Category Archives: travel

Should I give days off in exchange for weekend business travel?

Should I give days off in exchange for weekend business travel?
My employees are salaried and some business trips require travel or actual business on the weekend. Should I show appreciation for this by offering some week days off? If so, should I do it a day for a day?

Penny Morey

If your employees are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, this is a judgment call on your part. I say if because salaried does not necessarily mean that they are exempt employees under the FLSA. Many employers use “salaried” and “exempt” interchangeably, which is not accurate. That is, an employer can pay a non-exempt employee a salary, as long as the employer also abides by the FLSA concerning paying for overtime hours worked and so forth. For purposes of this response, I will assume that “salaried” does mean “exempt” from the FLSA.

Most companies that have exempt professionals who travel or work on weekends just inform those people that it’s part of the job and that this extra time and effort is one reason why the job pays at the level that it does (i.e., the weekend work/travel is calculated into the pay level of the job). However, giving some kind of compensatory time to exempt employees for their weekend travel and business hours is a good thing to do for morale or, as you put it, “to show appreciation.”

Giving back hour-for-hour is more than you need to do. Many accounting firms have a program whereby for each hour worked by exempt employees in excess of a threshold of say 50 hours during a standard work week, one-half hour is deposited to a compensatory time bank. You might want to create a compensatory time bank for exempt employees who regularly work on weekends for travel and business. If so, you should establish clear guidelines to prevent misunderstandings or misuse. For example, you might want to exclude hours worked by employees who infrequently travel or work on weekends (i.e., have a minimum of some kind that makes sense for you and your business). You might want to exclude travel work hours on Friday evenings or Sunday evenings from consideration, because this a typical travel time for many workers who travel for business. These are just some thoughts on the subject. I think overall that it’s a nice idea for morale and appreciation purposes.

You’re 4 Small Steps Away From Quitting Your Job to Travel the World

You’re 4 Small Steps Away From Quitting Your Job to Travel the World
Think you’ll never get to travel? Think again with the guidance you need to leave your job, travel the world and land your dream gig when you return.

When my husband and I decided to get married, we made an event out of planning our honeymoon. Nearly six months prior to setting off for the big day, we ordered a large map, map pins and a bottle of bubbles and had a saucy trip-planning date night.

Prior to said date night, we had both been in our respective roles with our employers for several years and were feeling a bit stagnant at work. So, it may not surprise you to learn that, at the end of our evening, with 20 or so pins scattered across the globe, we looked at each other and said, “Let’s do it all.” Under the spell of Champagne, we both decided to quit our jobs and take the plunge, traveling to 13 countries over the course of the six months following our wedding.

Making the decision to leave our jobs and travel for a meaningful amount of time was the best decision either of us could have made for ourselves, and it allowed us to fall into the perfect employment (both with marked salary increases) when we returned. Allowing ourselves to reset our perspective made all the difference in the world.

Here are four steps to setting off on your own adventure and to finding the right gig when you return:
Step 1: Set your budget and savings plan.

Planning to quit your job with no new employment in the wings can only be done with real preparation. You first need to ensure that you have enough money to survive and to set up a savings plan to pay yourself first.

Start by stripping out every unnecessary expense in your current daily life — cable and WiFi, expensive meals and extracurriculars. Begin living the “abroad life” while still at home, and see how small you can get your existing monthly spend (placing the saved cash in your travel savings account).

Beyond rent (which you will not have while traveling) and your car expense (you’ll want to rent or sell this), your monthly budget at home should mimic what you realistically think you will need while traveling. As a rule of thumb, and if you are comfortable with a budget lifestyle on the road, you should plan to save $1,500-$2,000 per month of travel, which includes room, board and travel expenses. Once you’ve saved your first $5,000 (and can see the path to saving the full $9,000-$12,000), you are ready for Step 2.
Step 2: Be transparent with your employer.

In the age of the millennial, employers are thinking creatively about how to keep their employees engaged, and sabbaticals are becoming more popular. Prior to quitting your job and burning a bridge, bring your employer into your plan. Share with them the detailed budgeting that you’ve been working on and your reasons for wanting to pursue that lifelong dream.

Employers, more often than not, appreciate being given significant notice prior to losing an employee, and you can bake a value proposition into your exit. Offer to help find and train your replacement and to work for a few hours per week while on the road. A small recurring income stream can go a long way on the road. This also leaves the door open for you should you decide to come back to your company when you return.

Once you’ve got your money and the good will from your boss, you are ready to take the plunge.
Step 3: Give yourself a hard deadline to not think about work.

I have been working for the better part of 20 years, so quitting my job and becoming a vagabond was a tough transition for me. I remember, only two weeks into our six-month honeymoon, telling my husband, “I think I’ll get my PhD. No. I want to start a nonprofit. Maybe I should work for a university . . . ” only to get rolled eyes in response.

Take time to rediscover who you are when you are not working. Schedule meaningful time to not think about work at all while you are traveling, and hold yourself to that timeline. Set a hard deadline for when you can begin thinking about work again, and be sure that it is at least a month (I took three).
Step 4: Craft your dream list to help you set your next employment destination.

During the period of time when you are not thinking about work, you can keep yourself busy by setting other hopes, dreams and ambitions. Author and coach Matthew Kelly suggests creating a dream list for yourself to help you determine what is most important in life.

