a card down and be reimbursed by the company later. Depending on how long I’m staying, this can be a significant amount of money that, luckily, my limit can cover.

    4) Find out what is considered working hours if you are non-exempt and need to keep track of your time. At one point, my company was weird about counting travel time (it was before my time, I can’t remember the exact details)

    5) Plan for two outfits a day — we usually go out to dinner each evening after the convention has ended for the day and everyone changes into something more casual, or at least without the company logo.

    6) COMFORTABLE SHOES

    7) Pack as much of a capsule collection that can be mixed and matched that you can.

    Reply
    1. Oryx

      I forgot one: TSA Precheck. It’s $85, and lasts for I think five years. Even if you only travel one or two times a year, it’s a lifesaver

      Reply
    2. Bella

      A second on the 3rd! If you don’t have the credit card in hand, there is a form you can fill out beforehand from the cardholder to say it’s okay. However, half the time the hotel looses this form and there’s a scramble to get it filled out long distance and faxed. Bring a copy with you as well as send them one ahead of time!

      Reply
  129. Orange You Glad

    One more thing! Sign up for any travel rewards programs available! Whichever airline and hotel company you are using for your business travel should have reward programs. Earning miles/points on business travel is a great extra perk.

    Reply
  130. Formerly Known As

    As others have suggested, keep all your receipts! Even if it’s for a bottle of water at the airport. My company only requires receipts for expenses greater than $25, but as a good practice I include a receipt to match each expense.

    If you have a company-issued credit card, make sure you know the rules backwards and forwards about what you’re allowed to charge. Particularly things like how much you’re allowed to spend on meals daily and whether the company will pay for alcoholic beverages or in-room movies. My company will pay for 1 alcoholic drink with a meal and does not pay for in-room movies, for example. I also have a daily limit of how much can be spent on my meals, although I can allocate it however I like (for example–a light lunch and splurging on dinner).

    Wear comfortable clothes at the airport, particularly if you don’t have Pre-Check and will have to remove your shoes at the security checkpoint. At the same time, though, remember you’re on a work trip. Particularly at a conference, you never know who’s watching. Always act and dress professionally (or business casual, whatever the dress code may be). Assume that anything you say and do could get back to your employer. Know that you represent your employer at a conference. You’ll likely be issued a name badge at the conference that includes the name of your employer.

    If you drink, drink responsibly. Not only for your own safety traveling in a new city, but also to keep yourself professional. You don’t want to get sloppy drunk and be forever known as THAT person who got wasted at the Teapot Conference.

    Make sure you understand your company’s policy on receiving frequent flyer miles or hotel points. My company is pretty strict about the circumstances in which employees can receive miles/points for personal use during business travel. Understand your company’s policy on booking travel. Does your company have a travel agency you must book through? Is there a dollar limit on airfares? Are there certain airlines your company prefers employees use?

    Ideally, your company has everything spelled out in a well written travel policy. If so, please take the time to read it to make sure you’re following the rules.

    Enjoy! Business travel can be fun.

    Reply
  131. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks

    Be sure to find out what business travel expenses are reimbursable. Where I work, Lunch for yourself is not a reimbursable expense (but if you take a client to lunch, it is). And please remember to get all of your receipts and your hotel bill. (your Admin or whoever will be doing your expenses will thank you. LOL)

    Reply
    1. Mary Dempster

      Yes to the hotel bill. Yes, we can get them from the hotel if you don’t, but it is such a pain the butt with most hotels, especially the larger chains! Just ask for a quick print out at the desk before you go, even if you check out via TV (do they still do that?) or not at all.

      Reply
  132. HH

    So much good advice in the comments! I used to travel at least once a week (or more) for work for at least 10 years. In addition to all the wonderful comments above (especially heed the alcohol warnings – it will take you by surprise the amount of alcohol people toss back), I would suggest wearing darker clothes – they hide food and other travel mishaps better, especially if you can’t get the stain out with a TIDE Go Pen or travel laudry soap. Bring a wad of dollar bills – they are very handy for tips of all sorts – concierge, airport curb-side check-ins, wait staff, vending machines, small purchases, etc. That said, use the conceirge to store your luggage if you can’t check in to the hotel right away or you have to check out and need a place to store your bags/coat. Make a checklist to keep in your bag so you don’t forget your chargers, toiletries in the shower, etc. Invest in a couple of colorful pashminas – they are so handy from everything to keeping you warm in a chilly conference room to dressing up an outfit to being a scarf on a cold day. Last, I second the “keep hydrated” advice…airports, planes, and hotels tend to have very dry air so drink tons of water – you’ll feel better.

    Reply
  133. Guacamole Bob

    I don’t travel for work much but do go to a huge industry conference (10,000 people, maybe?) that happens to be in my city every year. For conferences especially:

    – Know the expectations about how available you’ll be for other work. Are they expecting you’ll answer email occasionally? Do a bit of work now and then on urgent stuff?

    – Big conferences are totally overwhelming. It’s okay if you don’t see every talk that looks interesting. Split stuff up with your coworker if there’s important stuff happening at the same time. It’s also okay to not go to anything in a particular time slot if there isn’t anything that looks relevant to you – take that time to find a calm corner and catch up on your email or Twitter or a book.

    – Take a phone charger with you everywhere. I don’t know why, but I burn through battery at conferences.

    – At the big conference in my industry, it’s acceptable to take pictures of people’s slides as they’re talking, and to take pictures posters at the poster sessions. This is a great way to be able to share info with your coworkers later, and to remember the important things you saw and follow up on them later.

    – Similarly, after you get back, take all the photos and papers and business cards and sort through everything. Email people you met if you have a genuine reason to follow up, send info around to colleagues about stuff you learned that’s relevant to their work, etc.

    – Conferences take practice. I’ve now been to the same one for five years in a row, and I’ve gotten a lot better at picking out what will be interesting, at balancing my time so I’m not exhausted, at recognizing who will make a valuable connection later on, at making the most of the follow up I described above, etc. It’s a new skill you’re learning, so it’s okay if it’s hard at first. It will get easier over time.

    Reply
    1. Guacamole Bob

      Also, the back of your name tag is a great place to stash some business cards, especially if they use a lanyard-style and not a pin-on or clip-on style. Somehow my cards are always hard to reach at the moment I need them (in my backpack on my back while I’m holding my coat and a bunch of papers, etc.). I saw people doing the name tag thing on the last day of a recent conference and need to start doing it.

      Reply
  134. Ella Vader

    That I didn’t have to attend every single talk in every single session of the conference for them to think they were getting their money’s worth. It was better to identify the important ones and go to them, and to talk to other people who could help us or give us ideas for our work. It was even okay to skip a session to go to lunch with relevant people.

    That it’s okay (under our organization’s rules) to eat cheap breakfast and use more of the meal allowance on supper.

    That I should tip wherever tips are expected. My employer does not want me to make the organization look cheap.

    That I should find out beforehand what kind of reporting they would want from the trip.

    Oh! And that I can probably get a travel-advance, so I’m not out of pocket for very long. Even if I can’t get it before I go, I should submit the paperwork for the advance, because it will come faster than the reimbursement.

    Reply
  135. AnniePlaysOffice

    There are so many great suggestions here. Two of my favorite things to do are to pack snacks and find a grocery store nearby. I often stop at a store right away and buy a few things for the room.

    You did not ask about the things below specifically and it is more about the culture of your organization but here are some other ideas of how to navigate a large conference and to make a good impression.

    1) Do a bit of work beforehand to plan what you will do at the conference. This helps you to do best to go to things that are most important or relevant to your organization and job (although that is often unpredictable–but you can try). Since you are going with someone else, you might consider doing this together to see if it makes sense to cover more of the conference by strategizing session attendance. This shows that you are doing your best to make the most of the org’s money. I don’t think you have to overdo it but a little planning can help with meeting your goals and those of your employer.
    2) Unless it would be really weird in your org, consider writing up a brief report of what you learned at your conference. In my place of work we share these with everyone so that the learning is does not stop at the individual. But, if that is not the culture there, maybe consider sending this to your boss? It is sort of like a thank you card–thank you for investing in me–here is what I/we got out of it. Again, it could be brief and informal but may be a nice touch. It might result in future opportunities as well.

    Good luck and have fun!!

    Reply
  136. Cookie Monster

    Get separate tabs if you are at a restaurant with colleagues to simplify expense reporting (unless the boss is paying)
    investigate your policies on alcohol-some companies will not allow you to expense the glass of wine you have with dinner. Also, look into tipping policies-I had a company that would only allow 15% so if you tipped 20%, you were responsible for the “additional” 5%

    Reply
    1. Lavender Menace

      The first thing is another thing I would double check with company policy. At my company, if you are dining with colleagues, the expectation is that the most senior colleague is the one who covers the tab and expenses the cost. They then just record all of the attendees of the dinner in their expense.

      Reply
  137. CG

    For work trips, I always pack: 1) a few clif bars or similar for a snack in case things run long or I get crunched in meetings, 2) a water bottle (stay hydrated!), 3) a backup battery and chargers for long sessions, and 4) something to remind me of home when I get a little people-overloaded, like a book on my list.

    Reply
  138. Asenath

    Conferences are easy! Do everything early – but not before you find out exactly what your employer’s rules are about costs – how much can you spend (per diem, transportation etc) and what documentation you will need. As others have mentioned, rules can be complicated. Keep receipts for EVERYTHING just in case. Find out if you need to get permission to travel – as part of cost-cutting measures, we now need approval from Finance to travel. Then book the conference, hotel and travel – again, make sure Finance approves the cost of the hotel and flight, but usually it’s best, if possible, to stay at the conference hotel and there may be a discount for doing so. Some places have specific agencies through which you have to do the bookings; others don’t. If there is someone in your office who is used to dealing with Finance, get them to help. Don’t pack too much – there will certainly be events at which you can meet others in your field, but you won’t need a different outfit for each event or anything like that.

    Reply
  139. LQ

    This will depend on your personality I suspect. But for me (Super Introvert! Plus! Anxiety!) I did a decent amount of…human prep.
    – Plan a greeting
    – Plan for small talk
    – Plan a stack of questions to ask (both generic and at least one per session you attend)
    – Plan your “What do you do?” response
    – Plan for 15 people to make the same comment about something (sure is cold in Minnesota) so that you don’t get annoyed and let it show
    – Set a conversations goal
    – Remind yourself of what you have to offer others

    And on the other side plan for the thing that is time for your to recharge. Like a day (or more) off after returning home. Saving up episodes of your favorite TV show. Having a Hobby Project waiting for you as self reward. Whatever that looks like for you to reself yourself.

