How and Why to Write a Travel Report

If you’re self-employed, you are unlikely to write up a trip report. If you’re working for someone else and they send you somewhere on business travel, you might find yourself completing such a report. The basic point of a trip report is to summarize what you did with your time so that your employer can determine that they are getting value from that trip.

The basics

If you are sent on business travel, your obvious purpose at your destination is to advance the goals of the business. Often, a company will have a standardized form for you to fill out upon returning from your trip. It will include specific data, such as where you went, how long, how many customers/people you talked to, etc.

If you’re on a marketing trip–say, by staffing the company’s booth at a convention–the narrative part of your report will include a summary of what types of contacts you made, what you talked about, what sort of “intel” (intelligence) you gathered from or about your customers, and what potential value those contacts could bring to the company. If you make an actual sale, even better!

Side note: If it seems odd that a technical writer would be sent to staff a convention booth, I should explain that I did this both at Department of Defense and NASA. In the DoD world, such travel was one of my duties as part of the business development (a.k.a., BD or marketing) team. At NASA, I was part of Education and Outreach, which again meant going to events and talking with the public about NASA programs. So if you’re nervous about talking to people and you’re applying for a BD job, you might want to ask if conventioneering is part of the job duties…it might fall under “other duties as assigned.”

Other business travel can be proposal-related. In that case, your report will most likely state whether or not the proposal was submitted on time, what/who worked well, who or what did not, and maybe suggestions for the future.

You also could be sent out to help write documentation or some other communication product. Again, your report should summarize the level of success you and your coworkers achieved.

Closing thoughts & a reality check

If you’re working for the corporate headquarters (a.k.a. “the mother ship”), you might find yourself on the receiving end of some negative attitudes from a field office. If the field office has gripes about how HQ is handling a specific business practice or function, you could find yourself the recipient of some unexpected complaints. Given that everyone sent on travel might have to write a travel report, you could also be treated as a “spy” and conversations could cease when you enter the room.

None of this is particularly nice or rational, but it is reality. The best things you can do while on travel are simply:

  • Do your job well.
  • Be polite/friendly with the people you encounter.
  • Don’t be defensive about, nor try to encourage gripes about HQ or your department. If they have feedback about you in particular, by all means listen with the intention of improving yourself.

And while it’s not stated directly, you are allowed to have fun in your off time on these trips…just not too much fun.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Directior, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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