Checklist for leaving the office before a business trip

A couple of weeks ago on my Weekend Express post a reader asked if anyone had a master list of things to do before leaving the office for a will returnbusiness trip.  It’s a great request!  As every business traveler knows, leaving the office for a trip can be a daunting task.  There are so many things that can get lost in the shuffle trying to close things in the office.  Here are the things I do before I leave for a business trip.

Set out-of-office replies.  As Pam pointed out in her comment, it’s important to have some sort of out-of-office reply when you leave on a business trip.  I personally use an alert in Outlook when I’m on a business trip instead of an out-of-office reply.  This way whoever is emailing me knows I’m working but on a business trip so response times will vary.  Here are instructions on how to set up an auto reply alert in Outlook if you want to do that.  Be sure you set your voicemail as well to reflect you are out of the office on a business trip.  Finally, if you have a coworker backing you up make sure they have instructions, contact info for pertinent internal and external customers, and are able to access necessary files while you’re out.  Note: If you’re out for several days it’s a nice gesture to bring your back-up a small token—t-shirt, local souvenir, etc.

Double-check reservations and flight status.  It’s a great idea to confirm your reservations before your trip.   The day before you leave make sure your airline, car rental, and hotel reservations have the correct dates and locations.  Be sure to also check your flight status several times up until you walk out the door.  If your flight gets delayed don’t use that as an excuse to hang around the office a little longer as I’ve seen flights get delayed then revert back to the original take off time.  It’s best to get to the airport and deal with delays there

Notify customers you deal with on daily basis.  When you’re going to be traveling it’s good to notify internal and external customers you deal with on a daily basis that you’ll be gone on business and to expect a slower than normal response time. 

Check in for your flights.  With most airlines you can check in 24 hours before your flight departs.

Charge your batteries.  The night before my flight I charge my phone, laptop (charge my extra laptop battery if long flight), kindle, and my mobile charger.

Check the weather.  No matter where you’re traveling to be sure to always check the weather forecast the night before.  Weather can affect what you pack, when you depart, the rental car you choose, and many other things.  Staying on top of the weather forecast will help eliminate frustrating surprises.  If you think your flight may get delayed due to weather have a plan b in place. I also recommend if you are going to be traveling internationally to check travel alerts through the State Departments might give a one hundred percent chance of rain in their ten day outlook but that forecast won’t mention a typhoon is on the way. The State Department is good about weather related warnings like these so I always check out their alerts before I travel internationally.

Take care of manager sign offs.  If you have something that requires a manager sign off be sure that you take care of that before you leave on a business trip.  I personally am able to take care of any manager signoffs remotely, but everyone is different so think this through before your next business trip to see if it applies to you in any way.

Make sure loved ones at home know you’re leaving.  My husband and I communicate my business travel through Google Calendar, but I also like to verbally make sure we are on the same page about my trip.  I try and help plan meals and schedule times for us to Facetime so I can see both the Home and Mini Warrior.

Fill up with gas.  This is a minor recommendation, but if you are driving your own car to the airport make sure you fill up the night before if you are running low on gas.  When I drive to the airport traffic can come to a halt with just a minor fender bender.  This obviously adds to the commute time.  Add a stop for gas on top of this and you may find yourself missing your flight.  By filling up the night before you have at least controlled that part of your commute time.

By the time you’ve been traveling as long as I have, a lot of this is second nature and I do it without realizing. For those first few trips, though, it’s incredibly helpful to have an actual checklist.

Readers, what do you do before leaving the office for a business trip?


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  1. 1. Check and recheck visa requirements. Make sure you’re in order and have hard copies of electronic visa confirmation. Pay attention to business vs. tourist visa requirements. Often business visas aren’t as easy to secure and have different requirements than a tourist visa. I don’t recommend faking it (Colombia comes to mind as a learning experience)
    2. work out alternate travel plans in advance in case of irregular ops. I always have a backup plan that will still get me to my destination in time for my first meeting. I’ve used it more than i’d like to admit.
    3. notify credit card companies of countries you’re visiting. Most notifications can be made online now.
    4. determine how you will get local currency. If using a local atm – determine where one is located in airport. Figure out in advance how much local currency you request through atm (many currencies have a bunch of zeros and it gets confusing how much to request in the fog of jetlag) (Turkish lira comes to mind along with Japanese yen from personal experience)
    5. Notify your cell phone provider. Check online in advance to determine how to call a local call and a home based number. (In some countries you need to add a combination of 0’s and 1’s.
    6. Confirm and plan for any dress code requirements in advance (get someone to explain business attire in this country, is it ok for women to be in pant suit, head covering needed, do i need a gift for a host?,

  2. Good post. Also +1 on Kelly’s comments. I also like to print a hard copy of my hotel and flight info, boarding pass, etc. I know this is old school but I’ve had issues. My backup to my phone.

    I also take photos of my luggage if I check any, passport, credit cards (front and back), location I park my car at the airport and any other docs I might need. I also leave the parking ticket inside my car hidden so I don’t lose it on my trip.

  3. in addition to all of the above – I inform my bank of any travel plans; prepare a shopping list (for Christmas gifts, or for the daycare teachers); buy gifts for colleagues at my destination (American candies or astronaut ice cream from the Smithsonian); upload documents to Dropbox; stock up on business cards; print out an exchange rate cheat sheet; email the office I’m visiting to ensure IT access and other administrative items that take time to process; water my plant (or ask someone to water it in my absence); and take care of the recycling under my desk!

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