    Reply
    1. Name Required

      This is great advice for extroverts, too! Just because we can talk about anything doesn’t mean we should. ;-)

      Something to add: After you talk to someone, if you get their card, write a note about your conversation as a starting point for a LinkedIn invite after you get back from the conference.

      Reply
      1. LQ

        I think of extroverts as sorcerers who just whisper a spell and all this stuff is somehow at their fingertips. Or really advanced aliens who have decided to live among us with advanced social AI that displays the exact right thing at the exact moment in their HUD around everyone. (It’s good to know they are only human :))

        The starting point LinkedIn invite is a really good one. I make myself a to do list on my task manager within a project with each person’s name, the thing I should say in reaching out to them, and when I should do it. (And then I get to nervous about it and don’t do it, but someday when I do, I’m going to be really pleased with myself for having all this information on hand…I’m sure of it.)

        Reply
  140. QED

    Also, I don’t think anyone’s mentioned this yet, and sorry to duplicate if so, but if you’re getting a work laptop or something for this trip and don’t usually have one, review your work policies about using them ahead of time! There are some things you don’t want to use work computers for! Bring your personal laptop or tablet if you think you need to for anything outside of what the policies allow (and there are policies that are more innocuous than you’re thinking, like that you can’t download the driver that allows you to watch Netflix because it’s unapproved software). On the flip side, if you aren’t being given a work laptop to take, find out if you’re still expected to do anything while you’re gone that you would normally use a work computer for. My field has a lot of confidential documents and servers that I’m not allowed to access from a personal computer–or even from unsecured Wifi–so make sure you’re not inadvertently going to do something that would compromise those kinds of policies.

    Reply
  141. SarahKay

    Is the conference being held somewhere you’d like to spend time in? If so, lots of companies will let you tack on an extra day (or days) to the start or end of the trip, although you’ll usually need the approval of your manager.
    Generally you have to pay for accommodation and food for that portion of the time, but the flights there and back are part of the business trip so that bit is covered.
    I’ve done this a couple of times when my company has sent me on training courses to different cities, and it’s a great way to get a comparatively cheap trip to some lovely places. In one case I swapped to a cheaper hotel at the end of the work visit; in another I flew out a day early and got the hotel to do me two invoices, one for ‘my’ night and one for the ‘training’ nights.
    If you’re having to travel out on a Sunday for start on a Monday, you could even just get an early flight, and have the Sunday afternoon to sight-see.

    Reply
  142. Kiki

    Bring some home comforts and pack as if you expect to be under the weather. Even though you can probably run to a drugstore and buy cough drops, ginger tea, and what-have-you, it’s nice to have immediate access to them and know they’re “your brand.” I love to travel, but flying and drastic changes in my diet give me some GI discomfort. Anticipating that by having ginger chews, tea, tums, etc on-hand makes everything run smoothly (gross pun, sorry).

    Reply
  143. Nicki Name

    1) Recalibrate your sense of what’s too expensive. It’s expected that you’ll take taxis rather than public transport, eat at the hotel restaurant rather than Burger King, etc. If you’re very nervous about spending too much, ask whoever will have to approve your expense report what they typically expect to see.

    2) Air travel is horrible and everyone knows it and reasonable colleagues will cut you some slack for doing whatever you have to do to get through it. It’s okay to dress comfortably and spend the whole flight with your headphones or your sleep mask on.

    3) Enjoy being in a city other than your own if you can! If your flight schedule leaves you a significant amount of dead time before or after the conference, it’s totally okay to go see a sight or two while you have the chance. (Don’t try to expense that part though.)

    Reply
    1. Foxy Hedgehog

      #1 is a very good point. I started out booking cheap hotels, finding the cheapest rental car, eating at less expensive chain restaurants, etc. Don’t do that! Find your company’s policies for things like this, and don’t be afraid to spend money on your comfort if they let you. Most companies have people on staff who travel all of the time; reasonable employers don’t ask those people to stay at Days Inn or eat at McDonalds.

      If you can do it within policy, get your dinner from room service. It’s ridiculously expensive if you are paying for it out of pocket, but if it’s reimbursable, it’s so much better than eating at a hotel bar or at a restaurant by yourself. If your conference is providing meals, obviously, this won’t apply.

      Reply
    2. SL #2

      Yes to #1! My first-ever business trip was my 2nd day on the job, just to observe and to shake some hands with folks that I’d interact with in the future. I was shocked when I saw how much my hotel room cost, and a little less shocked at the menu prices at our company dinner. Now, I barely blink an eye at $250+ hotel rooms and $40 dinner bills for one person.

      Reply
  144. Elle Kay

    Really the best thing you can do is ask your boss or whomever deals with your billing/accounting for how things work:
    -Some businesses *have* to book your air travel themselves; some will let you book what you want & reimburse
    -Some businesses will book you the suggested hotel for the conference no matter what; some will have a cap based on how you’re funding the trip; some will let you book what you want & reimburse; some (in my experience this is academics who lack grant funds) you’ll have to pay out of pocket which might be budget hotel or AirBNBs that are further away
    -Some hotels WILL NOT accept pre-payment or keep a credit card on file (and even when they say they will the front desk staff *very often* don’t have it at check out) so be SURE that you know if you’re paying for your room & getting reimbursed or if the hotel has payment already
    -Some businesses (including mine) require that you use federal per diem rates for any overnight travel; some will want meal & incidental receipts; some will use the per diem as a max but only reimburse what you save the receipts for
    -if you’re submitting meal receipts some businesses will pay for alcohol; some won’t; some only will if you’re with clients/networking (it may be worthwhile to ask for alcohol on a separate check, particularly if traveling on grant funding)
    -if necessary some have no preference between renting cars, taxis, and Uber/Lyft; some do
    -some businesses will/will not pay for things like housekeeping tips or Uber/Lyft tips
    -Last, particularly for meals, always ask for an itemized receipt. Often restaurants give you the credit card receipt just with the total & the reimbursement person may *have* to know that this is only your meal and/or that you definitely didn’t order alcohol and/or any other factor

    Reply
  145. Allison

    It might occur to you to ask your coworker if they want to sit together on the plane, but try not to — the alone time will be more relaxing for both of you!

    Reply
  146. Canadian Public Servant

    Know who to call if your travel to or from the conference gets delayed or interrupted, or what you are allowed to (re)book yourself! Nothing like trying to figure it out when your long-delayed plane arrives at your connection city at 1 am, and trying to figure out whether you’re allowed to book your own hotel or you need to go through the travel company.

    And if travel is going to be a regular part of work, consider if rewards programs are allowed and right for you – I can’t make bookings that cost additional money to get rewards, but I travel enough that I get some “perks” from the usual airline (earlier boarding, assigned better seats, lounge access sometimes) and it is nice when it happens. Makes the third trip in a month to small remote centre a little more comfortable.

    Reply
    1. Formerly Known As

      Yes! My company uses a corporate travel agency to book all business travel. We use the online portal to book, but there’s a number we can call to reach dedicated staff if needed. I have had to call the after hours line before, and I’m glad I had the number saved in my phone as a contact. You just never know.

      Reply
  147. CaptainLaura

    Do not get ice cream at the airport and expense it as “dinner.” I did this and it became a terrible running not-joke in my department.

    Reply
    1. SL #2

      It just shows you how wildly company cultures can vary, because my boss would absolutely not bat an eye if any of us expensed ice cream as dinner. She might chuckle, and then agree that it was a great idea and she should’ve done it herself.

      Reply
  148. LeisureSuitLarry

    If you will be traveling with other people, figure out how to pack everything you need in one carry-on bag (plus your personal item). Definitely, do not check a bag. I did that on my first business trip with others and they were very peeved.

    Make sure you have your wallet/purse/whatever your store your id and money in. Verify that you have those items often. I once spent three weeks in Argentina following my boss around because I managed to drop my wallet in the car on the way to the airport and didn’t notice it. Not a good time. And it wasn’t the first time either!

    Reply
    1. SarahKay

      I’d modify that advice to: If you’re travelling with other people find out if they’re checking a bag, and get your packing down to just carry-on if that’s the way they’re planning to go.
      No, you don’t want to be the person delaying your co-travellers while you wait for your checked bag, but it’s also pretty irritating to discover you could have packed that extra sweater and pair of shoes after all when your co-worker turns up with a large suitcase they’re going to check.

      Reply
  149. Beth

    Pack clothes that are wrinkle-proof, or are close as you can get. Hang them in the closet as soon as you get to your hotel.

    Bring your own alarm, one that you can set with confidence and that you know will wake you up.

    Keep liquor consumption moderate, and drink lots of non-alcoholic fluids.

    Get some exercise, even if it’s just walking up and down the hallways.

    Get to bed as early as you can each night, especially the first night.

    PACK COMFORTABLE SHOES.

    Best tip for managing all those new contacts: swap business cards with everyone. As soon as you can after getting a new card from a new contact, sit down and jot notes on the back to remember them by. “Woman in green with big smile, designs Art Deco teapots, has a good tip on stencils.” “Pushy guy with piercing voice and loud tie, mansplained all through lunch.”

    Reply
  150. Awstinite

    1) I keep a One Note page with all my rewards numbers in one place. If you have an admin booking for you or you book for yourself (meaning, not using a large agency), everything is in one place to get points, easy to email/share. I have them listed in order of preference as well, in case there is a company-preferred hotel or an airline I am near a flight award on.
    2) As others have said, find out your company reimbursement policy and expense guidelines. My company will reimburse for receipts, but not cash (like tips). Still need to have cash on hand though. What is your per diem policy? Is it a suggestion or do you get a set fund you can keep if you don’t use it all? There are benefits to each method. I find a manila envelope is handy to throw all my receipts in, keeps them separate from my personal receipts, and is large enough to hold full-page printouts like hotel bills.
    3) Get your greens in. I try to get veggies in as early in the day as possible. As the day passes, I’m more likely to be in client lunches, definitely heavy/rich dinners, with cocktails/wine starting at happy hour. A good morning routine of exercise, tons of water, and veg keeps me going all day. Pack a (large) reusable water bottle in your carry-on.
    4) Pack what you need for the first day and night in your carry on. If you can, carry on everything.
    5) If travel is going to become frequent, ask if your company will pay for TSA pre-check or Clear.
    6) What is the reimbursement schedule? For example, my company cuts reimbursement checks weekly on Thursdays. I have my expense reports to my boss by Tuesday, she approves Wednesday, I get a check Thursday. The accountants love it when someone follows their rules so it helps when other, non-travel related issues come up. You already have goodwill.
    7) Print all of your travel details as a one-sheet. When your phone dies and you forget your flight confirmation #, this will save you.
    8) Personal preference, I prefer to use my passport as my travel ID for TSA and airlines. That way my driver’s license stays in my wallet. I’ve dropped my ID a time or two and not only couldn’t board a flight, but also didn’t have a backup ID. If you drop the passport, the license is there.
    9) Get very clear with your boss/team about what work you will and won’t be able/expected to do while you’re there. You won’t have as much downtime as you think. Happy hours, lunches, dinners are networking = netWORKing.
    10) Plan your sleep. It’s too easy to drink a little more than normal, be disoriented by time changes, stay up watching TV or trying to get an assignment completed, be excited from the day or excited for the next. Get to bed by a reasonable time. Bring an eye mask, earplugs, maybe a lavender oil. Sensory deprivation is the only way I can consistently sleep on the road.
    11) Charging cables and a battery backup are your friends. Look for ones with USB ends so you can use the same USB plug.