“What do you desire? What makes you itch?”
—Alan Watts

Break your list into categories, i.e. spiritual, family, professional, financial, community, character, physical, travel, intellectual, etc., and spend time filling in dreams for each category (except professional — save that one for last). Your goal is to get to 100 dreams. Once you’ve maxed out, you’ll notice themes in the other aspects of your life, and this will help lead you to clear professional goals, which you can fill in after your deadline has passed.

On our honeymoon, my husband and I both completed dream lists, which made it clear that he wanted more authority and autonomy in his next job and that I wanted to be in a teaching role. When we finally began to look for jobs again in month four, we were crystal clear about what we wanted, and we both found it.

Quitting our jobs was the best thing we could have ever done for ourselves, and I believe that anyone can do the same — with the right plan.

11 Strategies for More Efficient Business Travel

11 Strategies for More Efficient Business Travel
Getting the most out of your trips includes staying safe and sane while on the road.

Whether you’re in sales or you’re an entrepreneur trying to make new connections, travel is a big part of your life as a professional. It only makes sense that how you spend time traveling can have a massive impact on your productivity, as well as your personal health and well-being.

To get the most out of your trips you need to learn how to travel efficiently. These 11 strategies are just some of the ways you can do that.
1. Choose more efficient travel modes.

There are dozens of ways to travel, including land, sea and air. Before opting for one mode over the others, consider your options carefully, including any hidden advantages and disadvantages you might be neglecting — such as the ability to get more work done as a passenger.
2. Choose better travel paths and connections.

Next, you can plan your routes with more efficient connections, layovers and city-visiting orders. For example, Luggage Council rates the four best cities to connect through, all of which offer massive, resource-packed airports and streamlined service, so you don’t have to worry about getting held up. Planning a trip with better stops and transitions will save you money and give you more time to work (more on that in the next section).
3. Be picky with accommodations.

You have your choice of hotels, Airbnbs or other accommodations, so be picky. Think carefully about your wants and needs and shop around for the best possible price. You can easily save a few hundred dollars here if you know where to look.
4. Know where to cut costs.

There are some areas to cut costs and some areas to splurge. For example, if Wi-Fi is an additional cost, it’s almost always worth the upcharge to give yourself greater productivity. Renting a nice car could also serve to make a good first impression with your new clients, if that’s your main goal.
5. Keep a mobile device on you.

Most professionals do this anyway, but try to stay active and connected by having a mobile device on you at all times. Connect to available Wi-Fi when you can, keep your team organized and have a place to jot down notes as necessary throughout your trip.
6. Have an agenda of work.

According to Productivityist, scheduling your work in advance not only helps you organize your thoughts and prioritize your goals, it’s also a way of motivating yourself to get more done. Make sure you know what you need to do while on the road, as well as how, when and where you’re going to do it.

7. Catch up on communication at the right times.

You won’t be able to communicate with your team throughout the entirety of your travel, so schedule some time to “catch up” on your communications. Take a break to read your emails, listen to voicemails, and make any phone calls as necessary.
8. Maximize your trips.

If you’re going to a city, you might as well squeeze in as much as possible while you’re there. If you have multiple clients in the area, see them all. If you have an extra day, take in some sights and share the experience on your brand’s social media page. Set a long list of goals to accomplish to get the most value out of every trip.
9. Pack wisely.

As Mashable explains, how you pack can have a big impact on your mental health — and a number of other areas. Packing light means having to keep track of fewer items, remaining more mobile throughout your adventures, paying fewer baggage fees and living a minimalistic lifestyle when you’re in a new city.
10. Give yourself time to decompress.

Travel can be stressful, so make sure you have time to de-stress and relax when you have the opportunity. Take rests before big meetings and don’t over-fill your schedule with things to do or you won’t be able to do any of them efficiently.
11. Soak in your environment.

Even though you’re traveling professionally, you’ll be less stressed and feel better about the trip if you take the time to absorb your environment. Get to know the city. Visit some good restaurants. You won’t be disappointed.

All these strategies can help you travel more efficiently as a young entrepreneur or professional. However, they apply to a broad spectrum of possible routes and aren’t the only tactics you can employ. If you want to dig into more specific details or discover even better tips, try talking to people.

You aren’t the only professional traveling regularly, so thousands of people have already had the experience to find out what works and what doesn’t. Get to know your peers, pick up a mentor or two and always be willing to improve yourself. With that mentality and a network at your disposal, your traveling will only get more comfortable and more productive over time.

5 Tips on Getting Your Passport and Avoiding Travel Headaches

5 Tips on Getting Your Passport and Avoiding Travel Headaches
These travel tips can make your next trip a lot easier.

There are several reasons why passport demand is at an all-time high, for both applications and renewals — it was predicted years ago that 2018 would see the demand peak.

For starters, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative of 2007 stipulates that all individuals traveling to the United States from other countries must show a valid passport or other approved documentation to enter the country. This includes crossing the border by land or water from Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico.

In the past, all that was required to re-enter the United States from those regions was a valid U.S. driver’s license. I remember spring break trips to Cancun and weekend trips to Canada in my younger days — no passport was required — just my driver’s license.

