Traveling for work may sound fun in theory (especially to someone who’s never done it), but in practice, business trips tend to be full of endless meetings, exhausting schmooze-fests, not much sleep, and roughly zero personal time. Like, way less personal time than, say, your average Tuesday.
And when you’re finally done, you likely have to head straight back to the airport (or climb into your rental car) to return to where you came from. While tacking on a bit of time for play at the end of a work trip may seem tough to handle, armed with the right travel-expert-sanctioned intel, it can be done and result in a much happier you.
4 tips to maximize work trips by squeezing in vacation vibes before getting back to business.
1. Extend your stay
Have to fly to Chicago for meetings on Thursday and Friday? Consider extending your trip into the weekend, if possible. “If you’re booking the flight, look around for one that leaves on Sunday that’s a similar price as the one your company would have you take,” says Kim Mott, a travel writer based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
So long as the trip extension falls on a weekend, staying away to make good on your work-hard-play-hard goal shouldn’t compromise any on-the-clock time, says travel blogger Christina Vidal of Jetset Christina. “Extending your trip is on your dime, but if the flight pricing isn’t different, it shouldn’t matter to your bosses what day you leave,” she says.
Even in the event it does matter to your manager or the trip extension doesn’t fall on a weekend, there are ways you can make a case for the extra time away. For one, you could offer to work out of the satellite office for a few extra days. You won’t be taking PTO, but your mornings and evenings will still be open for you to play tourist—and that time may even bridge the distance to a weekend, when you will have an open schedule. “You could say your presence is good for team bonding across offices,” says Vidal.
2. Think like a traveler during downtime—even if it’s a 20-minute lunch break
Just because you’e traveling for work doesn’t mean you have to eat every meal at a boring chain or grab drinks at the hotel bar. “Do research ahead of time, and look into the city’s best restaurants and sites you want to see,” says Vidal. You can do the same with your workout. “Maybe there’s a great yoga or spin class that’s unique to the city you’re visiting,” says Vidal.
But even if you are totally tied up with work responsibilities morning through night, you can sneak in pockets of time to act like a tourist during business hours. For instance, grab your morning coffee from a great local spot on your way into the office, or do a walk-by of a cool sites nearby. “There’s also lunch,” says Vidal. “You can find a special restaurant near your office to go to with your coworkers, and you’ll get some bonding time in, too.”
3. Book accommodations as if you were vacationing
If you’re able to book your own hotel, do it because you can channel your inner vacationer in a couple of ways. First, by doing some research, you may be able to find a cool boutique property within your company’s budget. And second, you can control the physical location of where you’re staying—meaning, once you’re done for the day, “home” can be the neighborhood of your choosing, which is great news if you want to explore any specific local scene.
4. Invite a friend
Don’t have any friends in the city where you’re traveling for work? If you’ve managed to finagle adding extra days, like a tacked-on weekend, to your trip, consider inviting a friend to join you for that portion. It will, of course, make the hotel split cheaper, and you’ll have a buddy to join you on your city exploration.
Also, some companies won’t have a problem with a friend or partner joining you for the actual business part of your trip, so long as your plus-one can stay happily busy while you’re working. “Go for it if you can—and in some situations it’s ‘Don’t ask don’t tell,’” says Mott.
Regardless of whether you decide to travel alone or bring a buddy, the most important thing you can do is seize the moment. “Everyone should see turning business travel into a vacation as an opportunity to see the world,” says Vidal.
Before you unwind, check this one thing in your hotel room to make sure the space is clean. Plus, this name-your-own-rate hotel is basically the Everlane of travel stays.
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