Alice had learnt several things of this sort in her lessons in the schoolroom, and though this was not a VERY good opportunity for showing off her knowledge, as there was no one to listen to her, still it was good practice to say it over. (Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland)
Today’s blog contains my schoolroom tips for women who travel in business, they are the tips I love to practice and love to show off my knowledge about.
For those of you starting out in business, you have probably imagined what your first business trip would be like. If you have already experienced your first business trip, than you have probably learned there was most likely a difference between what you imagined the trip would be like and what the reality of the trip was. Either way, I am sure your trip did not reflect what you learned in the schoolroom or in the office, so I invite you to my schoolroom for business travel tips.
If you are either lucky with your business travel arrangements or you have a high enough position in your company, then there is a good chance your business travel consists of a 5 star hotel or nice resort–this kind of business travel that dreams are made of.
If you are like the majority of the world (and the rest of us), then your business travel reality probably looks a little different than a 5 star hotel or resort. Your travel consists of a Holiday Inn, Marriott Courtyard or a maybe even an East European Pension with shared baths. Either way, no matter what the travel arrangements consist of, business travel can be an exciting experience and being excited about your first business trip or any business trip is normal.
Business travel can be exciting because it is a chance to see the world (even if it is Berlin, Maine). It can be a chance to leave the family at home, it can provide you with a new business opportunity, allow you time for growth and reflection but it can also be long tiring days and a lot of work. Regardless if you are excited about your trip or just view it as another day on the road, you should experience each trip to its fullest and if you are still enjoying the travel, than enjoy the excitement while you can. The excitement can ware off after a lot of extensive travel.
Once you have become a seasoned business traveler, you may see your assignments with other eyes. One of the things you will begin to see and understand is business travel for women, can also be dangerous if you are not cautious.
As I sit here and write this blog, I am in the bar of a 4 star hotel in a very famous Eastern European City. I am observing two women whom were on my flight to this city. I happen to know that they are here for a meeting and I happen to know they are here in this city for the first time. How do I know that, they were talking rather loud on the plane and I overheard their discussions. What else do I know? A lot more than I should about them and why? Because they never thought someone would be listening to what they were saying. I was listening. I was listening for journalistic reasons (in order to write this blog), but who knows who else could be listening for other reasons?
As I continue observing the ladies, they stand up and leave the bar. They want to pay their bill. The bartender asks them if they want to pay cash or put the bill on their room. They choose the latter. They announce their room number very load in the bar. The bar tender hears it, but so do the 9 men sitting at the bar.
Why am I telling you this, and why is this important, it is my schoolroom lesson on traveling. In my 28 years of business and travel, I have learned to be more and more cautious because I had three very scary situations and I would like to share those situations with you, in hopes you will think twice about your actions while traveling on business.
The first situation occurred when I was in my late 20s. I visited a city, went to eat and came back to the hotel bar for one drink. I did not talk to anyone but laid my room key envelope on the bar. I paid for my drink and I told the bartender my room number and I retired to my room. About one hour later the first terror phone call started. Some man at the bar saw and heard my room number. He was drunk and started to call me every 10 minutes. After one hour of terror phone calls, I got the concierge to escort me to another room and ensured they blocked my information and calls.
The second situation occurred, when I was around 30. Excited about my trip to Europe, I told the business class passenger next to me – male – about my trip. Where I was going, what I was doing and I gave him a lot more information than I should have. The next day he showed up in my hotel looking for me. Needless to say, shocked as I was, I immediately saw my error. Unfortunately he was very persistent and I had to change hotels.
As I reached my 40s, I believed I had become a seasoned business traveler and had learned the lessons that needed to be learned. I made my own safety list and followed it. Clearly there were always some small uncomfortable incidents along the way, but nothing drastic, and just as I believed I had seen it all I learned my last lesson, and the worst one.
It happened, as I was the CEO with a large company in Europe. I was with my entire management staff in an off site conference. The conference was during the day and we had social activates in the evening, one of which was bowling.
One of my management staff got sick that evening, so we were short one bowler. There was another conference in the same hotel, and one of my managers asked some man from the other conference to fill in the vacate bowlers spot. The man who was filling in was not on my team. I did not talk to him and had nothing but polite contact with him during the entire game.
