Business trip: Boo! Pleasure trip: Yay! But wait. Who says they have to be mutually exclusive? Sure, if it’s the kind of round trip where it’s over within 24 hours, then that doesn’t leave too much time to also make it pleasurable – but if you read that sentence again more carefully, you’ll see I said "much" time, not "no" time. Almost any business trip can be adjusted to also include a bit of pleasure and make it – wait for it… – a bleisure trip. Please, don’t shoot the messenger, that isn’t my made-up word.
Think about your last business trip. What was it really that made it all business and no pleasure? Was it that you stayed in the hotel where the conference was being held so you spent all your time inside and never actually got out into the city? Well, there’s your mistake right there. You could have done less drinking in the bar, less TV-watching in your room, or even have stayed at a different hotel.
The next time you’re planning a business trip, take a second look at your restrictions and your itinerary – how flexible is it? Can you work in a sandwich day? (No, sadly, it’s not a day dedicated to eating sandwiches). The same as people who go on holiday and never see the outside of their resort, you’re missing out on making the most of your business trip if you never get outside the meeting room – personally and professionally.
See Also: 5 Great Apps for Business Travel
1. Get Out of the Hotel
If your business trip takes you to an exotic locale but you only ever go from the airport to your room to the conference room and then the reverse, you might as well have stayed where you were. Where possible, you should be taking advantage of any downtime to get out and explore the city, whether you prefer to wander aimlessly or have a meticulous plan of the best places to visit.
Depending on how much control you have, you should time or extend your visit so you’re there for a local event, or even plan for it to be somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit. Unless your dream is to climb Mount Everest (and even then there must be a city nearby), with enough research, you should be able to find suppliers and similar businesses just about anywhere that you can meet with.
Always book your car and accommodation in advance to avoid surprises, and if you can, book a hotel that isn’t where the conference is being held. You may think that’s counterintuitive to successful networking or there may be a reason you have to stay there, but if you can, get yourself into a different hotel nearby. You’ll be automatically giving yourself a great chance to see more of the city by planning some scenic routes for your commute.
2. Use Your Connections
Apps are great and everything but nothing can beat the personal touch an actual friend, associate, or even acquaintance can provide. If you know someone who lives in the area you’re visiting, why not plan to reconnect with them? Networking is about maintaining a relationship, not letting it wither away, and by not making contact with your friends, you’re missing out on the chance to be guided to the best hotel in town, the best meal, and all the other useful things they’ll know because they live there.
Even if you’re not usually the type who likes to plan ahead, a limited-time business trip is when you need to break that rule. Find the best traveller’s deals and make use of them. Decide which friend you’re going to allow control over what you do when you’re not working and let them take over, or decide how you’re going to network and make some new friends. Whatever you do, don’t fall into that trap that leisure travellers make when they plan so much that they end up not enjoying anything: just have at least one thing that you really want to see or do.
3. Be Flexible
Assuming you don’t need to urgently get back to the office, you should be able to be flexible about your schedule: scheduling extra time before and after can take the stress out of flying – especially if it’s not a direct flight – and if you can arrange your meetings so you work on Day 1 and Day 3, then there’s your sandwich day I mentioned earlier. The IRS will allow you to count Day 2 as a business day if it makes no sense for you to go home, freeing you up for an entire day of leisure. If you’re feeling particularly sneaky, you can sandwich an entire weekend.
What you do with that extra time is up to you: use it to explore, use it to get some rest so you’re at the top of your game when you go into that meeting, or even volunteer to be bumped to a different flight. Airlines often overbook and then offer compensation to anyone who agrees to take the next flight, so check what compensation you would receive and take advantage of it – it might even give you an extra night with your room and food fully paid for! Of course, if you’re worried about suddenly being needed back at the office, you might want to check how much flexibility you have in staying longer.
4. Work Smarter, Not Harder
If your trip consists of meeting with people rather than attending all-day conference sessions, then plan your time wisely. Spread those meetings over a few days (preferably three – see above), and they’re actually more likely to be productive than if you try to cram them all into one day. As long as you keep a log of everything that’s discussed in each meeting and write up some notes while it’s still fresh in your mind, there’s no reason why you have to dash from one to the next.
Also, remember that you’re not in the office. First, you don’t need to work from 9 to 5 if you can accomplish all of your goals between 9 and 12, and second, remember that you’re in another place: the more exotic, the more likely that they don’t even believe in 9 to 5. When in Rome, do as the Romans do and have a meeting at midnight if that’s what they want!
Working smarter is all about planning ahead and using your time as productively as possible. Group similar meetings together rather than having to discuss something completely different and take advantage of being out of the office to make your own schedule – as long as you get everything done that you need to, then no one can say anything. And while you’re at it, stop seeing the time on the plane as time to sleep or switch off – if you don’t see being stuck in a metal tube with 200 other people for several hours as an opportunity to network, then you’re not as good of a businessperson as I thought you were.
5. Consider Whether It Can Become a Family Vacation
Just because you have to sit in meetings all day doesn’t mean your family can’t go out and have fun. If your schedule isn’t too hectic, or you can plan ahead and ensure that business won’t interfere with your personal time, then why not consider bringing the family along? It will help you cope better if you aren’t that good at travelling, and it’ll be a great way to unwind after a long day – and if you don’t have your family, you should make use of the hotel facilities for relaxing, anyway.
All work and no play makes you dull, and all play and no work makes you poor: figure out the best way to combine them for a happier and more productive you. It might sound extreme, but just as you can bring pleasure (or your family) into a business trip, so can you bring a little business into a family trip – even Disneyland has real-world companies nearby that it might benefit you to do some networking with.
See Also: How to Ensure a Successful Business Trip
Business trips will never not be stressful, but stressful doesn’t have to mean dull or something to dread. A business that requires you to travel is a business that’s probably doing well, and you should see your trip as much as a celebration as work. You’re in a faraway country because you have to be! You’ve always wanted to be there! So, why would you even consider spending all day working or eating familiar room service food when you should be making the time to get out there and have fun and experience new things? Of course, depending on how exotic your destination is, you might want to be careful about trying the local cuisine – but, then, isn’t that all a part of the fun of travelling?
Where did your last business trip take you? Did you mix business with pleasure? Let us know your best tips (and trips) in the comments section below!