How to Survive Your First Business Trip

It’s an exciting day when you hear you’re going on your first business trip. Travel? During work? It sounds like the best thing ever! But in reality, business trips can be stressful and tiring, and you don’t get to see your cat at the end of a long day. The following tips can make your first business trip a more positive professional experience:

Realize that you’re going to be tired

You are probably not going to get your regular amount of sleep on a business trip. If you’re important enough to warrant your company sending you to another city, they are going to want to get their money’s worth out of you. If you’re staffing an event or conference booth, that means you’re going to be standing up, smiling, and working hard for way longer than the usual 8 hours you spend at your desk. If you’re attending a training or convention, you’re also going to be up and working earlier, plus attending functions and schmoozing later than you would ever be at the office.

It’s not uncommon for programming to start with a breakfast at 7:30am and end with an awards banquet going until 11 at night. Then you might be invited for drinks with the sales team, who are really excited to go out without their kids around for a few days. Planning ahead helps you not look like a zombie when it gets to Thursday of your trip and you’re practically napping against the brochures table right as the CEO walks by. Plan to be tired, and know what you’ll need to bring to manage that – it might just be some instant coffee packets, or maybe Vitamin C immune boosters and your favorite mint body wash to wake you up in the morning.

Plan your food

As anyone who’s been to a prom knows, banquet food isn’t always the most gourmet. At best, it’s chalky and pale, and at worst it can be a really depressing way to get food poisoning. When it’s all the food available to you for the duration of your trip, it helps to use a few tricks to make sure you don’t come home a rubbery chicken yourself. Your best bets are to stick with the salad as long as it doesn’t come with thick white dressing that will make you feel gross later, and to supplement. Sticking a box of granola bars, nuts, and dried fruit in your carry-on along with a few durable fruits like apples will go a long way when the corporate dinner is some sad ethnic derivative like fish enchiladas, yet again. Don’t get seduced by the myth that you’re going to save on groceries that week because your company is providing meals. It’s much better to supplement with your own food and stay healthy and satisfied.

Stock up on pictures of your dog/significant other/bed

On your first business trip, you’re going to be meeting a lot of new people. Not only are you going to have to be friendly to them the first time you meet them, you’re going to have to remember them, even after meeting approximately a billion new people per day. Even if they are nice customers or colleagues you respect, being relentlessly bubbly can be exhausting. Especially if you’re not normally an outgoing person, it can be helpful to bring along some photos or items that will be comforting to you as you try to recharge each night. Maybe bring a candle with your favorite scent to keep in your hotel room, or a favorite small keepsake to make it feel a little more like home.

In addition to your day being tiring, empty hotel rooms can be really lonely. Letting the people you love know that you might need an extra phone call or two while you’re away can give you something familiar in a busy and exhausting day. It can also help to play a white-noise ocean or rain sound on your headphones to help you fall asleep in an unfamiliar place.

Leave the hotel         

If you get any free time, you may really want to stay in your room in the nice white sheets and take advantage of the cable options. But if you have even an evening, try finding an interesting area of the city you’re in to walk around, enjoy a meal there, and browse the local culture. After all, it is super cool that you have the opportunity to travel for work. There might be a top-rated noodle place an easy walk from your hotel, or a famous sculpture park a short train ride away. Take a minute to see what Yelp or Urban Spoon highlights about the city, and consider squeezing it in. Seeing something other than the airport can really help reset your perspective on why you work so hard all day, and to the opportunities you’ve made for yourself – like getting to go on a business trip in the first place.

Being trusted enough to represent your organization in a different city is a professional accomplishment. By keeping these tips in mind, you may still be tired, have to eat weird food and feel stressed out about your first business trip, but maybe you can have an appreciation for what you’re in for and how awesome it is that you’ve gotten this far. Bon voyage, young professionals!

One last tip: Don’t touch those fish enchiladas.

Featured image via ShutterStock

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