An overview of planning an itinerary and obtaining proper documentation for exporters. This article is part of "A Basic Guide to Exporting", provided by the U.S. Commercial Service, to assist companies in exporting.
Travel agents can arrange transportation and hotel reservations quickly and efficiently. They can also help plan your itinerary, obtain the best travel rates, explain which countries require visas, advise on hotel rates and locations, and provide other valuable services. Because hotels, airlines, and other carriers pay the fees charged by travel agents, this assistance and expertise may be available at no charge to you.

A well-planned itinerary enables you to make the best use of your time abroad. Although traveling is expensive and your time is valuable, an overloaded schedule can be counterproductive. Two or three definite appointments, confirmed well in advance and spaced comfortably throughout a day, are more productive and enjoyable than a crowded agenda that forces you to rush from one meeting to the next before business is really concluded. If possible, you should plan an extra day to rest to deal with jet lag before starting your scheduled business appointments. As you
plan your trip, keep in mind:
  • The travel plans should reflect your company’s goals and priorities. You should obtain the names of possible contacts, arrange appointments, and check transportation schedules before the trip begins. The most important meetings should be confirmed before you leave the United States. The U.S. Commercial Service can offer assistance through programs such as business matchmaking. 
  • As a rule, you should keep your schedule flexible enough to allow for both unexpected problems (such as transportation delays) and unexpected opportunities. However, accepting an unscheduled luncheon invitation from a prospective client should not keep you from missing the next scheduled meeting.
  • You should confirm the normal workdays an business hours in the countries being visited. In many Middle Eastern countries, for instance, the workweek typically runs from Saturday to Thursday. Lunchtimes that last 2 to 4 hours are customary in many countries.
  • You should also contact a U.S. Commercial Service office to learn of any travel advisories issued by the U.S. Department of State for countries you plan to visit. Advisories alert travelers to potentially dangerous in-country situations. The U.S. Department of State also includes travel advisories at
Prepare in advance to make your trip smoother and more productive.
  • Schedule meetings before leaving the United States. Determine whether an interpreter will be required and, if so, make all necessary arrangements before arriving. Business language is generally more technical than the conversational speech that many travelers can handle— and mistakes can be costly.  The U.S. Commercial Service can assist in locating qualified translators.
  • Prepare new business cards in as many languages and sizes as necessary. In most countries, exchanging business cards at the first meeting is considered good business manners. As a matter of courtesy, it is best to carry business cards printed both in English and, if applicable, in the language of the country being visited.
  • Prepare for different weather conditions. Seasonal weather conditions in the countries being visited are likely to be different from conditions in the United States.
  • Address health care issues. Plan appropriately with respect to prescription drugs, health insurance, vaccinations, and other matters, including dietary needs and preferences.
  • Find out about the electrical current in each of your destinations. A transformer, plug adapter, or both may be needed to demonstrate company products, as well as your own electronics—such as laptops or tablets for presentations.
  • Think about money. U.S. banks can provide a list of automatic teller machines overseas, exchange rates, and traveler’s checks.
  • Consider transportation. Be aware of public and private transportation available in each country you’ll be visiting and have a plan for getting around. Arrange as many needs as possible (e.g., hiring a driver) before you arrive.
  • Prepare for differences in culture. Become familiar with basic cultural communication such as hand signals, street signs, and tipping conventions. U.S. Commercial Service commercial officers and specialists can teach you much about new cultures.