[The following is a guest blog post from Dr. Norma Carr-Ruffino, Professor of Management, San Francisco State University].
Last week I talked about how he travel savvy of George Clooney’s Up-in-the-Air character has inspired many business travelers. Part 1 focused on how to arm yourself with the right bag that’s well packed with the right gear. This week we will focus on gathering the right travel information for streamlining your journey.
Gather the Right Travel Info
To begin, what do you need to know about your destination? If it’s in the States, your planning will be relatively easy—but what if your business is in another country? Either way, you need to know what type of weather to expect in order to decide which clothes to pack. For other countries, what about money? And maintaining contact with people back home? Websites are the secret: here are some very helpful sources.
Weather: Finding the average temperature during July doesn’t help much; you need to know the average high (say 75) and low (40) temps for each month—as well as the average precipitation (2.3 inches) and average number of rainy days (1.4) for the month. A great website for this information: www.weatherbase.com
Time Difference: Especially for overseas trips, knowing the time difference between your destination and your home area is necessary when making phone calls. Select the times your home office opens and closes, compare with times at your destination, and jot down the window-of-time for calling. For example, the website below shows that when it’s 9 a.m. in Dallas, it’s 3 p.m. in London—and when it’s 5 p.m. in Dallas, it’s 11p.m. in London. So, when you’re in London, you must call the office between 3 p.m. and 11p.m. For calling family, select the times when they arise and go to bed. The website: www.TimeandDate.com
Flying: You’ll want to know which airports you will be flying in and out of, often shown only by codes, such as FCO for Rome, Italy, and SPU for Split, Croatia. To interpret, go to www.world-airport-codes.com
Passport, Visa: If you leave the country, be sure your passport is current and determine whether you will need a visa in order to enter your destination country. Most countries that require a visa for American visitors will allow you to purchase the visa at the port of entry (airport, for example), but some do not, such as India, China, Vietnam, and Burma. The rules change, so check out the country you’re visiting. Securing a visa in advance can be time-consuming, especially for more than one country. That’s because you must submit your passport to their embassy, often in Washington D.C., and wait for them to return passport and visa. If you get in a bind, this company will expedite the process at a reasonable fee: www.PassportVisasExpress.com/index.xml
Money: If your destination country doesn’t accept U.S. currency, a universal currency converter can help you figure out how much a dollar costs; then it’s easy to figure $10, $100, and take it from there: www.xe.com/ucc
ATMs, Credit Cards. In most instances, you will not want to carry lots of cash, which must then be converted. Instead, use a bank debit card to get local currency at the ATMs that are readily available in most countries. Most countries also take U.S. credit cards. There are fees for all of this, visible or not, which change from time to time.
Credit Card Companies. Which credit cards will you use? Call those companies before you leave and give them your travel dates so they won’t block charges coming from non-local sites. If they do reject a charge, you must call the number on the card and convince them that you are the owner of the card.
Credit Card Bills. Will bills come due while you’re gone? If you won’t have access for paying online, make other arrangements to avoid those big late fees.
Phoning Your Destination: You want to tell people at home how to contact you. For example, you are staying at a hotel in Manchester, UK. To call from the U.S., you dial 011; then the country calling code for the U.K., 44; next, the Manchester city code 161, and finally the hotel number 236 3333. So, to call from the States, you would enter 011 44 161 236 3333. To get this information for all countries, go to www.CountryCallingCodes.com
Phoning Home—AT&T Prepaid Phonecard: Using this card prevents the “surprisingly huge phone bill” that can occur with international calls. Before your trip, buy the card. Then go to the AT&T website below to get the phone number you will use in your destination country to access a direct AT&T phone line to the U.S. For example, when in Germany, you would dial 0-800-225-5288 to get the German AT&T line. Then you dial the U.S. AT&T 800 number shown on your phone card, and follow the prompts to enter the phone number you are calling and the pass code shown on your card. The website is www.usa.att.com/traveler/index.jsp
Driving Distances Between Cities: Will you need to drive to various cities? Get the distance in miles and kilometers at www.travelmath.com/driving-distance/
Savvy travelers get more done and have more fun. Get the key information you need—before you leave on your business trip—so you can be free to focus on the business at hand. You can avoid most of the distracting hassles and unpleasant surprises that travel often presents, so the surprises you encounter are the delightful kind.