Wednesday, September 19, 2012

10 Tips For International Business Travel

International business travel is a different animal when compared to a quick domestic trip. Flying for extended periods of time alone presents its own unique challenges for those who have not done it before. Still, international business travel does not have to be the grueling sort of ordeal that first-timers anticipate by following a few simple guidelines.

For our purposes here, we assume a) you do not have a huge corporate travel department taking care of the details for you, b) you care how much elements of the trip cost and c) can accept a seat in coach.

·         Booking airfare - Book air far in advance for the best seat selection. Keep on top of fares by registering flights with AirFareWatchdog (before buying) and Yapta (after). If the price goes down later, a refund or credit for future travel may be possible. Also, reduce travel stress by insisting on a minimum of 2 hours between connections, especially on the return flight to the U.S. If the arrival airport is not your final destination, you'll need time to recheck luggage and go through security screening again.


·         Periodically check reservations - Once flights are booked and seats assigned, return to the airline website to get a feel for how flights are filling up. You may wish to pay more closer to travel day for an aisle seat. SeatGuru can help with this. Also, be sure reservations have frequent flyer numbers on them to get credit for long flights. Be extra safe by saving boarding passes as proof later that you were on the flight.

·         Know what documentation is required - In addition to a valid U.S passport that expires a minimum of 6 months after your international travel, you may need to satisfy other entry requirements. The U.S Department of State's Smart Traveler Program offers all the information needed to enter and experience any given country in the world. Registering travel plans with Smart Traveler brings travel alerts and background information in advance of travel too.

·         Explore communication options in advance - Molding options on a cellphone plan to fit where your destination can make using your cellphone abroad a viable option. On extended trips a new sim card to match your destination might work best, but simply customizing options can work well too. Adding an international data plan, for example, will let you use smartphone apps that can be invaluable navigating foreign soil. Another option is to "Cheat On Your Cellphone Service With Tep Wireless."

·         Fly in a day in advance of important meetings - Have some plans in place but have the flexibility to spend the first day overseas adjusting to the time difference and getting used to new surroundings. If everything goes well, you may be able to hit the ground running. If a few parts of your travel plan don't come off as anticipated, all is not lost, just a bit behind schedule.

·         Start focusing on getting plenty of rest and eating right several days before the flight-Unless you're headed to Canada from New York, most international travel translates to some long flights. Sure, maybe we can't "bank" sleep but starting a long flight with a full tank of rest is always a good idea. Also see: "How To Deal With Jetlag."

·         Consider the allowed personal carry -on item your "flight bag"- and have everything that might be needed during the flight in it. Having at hand, under the seat in front of you, is huge and a must-do for all international flights. Also, finish packing (at least preliminarily) a week in advance. That offers the opportunity to be sure critical items are packed and allows time to source those items not packed first time around.

·         Enjoy the experience that international flights can offer in and of itself - Flight attendants or other passengers have wonderful stories to tell that can add a richness to our travels. Engage the world with smartphone apps like HipGeo and FourSquare to share your experience and record your journey step by step. Bringing along the new appTagWhat is almost like having a personal travel guide along for the ride.

·         Know a little of the language - While you're apt to kick yourself for not knowing more once on the ground, basic words and phrasing is a must. Questions like "How much?" and "Can you help me?" go a long way, along with: "Please," "Excuse me" and "Thank You." A smartphone app for translating languages is a good idea.

·         Money matters - Like language, have a good idea of how the local currency converts to dollars, not that you can do anything about that but just so you will have an idea of value and maybe not pay the equivalent of $10 for a Coke. Onanda's Currency app for iPhone is a good one to have handy. Use a credit card that will work internationally (not all will) and does not charge an extra fee for doing so. Be sure to notify card companies when you will out of the country too, otherwise they may shut you down, thinking your card has been stolen.

There are plenty of other tips for international business travel, including Gadling's International Travel Tips In 100 Words Or Less, but these have helped me quite a bit and some were hard lessons to learn.

One more: do not forget a power converter. I spent the good part of a day in Venice on my first international business trip, looking for a device that would allow me to stick my U.S. plug into the odd-sized electrical outlets in our hotel. Since the only Italian words I knew were from working at the Olive Garden decades ago, I walked around the city with a hand written note from the hotel desk clerk to help. I assume that note said, "This man wants a power converter," but it might have said, "Laugh at this silly American," because most people I presented it to did.

Chris Owen

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Beating the stress of business travel - Read what the experts say.

Business travel can be particularly stressful, say experts.