As a result of this change, the U.S. Department of State issued more than 18 million passports in 2007. At the time that was a record number — but it’s about to be broken, more than a decade later, because those passports are now up for renewal.

The State Department estimates that the surge of passport renewals that will be spilling over into 2018 and 2019 — combined with other new passport applications — will push the number of passports issued this year to more than 21 million, after more than 20 million applications in 2017.

Also, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is implementing phase four of the REAL ID Act this month, which sets new standards for state issued driver’s licenses and identification cards. The implication is that everyone who flies must have a REAL ID-compliant identification by October of 2020.

Starting January 22, 2018, travelers without ID from a compliant state (or one that has been granted an extension) will need to provide alternate identification — a passport is acceptable.

During the most recent 3-day government shutdown my Facebook feed had several requests seeking help renewing passports, proving two points — there is a high demand as renewals are up and most people wait until the last minute to handle it.

I am no different. Last year, I waited until the last minute and had to use a service to get my passport expedited. I used a company that was founded and then later sold by entrepreneur Adam Boalt. Aside from being an entrepreneur I respect, Boalt is also my neighbor in a sense — his Miami office is literally across the street from my condo.

His newest company, govWorks, launched earlier this year, and its mission is to change the way the public interfaces with both federal and foreign governments. The company created a platform aimed at simplifying the processes for travel visas, U.S. passports and other related travel documents by storing customer information securely.

Boalt’s office sits in Brickell City Centre — a billion-dollar shopping and mixed-use development. Since it’s across the street from me and home to two of my favorite destinations — the Apple store and a Mexican food restaurant — I am there often.

I last spoke to Boalt right as govWorks was launching and he was excited about the timing, saying, “We’ve entered the market at a very critical time. With that in mind, we think we can solve many of the challenges facing the industry moving forward with our brands.” Timing comes into play a great deal — the wrong timing can lead to missed opportunities and failed ventures. Here are five key takeaways from our conversation, that can help you avoid travel headaches related to passport applications and renewals.
1. Don’t wait until the last minute to renew your passport.

This is much easier said to done, and I am living proof. Last year, I knew well in advance that I needed to renew before my trip, but I waited until the last minute and had to get it expedited. Even if you still have a few months before you need to renew you might find yourself in a bad situation, which I wasn’t aware of.

“U.S. passports are valid for ten years. However, many countries will not accept a passport with less than six months of remaining validity. If possible, you should get a passport renewal at least nine months before it expires,” explained Boalt. If you wait until the last minute like I did, you will need to have it expedited.

2. Get a passport with extra pages if you’re a frequent international traveler.

“If you spend a lot of time traveling internationally it might be helpful to apply for a 52-page passport book instead of the standard 28-page passport,” suggested Boalt. Personally, I didn’t even know this was an option, and I wish I did.

When you consider that each page can accommodate about four stamps, that equals two countries per page — entering and exiting — you see that the larger option will satisfy the needs of those that are constantly traveling internationally.
3. Make sure your children have passports.

The REAL ID enforcement now gives parents reason to get their children a passport even if there isn’t any international travel planned. For example, my sister’s family lives in a state that currently isn’t compliant and has an extension through October 10, 2018. Unless her state complies in time, air travel within the United States after that date will require her entire family, kids included, have U.S. passports.

I also wasn’t aware that a child’s passport expires much sooner than an adult’s. “Children must have a valid child’s passport in order to travel internationally. U.S. child passports are also only valid for five years,” explained Boalt.

4. Understand the importance of a second passport.

When Boalt mentioned this I immediately wondered why. I didn’t even think it was possible to poses two valid passports, but it’s true. In fact, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort held three valid U.S. passports.

“If you often travel internationally you might want to consider getting a second passport. Some countries reject passports that contain visa stamps from certain other countries. Second passports are also helpful for frequent travelers who might need to apply for multiple visa applications on an ongoing basis,” advised Boalt.
5. Find out if you need a travel visa before you travel.

A lot of people show up to the airport only to be turned away from their flight because they forgot or simply weren’t aware that they needed a travel visa.
Creating a simpler way to handle this process is what led Boalt’s company to create Travel Visa. “We created a platform that allows people to get the visa requirements for every location and then quickly obtain it online,” he explained. The requirements can be confusing — make sure you are well-prepared.

25 Things You Need to Know to Happily Travel the World

25 Things You Need to Know to Happily Travel the World
It’s not as expensive as you think but cost is not the only challenge.

The idea of traveling the world doesn’t have to be some type of romantic notion just for the free-spirited. People of all ages and from all backgrounds have taken on their bucket lists with gusto and are traversing the world to get a broader perspective on life.

Travel bestows a new appreciation for cultures and humanity and lends a glimpse into the life and ways of others on this planet. As the world becomes closer than ever and many restrictions have been lifted by various countries, there is no time like the present to globe trek.

Here are 25 things to keep in mind about traveling the world that can convince you to get started and make it easier and more cost-effective:
1. Your papers, please.

It’s actually easier than you think to get or renew a passport in the U.S. in just 24 hours. When we relied on paper processes to get things done, it would be next to impossible to get a passport issued so quickly. However, the digital age has sped up most every type of transaction, including passport issuance. Online passports and eVisa services like Fastport Passport help you get on your way even when you decide at the last-minute to visit a foreign country.
2. Exchange programs.

