Tips for International Travel

As some might have suspected from the lack of updates here recently, I’ve been rather busy! In the last 5 months I have only been at my office for about 4-6 weeks, spending the remainder of the time travelling in the US, Hong Kong, Philippines and Australia for business and the last month at home in South Africa on holiday.

As a result, I thought I’d break away from productivity and management to talk about travelling for a little while. In future posts I’ll also discuss some strategies for working effectively in teams that are spread across the world!

Without further ado, here’s my common sense list of tips for making international business travel as easy as possible:

  1. Reserve your seats and check in online. SeatGuru is very useful for finding the best (and worst) seats — remember to search for the specific airline as well as the plane model as some airlines have very different plane configurations. Also use online check-in whenever you can. Sometimes it can mean the difference between making the flight and not and certainly helps to make travelling a little less stressful. Even good to do when you can’t print your boarding pass — picking it up at the airport is usually pretty painless.
  2. Buy a compact, any-to-any power adapter. I have one of these but there’s also a version with USB. It’s been hugely better than carrying a random assortment around!
  3. Print out details of your flights and hotels. Carry a folder with details of everywhere you’re staying and all your flights in and out. It’s surprising how important the minor details can be to some immigration officials!
  4. Set your watch to the timezone you’re going TO. Getting a headstart on adjusting to the timezone you’re travelling to can mean the difference between a hellish first day and a productive set of meetings.
  5. Invest in noise-cancelling headphones if you can afford to splurge. These make a huge amount of difference, but are on the pricey side. I personally missed the boat on these — should have bought them ages ago and then they’d have paid for themselves!
  6. Sign up for all the loyalty programmes. Hotels, airlines, everything. Also work out early which airlines are in alliances with each other. It’s often best to just join the loyalty programme of the airline you use most and use that card to collect for every flight in the alliance. This saves you having to deal with the admin of combining your miles/points later when you want to use them. Also, getting even to the first level of membership (whether it be bronze, silver, whatever) can have serious benefits — I’ve been surprised at how often I’ve been upgraded even as a relatively new member of the various loyalty programmes. Any excuse, presumably!

What are your tips for hassle-free travel? Share in the comments!

UPDATE (21 Oct 07) As Tim Beadle reminded me in the comments, Dopplr is a great tool to use when you travel frequently, both as a reminder to visit friends and colleagues in the cities you are going to and also to help you run into fellow travellers who happen to be in the right place at the right time! For the Dopplrites amongst you, you can add me and maybe we will meet up one day. For those seeking an invite, leave a comment and I’ll get you one 🙂