When we finished the game some of my employees went to the bar while others went to bed. I decided to retire for the night; I thanked everyone and went to bed. I never took notice of the man whom had filled in the bowling spot for us.
Two hours after I retired, a loud banging at my door awaked me. Someone had followed me to my room. That someone tried to brake down the door. It was the man from bowling.
Our conference was in a converted castle, and I was in the tower room. I had no cell phone contact; the connection in the tower room was too weak. No one answered the hotel front desk because they did not man it after 12 pm. I was terrified. Finally I opened the window and almost crawled out on the roof to get cell phone contact. I called one of my managers and asked for help. They came, called the police but the man ran away and we found out the next day that he had left the hotel that night.
Now my stories are not met to scare you, but think of yourself right now in Alice’s schoolroom and here are my lessons learned from 28 years of travel.
- Use the travel to experience places. If you have free time, enjoy museums, go shopping and enjoy the sites.
- Experience the culture. There is so much wonderful in a cultural exchange.
- Look for places with families, music, local food, and mixed age groups – they are usually safe and almost always fun.
- Ask hotels and concierges for help. Never be afraid to ask for help, it is normal. Do not be embarrassed or proud, everyone needs help.
- Ask the business partners you visit for help or suggestions, they often know the where to go and not to go.
- Do research before you go; it helps you get familiar with the town, city or area.
- If you are eating alone, I personally find that local restaurants are the best ones to eat at. Also local ethnic restaurants such as Chinese or Italian, places where locals go and not business people are generally safe. I personally love to eat at a local Chinese or Japanese no matter where I am because it is usually not full of crazy over excited business people, travelers or prowlers. They are usually quiet places and the staff leaves you alone.
- Be friendly to hotel, restaurant, airline and other service staff. First it is always polite to be friendly to these folks, they have hard jobs. Secondly, they can be your best friends in times of need.
- Be cautious about the information you give to strangers. Polite is good, but the less information you give the better
10.Put the do not disturb sign on you room the entire time you are in the hotel, unless you need the room cleaned. This can confuse observers – they will not be sure if you are alone or not.
11.Make sure your room has a good cell phone connection. Like in my story, especially in rural hotels, some rooms have better cell connection than others. If for some reason the hotel has no cell connection in your room make sure there is a 24 hour reception or a number you can call in emergency.
12.Before going to your room alone, make sure no one is watching you or following you. If you feel someone is then take a detour and go back to the lobby and ask for an escort.
13.Do not take rooms at the end of long halls, in corners or near exit doors.
14.Pay taxis while in the taxi, do not get out until you pay and finish your business.
15.Using the gym and pool is great, but ensure there is staff in the near or other people.
16.Walk down crowded streets with more people and it is best to make yourself familiar with a map first; do not stop on the street to read one when alone.
17.Keep valuables in the hotel safe in your room and carry one credit card and some cash with you. Lock your passport up and if you need ID for credit card use, bring your driver’s license
- Do not leave your room key, room key envelope, or bar check with your room number on the bar, table or any place where someone can read it.
- Do not announce your room number aloud in front of other guests, especially men, or in a bar. If the waiter or bar tender asks for your room, then say it softly or tell him you will write it down.
- Do not give out personal information, especially over your current stay, to strangers. If you engage in conversation than keep it general conversation, no specifics about what you are doing when and where.
- Do not where a lot or expensive jewelry on business trips.
- Do not put your name and address on luggage tags where everyone can read it, use closed luggage tags.
- Do not walk to a rental car alone, make sure there are employees in the near.
- Do not take tips on restaurants or bars from strangers without checking them out with the concierge.
- Do not exchange money with street venders, go to a bank or exchange office.
- Do not use bank machines outside when no one is in the near, try to use bank machines inside banks during day hours.
10.If driving do not stop for anyone or roll down the windows even if someone points to your car.
11.Do not shop too much at one time, occasionally bring things back to your hotel and leave them there before shopping more, especially if carrying bags with exclusive brand marks.
12.Do not take unofficial taxis (those that are not state registered or assigned from the hotel) no matter how good the price is.
These may be schoolroom lessons, but someday you may need them. Along with these special tips I have, the normal safety rules always apply traveling alone.
I wish you many successful and exciting business trips, but am cautious.