Making a business trip a success involves a number of factors, including ensuring you are well-rested and on your game, protecting and transporting your belongings safely, keeping up with work and office events during your absence, and making every part of your business trip efficient and cost-effective.
Following is a selection of items and services that are often considered must haves for the business traveler, along with some guidelines as to what to look for. They'll help you save time, increase efficiency, and make that next business trip much more enjoyable.
1. Medication / First Aid
Aside from prescription medication, it is a good idea to have a small supply of over-the-counter supplies available if you need them in a pinch. Anti-nausea, allergy, and pain/fever reducing tablets, along with an anti-itch cream (for bites) can go a long way, especially if you start to feel ill and no pharmacies are open or nearby.
2. Inflatable Travel Pillow
Lugging around a non-inflatable travel pillow can be bulky and inconvenient, while an inflatable one is both light and portable. And when you are on that plane, train, or bus, having somewhere to put your head (that isn't the shoulder of the person sitting next to you) can mean the difference between arriving at your destination refreshed, and arriving needing a nap.
3. Plug Adapter
If you're traveling overseas, you'll need an adapter to plug your electronics and appliances into local power points. You can either choose an adapter suited specifically to your destination (often best bought when you arrive), or you can go with a universal adapter that will accept any type of plug and fit any type of wall socket.
4. Voltage Converter
Power points around the world vary dramatically in voltage. For example, if you plug a hair dryer from North America into an outlet in Australia — even with a plug adapter — you will immediately burn out your hair dryer and could even cause a fire. Many electronics have built-in adapters that can handle voltages from 110-240 volts, meaning you won't need an expensive and bulky voltage converter. However other items like hair dryers or small appliances don't have this capability. If you must bring these items, you'll need a voltage converter.
5. Surge Protector
Many power bars that we use at home have built-in surge protectors to prevent our electronics and appliances from getting a destructive shock in the event of a power surge (which can be caused by storms or faulty power connections). But we don't tend to bring power bars along with us when we travel, and power surges can be especially prevalent in developing countries. Protect your precious electronics from power surges by investing in a surge protector. Some plug directly into the wall (and you plug your items into it), and other smaller versions plug directly into your electronics, into which you plug the power cord.
6. Water Bottle
Whether you are flying (and trying to beat jet lag by staying hydrated), or at your destination and constantly on the move, having a reusable water bottle will save you the expense and hassle (and waste) of buying water in disposable bottles along the way. You can even order water bottles with your logo for the office, and give them out to employees to use too; a little guerrilla marketing and employee perks don't hurt.
7. Cell Phone / Smart Phone
With the advent of iPhones and other smart phone devices, your cell phone can also double as your PDA, MP3 player, e-book reader, camera, and even GPS device, among other handy tools. No matter what your device is, make sure you don't pay excessive roaming, long distance, and data fees by checking into the specifics of your plan. Some carriers offer international coverage for an extra fee that can make using your device abroad more cost-effective. If you are sending your employees off with a phone on the company plan, this is especially important; they don't often consider what your bill will be at the end of the month when they make or answer phone calls.
Some people use their smart phone solely for internet connectivity abroad (since international data packages can be inexpensive and free wifi hotspots rampant), and carry an unlocked cell phone into which they can insert a local SIM card for calls. Other people like online services like Skype or Google Voice for phone calls, which can be tied into your cell phone (in a variety of ways) for ease of use.
GPS is especially handy if you are navigating a foreign city in a car. If you don't have GPS capability with your smart phone, getting a small GPS device can save you time on the road, and is often equally handy at home too.
Although this may seem like stating the obvious, the big question at this point is what kind of laptop you want to travel with. From Toughbooks for tough travelers, to UMPCs (Ultra Mobile PCs) and Netbooks for light work, there is a wide range of laptops you can travel with.
10. USB Drive / External Hard Drive
USB drives are a great way to have a back-up of those important documents handy, just in case something goes wrong with your laptop along the way. They are also great for storing presentations if you plan to use somebody else's machine at your destination.
Selection ranges from mini USB sticks that fit on a necklace cord and store a few gigabytes of information, to external hard drives that are large enough to back up your laptop three times over. It is recommended that you keep your USB drive(s) separate from your laptop; if one is lost or damaged, you still have the other as a backup.
11. Wireless Mouse
Having a wireless mouse reduces the number of cords you need to carry, and (for most people) increases work efficiency over using your laptop's touch pad. You can even get mini versions of the wireless mouse to reduce space and weight. A close second to the wireless mouse is one with a retractable cord for ease of storage and use.
12. Extra / Extended Life Battery
You don't always have access to a decent power source while traveling. Increase work efficiency by investing in an extended life battery for your laptop, or by carrying an additional battery.
These days getting an Internet connection on the road isn't difficult. Many business travelers now insist on free wifi access at their hotels so they can stay on top of work. Some rooms also have high-speed cable internet connections, which tend to be more secure. Be sure to ask your hotel what they offer; for some business travelers, it is a deal-breaker.
14. Laptop Bag
The variety of laptop bags you can choose from make this seemingly basic item a little more complicated. Although the neoprene laptop sleeves are slim and compact, they don't do much for protecting your machine against bumps along the way, and there is little room for cords, adapters, and other plug-in devices. With increasingly stringent carry-on guidelines for flights, you will want your laptop bag to be practical enough to carry the majority of your electronics in one convenient place.
If your business trip is short in duration, it is nice to fly with nothing but carry-on luggage. However beware of recent (and ongoing) changes to the airline security process, along with some changes to carry-on baggage allowances. Some airlines will only let you bring one bag on the plane with you (believe it or not some restrict even that), so don't get too attached to your carry-on entourage if you tend to err close to former carry-on limits. Instead, focus on clever organizers to keep the volume of your luggage low.
Miscellaneous Items (Good for at home and on the road)
16. Noise-canceling headphones
These are great for drowning out distractive noises on the road so you can concentrate on work or get some sleep, while listening to your favorite tunes or watching on-board movies. Using regular headphones doesn't achieve this as readily, unless you turn the volume up so loud that everybody else has to listen to your music as well. (Please don't!)
17. Screen Protectors
Another great item for home as well, screen protectors for your smart phone, camera, and other screen surfaces will ensure the long life of your electronics. Travel in particular can entail a more substantial beating on your belongings, as they tend to get crammed into bags where they may rub up against abrasive items.
18. Recovery ID Program Labels
Recovery ID program labels are attached to your items and registered with your information. If your item is lost, the finder can follow the instructions on the highly visible label and call the number or go online to report your item lost. The recovery program in turn contacts you and arranges for the return of your item.
Not only do these labels help you recover lost items, but they're also usually tamper-proof, making it difficult for a thief to remove the label and resell stolen items. If you resell the item yourself, you can deregister it from your name and your buyer can enjoy the service by registering it with their own information.
Here are a few Recovery ID programs to choose from:
What are your own must haves for business travel?