When managed wisely, travel can open new opportunities and increase revenue.

Travel can be a wonderful thing for a small business. When managed wisely, it can open new opportunities, increase revenue, and serve to optimize staff engagement. When managed poorly, however, travel can waste resources, harm productivity, and frustrate all parties involved. What is the difference between a successful business trip and one that leaves you wishing a trip had never been approved? Here is our list:

Combine Goals

Generally, the goal of a business trip is to get in, get the job done, and get out. What if you decided to spend a little more time during your trip to accomplish work in other areas, such as the trio of networking, research, and training? Let’s say for the sake of argument that you need to travel next month for a two-day conference. What if you booked some job-related training for the week before the conference, and for the week after it you asked some colleagues at a similar business if you could shadow them for a few days of information sharing? Doing so would allow you to kill three birds with one stone. If you’re concerned with the cost of a hotel for an extended trip, a longer-term (yet still short-term) stay in furnished apartments might be a better option.

Learn from Other Cultures

A trip to Cincinnati doesn’t quite offer the same level of cultural exposure as a trip to Europe, but that doesn’t mean you can’t absorb something in a business trip to the home of the Bengals. When you travel for business, it’s common to put blinders on. You work (or nap) on the flight, and you work (or zone out) at the hotel. Instead, try to be observant when you travel. Even as you’re sitting in an airport waiting area listening to an audiobook, ask yourself what you might learn from the experience to help your own business. Talk to the people waiting around you. When you’re in a strange city, go out and talk to the locals. Visit a museum with a focus on the local community, be it history or art. This all may sound very hokey and New Age, but when you return home, you just might find that you had a better time than you planned – and that you have some fresh perspectives to help you with your work, too!

Use Technology for Expense Tracking

And now, back to the more practical tips! There was a time when traveling for business meant stuffing receipts into your wallet and trying to make sense of them when you got home. Today, you don’t have to do that anymore. There are apps to help you track mileage and all sorts of business-related receipts. In fact, QuickBooks has a mobile expense-tracking app which will do wonders for you if you already use QuickBooks to manage the finances of your business. Your accountant (or yourself, if you also handle the books) will thank you later.

Use Credit Card Rewards to Save on Travel

It’s not a guarded secret anymore; one of the advantages of traveling for business is all the points you’re going to accrue by using credit cards to book flights, rental cars, and hotels, and to pay for gas and meals. Since it’s a small business, you get to decide whether you use your personal credit card and file for reimbursement after the trip, or use a business card and put the rewards back into the business.

Choose Your Trips Wisely

The final tip is to be judicious when scheduling business travel. Ask yourself if you really need to go this time. Will you gain the desired trio of benefits – networking, researching, and training? Obviously, if you have an opportunity to work with a client that you really want to work with, you’re going to go for it. But in all things travel-related, it might be a good idea to “sleep on it” before you book the trip – when possible.