If you’re a businessperson who has a lot of meetings, you’ve probably found yourself in a virtual world during these last few months. But now, with travel starting to become more possible, your next business meeting might just involve one of those old-fashioned trips again.
Software applications have stepped in while we have been unable to travel, but many feel that online meetings are no substitute for the real thing. Within the US, domestic flights and driving are still possible. In addition, some countries have been reopening their borders and allowing airlines to fly more people in, including businesspeople and digital nomads. Be aware, however, at this time some countries, including important business destinations like China, require a lengthy quarantine period on arrival, and others such as Canada are still out-of-bounds to US citizens.
COVID-19 is not going away yet, and because it is advised that everybody be careful to not contract or spread infection, we have created this list of ten tips to help any businessperson who is looking to make a trip right now. They include things you should do before you leave, items you should take with you, what you should watch out for when traveling, and how you might interact with others when you arrive.
1. Research Your Destination
All travel has potential hazards, and if the coronavirus situation worsens at your destination, these hazards can multiply. If you are going to a foreign country, talk to others who have been there or search for advice on the internet — hotels and car rental companies that are reckoned to have a responsible attitude are worth knowing about.
We also highly recommend investigating the healthcare services of your destination city, too. Lastly, be sure to research restaurant and entertainment activities to find out how curtailed by lockdowns they may currently be.
2. Know About the Legal Requirements
As visa applications for many countries have been suspended, the relevant websites should be checked for the latest information and approval processes for applications made before the deadlines. Be aware that an increasing number of countries require visitors’ passports to have at least six months’ validity.
You also need to take heed of local coronavirus-related laws, some of which can be severe. For example, Melbourne, Australia, has a citywide curfew from 8 pm to 5 am and mask-wearing is obligatory everywhere, much like Paris, right now. In particular, finding out about quarantine requirements is key.
3. Get on the Radar
When traveling to a foreign country, enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program run by the U.S. Dept. of State’s Bureau of Consulate Affairs. Here, you will get important safety information from your destination country’s U.S. embassy, and it will help them and your family contact you in an emergency. For domestic travel, some US states such as New York require visitors to fill out a form, and failure to do so will incur a fine. In some foreign countries, you may even be required to use location-tracking apps on your phone.
4. Buy and Spend Wisely
Airlines are very focused on health precautions at the moment, but for peace of mind, you can check that the one you want to fly with keeps middle seats vacant, performs temperature checks, and implements a strict mask-wearing policy. You will probably want to buy tickets that give a full money-back guarantee if you have to cancel, as well.
Concerning financial transactions when you arrive, it’s advisable to sterilize your hands after you have handled money and to use contact-free card transactions whenever possible.
5. Get Healthy and Stay Healthy
To help protect others, you’d be well advised to visit your doctor and get a thorough check-up before you head off. Some foreign destinations actually require a recent negative Covid-19 test back home — and you might also have to take one when you arrive as well. Get yourself checked to avoid wasted travel time.
In general, strengthening the immune system is always worthwhile to help ward off illness as well — habits like eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep, and avoiding stress before you travel are always advisable. If you are in an at-risk group, consider sending another employee in your place.
6. Get Properly Insured
It’s never been a better time to get a policy with emergency medical care and emergency medical transportation benefits – perhaps with trip cancellation/interruption benefits. Be warned that some insurance companies may view COVID-19 as a ‘foreseen event’ — meaning you bear the consequences of getting it — so it may not always be covered. Other insurance policies, for either US or foreign travel, will cover you if you get infected by COVID-19 as long as you contract it after the date the policy started.
7. Take a Range of Essential Supplies
Come prepared. You’d be well advised to have hand sanitizer, paper tissues, and disinfectant wipes with you at all times — some people also like to carry a supply of disposable gloves and medication for any common illnesses such as colds and flu.
Having a thermometer is a good idea in case suspicious symptoms begin to surface and your want to check your health, as well as a digital oximeter, costing about $30, which can be used to check your oxygen levels. Having your own personal water bottle is also a good idea in warmer climates.
8. Don’t Skimp on the Masks
Some airlines offer face masks at the gate but quantities may be limited, and good quality ones may not be quickly and easily obtainable at your destination. Medical-grade N99 and N95 masks are considered some of the best, but they are in limited supply and probably should remain allocated only for key health workers. Disposable surgical masks are a good second-best, better than cloth ones, though ‘hybrid’ masks which include a tightly woven layer may also be quite effective.
9. Keep Health in Mind When Traveling
Airplanes can be reasonably safe places, as the air is filtered, not particularly humid, and the staff is well trained. If you use public transport such as trains or buses, observe the social distancing and mask-wearing rules and avoid touching any surfaces whenever possible. When your destination requires you to hitch a ride with a taxi or ride-sharing app, see if you can find a company that has installed screens between drivers and passengers and ask the driver to put the air-conditioning on non-recirculation mode. Sit in the back, and try to avoid pooled rides.
10. Handle With Care
Handshakes are a big part of business interactions, and physical contact can produce a hormone in the body called oxytocin which is reckoned to help with social bonding — maybe this is why virtual meetings are so unstimulating! Wash your hands as soon as you can afterwards. If you’re not comfortable with handshakes or cannot easily wash immediately, there are non-contact alternatives such as the elbow or fist bump.
All in all, business travel is much more difficult now than it used to be, with many destinations out of bounds and others only just starting to reopen. Also, there may be more lockdowns to come in areas where cases rise, so you might have to stay with those virtual meetings for a while longer. But if you have the chance to go on a good-old-fashioned business trip, following the tips we list here and obeying your destination’s coronavirus-related rules could ensure its success.
Get yourself good insurance, sign in with the Bureau of Consulate Affairs, take the appropriate precautions, and made sure you stay up-to-date with all the latest information. Your next business trip might be a little different, but the risks should be manageable.