Start with work exchange programs that cover the cost of traveling while providing you first-hand experience working on a local level. Not everyone wants to do the tourist approach to travel, so participating in a work exchange program offers a way to become part of the local color while having your travel costs covered. The other advantage is that these programs make you feel as though you are doing some good on a social level, plus you can gain valuable experience to apply toward your career back home. Start your search with organizations like HelpX or Workaway.
3. Volunteering.

If you are looking for an enriching experience, volunteer while you are on a trip. Organizations in many countries will accept short-term volunteers for various projects. You can look online in advance of your trip or contact volunteer groups when you arrive.
4. Learning abroad.

With more universities and colleges accepting international students, you can also study abroad as a way to travel to other parts of the world. It’s not as expensive as you would think and is sometimes even cheaper than attending an institution of higher learning in the U.S. This makes it possible to travel the world and get your degree at the same time. Sites like Study Abroad can make this a reality.
5. No currency hassles.

You don’t need to deal with travelers’ checks or currency exchange in most countries because of a more global banking system that lets you use debit and credit cards for most transactions. With the growing global acceptance of plastic payments and the migration to EMV (chip-enabled) credit and debit cards, you’ll feel more confident with payments and not worry about having checks or cash misplaced or stolen. There are ATMs and POS systems in stores all over the world — even in the most remote places. Smartphones and smartphone readers are changing commerce for all countries.
6. Cheap flights.

You can purchase an around-the-world ticket that is open ended and a much better value than if you buy a separate flight ticket to each location that you might visit. This provides you with more flexibility to change your itinerary and stay longer in one place or alter your future destination. There are some limitations to keep in mind, including the fact that you would have to complete your travel within one year and only travel in one direction rather than backtracking. Use this ticket for country-to-country travel, and rely on local country airlines for shorter trips.
7. Hotels are expensive and boring.

There are so many other options for accommodations besides hotels. Hostels are not just for students anymore. Plus, you can now use services like Airbnb nearly anywhere in the world to rent a room, apartment or even a house, depending on your needs, budget and length of stay. Your money will go farther, and you’ll have a better travel experience.

8. Rest insured.

Travel insurance is an excellent decision for any trip because it provides a safety net for when things go wrong, especially if you have a medical emergency or your belongings are stolen.
9. Skip the tours.

You most likely will see and learn more by not doing guided tours. While some people like to go in directed group tours to see the sights, seasoned global travelers will tell you that the experience is enhanced when you self-guide your way through destinations. It’s a good idea to ask locals where they would go for a meal or a day out. Most of the travel books and websites won’t know about these hidden gems.
10. Go local.

Use local street markets and stores to eat for cheap, but be cautious of the conditions, and use your common sense in regards to what may be safe and what looks unsanitary. You can also visit local grocery stores for food rather than rely on restaurants where you will get far less for your money. Many countries have joined apps like Yelp so you can be sure to find street markets and shops that have been recommended by fellow travelers.
11. Travel light.

You don’t need to pack your closet to go on a global trip. Take very little because you can purchase local clothing to acclimate and look less like a tourist. Many accommodations also offer washers and dryers so you can regularly clean your clothes.
12. The power difference.

A voltage converter will be the smartest purchase you can make for traveling around the world. Many novice travelers don’t realize that they can’t just take their power cords and hair dryers along and plug them directly into the wall wherever they land. Various countries use different voltage as their standard versus what is used in the U.S. Amazon and other retailers sell all types of voltage converters that offer numerous conversion options and include a way to plug in multiple devices at once.
13. A world of phones.

Check whether your carrier will provide you with an international plan for the various countries you are visiting. Not every country will just let you use your smartphone on their network. You’ll need to plan ahead and determine what works in each locale. You may be able to find WiFi, rent a phone, buy a disposable phone, or rent or buy a hotspot. It may be a combination of those things, but planning ahead helps you remain accessible.
14. Most places have a deal.

Look for discount sites that offer reductions in the price of attractions and the sights. In Europe, there are apps available, similar to Groupon, that offer ways to save money. The London Pass is a prime example of a way to save significant amounts of money on some of the tourist activities you may want to do.
15. Ignorance won’t be bliss.

There is still risk to traveling abroad. Local scams and cultural issues could create conflict between you and those you are visiting. Take the time to study about the places you are visiting and determine the risks. You can check U.S. government websites on travel restrictions or warnings. Also, don’t be the typical tourist lost in their map books and phones. Stay alert about your surroundings. Know where you can get assistance, including the local embassy for your country.
16. Follow your phone.

Google Maps will be another one of your best friends — after the voltage converter. Rather than carrying those huge fold-up maps that scream tourist to everyone around you, be sure to have Google Maps downloaded on your phone to help you navigate as much as possible. Those around you will only see you looking down at your phone, so you won’t stick out.

17. Backup everything important.

Backup all your data and information, including keeping digital copies of your passport, health cards, birth certificate and other vital records. Thanks to cloud storage, even if your electronic device that stores this information gets stolen, you can still get to these copies while in a foreign country to if needed during an emergency. These cloud storage solutions can be accessed from anywhere to help you out.
18. Be stoic.

