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Taking the stress out of business travel

By Tim Hume, Special to CNN
updated 3:05 PM EDT, Mon September 26, 2011
Travellers at Eindhoven Airport on December 24, 2010. Due to heavy snowfall, flights to and from the airport were cancelled.
Travellers at Eindhoven Airport on December 24, 2010. Due to heavy snowfall, flights to and from the airport were cancelled.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Business trips can take a toll on your body
  • You can stay alert with some common sense precautions
  • This will ensure your work performance remains on track

London (CNN) -- Everybody likes the sound of a business trip away. But getting swept up in the idea of a few days in an exotic location can make it easy to overlook the toll that travel can take on your body, and by extension, your work performance. Thankfully, a little forethought is all that's required to streamline the process of getting from A to B, and ensure you reach your destination ready to do business.

While many of the tips for successful business travel are common sense, it's surprising how many people neglect the basics, says Paul Brand, commercial director of Uniglobe Preferred Travel and a 25-year veteran of the corporate travel industry. "International travel has become like taking a bus. Which is great, but it means people underestimate the amount of preparation that's required."

Firstly, make sure the itinerary gives you ample time to acclimatize at your destination before the real work begins. While there may be pressures in this economic climate to keep the trip as short as possible, it's smarter to err on the side of caution should disruptions occur. The cost of an extra night at a hotel won't break the budget, and you can clock in remotely for a regular day's work from your hotel room wi-fi connection. "Arriving at a meeting disheveled after a 10 hour flight on which you've had two hours disturbed sleep isn't going to win you a huge account," says Brand.

If the trip is only a couple of days or less, try to limit your luggage to carry-on, to minimize your waiting time - and stress levels - at your destination. Be sure to print out hard copies of your booking confirmations as back up: they can be a lifesaver if something goes wrong. And join an airline loyalty scheme - if the flight is overbooked, you'll be a priority for an upgrade.

Once at the airport, the use of an airport lounge is a no-brainer, giving you a couple of hours of extra work time in a calm, relaxing environment. Fewer executives are flying at the front of the aircraft these days, but if you are traveling in the premium seats, remember to use the designated business class corridors to avoid queues.

During the flight, stay hydrated with regular drinks of water, and avoid alcohol. Have a strategy on how to handle the time zone shift. If the trip is only a couple of days, it might not make sense to adjust, but to try to schedule meetings for times aligned to your body clock instead. If you do want to adjust, you can get a head-start by attempting to sync up with the new time zone during the flight. Once you arrive, bright sunlight and melatonin, which requires a doctor's prescription in many countries, can help reset the body clock.

Technology has taken some of the hassle out of travel expenses. Try using a pre-paid currency debit card, or one of the new generation of expenses apps for smartphones, which allow you to photograph your out-of-pocket receipts with your phone. "It's a lot more efficient for the company, you get your money back a lot quicker, it's recognized by many tax authorities, and you're not going around with a great wodge of receipts in your pocket," says Brand.

Finally, while it's important to stay focussed on the business at hand, don't forget to take time out to engage with your new surroundings. Brush up on the local business etiquette and learn some pleasantries in the language. Remember: you're an ambassador for your company, so don't overindulge when enjoying your host's hospitality.

Most importantly, assuming your fastidiously prepared trip is running to schedule, be sure to allow to a couple of hours of downtime to take in some of the sights of your destination. "It's not going to do you any harm with your hosts if you can talk about some of the wonderful sights their city has to offer," says Brand. "And it would be terrible to go all the way around the world, only to go into a meeting and turn around without having seen anything."

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