Save time, money and inconvenience with this comprehensive checklist for business travellers.
By Michael Gebicki
Business travel can be a case of going through the motions, but a quick audit of the process could save you time, money and inconvenience.
Getting on a plane and hopping off a few hours later in the name of business is such a common experience that you probably don’t give it too much thought. Just like all things you do on autopilot – tying your shoelaces, the daily home-work-home commute – it’s worth looking at the basics once in a while to see if there are better ways of doing it. Consider this your master checklist.
If you’re relying on the free travel insurance that comes when you book using your gold, platinum or other high-status card, you need to read the product disclosure statement that applies to your policy. In some cases, the insurance is activated automatically; with other cards, you need to notify your card provider.
You might not be covered for travel within Australia. In the case of a family trip, only the cardholder and their spouse might be eligible for full cover, with reduced cover for other family members.
If you travel more than twice a year and prefer a standalone travel insurance policy to the one that comes with your credit card, an annual travel insurance policy is more convenient and will almost certainly cost less than buying a policy for each trip.
Need to keep several devices charging when you travel? Connect a single travel adapter to a powerboard or powercube for multiple power points. Your board should be rated for 100V to 250V and have well-spaced points – one with built-in USB ports is ideal; you’ll need a 2.1-amp (“2.1A”) USB output if you use a tablet. A portable power bank can charge your smartphone between stops.
When you check in to a hotel, the receptionist will usually block an amount against your debit or credit card as a deposit/pre-authorisation. No amount is actually charged until you settle the bill on check-out, but the pre-authorisation deprives you of some of your funds and it can be substantial – anything from A$50 to A$150 for each day you’re in-house.
You’re better off using a credit rather than debit card for the pre-authorisation, as this means you’re using your card provider’s funds rather than your own. Some travellers suggest that making a charge against your pre-authorisation can speed up the process of restoring blocked funds to your account.
When you check out, use the same card as on check-in or it can take longer for the funds to be restored.
If you’re coming back to Australia with a new laptop, an expensive camera or anything else worth more than the A$900 duty-free allowance, you can claim depreciation if you used the item while you were away.
Experience suggests that Australian customs officers are inclined to be generous with incoming passengers who do the right thing, but those who try to foil the system with false invoices or undeclared goods might well find themselves with a starring role on the TV show Border Security.
Different water, food, climate and exposure to exotic microbes can breach your body’s defences and lay you low. About half of all Australians who travel overseas will face some health-related problem, from sunburn to something that requires medical evacuation.
Forewarned is forearmed. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a website (www.cdc.gov/travel) with a comprehensive run-down of the different health risks travellers face in just about every country.
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The fees associated with many overseas transactions chisel away at your funds, but the right debit or credit card will put you back in the winner’s circle. Look for a card with no annual fee, no overseas transaction fees and no currency conversion fees. The only fee you will pay is the small amount every ATM transaction incurs when you withdraw from a bank other than your own.
Planning to bring duty-free liquor back home? Beware: you can only take liquor on an Australia-bound aircraft as hand luggage if you buy it at the port immediately before Australia or on the aircraft on the final leg of your homecoming flight.
For example, if you buy duty-free whisky at Heathrow Airport, it will be confiscated at the final inspection point when you re-board the aircraft at Dubai, Singapore or wherever else your intermediate stop happens to be. This is an Australian Government requirement – it has nothing to do with local airport security, even though they’re the ones doing the bag inspection.
Send copies of all your travel-related documents – passport details, tickets, itinerary, travel insurance and so on – to yourself in an email or to Dropbox or some other cloud-based storage. If you lose the actual documents, at least you have backup.
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Hotel loyalty schemes are free, they often come with perks and they apply straight away. Sign up when you check in if you’re not already a member and you might get free wi-fi or even a room upgrade.
Don’t keep all your credit cards and cash in the same place, and if you’re walking around in unfamiliar surroundings, take only what you need for the day. If there are two of you, divide your cash and cards when you’re out and about.
If you have reason to believe your hotel room security might not be all that secure, hang the “Do Not Disturb” tag on the door when you leave the room.
When you’re hotel hopping and unlikely to be unpacking properly, zip-lock plastic bags are a gift from the travel gods, vital for separating clean from less than, wet from dry. They’re also great for sealing potentially leaky items.
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