Life will be different than what you are accustomed to, including having to go without some of the creature comforts you enjoy at home. Don’t complain or make a deal about this. Remember the idea here is to go experience something outside of your comfort zone and immerse yourself in another way of life. Besides, it’s just temporary and it might just help you to appreciate your life a bit more or change your perspective on what’s really important.
19. Stay loose with your schedule.

The best experiences are likely to be the ones you didn’t plan. While some people develop complex itineraries down to an hour-by-hour activity description, traveling around the world just doesn’t work that way. Transportation and people in other countries operate on a different sense of time that typically is not predictable or consistent. Step away from planning everything, and go with it. You’ll have some of the best memories from the trip this way.
20. The germs are foreign, too.

You may need more vaccinations than you would if staying at home. Many countries have other diseases that are uncommon in the U.S. That means you need further protection to avoid getting ill while traveling or upon returning home. It’s a good idea to make an appointment with your physician and discuss where you plan to travel to so they can update your vaccinations and potentially provide any medications that might help you. This saves discomfort and cost later on.
21. The embassy is your friend.

Register with your embassy before leaving the country so they can contact you via email, phone or text if there is a political situation that requires you to immediately seek safety. This can provide a way for safe passage in case anything should happen. With ongoing terror attacks, this is very important.
22. Money ups and downs.

The conversion rates in different countries fluctuate and can significantly alter the cost of anything you buy. It’s easy to look at the price of something in a foreign country and conclude it’s cheap, but you need to familiarize yourself with the exchange rate because it could be costing you twice the amount it says. You can download currency exchange apps like XE to help you know the price you will really pay in your own currency.
23. Your body is far from home.

Your body will get a workout from the time changes and the act of traveling, so be sure to treat it well. Your body clock may not be able to keep up, but try to stick to a routine as much as possible. Do things that help your body recover from the shock of time changes by getting as much sleep as possible, focusing on healthy food choices, using sunscreen, staying active and drinking a lot of water.

24. Take the bus. Or train.

Public transportation is often easier, but different than you may be accustomed to. In the U.S., not every state has great transportation options, but even developing countries offer a fairly accessible system to get you from point A to point B. Make sure you consider all those options rather than just seeking out a way to rent a car. You may not want to attempt driving on the opposite side of the road than you are used to or navigating different routes and busy city roads.
25. You’ll want to go again.

Once you start traveling the world, you will have the bug and won’t want to stop doing it. This type of experience will forever change how you see life and will alter your priorities. While you may not believe it, everyone who has ventured to various countries comes back with plans for their next trip. You will too!

9 Reasons You Need to Travel More

9 Reasons You Need to Travel More

Some people are born with wanderlust and spend their lives seeking new experiences. Others plan yearly vacations, enjoy weekend day trips or tack a few extra days onto a business trip to explore their destination.

No matter what your travel style, there are many reasons we need to go to new locations. Here are a few:
1. You feel more rested and restored.

Getting away from everyday stress helps restore both body and mind, and having new experiences takes your mind away from the day-to-day problems and allows it to concentrate on taking in new sights, smells, tastes and sounds. After a couple of days, you can actually feel your body start to relax.

2. You get to play.

We have far too little play in our lives, so travel lets us channel our inner child and see the world with fresh eyes. Do something you haven’t done since childhood, like ride a carousel or swim in the cool blue ocean. You’ll find yourself smiling as the stress melts away.
3. You get a break from work.

Some of your best ideas come to you when you’re doing something other than working. Try to forget about work when you travel and immerse yourself in the new experiences all around you. Be sure to unplug: check emails once in the morning, or only as necessary, and assign someone else to take on the responsibilities while you’re gone.
4. You create quality time with loved ones.

With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we often forget to make time for quality interactions with friends and family. Traveling together allows you to share and enjoy experiences together, plus it creates precious memories that will be recalled over and over again throughout the years to come. Be sure to take pictures for visual touchstones of special times.
5. You find yourself again.

When you’re out in the world, you see things in a new light, and with the stimulation of new surroundings, you can often have flashes of inspiration or insights into your own soul. You might be inspired to renew your interest in painting after visiting a gallery or sitting by a mountain lake, or you might remember a long-forgotten goal that suddenly becomes a new focus.

6. You learn new skills.

Travel itself creates new challenges and enables you to expand your skill set. In addition, trying new things such as Italian cooking school, water skiing or ziplining stretches your physical or mental aptitude and gives you both enjoyment and confidence at the same time.
7. You see the world through fresh eyes.

Getting out into the world lets you see ways of life that may be different from your own. When you immerse yourself in the local culture and see how others live, it puts your life into perspective. Somehow, your problems don’t seem so overwhelming any more.
8. You have more time to think.

Plan time to “do nothing” when you travel. Sit on a mountaintop, go fishing, bask in the sunshine or take a long nap. Let your mind wander as you reflect, meditate or dream. You’ll find yourself generating new ideas from your random thoughts.
9. You reconnect with nature.

If you’re like many, you spend too much time indoors. Travel forces you to get outside again, breathe in fresh air and enjoy nature’s restorative and calming qualities.

Your trip doesn’t have to be a big one. Even spending an afternoon at the beach or exploring a new town will allow you to experience some, if not all of the benefits of travel. For maximum impact, however, plan time to travel. Imagine where you’d like to go and make it happen. You’ll be surprised how happy it can make you feel.

