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The 20 Worst Mistakes You Can Make On A Business Trip

Laura Begley Bloom


1. Not getting enough sleep

The worst thing you can do on an overseas business trip is conduct a meeting in a lounge with comfortable chairs you can sink into — and without having had enough sleep on the flight over the night before. That I nodded off while talking with the president of an important cruise line is a lasting embarrassment to me, though I was lucky enough to be with someone understanding: an hard-traveling working woman just like me. —Nancy Novogrod, founder, The Essentialist

2. Not being prepared

I have learned that in my busy life and travel schedule I consistently forget something — appropriate shoes, toiletries, favorite lipstick, charger, phone, even a computer! Not all at the same time, of course. Due to this, I always book myself in a hotel that either has a sundries store, plus electronics, clothing and shoe stores very near (as in walking distance). I don't want to have to spend time searching for what is near or driving/taking a car there. —Anne Chaisson, executive director, Hamptons International Film Festival

3. Assuming you know the visa requirements

I was headed to India on assignment and didn't check the visa requirements. My route was through Kenya and the U.A.E., and I only discovered I lacked the proper paperwork while checking in for an onward flight, at midnight, in Nairobi. I was refused entry. Not going to make that mistake again. My travel prep homework now includes the CIA World FactbookU.S. Department of State travel alerts, the U.K. Foreign Travel Advice site, the Center for Disease Control and even a global religious holiday calendar app. This last one can be crucial. While I was waiting for that emergency visa, I got caught in a vortex of converging religion celebrations — Easter, Passover, Mawlid — when visa offices were shut down across all countries I traveled through. —Shane Mitchell, author, Far Afield: Rare Food Encounters From Around the World

4. Reserving hotels at the last minute (especially for big industry events)

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is a massive event in the technology industry, and I've attended the past two years with Eight. Last year, we didn't plan on showcasing our product, so when I committed to go at the last minute, the only hotel available on the Strip — at a reasonable price — was also the furthest away from the main conference venue. I decided to book it, and I regretted it later. I ended up spending so much time on taxi lines and had to leave my hotel at least an hour before any meeting. Time not well spent! —Alex Zatarain, co-founder, Eight Sleep

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5. Waiting to look up addresses

If you will be renting a car at your destination, load all the addresses into your calendar ahead of time so you can easily pull it up and link to the Google Maps app on the iPhone (which now incorporates the Waze traffic technology). Before I did this, I would get into the rental car then type the address into Google Maps. One time I made a typo and drove for 30 minutes in the wrong direction. So now I make sure it's in my calendar, so when I am rushing it's just one touch in the right direction. —Laura Davidson, president, Laura Davidson Public Relations

6. Scheduling leisure before business

When planning a "bleisure" (business + leisure) trip, schedule the business part first, followed by your leisure stay. If you start with the leisure part of the trip, it's 10 times harder to shift into work mode. I once went on vacation to Cozumel and Tulum right before a conference in Cancun. I was so chilled out and relaxed, and then the conference set me abruptly into high-stress mode. Massive vacation buzz kill! I've never vacationed before work on a bleisure trip since. —Tammy Peters, founder, Media Mixology

7. Not booking a hotel when you have a red-eye flight

Having traveled the world for work, I have found that booking your hotel in advance when you have a red-eye flight to be crucial. I once arrived early in the morning to my hotel to get some rest and shower after a red-eye flight and the hotel could not check me in until 3 p.m. that afternoon because it was fully booked and none of the rooms were ready. Now I always book the hotel for the previous night, as well, to have the room ready for me when I arrive at 5 a.m. —Daria Rebenok, CEO/cofounder, Grabr


8. Not getting Global Entry

I learned the hard way on the way home from a business trip to Los Cabos after standing in a three-hour immigration line to apply for a Global Entry. This simple application gives you pre-approved clearance to breeze through immigration. Some major credit cards will also give you a credit for the fee. —Carey Reilly, lifestyle/travel expert and editor, Not So Skinny Mom

9. Not learning basic language skills

When I was in my 20's I was the regional director of sales of Swissotel for the East Coast and I went to Switzerland to see the hotels. I was late to the train station in Bern dragging too many bags, as I still was not an experienced international traveler. I asked someone in uniform if they knew which track was for the train to Zurich. The person said, "Nein," so I rushed off to track nine and ended up on a train to Geneva. Now I know: "nein" means "no."—Adele Gutman, vice president of sales, marketing & revenue, Library Hotel Collection

10. Taking it with you

I lost my passport in Hong Kong while going out for dinner. I had to stay behind for three days to have the embassy issue a new one. Lesson learned: Leave your passport and other valuables in the hotel room safe when going out. —Debi Bishop, managing director, Hilton Hawaiian Village

11. Not paying attention to local customs

During my first trip to the Middle East as a blonde American female, I took the time to read the 70-odd-page document that came along with my travel confirmation. There were warnings — from covering my head, neck and shoulders to issues of water safety. Even more interestingly: to not accept a verbal agreement. Rather, it's customary to insist on a signed agreement. To this day, all this information has proved helpful whenever I travel to the region. —Michaela Guzy, founder, Oh the People You Meet