    Reply
  151. LadyByTheLake

    One more thing about conferences, especially as you go to more of them. I am an introvert (but not shy) but if I go to a conference and meet 50 people I will remember none of them. So instead, I intentionally focus on getting to know one or two people well. I still meet and greet others, but I really focus on coming away with two true contacts. It doesn’t matter whether they are “important” people or good contacts now — over the course of 20 years, those people became good friends and they moved and many of them have helped my career in ways that years ago none of us would have expected (and vice versa).

    Reply
    1. BookCocoon

      Yes, I was going to say this same thing. I used to feel like every person I met I was supposed to “follow up” with afterwards or I was a bad “networker,” which just made every interaction into a high-investment event. Now I go in with the goal of making a connection with at least one person that will last past the conference. This incentivizes me to have a lot of small conversations because I never know who’s going to be that one person that I find a connection with.

      Also, this is my fail-safe Terrified Introvert method of talking to people at conferences: I go early (but not too early) to a session, I pick out someone to talk to, and I ask them, “Is this seat taken?” about a seat next to or near them. Then they will turn to me and tell me (usually) that I’m welcome to sit there, in which case I can follow up with, “Thanks. How’s the conference going for you so far?” (Or “Which organization are you with?” or whatever makes the most sense as an opening line.) It’s just a small way to grease the skids on starting a conversation that feels less awkward to me than randomly approaching people and introducing myself. Bonus — it also works as a way to join a conversation in progress, because asking if a seat is taken is seen as a non-rude way of interrupting a conversation and often they will naturally include you in the conversation once they’ve acknowledged you.

      Reply
    2. LadyByTheLake

      Importantly, don’t just make an effort to meet people who are in a position to do something for you now. In my industry there is a guy who is best friends, “hail fellow well met!” when you are in a position to send him business, but when you are not in that position he literally acts like you are invisible. This prompted a friend who he had just ignored to say, “I wonder whether he realizes that WE can still see HIM.”

      Reply
  152. SL #2

    I book all our company travel (sometimes for myself, sometimes for my colleagues). We’re a very small organization and team (4 people total!), so it’s pretty easy for me to keep track of everything, but a few things to look in on/ask questions about:

    – Your company per diem policy. How much can you spend per day? Per meal? Does this include alcohol or will your glass of wine need to be on a separate receipt because having alcohol on the receipt invalidates the whole reimbursement request?
    – Keep an envelope for all your expense receipts and make sure all your expense receipts go into that envelope!!!! You’re going to need them to get reimbursed, and as the person who processes bills and reimbursements after business travel, it’s soooo much easier for me to get an envelope of receipts than watching you dig through your purse and then tell me that you left the receipts at home or threw them out or they got lost in the hotel room.
    – Who do you call if your flight is delayed or the hotel doesn’t have your reservation information? Do you have to call your company travel agency, or can you call an admin at the office?
    – Decide early if you’re going to do check-in or carry-on. It’ll make your packing plans so much easier.
    – And on that note, pack for all sorts of weather. Convention centers and hotel meeting rooms are notoriously cold, so make sure you have an extra layer for conference days.
    – If you and your colleague are traveling on the same flight to the conference, it’s okay to request seats apart. You don’t have to be ‘on’ the whole time if you don’t want to be.
    – Does your company work with a transportation service? Are you expected to Uber from the airport to the hotel? Does the company have an Uber Business account (we do!) that you can charge rides to? How will you get around the city when you’re there?
    – Are you sharing a hotel room with your colleague? (Avoid this as much as possible. We’re a nonprofit and we’ve never had to share rooms with each other. There is no reason for a for-profit company to expect employees to have roommates.)
    – Download apps onto your phone to make your life easier. Flying Delta Airlines? Download the app and board the plane with your mobile boarding pass. Staying at a Marriott? Download the app and do early check-in if you can.
    – Bring business cards! If you don’t have them, ask your manager if you can get a small run of 200 or so. They feel antiquated, but it’s nice to have something to hand someone when you’re networking.

    If I think of more things, I’ll nest them under my original comment…

    Reply
  153. Drax

    Eat something fresh and something green EVERY SINGLE DAY. Also don’t forget about water.
    I find when I’m travelling, I’m tired and everything is go go go so I opted for easy on the go meals. Don’t do that. Try and eat properly (sometimes better then you do at home) while on the go and ensure you’re drinking at minimum a bottle of water every single day (more if you can do it)

    Seriously, you feel better and have way less stress about bathroom going wrong / not being able to use the bathroom often/ etc.

    And don’t get drunk. Drinking is okay, getting drunk is not. There is nothing worse then sitting through conference speakers or interactive groups when hung over. Please know I know this from experience.

    Reply
  154. Lupin Lady

    The thing that surprised me the most was what other people wore in the evening at the final banquet dinner. This will vary a ton, but I now make sure to bring something fancier than business casual. I’m a woman, so I bring my little black dress/ something similar. During the day in my industry tons of people wear jeans, so I bring my nice jeans and a blazer (for any opening reception) in addition to my typical dress pants and blouse. I wear flats during the day. If in doubt, business casual is fine, but boy did I wish I had a dress with me that first time.

    Reply
  155. Sydni

    Couple of things I haven’t seen mentioned:

    1. People are recommending bringing snacks which is great, but heads up about food & TSA for those of us without TSA pre-check. Increasingly I’m getting asked to take out all food from carry-on or personal item…in addition to large electronics and 1-1-3 toiletry bag of course. It sometimes feels like I’m basically emptying and repacking the whole bag now. I have started putting all food items into a large ziplock bag to that can be pulled out quickly.

    2. Vendor hall & swag. I don’t know if others have opinions on this, but here’s mine. If you aren’t in a position with purchasing power (I’m not), you may want to wait until the last day to visit the vendor hall. Talking to vendors when you have no influence on your company’s decision to use their product wastes their time and yours…sometimes you still want some of that sweet swag, though. If you go the last day, they are often trying to unload the rest of their swag because they don’t want to ship it back to headquarters. This way you can pick up some of the leftover goodies with fewer feelings of guilt (maybe it’s just me who gets nervous about taking tote bags and pens, though?). Also most of the attendees who were really interested in meeting with certain vendors have had their chance to talk by this point and it will be less crowded.

    Reply
  156. SAMIAM

    I always grab a cardboard Fed Ex or UPS envelope I keep in my briefcase for trips. Every receipt, even full paper sheets can be slipped in quicky and easily.
    I also take a photo on my phone of where in the parking garage I left my car with the level and row … as I am likely to forget in a week where I left it.
    Take photos or scans of credit card info and numbers, and leave it with someone at home that you trust to call in case stuff is lost or stolen.
    Tip your maid a few bucks every day.

    Reply
  157. One more to add to the pile

    I haven’t read through all of the comments yet but something else to keep in mind, if it’s not already mentioned, get the expenses template from HR/Finance/Your Boss/Whomever and see what you need to include on it. Some companies also have specific “job codes” for items such as meals vs hotels, travel for junior staff vs travel for senior staff could also be coded differently. If your company follows a “job code,” also obtain the list of codes.

    Reply
  158. SamIAm

    Oh, and plant yourself near your gate and watch or check in repeatedly. Nothing worse than last minute changes and running an airport concourse to make a flight.

    Reply
  159. Sled dog mama

    The thing I learned while traveling for work is plan, plan, plan. (Incidentally this works amazingly for traveling with a small child too).
    For me this involves knowing exactly what I have to take off to put on the x-ray belt for TSA, and what I have to take out of the bag and where it is. I suspect that if I was ever traveling with someone it would likely freak them out because I do things in a certain order every single time. I look up airport maps (if I’m not familiar with the airport) and plan how I will get from A to B. Obviously I can’t plan exactly how to get from gate to gate but I plan if we come in to this group of gates I’m going to hit this restroom and X, and Y will be my lunch choices on my way to this group of gates for the connection but if my connection is this other group of gates then I’ll get lunch first then hit this restroom closer to my connection.
    I also plan how I pack my bag carefully, something I definitely won’t need during flight (like my meds) but I’m keeping on me anyway gets tucked away but my book for inflight goes right on top so it’s easy to reach. If you’re going to overpack, make certain that it’s in your checked baggage, there is nothing more miserable than schlepping an overstuffed bag of stuff you aren’t going to use until you get there around an airport. If you’re going carry-on only (hand baggage only) don’t overpack, try to stretch your wardrobe as far as possible. Above all else make sure that your bag meets the guidelines for carry on and that you can lift it over your head, Flight attendants cannot help you with that and relying on a kind stranger is more likely to get you grumbled at.

    Reply
  160. Frogsandturtles

    If you are a woman, be aware that you may be hit on by men at the conference. Especially if you are under 30 (or look like you are). Another reason to keep the alcohol to a minimum.

    Reply
    1. Name Required

      If you are a man, also be aware that you may be hit on by other people at the conference. Especially if you are attractive to them with a good personality. Drink only enough alcohol to remain professional, regardless if no one hits on you.

      Reply
  161. Public Health Nerd

    Great advice here – just a few to add:
    – Don’t check your luggage on the way there. Bring an empty reusable grocery bag – if you need to, you can always check your carry on and the hand carry the grocery bag on the plane. Handy if you go shopping after the conference.
    – Never check your poster on the way there. If you are bringing it home, it’s fine to check it there.
    – Really, most conference hotels will have laundry service, and most conference cities will have a Target/Walmart or the local equivalent. It’s not the end of the world to forget most items or have a spill.
    – Practice what you will say to new people. “Hi, I’m PHN, I work for Amazing Place, and I’m passionate about teapot insurance policies.”
    Have fun!

