How to Leverage Business Travel into Personal Travel

For the part-time travelers of this world, this is the golden ticket.  Someone else pays for your flight and at least some of your accommodation to somewhere new (and hopefully cool.)

Throughout my short five years in the professional world, I have had the opportunity to travel to some pretty amazing places on company dime  (including my first trip to India, but that’s another story.)  I’ve also been encouraged (a euphemism for ‘forced’) to visit some less-than-desirable locales to conduct business.

I maintain that if you are lucky enough to have the time to experience somewhere new and not have to pay for it, that you should do your best to make the most of itThere is good and bad to found anywhere.  Even in the diviest of places I have had to drag myself to for work, I have found the silver lining— whether it’s in the best sushi of my life or in meeting some of the nicest people who live there.

Personally, I am approaching an area-wide company meeting in Seattle, Washington.  I am thrilled to have the chance to experience the city…less than thrilled about having the longest, most grueling day of the meeting land on, of all days, my birthday.  (When I found out, I was like…really?)

I had a choice to make.  I could moan and groan about not having the freedom to celebrate my birthday where and with whom I choose (wah.) or I could once again embrace the circumstances and enjoy an essentially free visit to a city I’ve always wanted to visit.

I extended my business trip to Denver to include Vail, and went snowmobiling!

I extended my business trip to Denver to include Vail, and went snowmobiling!

I’ve heard from coworkers and other young professionals, however, that it can be challenging to do so when you feel like all you’re doing is flying in to see the inside of a hotel ballroom or board room.  And so…I give you…

How to Leverage Business Travel for Personal Use

Extend Your Trip

This is the simplest way to make the most of a business trip.  Stay the weekend, stay one extra work day if that’s all you have.  You’re already there…why not enjoy the place?

Some tips:

    • If you’ve hosted by a hotel that your company works with, you may be able to extend your stay using the corporate rate (just ask.)
    • Do your research on whether it makes sense to go before you have to work or after.  I usually like to stay after, but it’s up to your preference and your schedule.
    • Check with your company that it’s okay you change the dates of your flights.  Most of the time, when extending my trip I actually save them money on my flights because I’m not traveling at peak times.

Get outside the hotel

I know, I know.  When we’re traveling for business, it feels like our entire purpose is to work while we’re there.  There are long days, no light that’s not fluorescent.  I challenge you to wake up an hour early and taking a walk.  Find a local breakfast joint, or even a unique coffee spot.  Everyone’s got to work, but everyone’s also got to eat and sleep.  And yes, at times it means giving up the free meal (did you really want to eat those hotel eggs anyways?) but it won’t hurt you to break away from your work schedule for some personal time in a new place.

Use your breaks wisely

Along the same lines, there IS such a thing as work/life balance.  I get it — you’re there to work.  But like I mentioned, there has to be break time you can utilize to enjoy the best of wherever you find yourself (at the least, legally in the US,  you are entitled to breaks every so often.)  Don’t use them to sulk, check your email, or gossip with coworkers…get out there!

Look into visiting nearby destinations

For instance, I can easily take a train to Vancouver at the end of my upcoming trip to Seattle. We won’t always be able to leave the country in accordance with a business trip, but you’d be surprised at the close-by spots you can experience when you peer beyond the place you’re being sent.

Use social media

Use that smartphone! Get some apps!  Yelp, Foursquare, Twitter, even Facebook can all be great places to connect with locals and find out the best things to see, eat, do, etc.  I really believe every place has its redeeming qualities, sometimes you just have to look.  Some of us may even find ourselves in the position where you can expense your meals.  What are you waiting for?

Ask.

Your company is headquartered in Hong Kong? Expanding to Sydney?  Well, first, aren’t you lucky…and second, sometimes it’s as simple as asking or expressing an interest in traveling more or beyond that will send you somewhere additional or new.  Understand the needs of the business and you’d be surprised at how asserting your interest can take you places.
I never dreamed work could ever take me to India...you'll never know if you don't ask!

I never dreamed work could ever take me to India…you’ll never know if you don’t ask!

But, but! Before the excuses roll in, let me stop you.

…I don’t have enough vacation.

You’re telling me that you can’t spare one day to experience a new place?  Really?

….I don’t have enough money.

Reach out to someone in your network who lives there (applies to many big cities,) find cheap accommodation (applies to many smaller towns,) or couch surf! (free accommodation!)

…I have obligations at home.

Again, you can’t spare one weekend or even one day off to explore where you already are?

…I have no one to go with OR I secretly (or not so secretly) despise my coworkers.

Great!  Enjoy 🙂  Learn to love dining out and visiting places of note without a companion.  During one trip to Indianapolis, I had a free day, rented a car, and drove by myself to Chicago for the day.  I walked the streets, explored museums and parks, and enjoyed the best gastropub of my life.  I promise you it’s not that bad, you might even learn to love it.

 

Driving into Chicago from another business trip in Indiana.

Driving into Chicago from another business trip in Indiana.

Of course, there are jobs that require zero travel.  To you, I say…save your vacation (whether self or company given), use as much as you can at one time, and be glad that when you use it you can dictate when and where you go!

For all of us, it’s important to remember that anywhere you have the chance to go, whether it’s New York, China, or even a small town you almost wish you had never known about…it’s an opportunity.  You’ve been given the chance to see life and location differently, for better or for worse.

Expanding your perspective of this world, while on the job, is never a bad thing.

 

Where are the best and worst business trips you’ve taken?  Share your other business trip tips in the comments!


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3 Comments

  1. Great tips! I recently added a weekend on before and after some business travel which meant seeing friends in NYC, other friends in Boston and exploring Moscow solo. While I’ve also had the whirlwind trips where you see nothing beyond the taxi, office, hotel and maybe a nice restaurant if you’re lucky, it’s hard to complain about a job that even occasionally lets me catch up with friends and visit a new country.

    • You are a living example of a part-time traveler (though amazingly, also a full-time expat.) Love to hear that you make the most of it — it’s hard not to love the trips across the US and beyond, especially when we are able to add in some personal time there. Us travelers have to do what we can 🙂
      Thanks for reading!! xo

  2. Hi,

    My name is KC Owens, I’m a college student and I love to travel! While cruising the Internet, I found your site and really enjoyed reading your posts. I have been to countries all over Europe with just my backpack and a camera. Since I am a college student and I have significant bills, it can be difficult to find ways to travel the world. However, I have done this several times, with less than ten pounds of luggage and while on a college dime!

    I was hoping that you would allow me to write a post for your blog to share my tips and tricks with your readers. I put a lot of time into my traveling, it is my biggest passion and I would love to inspire others by sharing my stories, mistakes and triumphs. I look forward to hearing from you!

    Best,

    KC Owens

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