While trips around the world can seem glamorous, there’s more than strictly business to think about. Between cultural norms, language barriers and simply arriving at your destination on schedule, the whole experience can seem daunting.
Taking the time to fully prepare for your travels can make all the difference. Use the tips below to make sure your first international business trip won’t be your last.
Get Your Documents in Order
The first thing to do before any international business trip is to get a passport. If you’ve already got a passport, check that it hasn’t expired—be sure to research the country’s regulations about passports, as some will not accept passports that expire within six months.
Once you have a valid passport, find out if you need to get a visa and whether or not you should hire security for the duration of your stay. Now is the time to call both your bank and insurance companies to let them know that you’ll be traveling and get any necessary documents from them.
When you’ve gathered everything you need, put all of these documents (and copies of documents) together in a travel folder, so you’re not rushing around on the morning of your flight trying to find everything. Also, keep in mind that electronic copies are good to have on hand, in case you loose the hard copies.
Check Travel Advisories
The easiest way to check for travel advisories is by using the State Department’s website. It can give you a good idea of what to expect when you’re travelling. If you see a travel advisory for the country you’re visiting, don’t panic. Most of the time travel advisories simply tell you that you’ll need a vaccination (try to do this 4-6 weeks before you go).
If there’s an advisory for violence or terrorist attacks, find out exactly where these attacks are happening so you can make the most informed decision about your safety. As always, be aware of your surroundings and always know where the U.S. embassy is for each country.
Roll Don’t Fold
Rolling your clothes instead of neatly folding them is one of the best methods of saving space. The bulkiest items should be kept in the corners of your bag in order to distribute the weight evenly, and then rolled items should be compiled in the middle of your bag. Note that clothing made of synthetic fibers, such as nylon, as less likely to wrinkle than cotton or other natural fabrics.
All rolled items should be at the bottom, while formal wear, cotton button-downs or slacks are arranged neatly on top. Another technique that can be used is bundle wrapping, or packing clothes into one solid bundle that fits snugly into your suitcase. This technique will leave you with the fewest wrinkles and unwanted creases. Find your most versatile shoes and bring just one or two pairs to reduce weight—emptying your bag, or paying a fee when you get to the airport, is not ideal.
Research the Customs of the Country You’re Visiting
Thorough knowledge of the country you’re visiting can make or break a business trip. Especially when visiting for the first time, it’s important to know about the business customs of other countries.
In particular, research greetings, standards of dress, and rules of gratuity and who pays for a meal during a business meeting. In Japan, for example, it’s customary for all businesspeople to dress in dark business suits, whilst in America business-casual would be appropriate for the very same meeting.
It’s also important to learn a few phrases in the language of the country you’re visiting. Use a tool like this Language Map to see which language is most commonly spoken in the country you’re visiting. This ends up serving as a great way to boost your resume and earn the respect of your foreign colleagues as well.
Author: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and has five years of experience in the marketing world. She is currently a lifestyle blogger and has been featured on Ms. Career Girl and LifeHack.org. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07.