    Reply
  162. Workfromhome

    I think most of the things around expenses have been covered so I’ll share a few other things:
    1.Do your research ahead of time. Know if you will be going to event supplied meals, group meals or “on your own”
    2.Use yelp or other sources to locate potential dining (and for me coffee shop) locations near where you will be . Nothing is worse than working all day and being starved and saying “So where can we eat?” Finding ands deciding on a place when hungry and tired is not great. Plus if you are the only person who has a list of places you usually end up getting to choose where you want to go . I also like to have a list of coffee shops where I can go and finish up work or relax away from everyone if I want.
    3. Research the gym/fitness options. You won’t get your regular routine in but I find that even doing SOMETHING a couple of times during the trip other than work eat and sleep makes a huge difference to energy levels.
    4. Research any travel/driving etc. If you know where you are going, how you get there and how long it takes its a huge stress reducer.

    Reply
  163. Miss Annie

    Keep your receipts, write on each what is it, then take a picture as a backup.

    If you check a bag, take everything you need for the first day of the conference in your carryon.

    Make sure you have all your tech chargers and have a backup phone cable. Mine always breaks. I pack a lightweight extension cord for the airport. That way, I only need one plug, and I can sit a few feet from said plug.

    Take an empty water bottle for the flight and fill it after you clear security.

    Pack a small personal pharmacy of your most used OTC drugs (Advil, Kaopectate the like) and a small first aid kit.

    Reply
  164. JessicaTate

    OK, as a frequent work traveler for many years, I’m going to share a few of my major tips that I didn’t see covered (or covered as commonly) above. These are more travel related, rather than just work-travel.

    –Sleep mask (if a dark room is important to you). Hotel rooms chronically have curtains that don’t close all the way, or bedside clocks that are really bright, etc.
    –White Noise App for your phone. There is so often a loud neighbor, thin walls, and/or people being noisy in hallways. This helps drown it out. (I don’t use headphones, I just play it out of the phone speakers.)
    –Bring an empty, reusable water bottle. (I like insulated ones because they don’t sweat.) Fill it up after TSA (many airports have filling stations now). And then use it throughout the conference center to stay hydrated (most have water coolers around these days). You stay hydrated and minimize the amount of plastic waste you produce.
    –Extra long phone charging cord. In the event that the plug is not near your nightstand. It’s also just nice to have in life.
    –If you have time before your trip, seriously consider getting Pre-Check from TSA. It’s $85 for 4 years, I think. It is worth it. I know you aren’t going to be traveling a ton, but it has made my travel life SO much easier and faster — I swear that I’d get it even if I only flew once a year. You have a special (shorter) line, you keep your shoes on, your laptop and liquids stay in your bag, and you get a metal detector instead of the full-body, “look at my underwear” scan. Worth. It.

    Reply
    1. Name Required

      I’m a super minimalist traveler. As long as you smell fresh, no one is going to notice if you re-wear solid basics in dark colors (black sheath dress and blazer is my go-to).

      Don’t leave your room in your pjs, even to grab breakfast from the buffet.

      Someone else said this but a white noise/sleep app is a LIFE SAVER — I like the Rain, Rain app. I can’t sleep with a mask on, but I usually put pillows along the crack of the door and sleep facing away from the windows. (At home my bedroom is painted black with blackout curtains; I like a cave at night.)

      It’s unlikely your coworker will want to spend all day with you. It’s okay to say that you need some “me” time/need a nap before dinner/take a moment to yourself in your room. It’s also okay to use your headphones on long car rides, or use that time to get other work done. You don’t have to get seats next to each other on the plane.

      Reply
      1. Lavender Menace

        I will provide a suggestion to the PJs thing…when I travel for work I bring pajamas that aren’t quite pajamas. Think dark yoga leggings and a tunic. I do this just in case I need to leave my hotel briefly at like 11 pm for a vending machine run and unexpectedly run into my director in the hallway or something. I’m definitely not getting re-dressed at 11 pm, but I also kind of don’t want my coworkers to see me on full on jammies.

        (Oh, and as a person with a bust – bralettes. They’re a comfortable way to lounge in your hotel without necessarily wearing a full bra, but if you do need to briefly leave your room after you’ve undressed, you have some coverage.)

        Reply
    2. Lucille2

      White noise apps are great, just don’t bother with the free ones. The free ones will often run ads every so often which kind of defeats the purpose of the white noise. It only costs a few bucks to get one without ads.

      Reply
      1. MsMaryMary

        I swear by a white noise app for travel. I use the free version of one called White Noise, and it does not have ads. You are limited by what sounds you can access. YouTube also has some posts that are 10 or 11 hours long. No ads after the initial one when the video loads.

        Reply
    3. Lavender Menace

      I was scrolling to see if someone else would recommend TSA Pre-Check. It’s $85 for 5 years, so it works out to just $15 a year. And it is SOOOOOO worth it, even if you only travel a few times a year for work and travel combined. Not only does it make your airport life easier, it also means you waste less time at the airport. It’s to the point where I can get to the airport about an hour and 15 minutes before my flight tops and I still end up waiting in the gate for 20-30 minutes. (With the exception of the Atlanta airport, where the TSA pre-check lane is somehow still always crazy.)

      Reply
  165. Allison

    No pressure for your first trip, but if it’s a city you are excited to visit, see if you can add some buffer time for sightseeing by scheduling flights earlier/later than you need to. (Later in your career, you may even be able to add days and just pay for the hotel or stay with a friend, but feel that out with colleagues first. )

    Reply
  166. Shannon

    1. External phone charger / battery
    2. layers!
    3. comfortable shoes
    4. don’t get drunk, drunk
    5. save receipts / if on a budget make sure you’re clear on what work will pay for if anything
    6. have a few small talk intro thingies, I live in L.A. so I always ask if people have seen a movie lately they liked
    7. take breaks when you need to, even if it’s just a walk outside around the block
    8. have fun!!

    Reply
  167. Software Engineer

    Keep your taxi receipts (who gets taxi receipts? I didn’t know it was a thing until I did business travel). Check if you need them to put your company name on the hotel bill or car rental bill.

    Be nice to yourself on the travel days and try to just relax! Unless you have to don’t try to work on the plane. Check if your travel days count as work days. (If I am flying on the weekend or going to conferences I count that as work days and take comp days off work when I get back). Don’t forget to pack casual and comfortable clothes for when you’re not working.

    Scout the city out ahead of time. Figure out good tourist things to do but don’t book them ahead in case you’re too busy or tired. Bookmark a variety of good restaurants near your hotel and the conference for a quick casual bite or a nice group dinner or a place to grab coffee and talk with somebody. Be honest with yourself if you need a break and take it (I get tired socializing so I eat breakfast solo and extend the silence before I go all in for the day).

    Reply
  168. sammy_two

    Maybe it’s already been mentioned, but bring $1 bills for tips if you’re taking any shuttles for your luggage ($1-2 per piece). If you can, put your first day’s clothes in your carry-on, just in case. If you have time to yourself for sightseeing, check out Trip Advisor or talk to the hotel concierge for suggestions on dining, entertainment, etc.

    Reply
  169. Rainy days

    Have a credit card with plenty of extra credit on it. When I travel the assumption is usually that the company will cover the hotel room, but there’s been problems with that so so so many times and I’ve had to put the room on my card, then get reimbursed or get the charge reversed. On my first business trip, I almost cried because the cost of the room was more than my credit limit. I’ve also had to put colleagues’ rooms on my card temporarily because they didn’t have enough credit. Maybe this is just my company, though–I hope it’s not too common.

    Reply
  170. Kate

    If you’re at a convention center in the middle of nowhere, it can be a real pain to get to a drugstore, so think of the kind of things you might not normally carry on you that can really ruin your day not to have when you need it–maybe eyedrops, Tums, an extra pair of tights if you wear them–and bring those with you.

    Reply
  171. Queen Anne

    I am an introvert and I find business travel exhausting. I am also a home body and I tend to get lonely and homesick quickly (lonely in a crowd). It doesn’t keep me from traveling. I just know to expect it and how I deal with it. If the conference is in a hotel and I don’t have to leave the hotel to go to meetings, I use breaks to sneak back to my room to decompress even if I have only a few minutes. I might even turn on the TV, brush my hair, take my shoes off for a minute.. little things. I take extra clothes in case I feel like a change too. I always take comfy, stretchy clothes for the evenings when the day’s activities have come to an end. Favorite snacks and drinks for the room are good. If you like diet coke vs diet pepsi or vice versa you may want to plan ahead. (True for any drink you “just have to have”). I also like to find out where the closest Starbucks is to the hotel. If it’s walking distance….yeah! Fill in your favorite go-to spot there. Check the weather for the area before you go. I am traveling soon too so all t his is coming to mind as I think about it!

    Reply
    1. KC without the sunshine band

      I’m an introvert who travels constantly for work and agree with everything Queen Anne said. I try to think of my alone time on trips as a scheduled retreat. I pack the things that make that time great, and yet try to keep it light, physically, since I don’t check luggage. A bottle of nail polish, for example, is light and I never take the time to do my toes at home, so it’s special. I also check to see what is within walking distance. That can be the highlight of the off-time of the trip, walking in a new place to an awesome little bookstore or restaurant.

      As for the conference, be prepared to prioritize what you want to get out of it. Since you said it was a large one, you’ll want to plan ahead if possible as to what you want to learn while you are there and make sure you hit those points. This will help you have good stuff coming home, and not be that person who wanders around aimlessly, stopping at what looks cool, and give the short “It was good.” when your coworkers ask how the conference was.