(CNN) -- Traveling for business presents particular dangers of a stress overload, according to experts, but there are ways to take the strain out of country-hopping.
Missing out on sleep, working non-stop on the plane or train, and eating unhealthy foods are all common habits of the business traveler lifestyle. With some employers looking to cut travel costs, business class tickets can also be bumped down to the less luxurious economy seats.
All this can create havoc with stress levels at a time when the pressures of preparing for presentations and making meetings mean business travelers are already on edge.
Neil Shah, director of The Stress Management Society.
Neil Shah, director of The Stress Management Society.
"There is absolutely added stress for business travelers," says Neil Shah, director of The Stress Management Society. "Unlike leisure travelers they are more likely to have no down time and will be working constantly, unable to switch off."
 According to Shah what sets business travelers apart is that they often lack opportunities to burn off the stress chemicals built up over a hectic trip.
"When we are stressed we go into fight or flight mode. Cortisol and adrenaline are produced and the best way to combat this is light exercise and breathing fresh air," he says.
"However, business travelers are more often stuck indoors with artificial air conditioning and without natural light, both of which affect the body's ability to deal with stress. On a packed business trip travelers can't always burn the stress off."
The problem of jet lag is the result of another chemical imbalance -- a lack of serotonin, which regulates sleep patterns, appetite and your mood.
Sue Firth, author
Sue Firth, author
Sue Firth, author of "More Life -- Less Stress," and a psychologist and business stress expert, carries 5-HTP supplements when traveling, available in all large chemists, to counteract serotonin depletion.
"I take two tablets once a day with food, which is 100mg. It's an enzyme called tryptophan which helps you manufacture enough serotonin so that you can sleep when you need to and it helps keep you alert and able to concentrate.
"If you really have a problem sleeping, melatonin -- a hormone that is part of the human sleep-wake cycle -- in a 2mg dose can be useful."
Business travelers can also anticipate and combat stress with some pre-trip planning, starting with their wardrobe.
"Dress to be comfortable," says Carol Margolis, who runs and is author of "Business Travel Success: How to Reduce Stress, Be More Productive and Travel With Confidence."
"Don't try to have a different outfit or pair of shoes for every day," she says. "I stick to one color combination per week. This way it's so much easier and needs only one pair of business shoes."
Look at each trip as an adventure and know that you'll get through anythingCarol Margolis, author
Entering the trip with the right mindset -- and being prepared for the unexpected -- is also key, she says.
"Look at each trip as an adventure and know that you'll get through anything. If a flight is delayed, make the best of it by reading, napping, going to an airport spa for a massage, or nearby fitness center."
The Stress Management Society has worked with British Airways to come up with guidance for how travelers can relieve stress during journeys. Top of its tip list is a breathing technique.
"It is very important to take slow deep breaths," says Shah. "Imagine a balloon in your belly that you are inflating and deflating. Being in a highly oxygenated state helps combat stress."
It is very important to take slow deep breaths. Imagine a balloon in your belly that you are inflating and deflating.Neil Shah, director, The Stress Management Society
Staying hydrated is also important. "The stress of traveling makes the body dehydrate very quickly. Avoid drinking alcohol on the plane and skip caffeine and sugar and you'll feel much better when you arrive at your destination," says Shah.
Once travelers hit the tarmac the key is to fill up on healthy foods that are easily absorbed by the body, and then to stretch their legs.
"Dodge carbohydrates and eat salads and vegetables instead, as the body can break them down quicker and gain energy. Then go for a walk, even if it is only for 10 minutes around the block. Sitting statically makes the blood pool around your ankles. You need to get it circulating again," says Shah.
Kathleen Hall of The Stress Institute and Mindful Living Network offers the S.E.L.F care route to blissful travel.
S - Serenity. Reacting to every obstacle will raise your blood pressure and heart rate. Surrender to your travel and treat it as a classroom (learning experience), not a prison (punishment).
Dr Kathleen Hall of The Stress Institute and Mindful Living Network
Dr Kathleen Hall of The Stress Institute and Mindful Living Network
E - Exercise. Exercising releases endorphins that reduces your stress response. Plan for a quick 15 minutes on the treadmill or a couple quick laps in the pool before breakfast.
L - Love. Traveling is stressful, so take tools to comfort yourself on the plane and in your travels. It may be your favorite blanket, pillow or music
F - Food. Eat foods that are high in omega 3 and B6 / B. Try a tuna sandwich or banana. Avoid eating fatty, greasy foods, which can make you feel more anxious.
But for Margolis, the real key is to switch from thinking just about work to incorporating wider interests into your trip. She also recommends common courtesy as a sure-fire way to lower stress levels.
"Be nice! It's amazing what the power of a 'Good Morning' to a hotel desk clerk can mean as you walk by each morning," she says. "These people remember the friendly folks and often go out of their way to enhance our travel experience just by being nice in return."

Click for the CNN article
Laura Miller, for CNN