Whether you love or hate to take business trips, for many of us it is a necessary part of our full-time job. Industry conferences, meetings with sales prospects, on-site client visits, traveling to regional offices, and the like are time away from home and family but also offer the possibility of a low-cost vacation. Regardless of the destination, there are many ways to turn and extend a standard business trip to include leisure time for fun and better work-life balance.
Business Trip Becomes A Weekend Couple Getaway
My philosophy is that every place is worth visiting, at least once. Do you have a spouse, partner, or someone special that could use a weekend break? Since your plane ticket is fully paid for by your employer, it is as if you are using a buy-one-get-one-free flight coupon. What more justification do you need to take a weekend trip? Before you book airline tickets for your next business trip, consider whether to tack on a weekend stay before or after, whichever works best. In many instances the plane ticket will cost LESS when you stay over a Saturday and also save your company money which they will appreciate. Here are the ways to make it happen and save money.
- Business hotels offer major bargains if extending a stay over a weekend. Call and ask or just book a separate hotel stay online and mention it when checking in for the business portion of your stay so you won’t have to change rooms.
- Since hotels are typically double occupancy in the U.S., see if your partner can arrive during the business trip and work from the room (or explore on their own). More hotels offer free Wi-Fi today, your company may cover the cost, or sign up for a Boingo wireless account. That way you can have evenings together and start your weekend early. The hotel is already paid for, but it makes sense to mention your “guest” to the hotel staff on the reservation or upon arrival.
- Renting a car from a city location like via Expedia is almost always less expensive than picking one up at the airport due to taxes and fees. When not renting a car for a business trip, pick up a car in the city to take advantage of weekend rates and be able explore nearby places of interest.
- Keep receipts for food and travel during the day you would have otherwise arrived or returned from the business trip as they are legitimate expenses for you to claim.
Traveling on Business Offers Evenings At Leisure
So you think you are stuck in an unknown and unexciting destination for a quick business meeting and think there is no time for fun? Not true no matter where you happen to be staying the night. First consider whether you have any work colleagues that you can connect with professionally during the day and go out for some local dinner and entertainment. All by yourself and not comfortable asking a customer or prospect to go out in the evenings, or simply want to keep work firmly within business hours? Even by yourself there are many ways to explore the town or city you are visiting and become a local, even for only a day. Here are my suggestions but I’m sure you can come up with many more based on your personal interests.
- Search online for the events guide to the city such as listed on the official visitor’s website, Ticketmaster, or a local city “What’s On” site to find out what is happening. You could be up for an art gallery opening, sporting event, live music concert, book signing, theater performance, or evening festival.
- Browse the Meetup website and don’t be afraid to sign up for an event that you find from among the hundreds of categories. You do not have to be a local to attend just one meetup, but you will be treated like one at happy hour or perhaps over dinner meeting new people and discussing common interests.
- Become a tourist, even for one evening. Again check the tourism bureau website for ideas on museums that stay open late, special city-wide or regional events, nighttime walking tours, or a special place of historical or personal interest.
- Pretty much every city of a reasonable size that you’ll visit on business will have either a main street or downtown area and a major college or university campus that is open to the public. Ask at your hotel front desk and set off to explore the downtown streets or pretend to be a college student for an evening.
- Bonus Tip: Early risers or business travelers without early morning meetings can use this opportunity to skip the boring hotel breakfast and head out while the sun is hopefully shining. I like to seek out a coffee shop or cozy cafe that is popular (based on the crowds flowing in and out) with the local workers. You will appreciate what life is like working there and be glad to be out of the sterile hotel environment.
Extended Business Travel Leads to a Family Vacation
Are you lucky enough to be going on a business trip or attending a conference someplace exotic, relaxing, or just plain fun like in Florida, Hawaii, New York, New Orleans, San Francisco, Chicago, Las Vegas, or any other top tourist destination? Turning that business trip into a full fledged family vacation means you don’t have to decide where or when to go on a big vacation. Of course timing is crucial so that your family can take time off from work and school at the same time as your scheduled trip. Consider these tips when researching your options and making your travel plans.
- You may not be flying into an ideal destination but you can decide to fly home from one. Consult RoadTripAmerica or browse online maps and see what driving trips are possible given the number of days you have planned for a family vacation. Rental cars come with unlimited miles and depending upon how far you are going and whether you are crossing one or more state lines, the fee to pick up and return to different locations can be minimal.
- When considering the option to fly home with your family from a different airport than the one for your business trip, compare the airline fares from the original airport and original return date with the new return date and airport to make sure the total cost doesn’t change by much. Print out these fares when booking so that if the person that signs off on expenses asks, you have proof of equivalent costs to the company.
- Be cautious when the tacked on vacation involves non refundable tickets and other prepaid expenses if the business trip has any likelihood of being cancelled. Conferences that involve registration fees and special rate booked hotel rooms are usually safe, but a sales meeting can be changed or cancelled at a moments notice.
- Try to ship your work-mode baggage back to the office at a local UPS Store before you start the vacation phase of your business trip. Business travel tends to include sales collateral, business attire, corporate schwag, and electronic devices which will not be needed on vacation, nor do you want to use up the precious airline baggage allowance. Come prepared with a return shipping box and label so the items can arrive back in the office while you are away and in case a colleague needs it.
This covers the basics of leveraging your next business trip to take more time off from work and enjoy a healthy work-life balance. I plan to cover these topics in more detail in future posts so please leave a comment below if you also think of every business trip as a vacation opportunity.