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 it. There 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’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
[learn_more caption=”Extend Your Trip” state=”open”]
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?
- 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.
[learn_more caption=”Get outside the hotel” state=”open”]
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.
[learn_more caption=”Use your breaks wisely” state=”open”]
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!
[learn_more caption=”Look into visiting nearby destinations” state=”open”]
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.
[learn_more caption=”Use social media” state=”open”]
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?
[learn_more caption=”Ask.” state=”open”]
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.
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.
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.