Ten tips on how to avoid trouble on a work trip

Ask anyone who travels internationally for a living and they'll tell you the same thing – it's hell on earth.

The constant planes, the boxy hotels, the prescription pills to overcome the insomnia and jetlag. It's like Fight Club without Brad Pitt.

But it doesn't have to be like that. With a little imagination, a fat wad of corporate cash, and a few whisky highballs you can turn any business destination into your own personal Heart of Darkness.

Here's how you do it without losing your job and/or marriage.

1. Don't stay at the same hotel as everyone else

Nice and simple, but it's the foundation upon which every great business trip is built. Getting a separate hotel to your colleagues allows you to come and go as you please without scrutiny.

It also means you won't run into anyone you know while 'tired and emotional' in the hotel lift at 2am.

If anyone asks why you have a different hotel just say the other one was booked out, or you have timeshare points.

2. Don't confuse your work colleagues for your friends


Travelling brings people closer together, and a few whiskies in a foreign hotel can turn your formerly straight-laced co-workers into actual humans. That's great, but don't mistake them for kindred spirits.

Sharing some drinks in a hotel lobby is one thing, driving across town to steal the mascot of a rival college (all hail Sir Oinks-a-Lot), is quite another. See those looks on your colleagues' faces? That's judgment.

3. Do your research, have a plan, and ditch the deadweight

A successful work trip means ditching deadweight colleagues and obvious tourist traps for real adventure. That requires a plan.

At the very least you should know which part of town offers the sort of bars and entertainment you're after, and which colleagues (if any) you trust to tag along. Ditching an unwanted crowd is easy – just mention you have a friend in town and are going to catch up.

4. Don't trust the locals

Australia is a remarkably safe country. The rest of the world is a dangerous snake pit. Or near enough.

The point is, you should be on your guard, especially if venturing out alone at night. As a general rule, you'll want to avoid anywhere with overly friendly touts promising cheap drinks. And if you suddenly find yourself drinking with a crowd you'd never associate with back home, then hold on to your wallet and watch your drink.

The more 'exotic' your travel destination, the more you start to resemble a walking ATM.

5. Assume whatever you say/do will get back to HR

When you're travelling for work you're a 'representative of the company'. HR will be sure to remind you of this when discussing that 'ethnic' joke you made over dinner, the $400 champagne you regurgitated into a plant pot, and how you then stormed off to "find a strip club".

Sorry to break it to you, but 'what happens on tour stays on tour' is not a real thing.

6. Be aware of the local laws (and the real local laws)

Here's the thing; there's the official laws, and the 'real laws'. And they don't necessarily pair up. Being drunk in public with a woman in your arms is very clearly against the law in the U.A.E., but it's also an incredibly common sight that everyone ignores.

That said, you're not obliged to do something just because it's legal; and if you do decide to sample Amsterdam's finest, or buy psychoactive mushrooms in Japan, you probably shouldn't boast about it on Facebook.

7. Lock down your social media

Speaking of social – that 3am photo-op may seem like the greatest idea ever at the time, but it's probably not going to do your career any favours. Neither is the barely comprehensible caption.

If you can't trust yourself with a smartphone after a Long Island fishbowl, then log out of your various social accounts before you hit the town. If you can't recall/retype the passwords you shouldn't be posting.

8. Know your culinary limits

Some people have iron stomachs, and can eat the most adventurous food this side of a New Delhi street market. For the rest of us there's Starbucks and the reliable safety of black coffee and a disappointing pastry.

This may not be as authentic as 'special combo #5' at a street stall, but it's preferable to gastric distress while on a conference panel. Also, it wouldn't kill you to eat some fruit or take some vitamin supplements to help keep the scurvy at bay.

9. Understand local sensitivities

No one expects you to master all the local nuances, but you should know which topics to avoid in polite conversation. Politics and religion are the classics, but even something as incidental as Persian Gulf versus Arabian Gulf can become an animated discussion in the Middle East.

This is not a conversation you ever want to have, regardless of your thoughts on the topic. FYI – just call it The Gulf.

10. Appear 'engaged' and 'involved'

A business trip isn't just about results; it's about the perception of results. Vigorously tweeting to a conference hashtag and/or writing one of those self-aggrandising LinkedIn recaps means you can spend the bulk of your trip in a downtown bar while still coming across as an 'industry thought leader'.

This means you get to go on more trips in the future.

What are your top tips for enjoying a business trip while minimising risky behaviour? Let us know in the comments section (and keep it family-friendly).