      Reply
  172. Lucille2

    Seasoned business traveler here. Below are some things I’ve picked up along the way. Most importantly, have fun! Going to a conference is a great opportunity to network and learn more about your industry.
    – Familiarize yourself with your company travel policy. You don’t want any surprises. If you have generous allowance for food/hotel and work for a large company, be mindful of your department’s budget and culture. You don’t want to be the person who blew the department budget on a fancy steak dinner.
    – Conferences are a lot of time on your feet. Wear appropriate shoes that you can walk in all day but are appropriate for the industry culture.
    – Happy hours are a great way to network, but be mindful of your alcohol intake. There is nothing worse than attending conference sessions with a hangover or becoming the office cautionary tale. 1-2 drinks is a great way to ease the social anxiety (like me), but more than that and you risk heading down a slippery slope. Also, if you don’t drink, still consider attending happy hours if you’re comfortable doing so. Most people won’t notice or care if you’re not imbibing.
    – Uber/Lyft are the way to go for transportation if your company allows it. I don’t miss renting cars or standing in taxi queues at all. If others from your company are also going, consider ride sharing with colleagues to save the company a buck.
    – Find a nearby convenience store and buy bottled water for your room. I always get dehydrated on business trips from flying and being on the go all day long. It wouldn’t hurt to have a couple of snacks on hand too in case meals are far between and you require some protein to keep up the energy level.
    – Talk to your manager about expectations of you when attending a conference. Is your company hosting a booth and expects you to spend some time at the booth? Are there specific sessions you are obligated to attend? Are you expected to share your learnings with the team upon your return? Again, you don’t want any surprises and you want the company to be willing to send you to more events in the future.
    – Pack light and carry on if possible to avoid any baggage issues.
    – What work is still expected to be done while you’re out of office? Do you need to respond to emails and keep an eye on things while you’re away? Protect your free time to do as needed even if it means FaceTiming with the family back home. Conferences can feel like you’re burning the candle at both ends, so pace yourself.
    – Get your bearings of the conference/city in advance so you know where you need to go especially if you’ve never visited the city before.
    I could go on and on, but I think the commentariat has provided some great info already. Have fun!

    Reply
    1. Bulbasaur

      I was going to mention the final point if nobody else had. Learn where the hotel is, and what transport options exist. ‘Walk’ around the neighborhood using Google Street View to get your bearings. Figure out what local amenities you might need (will you be wanting to pick up some food at a supermarket as a break from restaurant meals or buffets?) and look for them in advance.

      You can do all of this at the time if you have a phone and decent wifi or data, but figuring it out in advance will save time and help you feel more in control.

      Reply
    2. Lavender Menace

      You are correct in that most people don’t notice or care if you are not drinking, but if you feel awkward or just happen to have that group of coworkers that kind of does, ask the bartender for water or Sprite with a lime on the side, or get a Coke and stick the little tiny straw in it. People will generally assume that you got light or dark liquor respectively, and most people won’t ask.

      Reply
  173. Hiring Mgr

    Not sure if this has been mentioned, but one thing i’ve noticed couple of times recently when traveling is that in some hotels, the in-room fridge or snack thing is activated by a sensor of some kind which charges you when you move the item. So for example if you’re poking around in the fridge, take a can of soda, and decide to then put it back, you would still be charged. They’ll remove the charge if asked but if you don’t check carefully you may not notice. And needless to say with alcohol this can get pricey

    Reply
  174. RoadWorrier

    People already have covered also everything I would say as a veteran “road warrior.” There are two things I would add:

    1. If you aren’t familiar with customary tipping for travel, do a little research. I both under and over tipped as I learned the ropes. You’ll want to cover a cache of $1’s for various needs. Many companies don’t reimburse these tips, fwiw.

    2. Business travel is very different than vacation travel. I think it helps to get clear in my mind that this is work, and not expect to do the fun stuff typical for the city. I once went to conference at Disney Land and never saw the park except for dinner. If you have time, that’s great, but don’t sacrifice sleep or professionalism for it.

    Reply
  175. Software Engineer

    Also get an idea of where you can buy supplies last minute if needed—I went to a conference in a grocery store desert of a city (I couldn’t find ANY within the ring of freeway around downtown) so check out whether Prime Now or taskrabbit or something can bring you emergency cold medicine or new socks because you left yours behind or whatever.

    Reply
  176. Purple Jello

    Extra room in your suitcase, in case you pick up something to bring back.

    OR will you have a conference binder? Will your company provide you with a box and prepaid FedEx label so you can ship back the binder instead of trying to stuff the 10 pound 5″ binder into your suitcase?

    Reply
  177. Roz Doyle

    I agree with everone’s advice above, lots of great amazing tips.
    My piece is this:
    1)If the OP is a woman with long hair that may be difficult to style with a hotel blowdryer (my predicament), I recommend finding out what salons are either in the hotel or near it, find out their hours, save the phone number in your cell phone, or if possible, prebook an appointment. I always do this, because I need a powerful professional blowdryer to prevent massive frizz, that I don’t like bringing on trips and I also need extra styling products that I don’t have in travel size. And the salon is also great place to decompress after long days of meetings (frequent occurrence on my business trips) and away from colleagues that, believe me, you will get fed up with after spending entire days with them.
    2) If you have a car rental, and you don’t have a good data plan for your phone or your company phone doesn’t have data, make sure the gps is included in your car rental. You will definitely need it.
    Good luck!

    Reply
  178. Ghost Town

    Make yourself an itinerary, and include any-every-thing you might need on it. I was particularly thorough on my first several trips (I was only traveling a few times a year). I included things like travel to my “home” airport (usually travel time to work, when the airport shuttle was, expected arrival time at the airport…). This helped me conceptualize how much time I needed for different events and activities, plan out the whole trip, and had the added benefit of letting my spouse know roughly what was going on and when to pick me up! (We’re also the people that will photograph our rental car plates and send them to each other, just in case, so …. there’s that)

    Reply
    1. Purple Jello

      Yes! include reservation/confirmation numbers, flights, telephone numbers, addresses of hotel/conference/car rental place. And make a spare copy to include in your suitcase!

      Reply
  179. Avyncentia

    Some of these are general travel tips. Business travel has many similarities to solo travel and if you haven’t done that before, you may not think of these either:

    * Keep a small supply of painkillers handy. You’ll be in a new, stressful environment and you don’t want to be walking around with a headache all day. The same also applies to any other “as needed” medications, such as for allergies or GI problems.
    * If you have a desk job and you’re mostly standing/walking at this conference, your feet are going to HURT by the end of the day, even if you wear comfortable shoes. Plan to be off your feet as much as you can at night.
    * Female? Bring extra tampons/pads, even if you’re not expecting your period, but especially if it’s supposed to start shortly after you return. YMMV, but I find travel to be a great way to screw up my cycle.
    * You can order delivery to hotels. This is a nice option especially if you’re introverted, need to not be around people in order to recharge, and don’t/can’t do room service.
    * Consider downloading offline maps of your destination (I know you can do this in Google Maps, probably also in other programs).
    * Did you know that you can turn wifi on when your phone is in airplane mode? Very helpful for international travel.
    * Know how your health insurance works when you’re out of network. If your insurance doesn’t cover out-of-network emergencies, talk to your company about what options are available to you.
    * If you can, carry travel-size deodorant with you.
    * Before you leave, add the number for the hotel, the rental car company, and your travel companions to your phone and mark them so that they’re easy to find.
    * Who from your company are you supposed to contact in the event of flight delays, cancellations, etc.? Add their number to your phone.
    * Carry cash in small bills, even if you normally are plastic-only. It’s helpful for tips.
    * Make a list of what you need before you start packing. Modify the list as you pack. And then SAVE THE LIST. Use it when you’re getting ready to leave to make sure you didn’t forget anything.
    * I travel <6 times a year and I still find TSA pre-check to be worth it. YMMV.

    Reply
    1. Lucille2

      I second the painkiller/OTC meds tip. I went to an event in Phoenix and came down with a wicked headache by the end of the workday and had to overpay for a couple advil at the hotel gift shop. Also had to skip an evening networking event. Conferences in Phoenix and Las Vegas are popular this time of year, but the desert climate is no joke and takes a lot of people by surprise.

      Reply
    2. Becky

      * You can order delivery to hotels. This is a nice option especially if you’re introverted, need to not be around people in order to recharge, and don’t/can’t do room service.

      YES. On my trip last fall I was in an area that, even though I knew my company was paying for it, I just could not justify the prices for the hotel and adjacent food (this was Disneyland, so …yeah) but there are a ton of awesome delivery restaurants in the area and I got some GREAT food.

      Reply
  180. NotReallyKarenWalker

    Check out the hotel facilities beforehand, bring appropriate gear. I enjoy a nice walk after dinner to unwind, but I’m not always comfortable doing that in an unfamiliar city. Having a pair of sneakers and some jogging pants means I can throw on my headphones and hit a hotel gym treadmill, or swim some laps if I’ve planned well.

    Also, conferences will usually give you points of interest to check out, and those are typically in “safe” locations, and you’ll often find groups of newly acquainted strangers heading out in groups to explore. Lots of people traveling on their own can equate to lots of new, temporary travel friends! Check for conference discounts as well, even if they’re not explicitly listed. If you’re in an area with a big conference center, you can typically find lots of places with special attendee rates. I got into the Shedd Aquarium for free (instead of $40) by doing a little bit of legwork on available passes and rates. (Bring your work ID, especially if you’re in a field such as education).

    Something I also do is talk to the cabbies about where I should and shouldn’t walk by myself in the evening or early morning, and this a) Almost always yields valuable information like, this particular park is beautiful and family friendly during the day, but much rougher once the sun sets and b) Great recommendations for local food and spots to check out.

    Don’t be afraid to turn down dinners with colleagues: It seems that when we travel in a group, we typically have dinner together the first night, lunches during the conferences on all days, and then it’s sort of a crapshoot the rest of the evenings. I think a lot of people feel pressured to socialize constantly, but welcome the respite when the group decides against it. Of course, in some cultures that’s not a choice, but if it is, use your discretion.

    And, most importantly, don’t badmouth anyone: colleagues, companies, vendors. You never know what ears are listening, or who is representing whom.

    Reply
  181. Sweets

    The big things that people have already covered: battery packs for mobile devices, comfy shoes, scarves/layers for cold indoor spaces, take it easy on alcohol, carry water, review your work’s travel policy, check in with your manager ahead of time about expectations/objectives, make sure you give yourself enough time to decompress/sleep.

    To that end, I’ve started saving my fanciest Sephora samples for my work trips, and I bring along a silk robe or nice pajamas. The samples help me comply with TSA restrictions, and having nice stuff waiting for me makes coming back to the hotel room at night feel like “yay! a perk for me now!”

    Also consider packing a pre-addressed pre-paid FedEx or UPS box/mailer in your suitcase so you can ship conference materials/swag back to the office and lighten your load on your return.

    Reply
    1. Lavender Menace

      Haha I do the same thing about Sephora samples! My travel toiletry bag is about 75% Sephora samples at this point.