6 Ways to Convince Your Boss That Traveling is Important

6 Ways to Convince Your Boss That Traveling is Important
Love to travel? Remind your supervisor that the potential ROI from the trip is greater than the trip’s cost.

With leaner budgets and so much technology that enables online interactions with customers and prospects, the idea of a business trip doesn’t seem as beneficial as it once did, in terms of staying in contact with others. As an active writer with a busy speaking schedule, I actually have to remind myself to look for ways to cut my business trips back as much as possible.

There’s no doubt that trips can add up to a significant cost for your company. However, if you do believe that a business trip is necessary, there are a few reasons you can use to convince your boss that a trip is valuable to the company.
1. Face time with new clients is important.

When meeting new clients or prospects, face time is critical to build trust in a way that just can’t happen through email, phone calls, social media or even an online video call. Having a conversation in person helps people develop trust in you, and it enables you to gain a better understanding of what they need or want — especially if you can visit their operations on the business trip.
2. Existing relationships need to be nurtured in person.

The same value can be found in visiting existing customers, who still need your attention and face time, but for different reasons. The customer may just need to reaffirm that trust and connection that he or she initially made with you. This person may also require that you see something onsite where your offering might help.

It also may be that you can use your business trip to get a new piece of business from a client by bringing a new offering so he or she sees how to incorporate it into the company’s needs — something which can’t always resonate through a virtual meeting.
3. The destination involves significant marketing opportunities.

If a trade show or conference is involved, a business trip can add value by securing leads and renewing your personal connection or even gaining new business through marketing efforts conducted at that event. Never underestimate the power of networking, and its potential to create new relationships. Marketing could mean participating in a speech or panel discussion as well as purchasing a booth at a critical industry trade show.

4. A trip provides a way to get training unavailable through other channels.

A business trip is of value when it involves specific training that is essential for team members because it will add to their capabilities and skill set, which will generate more revenue for your business. While most training is available online, there is still a considerable benefit for team members to meet in person so they can learn together and get to know one other, which helps facilitate future projects.
5. The length of the trip has been minimized.

There’s great value in keeping business trips as short as possible in order to stay focused, lower expenses involved and ensure that current projects continue to progress. You need to produce the most results in as short a time as possible.

This emphasis on maximizing time is something that always helps me see the value in these trips if they are proposed by people I work with. You can reassure your boss that you will continue to do other work so no projects will lag behind while you are away.
6. The potential ROI gained from the trip is greater than the trip’s cost.

For anyone who wants his or her boss to approve a business trip, it’s a good idea to map out the specific costs in advance, then estimate the potential ROI that could be garnered if you attended the event.

Ensuring you keep all your business expenses related to the trip low — though many trips are tax deductible — will help create an optimistic view of the revenue potential and what positive gains could occur that could become the leverage for future business trips.

It’s important to understand when business trips are of value and how your boss sees this value. Make sure you have researched in advance so you can use quantitative data to back up your claims about the benefits of the business trip. Finally, if the business trip is approved, it’s a good idea to do a recap — possibly in writing — to determine how much ROI you were able to achieve during the excursion.

5 Secrets to Managing Your Business While Traveling

5 Secrets to Managing Your Business While Traveling

Traveling the world and running a business at the same time seems like a glamorous lifestyle: You can work from anywhere you want, make your own schedule and be your own boss.

But the characteristics that make it desirable also turn it terrible.

After all, with complete freedom to choose between exploring far-off lands (and people) and sitting in an Internet cafe doing SEO chores, participating in conference calls and writing emails, who would choose to do the latter tasks? Not many people.

Given the option, you would probably close your computers and go exploring with those beautiful Scandinavians who just invited you to the beach.

The digital-nomad lifestyle may seem appealing, but there’s nothing glamorous about freaking out because your Internet connection in a small town suddenly went out two minutes before an important conference call or product launch.

Yet it’s possible to find a balance and successfully run a business from the road, relying on time management and careful planning.

All this might sound intuitive but striking the right balance isn’t easy. It takes work to settle into a routine when you’re constantly changing locations and time zones. It took me a long time to get into a routine. It’s easy to decide that work can wait when you have people imploring you to join them at that new festival.

When I first left to travel, running a business on the road was never my intention. I just wanted to travel. Starting a blog was an afterthought so when it started to gain traction, I was reluctant to give it more of my time. I just wanted to travel.

My business grew more slowly than it could have because I wasn’t optimizing my time. I once went offline for a week so I could go sailing around the coast of Australia, thereby missing four interview and guest-posting opportunities.

Travel always has come first for me but I have longed to have my cake and eat it, too. So after my company endured years of mismanagement, I finally developed a routine for running a business overseas.

There’s a way to balance everything out. It requires discipline, but by developing a schedule around your own rhythm, it can be accomplished. Here are my five secrets:

1. Know your optimal working hours.

This is the most important part of running a business overseas. You need to know when you work best and are the most productive. By knowing yourself, you can plan out your day for maximum productivity.

I work best in the mornings. Therefore I do as much work as possible before lunch, then head out to sightsee and enjoy happy hours. I save my “busywork,” such as emails and comments, for after dinner when I want to do a few things before heading out for the evening.
2. Create a schedule.