12. Not double checking your plane ticket

Last year, I attended Pirate Summit in Cologne and then numerous tech events in Berlin. After a long week of work I had a reunion planned with friends in Porto. From Berlin I booked a flight to Cologne as my next flight was 6:30 a.m. from Frankfurt Hahn Airport to Porto. So I scheduled a BlaBlaCar from Cologne to Frankfurt. The driver agreed to drop me and another passenger off to the airport. We arrived at Frankfurt's huge international airport. But my flight was booked with a budget carrier from Frankfurt-Hahn Airport, which was on the other side of the city. I'm lucky I didn't miss the flight. Lesson learned: the importance of planning. —Mevish Aslam, founder, Terminal 3 and Sprinters

13. Planning last minute

The worst thing that I have done is saying yes to a last-minute international business trip that demanded me to leave in the next three hours. With little to no time to pack left the country awaiting an email with my hotel reservation and transportation accommodations only to find out 30,000 feet up in the air through WiFi that they were unable to book them due to a card freeze. Now, I never leave to go to another country or even to another state without everything being secured before my departure. —Jae Scott, motivational speaker and image consultant

14. Only bringing your work tote

I always have a versatile, small cross-body purse ready to go. I don't need it for getting to my destination, so I pack it in my suitcase. But if I plan to go out to dinner or wander around a town to bar hop, my large work tote is such a pain to carry around, especially in the Spanish towns where visiting a tapas bar is always a "squeeze-in-to-get-in" experience. Having that little bag to carry just my essentials for the evening is a must. —Gretchen Thomas, wine and spirits director, Barteca Restaurant Group

15. Thinking about breakfast in the morning

Nowadays I always put my room service card out for coffee and a snack in the morning. It doesn't have to be a full breakfast, but there is nothing worse — especially when staying at a hotel where you are throwing the event — than having to go downstairs in the a.m. to get coffee. I made the mistake once of going down without makeup and in pseudo workout clothes/pajamas and ran into 25 attendees who were ready for the day having breakfast. —Stacy Shoemaker Rauen, editor-in-chief, Hospitality Design Magazine

16. Going nonstop

When I travel, I like to pack in as many meetings as possible. In larger cities — New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Vegas — I often find that I start my day by leaving the hotel before 8 a.m., and I may not come back there until after dinner, drinks or (yikes) a club. It is hard to feel fresh all day when you are going for 12 hours straight. A lot of high-end spas offer relatively inexpensive day passes to utilize their thermal experiences (mineral baths, saunas, steam, showers, etc.). During the winter, it is a great place to warm up and revitalize, and during the summer it is a great way to feel fresh during long days. It’s amazing what even 30 minutes in a spa can do for the soul. —Alyssa Bushey, vice president, marketing, RockOrange

17. Waiting to print things out

For my first job out of college, I was an assistant at Creative Artists Agency (CAA). During the 2010 Super Bowl XLIV, my boss was overseeing the annual party for the agency, so I flew to Miami to help out. My big mistake on the night of the party? The final door list kept changing until the last minute, so I didn't print it out until an hour before the event started. I was begging the hotel staff to let me use their printers — which didn't move fast enough for my level of stress. The party was a huge success, filled with celebrity gossip worthy of an Entourage episode, but the stress of that list still haunts me. These days, I create Google documents, which I can access anywhere with WiFi from my iPhone. And just because I get nervous, I email and carry printed-out copies of whatever I may need before I even walk out the door. —Gabrielle Blitz Rosen, chief digital officer, Beautiful Destinations

18. Ignoring your phone plan

A very expensive mistake I made was blindly relying on my mobile phone operator to enlighten me about international roaming data plans during a trip to Spain. I did not know that there was a feature to disable internet while on roaming that I had to click on my phone, as my mobile phone operator had not breathed a word about it. Once I was back, I was presented with a bill that equalled three hotel nights in Spain. I sent a strong complaint to my service provider, but they said that they were under no obligation to give the information. Now I read all fine print and do extra research both on my phone and data plans before going abroad. —Piya Bose, founder, Girls on the Go Club

19. Wearing impractical shoes

When I was a lawyer, I went to Perth to do some confidential document review. I grabbed a pair of heels that lived underneath my desk. I changed into them in the cab on the way from the airport to the conference room and realized about 30 seconds in that I made a terrible mistake. I have no idea how to walk in high heels, and it was painfully and laughably obvious. The moral of the story: Always go with flats. You'll feel more powerful if you're comfortable and not distracted. —Anita Dhake, The Power of Thrift

20. Forgetting to leave time for fun

I didn't add a "bonus day" to the end of a recent business trip to San Francisco and missed the gorgeous newly reopened SFMOMA. Next time, I'll definitely make sure I leave a little buffer for sightseeing. —Sarah Spagnolo, editor-at-large, Foursquare + Swarm.

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