Becoming a new business traveler is exciting. It’s like finally getting your license and starting your car up by yourself and going for a drive all by yourself for the first time. #NewfoundFreedom
But business travel has these secret handshakes that seemingly everyone else knows but nobody chose to show you as the new guy or new girl on the road.
As a result, so many business travelers make certain mistakes over and over that can and should be avoided. If only someone cared enough to pull the road warrior rookie aside to show these needed and simple handshake moves. And that’s the exact reason for this article.
I’m here to “help a brotha and a sista out” and give you that chance to succeed quicker and more effectively.
There’s nothing wrong with being a Rookie Road Warrior; we all started there at some point. So, let’s get the rookie green color off right now and get you up to speed.
Seven Mistakes New Business Travelers Do Wrong and How to Avoid Them
Mistake #1 – Not signing up for TSA PreCheck
Before you even step foot in an airport, the first thing you should do is get your TSA PreCheck knocked out and ready.
Why? Time. Unless you prefer to wait with “the commoners” who travel once a year for vacation or an occasional trip, you want to be in the TSA PreCheck lane.
Personally, I’m not a fan of the following:
- Whipping my belt off feeling like I’m undressing in public
- Walking on dirty floors with my socks
- Having to pull my electronics out of my bag
With TSA PreCheck none of the above will apply to you.
It also reduces traveler friction which is anything that causes added stress within a business travel day whether self-induced or part of the joy of business travel.
I remember one time hitting unexpected traffic to the airport and was in the busyness vortex of hurry/worry/scurry. I walked into the airport in San Diego and the normal security line looked like the line for a new Disneyland ride.
If I had to stand in that line, I was sunk. But I walked right up to TSA and was at my gate ten minutes later. Whew! After a long week of travel, I just wanted to get home.
These situations happen often and TSA PreCheck will save you over and over.
You can learn about TSA Precheck here
Quick Tip: If you travel across the US borders, (north eh to Oh Canada or south, no Espanol to Mexico) consider Global Entry. You can look into that here.
Mistake #2 – Not getting your passport now
You may be getting or currently have a region for your role at the moment, so why even bother right now with getting a passport? Here are a few reasons:
1. You never know when you may be asked to cross the border or the water
Early on, I had landed a good size contract and was asked if I could do Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver in two weeks. If I didn’t have my passport, I would’ve missed this great opportunity (along with three hockey games!). But I was given the advice to get my passport right away and all was good.
2. It’s another valid proof of identification
One time I had misplaced my wallet and I was having a road warrior freakout session (C’mon now, you know you’ve had your fair share too!) and I was getting my money’s worth out of the session. I hadn’t gone through security yet and was short on time due to Chicago traffic on my way to the airport. I calmed down instantly when I remembered one thing: I had my passport with me. I breezed through security (TSA PreCheck avoiding mistake #1), went to my gate, and realized I did have it in my bag after all.
Moral of the story: it’s better to have it and not need it than wish you had it and don’t.
Get your passport process going right now so you have it when you really need it.
Quick Tip: Don’t leave your passport at home but always carry it with you in case you need it for another proof of identification.
Mistake #3 – Not using a packing list
When you first start traveling, it’s a challenge to know what you even need to bring let alone forget items that you know you’ll need. It’s guesswork at best.
Early on, I would forget random things: a belt, workout socks, a phone or computer charger, hair gel, and on and on and on.
It was frustrating, inconvenient, and to be honest, avoidable. Once I started working off a packing list, my packing went quicker and my forgetfulness nearly disappeared. My only regret was not using this simple tool sooner.
I used the following categories:
- Dress wear
- Casual wear (which included workout clothes)
- Workbag (computer to chargers)
- Unique for this trip – am I going to a special dinner? The beach?
Then I put in details of what would fit under each of these categories.
Lastly, I asked “Is this item absolutely necessary?” to make sure everything could fit in my carry-on.
Quick Tip: have duplicates of as many items as possible that can stay in your carry-on bag. It was worth the investment and shrunk my packing list to more specialty items depending on my location.
Mistake #4- Checking a bag
This mistake applies to the hoarder whether male or female. If you’re nervous you’re going to not have enough with you, then this mistake applies to you.
I’ve also witnessed this firsthand traveling with a newer female business traveler who has to have numerous outfits and every pair of shoes. I get it but I don’t want to travel with you and wait with you for your bag that looks like you’re on vacation.
Checking a bag is one more way for something to go wrong. The times I check my bag, Murphy’s brother, Mark, is doing bag handling and Murphy was messing with Mark and letting him know I was going to Omaha, not Atlanta.