      Reply
  182. Temit

    Air travel – check in in advance and arrive at the airport one hour before your flight.
    If its more than one day – bring a change of shoes, your feet will thank you!
    If its business formal, pack a monochromatic dark suit with several tops to vary the look. Do not check your bag, check the airlines carryon rules and pack light.
    Hotels are notoriously dry – take the ice bucket and fill it with ice or water. When you take a shower, hang the damp towels over a chair, outside the bathroom. You’ll be the only one without a nosebleed/hoarse sounding voice.
    Drink plenty of water.
    Even if your hotel room is paid for, you’ll need a credit card to bill expenses with.
    Room service/long distance/movies on demand all cost more $ in hotels. Check your company’s travel policy to know what you can expense before you travel.
    Large industry conferences are held in places with concrete floors, thin carpeting and expansive lengths. Travel light – do you really need to take your laptop and extra battery pack with you? Check your coat, bring your phone and maybe one small note pad. Store extra business cards in the pocket of your ID badge, bring water. A heavy purse, laptop bag will feel twice as heavy when walking on those hard floors.
    Wash your hands or use Antibacterial gel where available. Most people wind up sick when they come home.
    Have a good breakfast. Take vitamin C to keep your immunity up.
    If there’s a customer appreciation event, go! Its a great opportunity to meet people in your company/industry and everyone likes to put a face to a name.
    When you get a business card, make sure you take the time to follow up with who you’ve met when you are back at the office. Its a good first to start building relationships in the industry.
    If you are walking the exhibit floor, learn as much as you can about the other companies, do not pick up any brochures, squeeze balls, pens. Trust me on this.
    If you are registered for the sessions, take the time to meet the person next to you, introduce yourself to the speaker, pay attention to the questions being asked. Its the best place to find out what people are excited about and what they need.
    Finally, if you are in a city you’ve never been in, take an hour or two to explore it. If there’s a team dinner/sales dinner its a great time to build credibility and let people get to know you. Drink, if you do, but don’t get drunk. You’re still at work.
    Good luck, this is wonderful opportunity!

    Reply
  183. scmill

    1) wear comfortable shoes
    2) don’t overpack – mix & match
    3) keep up with receipts
    4) take extra cable/charger/backup battery for electronics
    5) TSA prechek if you can
    6) don’t forget meds
    7) have fun!
    8) speaking as a veteran of CES, you can sleep when you get home

    Reply
  184. Tigger

    I know I am late to the party and I am very sorry if this is not the right place but I have a question. Is it normal to use your own rewards number to get miles on a plane ticket purchase if the company is paying for it?

    Reply
    1. Antilles

      Yes, it is. A few companies might have their own rewards numbers if they really travel that much, but in those cases, travel is typically arranged by HR or accounting or whatever anyways.
      As a similar equivalent, if purchase airline tickets on your own personal rewards credit card, there’s no expectation you cut them a check for the 2% back or whatever.

      Reply
    2. Sydni

      Yes, and even if you don’t travel often, sign up for all the rewards programs! Some come with perks like upgraded internet speed, late checkout, higher level boarding group, etc. I never earn enough points to get free flights or hotel nights, but you can redeem your HiltonHonors points like cash on Amazon and you can get free magazine subscriptions with a lot of the airline miles programs. Something is always better than nothing!

      Reply
    3. be sure

      May depend on how you use them. There are company rules and laws that vary from place to place.
      Where I live using bonus miles from business trips to private trips is taxable income that must be declared. Because of additional bureaucracy, most companies forbid it, even though that was previously accepted as a common perk.
      My employer (university) recommended to have a separate reward number for business trips and use the points to gain another business trip. Otherwise it was never controlled.

      Reply
  185. MsMaryMary

    I had never rented a car before traveling for work, and I found out at 10pm at the Sioux Falls airport that many rental car companies only accept credit cards, not debit cards. I only have a credit card for absolute disasters, and I hadn’t brought it with me. I ended up leaving a sizable deposit, using a slightly dubious rental company, and spending more than I anticipated to rent a car. At the time, Sioux Falls didn’t have Uber or Lyft service and very limited cab service, so I nearly ended up in a very bad position.

    Reply
  186. Tupac Coachella

    Have a plan for the conference. Look at the schedule, map out your day and keep an eye for backup plans if something needs to change on the fly. Do not try to decide what to do when you’re also juggling a bunch of stuff and navigating a conference center or hotel.

    Travel light. I avoid checking a bag like it will mean certain death.

    If you’re able, have a credit card that you use for travel expenses, including parking and to give the front desk at the hotel for incidentals, even if your company is paying for the room. I share a bank account with my partner, and using the credit card means I don’t have to spend my evening phone time with him balancing our account. I pay it off with my reimbursement.

    Don’t overschedule yourself, including dinners with colleagues and organized sightseeing. If you’re an introvert, and maybe even if you’re not, find a safety valve time each day when you can sneak away and regroup if needed.

    Reply
    1. Anomalous

      Yes, definitely read through the program for the conference and decide what sessions you want to attend.

      Many conferences now have their own apps for your phone. Download this beforehand if possible.

      You’ll need to pick up your registration materials before you can go to sessions — you’ll need to get your name badge, if nothing else. (Most conferences require you to wear your badge, and many will check that you have a badge before entering sessions.) The lines can be long on the first morning of the conference, so be prepared for that. Often there is registration the day before (like on the Sunday afternoon before a Monday conference). If your travel schedule allows, picking up your registration materials the day before is a great time saver.

      Reply
  187. Karlee

    My quick list:
    – Pack an outfit in your carry on bag. Lost luggage can be a crisis.
    – It’s not fair, but if you’re a woman and your senior colleague notices that you packed more than needed (large suitcase) they might judge you harshly.
    – Wear really good shoes. You walk a LOT at conferences.
    – Pick up your registration early or at an odd hour if you can – the lines can be VERY long.
    – Dress appropriately – you’re making a ton of first impressions.
    – Bring a great tote so you can carry what you need – you may not get back to your hotel until it’s time to sleep.
    – Get to the airport early. Don’t start your trip with avoidable stress. Sit in the front of the plane if you can.
    – Figure out transportation at your destination before you go. It can be confusing!
    – Eat a healthy breakfast every day. It may be the only healthy food you get that day.
    – Familiarize yourself with the conference before you go – know what sessions you want to attend.
    – Be picky about sessions you attend – a lot of them can be poorly disguised sales presentations.
    – Popular sessions can fill up early – get there early if it’s important.
    – Be prepared to write a trip report or do a presentation on what you learned.
    – Take notes. If you aren’t too exhausted, scribble down your “lessons learned” each day.
    – Don’t spend too much or too little – both make you look green.
    – Don’t forget your business cards!
    – Take the opportunity to have meals with new prospects, customers, colleagues – build your network.
    – Have a practiced short and long introduction of yourself, including why you’re at the conference.
    – Don’t return to the office and talk about all the fun stuff you did in your free time. It sends the wrong message.
    – Do your expense report the first full day you’re back. It’s easy to forget.

    Reply
  188. Oblique Fed

    Don’t schedule anything urgent for the day you get back if at all possible. a) you’ll just be too tired to be at your best b) you never know when you’ll have travel delays. Also, try to keep an emergency protein bar or pack of nuts or something on your person at all times, especially on your travel days. It is easy to be so preoccupied with the trip or the conference that you miss a food window and you don’t want to make professional impressions as HANGRY YOU.

    Reply
  189. Nox

    Do not let your client buy you vodka shots (crystal skull vodka specifically) and get smashed day 1 of a 3 day training.

    The hangover sucks but we are still close even after I left the company.

    Reply
  190. Agent Diane

    Pack a book, even if you normally use kindles etc. There may be a morning where you really can’t face more socialising over breakfast, or an evening where you just want to go to a different restaurant by yourself. A book is an amazingly useful polite barrier. You may get a bit of “what you reading?” but you can talk about the book rather than yet more work talk or gossip.

    Also, miniature travel stuff is your friend. Here in the UK there’s a chain that does 3for2 and I keep toothpaste etc all in my bag ready to go at short notice. Don’t forget nail files.

    Also, if you need a hairdryer, check if the hotel provides one in the room as standard. If they do, it saves you packing space.

    And remember phone cables, Fitbit chargers etc. If it’s a long week, you want to count those steps around the venue!

    Be prepared to run into your boss in his tiny running shorts first thing in the morning. Pretend he’s still in his suit.

    Reply
    1. Agent Diane

      Oh, and if you go for runs etc, use Strava or similar to identify safe routes to run if you’re a single woman. ;)

      Reply
  191. Denkyem

    – Plan as if your checked luggage will be missing for the first two days of your trip. Have at least two changes of professional-looking clothing in your carry-on, plus any work materials you need and any essential toiletries for you to not feel like a troll (for me, that’s mascara and a specific hair product).

    -Seize opportunities to network. If you sit next to someone friendly in a session, join them for a drink in the evening. Go to evening receptions. At lunch, sit at a table with strangers and introduce yourself to everyone.

    -Once or twice during the trip, you’re allowed to tell your colleagues you’re wiped and need to retire early, and then go back to your room and binge on netflix and order room service.

    Reply
  192. Farm Girl

    I strongly recommend earplanes-little plastic tubes you put in your ears when you fly to dear with altitude changes. Especially if you come down with a cold, they are a godsend. You can get them at pharmacies.

    Reply
  193. Isobel

    I was so nervous and excited for my first business trip! I agonized over packing (how casual was appropriate for getting drinks after the conference? Would it be weird if people saw me in gym clothes at the hotel?)

    I was so laser focused on picking up marketing materials from the office and getting to the airport on time that the utter chaos downtown didn’t sink in.

    It was September 11th, 2001. My 9/11 story is that as I ran for my life through that white dust I was stressing about double-confirming our celebrity speaker’s hotel reservation. My brain could not adjust.

    I realize this is not helpful advice! It is just what I think about every time someone talks about their first business trip.

    Reply
  194. Same.

    Also re: per diems – Try to find out from someone more experienced at the company if it’s generally expected that people will use all/most of the per diem (or meal reimbursement, or however your company sets it up). Sometimes per diem rates are set super high, but it’s expected that employees will only spend a small fraction of it, especially if they’re traveling to cheaper locales.

    Reply
  195. Chris K.

    I knew someone who had never had his own credit card and used a company card on his first business trip. He was leaving a cash tip but recording the amount on the credit card slip, not realizing he was double-tipping. No waiter was kind enough to explain.