Maintaining a schedule on the road is tough since you’re always moving. But creating one, even if you can’t adhere to it all the time, will enable you to batch your work onto certain days, make your to-do list more manageable and free up time for all the fun stuff that comes with traveling.

3. Take a day off from the road.

Dedicate a day to work. Develop a routine whereby every few days, you sit down and only focus on work. This will help you catch up on things and free your mind from thinking about emails while you’re out sightseeing.

Your mind can’t be in two places at once. I found that out while in the Galapagos once, when all I could think about was work, prompting me to enjoy the trip a lot less than if I could give it my undivided attention.

When I returned, I knew something had to change. I decided then that I would devote every fourth day solely to work. This has let me focus on where I was and be a lot happier while still getting work done.
4. Just say no.

This operates on two fronts: First, say no to things that don’t help your core business. It’s easy to say yes to interviews, guest posts, phone calls and the like, but when you’re traveling and working, every second of your day matters.

If something won’t push your business forward, don’t say yes simply out of courtesy. Learn to say no.

Second, learn to say no to people you meet on the road. They are probably traveling on vacation and not at that moment running a business like you are. They have a ton of time and will always be trying to encourage you to go out. Resist. There will always be another night to party. Staying in one night isn’t the end of the world.
5. Plan ahead.

I’m a planner and a list maker. This allows me to prepare for periods when I might not be able to go online or I am too busy enjoying life. Keep a calendar, plan and use the days dedicated to work to stay on top of your schedule. Don’t be reactive: Be proactive. Use every moment.

Through planning, I’ve been able to stay ahead in my work and go offline with ease. When I traveled through Africa a few years ago, I didn’t worry about my website. I had prewritten blog posts and scheduled messages on Facebook and Twitter so if I couldn’t get online, my content would still be updated. Planning ahead can reduce stress.

Using these four techniques, you can develop habits to help block out distractions that can deter you from reaching business goals. It’s harder to maintain discipline on the road but not impossible. Have your cake and eat it, too.

Deduct Your Holiday Business Travel and Dining the Smart Way

Deduct Your Holiday Business Travel and Dining the Smart Way
Travel and dining during the holidays can be a great impetus to have productive meetings with your board of directors, vendors and employees to make plans for the New Year.

This article is part of the End of Year Tax Tips Series from tax and legal expert Mark J. Kohler.
From my perspective, travel is one of the most underutilized tax deductions by small-business owners today. I try to make all of my travel a business write-off by following a few simple rules. Unlike meals and entertainment, which are predominately limited by 50 percent, travel expenses are 100 percent deductible. Travel expenses include:

airfare, baggage fees, etc.
hotel and lodging
rental cars and gas for rental cars
valets, taxis, trains, tolls, etc.

You would be shocked to know how many new clients’ tax returns come across my desk every year with zero travel deductions. Consider the five following ideas that you might be able to incorporate into your holiday travel.
1. Hold the annual company meeting.

If you have a corporation, this would be your board of directors meeting and shareholders meeting. If you have an LLC, elect a board of advisors to assist the manager or managers of the company. This is an excellent opportunity to discuss the company’s operations over the past year: profits, losses, acquisitions, new ventures and goal-setting. Listen to the advice of your board members and make plans for the following year.
2. Visit a client.

Wherever you are traveling, is there a customer or client in the area? Could you cultivate a new relationship or strengthen a current one? Schedule meetings each day you are traveling, at least for a few hours, and keep notes of what you accomplish and why the meeting was important.
3. Visit a vendor.

Is there a vendor or supplier, subcontractor or affiliate you could meet with where grandma or grandpa lives? Could you negotiate new pricing, tour a facility or talk about networking and how you could work more closely together? The tax write-off may even be simply a bonus when you consider the business that you could generate with a strategic meeting that ultimately would boost your revenue.
4. Attend a conference or workshop.

Look at possible workshops in the local area where you are visiting. Consider tax, legal, business, marketing website, SEO, customer relationship or technical training or classes based on your type of business. At the very least, visit a local real estate or investment club meeting if possible. The training could be fantastic and justify a great write-off to boot.
5. Check on your rental property.

I’ve said it time and time again. At least consider and/or attempt to purchase rentals where you travel. More specifically, could you buy rentals where extended family members live? Have them help manage your properties or simply work on them while you are visiting. Sometimes, it’s a great excuse to get out of family functions to have to leave and work on the “rental” — just saying.

The list goes on and on. It just doesn’t make sense for any business owner not to have at least some travel expenses. With all of these strategies or reasons for business travel, make sure that you are doing substantive business on each day you aren’t traveling and keep records of what you are doing, whom you are meeting with and how it relates to your business.

YEAR END TIP: Plan your holiday trips accordingly and incorporate one of the five reasons above into your travel plans.

As usual, the more money you make in your business, the more opportunity you have to be aggressive and take a larger deduction. Don’t get greedy. Keep your receipts and records, and discuss the expenses with your CPA at the end of the year in order to report a well-balanced tax return. As I have said many times before, “Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered.”
Every holiday meal has the potential to be a dining expense.

Meals are another highly underutilized expense by small-business owners and should be a healthy line item on your tax return. However, many don’t realize how creative and detailed they need to be in order to maximize this write-off.