This is definitely a rookie mistake and sucks up valuable time and leaves you open to travel friction.
Now, there are times when I’ve been gone on a long trip overseas or that last 5 or more days. Then yes, checking a bag makes sense. But this is the exception, not the rule.
Pony up and find carry-on luggage that can work for you that is made for a business traveler.
Personally, I’m using the Genius Pack G4 22″ Carry On Spinner Luggage
Quick Tip: Use packing cubes to maximize space. You’d be surprised how much you can get in a carry-on bag if you pack properly. Here are the ones I use.
Mistake #5 – Drinking too much at business events
I see this guy way too often at business social events or at a customer dinner. And most of the time, he’s young and green (aka a new business traveler).
He’s not used to good wine or top-shelf liquor and especially anything that is free and seemingly unlimited. As a result, he becomes “that guy”.
It also happens to someone who wants to fit in and “drink with the big boys” when this always ends poorly. I’ve seen this with women business travelers and it’s a brutal next morning.
A few years ago, Ted tried to keep up with the big boys and was a lightweight drinker at best. After two shots, he became the life of the party or should I say the death of the party, and had to be driven back to his hotel early and get his car the next day. He’s now known as “two-shot Teddy” and his legacy lives on.
Quick Tip: Stick with the advice given to me by a CEO very early on in my road warrior career: “Always drink one drink less than your customer and one more glass of water. Be memorable without becoming ’that guy’ at the event.” If you feel the alcohol catching up with you, have your next drink be water or a non-alcoholic drink that looks like a drink. No one will notice and honestly, no one really cares.
Mistake #6 – Working all the time on a business trip
This mistake is understandable and seems to yield immediate results so it’s encouraged and even rewarded.
You may feel you have to work all the time on the road just to keep up. Or when you’re new to the road, you want to prove to your boss you can handle it.
Your company may subtly influence you to work all the time because they own your time on the road.
You find yourself working on an early flight out of town and the last flight home. If you work for this type of company, they care more about your results than they care about you.
I can guarantee one end result every single time if you fall prey to this mistake: BURNOUT.
Your results will end up inconsistent because you’ll move quickly through the Exhaustion Cycle:
Busy = Can’t Stop Now and I feel hurried
Beatdown = Can’t Take This and I feel stress
Burnout = Can’t Keep Going and I feel done
You can learn more about the Exhaustion Cycle in the article “Why you may be living in the Exhaustion Cycle.”
Your evenings should be your choice of what to do. This was my #1 mistake and burned me out to the point of complete exhaustion and shut me down for far too long.
Quick Tip: Have a hard stop of when you will start work and when you will end work and you’ll be surprised how much you get done within these time restraints. I reserve the 1st two hours of my morning to focus on 5 of the 6 energy habits to allow me to do the last remaining energy habit of PERFORM at the highest level and you can too.
Mistake #7 – Not maximizing your destination
I was flying from Chicago to San Antonio and an older, seasoned road warrior started asking me questions about how I travel. I have to admit as a rookie road warrior, I was trying to impress him. Guess how that went? I told him about how I lived in the travel triangle: airport/boardroom/hotel. I bragged how I worked through dinner and stayed up late. “This is my time to work without interruptions,” I bragged.
When I took a breath (which was somewhere between St. Louis and the Texas border), he said very calmly but clearly: “Son, let me give you a piece of advice. Stop doing travel that way. You never know when you’re going to be in that city again, or even on the road on business travel for that matter, so take time for downtime.”
He told me to see the River Walk in San Antonio. Eat the local foods in the area, see the site-seeing locations, and soak it in. He ended by saying I would be more productive in the long run and it would make my travel so much more enjoyable. I politely said thanks and licked my wounds for the remainder of my flight, thinking about this unusual but enlightening conversation for me.
Guess what I did? I went to the River Walk in San Antonio and I walked by the Alamo (so I could remember it). As a result of the unexpected, influential conversation, I’ve continued his counsel for years and years, in city after city (and I have the pictures to prove it!).
In Elite Road Warrior, we call this “Downtime – time to be, not to be on.” Too often we live in the Travel Triangle = Airport / Conference Room / Hotel Room. Every city looks the same because we don’t see anything.
Make time to maximize your destination and get out of the Travel Triangle and leverage some much-needed downtime.
Quick Tip: Do some research and find something in that city you can look forward to doing (site-seeing, going to a ballgame or museum, dining at a popular local restaurant).
The goal here is to help young or just new business travelers to avoid mistakes that cost you time, energy, and possibly even your reputation early on and if adhered to, will put you on the path of becoming an elite road warrior.