    Reply
  196. Nervous Traveler

    Here are some suggestions I live by when doing business travel:
    Take Airborn before boarding the plane and when you get to the hotel room (I used to get sick a lot when doing business travel).
    Drink a lot of water and avoid soda on flying days
    Bring more underwear than you think you need, especially if you’re going to Florida. In June.
    Bring casual clothes and walking shoes if you have room in your suitcase, so you can do a lap around the city if there’s time
    Don’t eat crazy; I have a sensitive stomach anyway so maybe this doesn’t apply, but don’t eat sketchy sushi or super hot Indian cuisine.
    Don’t keep your money all in one place
    Bring sound cancelling headphones
    Bring at least one pair of underwear and a shirt in your carry on in case your luggage is checked and lost
    Be sure to book a hotel room that has a restaurant in it and room service, and decent wireless

    Reply
  197. KGal

    Wear comfortable shoes and dress in layers – almost every conference I’ve gone to has freezing rooms, even in the middle of summer. Even in a blazer and scarf and hands hugging hot tea, I was freezing! Bring some casual clothes as well in case there are outings or dinners out on your own or with others you meet, and bring comfy clothes for lounging in your room too. If you think you’ll use the hotel pool and gym, bring a suit and clothes for that as well, but even as an avid exerciser myself, I usually choose an extra hour of sleep over working out when traveling for work since days at conferences are long. Do some research a head of time on what sessions you want to go to, people or presenters you may want to connect with, exhibitors you want to meet, etc. and schedule your time accordingly. Bring snacks that travel well, like nuts and apples, in case you get hungry between meals. Bring lots of business cards and save receipts (which lots of people already mentioned). Be sure to put your out of office message on and let people know you’re traveling and will have a delayed response. Have fun!

    Reply
  198. Kimmybear

    As a former event planner and road warrior, here are a few thoughts:
    1. If you are under 25 and you need a rental car, work out the details in advance. Many rental car companies won’t rent to you if under 25 or charge a hefty extra fee.
    2. You need a credit card, not a debit card. Rental cars and hotels put huge holds on your debit card and may cause issues. Credit cards also have protections that debit cards don’t.
    3. Review the conference schedule in advance and see what sessions you are interested in and what your colleague(s) will attend. Many conferences have a session specifically for first time attendees on how to get the most from the conference.
    4. Wear comfy shoes. Convention centers are huge and solid concrete under that thin carpet. Your feet will hurt at the end of the day.
    5. Don’t check bags. You’re going for a few days not a month. No one will remember if you wear the same black pants twice.
    6. Research a restaurant or two near your hotel/convention center so you don’t have to spend time onsite deciding where to eat.
    7. Have fun…but not too much. This is work.
    8. Use your time at the airport/on the plane on the way home to do your expense report and catch up on emails. It’s not like planes and airports are fun.
    9. If you forget anything, ask the hotel front desk. They often have random stuff you can buy, borrow or have like phone chargers, toothbrushes and snacks.
    Good luck!

    Reply
  199. The Rat-Catcher

    I always sleep terribly when on business trips, and require the assistance of medication to sleep when I never need it otherwise. If you think that might be you, it’s much easier to bring it along than to wander about looking for a pharmacy.

    Reply
  200. Johannes

    I was terrified before my first business trip seven years ago. I heard horror stories about people getting reprimanded for sketchy things with the corporate card, and was determined not to fall into that category. A sit-down with our controller’s staff really helped.

    Other advice …

    1. Pack as little as possible. I follow /r/onebag on Reddit and it has helped me pare down my travel kit to an absolute minimum. I wash clothes in the sink and hang them to dry. This may be extreme to some, but for me it’s SO worth not hauling a giant rollerbag or garment bag. A single carryon holds all my stuff. Often I can get away with a daypack and be completely unhindered in airports and transit. It’s a great feeling.

    2. Know your employer’s expectations around socializing. I worked for an agency once where the culture was very much oriented toward drinking at networking receptions. As a teetotaler, I was very uncomfortable leading up to that conference. As it turned out, I just got a soda and only one or two people remarked on my non-consumption. But better to be forewarned.

    3. Know your employer’s attitude around comp time / time to be paid. I was used to tracking my time from the moment I left my house to the moment I got back home, and including all the time I was working at the conference – including mandatory networking, working meals with other attendees, etc. It was a very rude shock to find that a new agency would only pay for 7.5 hours each day of the trip even if we spent 10-12 hours actually working, and didn’t count travel time at all. In my mind, any time that I don’t control my schedule is time spent working, and I should either get paid for it or earn comp time. The leadership believed that because employees often (but not always) extended their stays for mini-vacations in convention cities by a day or two using personal time, that compensated for the unpaid travel time and other working time. I ended up having to eat about 20 hours of time that trip.

    4. Bring an extra utility change of business casual clothes + light jacket as an emergency backup. I once ended up after a day of field tours and site visits with a distinct odor of this industry clinging to my clothes that would not easily come out. It was really good to have another option with slacks and a polo while the hotel laundry worked its magic.

    5. Healthy snacks: Hard-boiled eggs, carrot sticks, nuts and raisins, tuna pouches, oatmeal – all travel well and provide a solid pick-me-up. If I can’t pack them, I hit a grocery store as soon as I get there.

    6. On the food per diem: I worked for an agency where we put everything on the corporate card and had a daily expense limit – no money exchanged hands. I would often go to a grocery store and stock up on nonperishable items that would travel well back home but could reasonably be eaten on a trip, like nuts, dried fruit, bagels, and bars. I would then arrive back home with snacks for a few days back in the real world, courtesy of the per diem. I never spent as much as my coworkers who went to fancy restaurants or had giant steaks, so I felt justified in this.

    Reply
  201. TechWorker

    My company used to have slightly bizarre travel policies because we were a contractor (just been bought out so probably less of an issue now).

    Things like enforcing flying on the weekend cos it’s cheaper (sure, but it’s basically unpaid time..) and my colleague once arrived back from a business trip on a flight at 6am on a thur or something… severely jetlagged and def not able to work productively, but was told he would have to take holiday if he didn’t come in….

    Reply
  202. Dr Wizard, PhD

    Chat to an experienced colleague (ideally at or near your own level) who’s travelled a bunch. They’ll have a lot of insight into how things work in practice, what the expectations are, and how to make documentation much easier for yourself.

    For example, if I’m travelling to a European organisation’s meeting, they reimburse the travel to my employer but only if I provide boarding passes along with the receipts (not normally required). Many airlines don’t allow you to reprint boarding passes after you’ve travelled, so I’ve learned to save those.

    Similarly, getting a company of the expense policy in advance, reading it, and discreetly checking how it’s implemented in practice are all very important. It’s totally normal to want clarity about funds.

    My employer’s policy is very generous: we have a set rate based on location for accommodation and meals, and we keep anything we don’t spend. If I’m working in Paris and staying on a friend’s couch, I still keep the flat rate amount. Flights are booked and paid by the employer subject to approval from management. Incidental expenses like public transport or taxis are claimed by receipt. It’s possible to get an advance but it requires about two weeks of heads-up to come through in time.

    There are lots of nuances you only learn over time – for example, in certain cities accommodation is reimbursed by receipt rather than covered by flat rate (because hotels there are so expensive / fluctuate so wildly), and if you book a hotel that has a free breakfast it actually reduces your meals allowance (so, practically, you shouldn’t: the breakfast element of the meal allowance is something like €20 and no hotel breakfast is worth that!).

    Just be upfront generally about wanting clarity, not wanting to make mistakes, and not wanting to accidentally take advantage of the policy, and you should be fine. And yes, receipt everything, keep your receipts, and photograph your receipts (just in case).

    Reply
    1. LPUK

      I’ve worked for two companies that paid out a flat rate if you stayed with friends or relatives rather than in a hotel. It was £50 and was designed to allow you to take them out for a meal, which I thought was a nice gesture

      Reply
  203. NotVeryActiveHere

    If there’s a choice of hotels, choose one near the conference site. When you’re ready to collapse after three hours of presentations and a keynote speech in badly accented English, you can walk back to your room for a short nap and leave all the paper stuff you picked up in the exhibition halls – and go back to the conference in an hour, ready to face the world.

    Reply
  204. Slawpolo

    My first business trip I was put up at a very fancy hotel because the rest of the city was sold out. I ate in the restaurant and my bill came out to 2.03 higher than my dinner stipend.

    When I returned my boss made me pay the 2.03 because those were the rules. (She was a piece of work unto herself) but I learned to always stay under the stated amounts- they are rules not guidelines.

    Reply
  205. LPUK

    Bit late to this, but don’t think it’s been said before. If your air trip includes a transfer, get on the internet and track down a map of the transfer airport so you can familiarise yourself with where you need to go and whether there are shuttle options. It can be a very stressful part of the journey to land at an airport you don’t know and try to navigate your way by the signage they give you, which can be easily missed! There are lots of frequent traveler user groups that can give you helpful advice on whether to use interterminal shuttles, monorails or just walking for the quickest transfer times. One lovely chap has even photographed every stage of the CDG transfer process with all signs and doorways!Also, check the airport’s record on missing checked-through luggage ( in Europe, London Heathrow and Paris CDG are infamous!) before deciding to check a bag or what to put in carry-on luggage. As I can get anxious when travelling, I find that this level of preplanning enables me to have a much less stressful trip.
    I have a separate travel wallet which sits in my home filing when I am not using it,which contains my passport, copy of driving licence, copy of travel insurance policy and emergency numbers, my E111 health card ( for European traveler), all my travel related membership cards and a plastic wallet for receipts -when I travel, all I need to add is my itinerary ( another vote for a paper back- up version) and my boarding cards/ tickets and I’m set!
    Finally, if you are using hire cars frequently, it’s much cheaper to buy an annual insurance policy than pays out the Collision Damage Waiver in the event of an accident than to sign up for the car hire companies CDW each time. When I say cheaper, I mean a separate annual CDW policy can be even cheaper than a single extra payment at the rental desk. BTW, I agree it always takes a ludicrous amount of time to check out a car at the rental desk, even if you booked it online and have given them all the information they need! Finally, on car hire companies, the big three can be a little more expensive, but are practically guaranteed to have desks inside the airport and car parking closest to the airport, whereas smaller or local players may not have counters at the airport and will always be a longer shuttle ride. If you are a lone traveller, especially female, arriving at the airport late at night, it’s something to consider

    Reply
  206. Roy G. Biv

    I keep a zip top bag with Hotel Room Essentials in my suitcase: A night light for the bathroom, binder clips to close the inevitable gap in drapery (hello, fellow conventioneers outside my window!), and an additional phone charger.