We truly can and should involve more business discussions in our dining engagements. Why not have a business discussion during your holiday meals with people that are working with you in your business, whether they are family or not?

Here are three options for writing off dining that should get your creative juices flowing and tantalize your taste buds:
Option 1: Dining with others (limited by 50 percent).

This holiday season, make sure to incorporate food into some of your year-end meetings with partners, vendors or customers. If you’re talking business, you can deduct up to 50 percent of the dining costs. Why not consider having some of those important meetings over dinner during the holidays and take a write-off? Have you held this year’s board of directors or board of advisors meeting yet? Go to dinner and take some good notes, called “annual minutes.”
Option 2: Office drinks and treats (no percentage limitation).

Don’t forget to document all of those sodas in the fridge, the water cooler, doughnuts or bagels on Fridays, the coffee and tea in the kitchen, etc. Any food you buy for the office to provide convenient snacks your employees (not the owners or their families) is 100 percent deductible. The reasoning for this special rule from the courts and the IRS is that these items will help your employees be more productive and stay in the work place, rather than leave the premises for a drink or a snack.

YEAR END TIP: Stock up on snacks and drinks in the office for 2017. Purchase them before year-end and get the write-off in 2016.

Option 3: Lunch or company party at the office with employees (no percentage limitation).

Recent tax court cases and IRS rulings have only further substantiated this powerful tax deduction. Make sure your accountant doesn’t put the company party on the “dining” line that is typically subject to the 50 percent cut. These food expenses are a 100 percent write-off!

Related: The Best (And Only) Tips You Need for the Office Holiday Party

The important consideration with this strategy, in order to comply, is that the majority of the attendees to the party are bonafide employees and not owners or their family members. For those you with substantive businesses and payroll, this could be an excellent deduction to take advantage of during the holidays.

YEAR END TIP: Have your company holiday party catered rather than take the employees out to lunch.

All of these items can add up to be a significant expense on your tax return. Keep good track of these expenses and set up several categories in your QuickBooks to organize the variations that can occur among these items. If you don’t track them, you’ll have nothing to discuss at tax-prep time. We can always whittle down a deduction if it’s too high, but it’s much harder to dig one up.

Bottom line: Travel and dining during the holidays can be a fantastic tax deduction and a great impetus to have productive meetings with your board of directors, vendors and employees to make plans for the New Year.

Mark J. Kohler is a CPA, attorney, radio show host and author of The Tax and Legal Playbook: Game Changing Solutions For Your Small Business Questions and What Your CPA Isn’t Telling You: Life Changing Tax Strategies from Entrepreneur Press. He is also a partner at the law firm Kyler Kohler Ostermiller & Sorensen, LLP and the accounting firm K&E CPAs, LLP. Check out Mark’s YouTube channel or Buy Mark’s Educations Products Today!

5 Tips for Making Family Vacations Deductible

5 Tips for Making Family Vacations Deductible
Legally write off all or part of your family trip by using these simple steps.

As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you may be able to legally write off all or part of your family vacations. Virtually any expense can be deductible if it qualifies as a business expense, including travel. To make it easy for you, here are five guidelines for deducting your summer trips with loved ones.
1. Pass the ‘three tests’ rule.

The general rule is that a travel expense is deductible if you can document that it passes these three tests. The expense must have a business purpose, be ordinary and be necessary. Ordinary means the travel is typical in your line of work. Necessary means that the travel will benefit your business either through increased opportunities or increased profitability.

2. Work more than 50 percent of weekdays.

To make travel expenses deductible, the business owner must spend more than 50% of each workday on business. You can schedule client meetings, meet with prospects, hold shareholder meetings or look at potential investments. Assuming the trip is inside the U.S, the entire trip is deductible if you meet the Three Tests Rule plus work 4 ½ hours or more per weekday on business. If you are traveling internationally, the deduction is proportionate to the amount of time you spend on business.
3. Make your weekends free and deductible.

There are easy ways to make a weekend trip entirely deductible that many entrepreneurs don’t realize. For example, if you arrive on Friday, schedule a business meeting that day, and then schedule another business meeting on Monday before leaving. As long as you focus more than half of your time on business during the weekdays and you meet the three tests, you can take the weekend off and make the whole trip deductible for you.

4. Book your hotel as an ordinary expense.

A hotel room can be considered an “ordinary expense” if it matches the typical amount and frequency for the industry. If it is typical for you as the business owner to have a large room when traveling, the entire family can share the same size room and it is deductible. Another option is to request two queen size beds versus a king for the family in one room because your average hotel expense will be about the same.
5. Deduct expenses of family members.

For travel and meals to be deductible for spouses and children, they must also be actively involved in the business and there must be a business purpose for them coming along. For example, if a spouse or child is in sales (versus, say, bookkeeping), then there could be a business reason to deduct their travel and meals while meeting with prospective clients on the trip.

In addition to these travel deduction tips for entrepreneurs, always pack an envelope to store your receipts in one place. While many think credit card receipts are all you need, the IRS requires actual receipts. When you get home, give the envelope to your accountant to record them in your records. Remember that if you only pretend to document your expenses, you only get a pretend deduction. And for more tips on how to legally deduct almost any expense, check out my book, Tax-Free Wealth.