a glimpse at: business travel

businesstravel

Let’s face it, a travel blogger’s dream is to travel for work. Getting paid to sit poolside at a a five-star hotel and write about it? Sign.Me.Up. However, with two blog posts under my belt, the offers have yet to roll in. So instead, I asked Chantelle, a Category Sales Manager for a leading national electronics company, about the ins and outs of  business travel.

How often do you travel to work? 

I travel typically between 2 to 3 times a year. Las Vegas for a trade show every January; I’ve also been to California, New Orleans, Florida, Asia and then within Canada as well. It all depends on what is going on in the market…if you have a trending category or not…if sales are up or not.

How do you pack for business travel?

I try and pack light, which I haven’t quite got down pat yet. Business casual and something more formal for the evening.

Do you do any research into the cities you’re visiting? Is business travel a great opportunity to see the world, or it is “all work and no play” most of the time? 

Outside of checking what the weather will be like, I typically don’t do any research. Our vendors, for the most part, do the majority of the planning. Taking us to nice dinners and nights out on the town. So I wouldn’t say all business…we get to play a bit.

Luggage. Check it or chuck it up top?

Chuck it up top is the way to go, but shoes are not very compact so I typically check it.

Is there a sense of urgency when you’re on business travel; a gnawing feeling that you only have a few days or hours in some cases, to get everything done before your flight back home? Do you or your company usually create an itinerary of tasks?

Depends on the trip. Company paid trips are definitely more structured with more of a list of tasks and meetings to attend. Vendor paid trips are typically a little more laid back, but still come with an itinerary. Because you are still on work time you’re still expected to complete projects and respond to emails so it can get overwhelming at times.

Is business travel as glamorous as most of us picture it? Cocktail parties, fancy dinners with important people? 

Glamorous would definitely not be the word I would use to describe it. Exhausting however, would be a great definition. It’s a lot of work with very little play. That being said, the fancy dinners are a nice perk in moderation…. after a few nights you just want grilled cheese and soup. Also, you’re with your colleagues and superiors so you always have to be “on”…the experience would be much different with loved ones.

Depending on where you travel, it can be tricky if you don’t know the language or understand the cultural aspects. Have you ever found yourself in a difficult work situation that you had to overcome to get the job done? 

Travelling to Asia definitely posed a few challenges. Language being one, but we have people traveling with us that spoke the language so they were able to translate. Food and conditions were the most challenging aspect. They become especially difficult when you are exposed to them for 2 weeks or more, which is typically the time frame for our overseas buying trips. Going to the washrooms in China is unlike anything I ever want to experience again…hovering over a hole cut out in the floor is one that sticks out as slightly traumatic. Lol. I stopped drinking liquids on day 2.

Favourite city you’ve traveled to for business?

New Orleans would have to be my all-time favourite. This is a city where I feel like we really got to experience the culture. Our vendors had every night planned with the best restaurants and nightlife. Bourbon Street, piano bars…we were also able to take the last day and go on a gator swamp tour with our team.

When I picture business travel, I think lobster dinners and champagne at every meal, breakfast included (hello, mimosas!). Does the company cover all, if not most expenses? Is business travel a great time to live like a Kardashian for a few days?

Breakfast mimosas I wish! The company or our vendors do cover all expenses. That being said, we do try to be sensitive to this. If it’s on the company’s dime, we’ll try and take a shuttle if there is one, instead of a cab for instance. Our vendors however, have been known to go all out in some cases. I’ve been flown by helicopter to the Grand Canyon to have a picnic lunch and I’ve been treated to a $700 spa day one year (It was a good year sales-wise). Depends on how good the year was and the relationship with the vendor partner.

The internet has given us the ability to gather information in real-time. Has the internet and programs like Skype hampered the business travel at all?

I can’t say that I’ve really experienced the impact. I started this job 5 years ago when these things were already in play.

Best business travel moment?

A wine tour in California.

Worst business travel moment?

Having to give a presentation in New Orleans to 3 of our senior VPs, directors, and one of our top vendors in a very crowded restaurant after a very late night over breakfast. Our meeting room was double-booked, so we had to get creative and find a meeting place.  Since it was during a conference, everything was booked so it was decided that we would do it over breakfast. I am not a fan of public speaking to begin with, so having to yell over a crowded restaurant while everyone ate breakfast and not feeling that hot from the night before was especially difficult.

Any advice to people who want to work in a job that requires frequent trips abroad?

I would say it depends on the frequency. A handful of trips a year is great. I have a friend that travels every week, which makes it hard to enjoy your life outside of your job…at that point your job is your life.  Depends on what your goals are for a work/life balance.

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