    Reply
  207. Symplicite

    I got lucky with my first business trip: it was within my own country. A lot of the above tips apply.

    My first international trip was a bit different as I was also taking vacation on the tail end of it.
    – What I would suggest is: always have a couple hundred “dollars” of local currency on hand. You never know when the taxi company’s credit machine won’t work and you have to pay cash.
    – read up on local customs before traveling. When I left North America to travel to the UK, my colleague who was travelling with me told me that you don’t tip unless the service is amazing.
    – Another tip – only bring the essential “cards” for the trip. Empty your wallet the night before and put anything non-essential in a plastic bag/box that you’ll remember. You probably won’t need your rewards cards.
    – bring either samples or “ends” of products (shampoo, etc), and always put them in a ziplock bag and/or something similar. That way, when the time to pack up comes, you can toss the remaining (depending on what is left), and add space / reduce weight. The ziplock bag prevents possible explosions/spills/etc.
    – make sure of your surroundings and how you might stand out. My family picked me up from Heathrow when I flew over, then put me on a train to return for work. I arrived in St. Pancras terminal completely lost as to how to get to my hotel with a big suitcase that screamed “tourist”. Instead of trying to navigate the Tube all on my own, I figured out where to get a cab, and took it instead. After my colleague showed me the trick with the Tube, the next trip was a ton easier.
    – ask colleagues who have travelled before for tips/transit passes/advice. After the first trip to Heathrow, I looked into buying an Oyster pass so I could travel easier in the Tube than wrangle British change. My colleague who was sent over this past October borrowed my card and replenished the $ on it. Ditto the transit card I had for travel in Luxembourg.
    – get tons of sleep, more than you think you’ll need. You never sleep as well as at home, and nodding off is frowned upon.

    Hope this helps!

    Reply
  208. Galahad

    Learn from my “mistakes”…. I ended up travelling a lot but these ones have not been mentioned (much) yet.
    1) Don’t panic if you lose your paper boarding pass. The agent can print you another if you show id.
    2) Sit in the airport on-boarding area where you can hear the announcements for your flight. Some airports have strangely limited zones for announcements, and they can be easy to miss if many flights are going at once.
    3) If you travel with someone, don’t get seats together. You are not dating this person and need a bit more personal space if it is someone that you work with than you do for a stranger.
    4) Bring tip money, in cash, in local currency. Ditto for toll booths!
    5) Arrive to your flight boarding areas a bit earlier if you know a co-worker will be on board, too. DO NOT be that very last person to board a flight that your boss is also on. No need to panic your boss.

    Good luck!

    Reply
  209. SafetyFirst

    If you are traveling with a colleague, find out if they have precheck, even if you don’t. You need to allow more time at airports without, and your colleague may not plan to leave enough time unless you ask/plan.

    If you are not used to flying, know what is allowed and isn’t so you don’t get stuck at aecurity. Know what has come out of your bag and pack accordingly.

    If there is a person at your company that handles travel (or a third party travel agent), try to I troduve yourself to them before you leave, and make sure you have their contact info with you in case you need help if there is a problem with a reservation or flight.

    Leave more time than you think to get to the airport in an unfamiliar city. If you can, ask a local how much time you should allow and for any other helpful tips.

    If you are flying Delta, see if your company will pay for comfort+. It gives you more leg room, but more importantly, priority boarding and dedicated overhead bin space for your carry-on. Paying for the early boarding option is also worth it on Southwest for the same reason (and so you can pick a good seat). Not all carriers’ economy+ options give you priority boarding, so read up before purchasing. Use seatguru.com to help you pick good seats. especially on long flights, try to find a seat with a power outlet.

    If you can, stop at a grocery store on your way from the airport and stock up on “real” food and snacks. You may not feel like going out for dinner. Having breakfast food in your room can give you more time in the morning.

    Start a travel checklist. Every time you don’t have something on a trip, add it to the list. If you have something you never end up needing, take it off. Eventually you’ll converge on exactly what is right for you. To start out, make sure you have all the chargers and cords you need. A compact extension cord or multi-outlet adapter are very useful, although hotels are getting better about outlet placement.

    Consider a “USB condom” adapter for your phone. Not only will it charge faster, it will protect your phone from potential malware in USB ports (this is a real thing!)

    Get a rolling suitcase if you can. The Wirecutter has great recommendations at several price points.

    As soon as you get to the hotel:
    1. Pull back the covers and check for bedbugs around the edges of the bed and the seams of the mattress. Check the bathroom to make sure not is clean and everything works. Check the fridge if there is one. If there’s a problem, the easiest time to switch rooms is right after you arrive.
    2. unpack your clothes and hang them up.

    If you like it dark and the curtains have a gap, use the clothes hanger with the clips on it to clip the edges of the curtains shut.

    Set multiple alarms. Don’t rely on the hotel alarm only because it may not work the way you think it does.

    If your company will provide a WiFi access point (or reimburse data charges for tethering), make sure that is set up before you leave. Sometimes conference wifi can be overwhelmed.

    Reply
  210. G Turner

    There’s some good advice above. I would add that you are representing your company. People at the conference don’t know your role in the company, and will ascribe to you a more senior position than you expect (you are, after all, senior enough to be traveling).

    Some preparation is needed for this. Talk with you sales and your support leadership. Ask them about their current messaging to clients (eg, new products) and their current experiences with clients (eg, long-standing issues). Be clear on what is known within the company and what can be said outside. Ask for a small amount of sales literature for key products, and if they have introductory slide packs. If you’ve nener done this before, ask them to model a conference interaction with a client wanting more information about a product — most sales people will want you to describe the product, and then give sales the details for follow-up and a quote — they’ll not want you to talk pricing, even for items with a RRP (ie, newbies can even stuff this up, such as forgetting that classified military installations have an uplift on the RRP). Having built these relationships inside your company, remember to repay them with a half page, well written trip report just for them (with names of people you talked to, their views of products and issues; not the actual conference content. “The Hallway Track” is the most important track of a conference. And yes, that means you’re going to all the social events and dinners). If Sales have giveaway samples, then grab handfuls of whatever packs down small and grabs your attention (ignoring the dross, even Sales know that 50% of stuff sucks).

    Business cards are essential, whatever your role in the company. Give one to everyone who asks, to everyone you are introduced to, and to everyone you have a one-to-one experience with. You’ll want around 50 a day. Write the topic of the conversation on the card you give them, and on the card you get. Business cards are little submarines, they might sit in a desk drawer for years, and then generate a urgent sales lead.

    Make sure the corporate paper and presentation templates are on your laptop, along with marketing materials like datasheets. Once in a while you’ll get an opportunity and you need to be ready to prepare a presentation overnight or to walk someone through a product datasheet over breakfast. So you’ll want the building blocks to hand.

    It’s important that when you make statements outside your immediate responsibility that these statements are the company line discussed with sales and support above. There’s likely more background to those positions than you are aware of. You can commit to raise an issue with support, and if you make that commitment then you should collect all the information (including basics like name and phone numbers) and then call your support team whilst at the conference, stressing that you are interacting with the client. That is, meet your commitment immediately, and follow-up whilst the person is still at the conference.

    You should always be positive about the company. Even if someone asks what it is like to work there then give them your card and ask them to contact you when they are applying. If there’s bad news — like the place being a cesspool of poor behaviour — use that later opportunity to give a caution. The problem with conferences is that you’re never entirely sure of the audience, and throwing shade can ricochet in ways unexpected to a new attendee. Once you’re more established and certain of the audience then you can be critical — and then it’s much more satisfying to fix industry-wide issues than issues particular to a company.

    The fact you are going to a conference means that one day you will be presenting at a conference. So now is a good time to think critically about the presentations. You are only new to a conference once, and these formative experiences can never reoccur, so take notes on what works and what doesn’t. Because you can refer to these in years’ time when thinking “what does my audience want to hear?”. Or to put it more inspirationally” being new is a strength, as well as a weakness.

    You might be surprised that presentations which sound good in the office — Dunder Miffin’s exciting “Top 30 by 2030” strategic plan — are mindnumbingly irrelevant at a conference; just as bad as people who only talk about themselves at parties. Look at the conference program with that thought in mind — if this was a party, what would you go to?

    On a personal note, make sure you get a “travel experience” out of your corporate travel. You don’t want to retire having just seen every US airport. So talk to your HR/travel arranger about the travel rules. Can you pay for an additional night at the hotel out of your own funds, but at the corporate rate? Can you delay a Friday evening flight to Sunday evening? What if the flight cost more? My employer allows me to book additional nights at the corporate rate, and doesn’t care if a later flight costs more as long as it’s still the best-available Economy class fare for that time. But every company is different.

    If you at all can, don’t fall into the trap of the 6am flight for a 9am meeting. That’s getting up at 3:30am. If at all possible, fly in business hours even if that’s more nights away. Because this is business, and we’re going to be doing this for the rest of our lives, so we’re going to do it in a sustainable way which doesn’t wreck our health or happiness.

    Talking of which, watch the calories at conferences.

    Finally, a concrete tip would be. (1) Have an itinerary folder. Every flight, every hotel booking, the conference program marked with what you are likely to go to, all the side meetings. One you are done, add the credit card receipts, boarding passes, and collected business cards and archive it. (2) When traveling internationally you are travelling for “business” not for “work” — they mean two very different things to immigration authorities.

    Reply
  211. RabidChild

    I haven’t seen this mentioned yet, but if you are an hourly/non-exempt employee, you should be putting in all travel time on your time sheet. Our HR person advises to charge your time from door-to-door, from the moment you leave your house/office to when you arrive at the hotel/meeting.

    Another bit of advice from an old trade show pro: even your most comfortable shoes will pain you after a long day or two on your feet, so bring at least 2 pairs, even for a short trip.

    Reply
  212. Jennifer @unchartedworlds

    Other possible things to bring:
    – If you can afford them, a pair of good noise-cancelling headphones for the travel. Noise is tiring.
    – Dental floss & nail clippers = 2 more small things that are easier to bring than to have to go and look for.
    – A little plastic hook with a suction back that can stick onto tiles, in case you want to hang something up in the hotel bathroom in a place with no hook. Some are designed so that rotating the hook down into position also pulls the suction pad to optimum tightness. Those generally stick better than the kind made of 1 piece.
    – Something not too distracting to do while listening for travel announcements, so you’re not bored but you don’t risk getting so absorbed as to miss the announcement. E.g. simple phone games, knitting, braiding. (In a station waiting room one time, I started writing something, and “came to” to discover I’d missed my train!)

    Reply

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