A business trip does not have to be all about business to be successful. Finding a little “vacation time” within an assigned work trip is achievable if you learn how to balance the needs of your employer with your goal of personal downtime. Here’s how to do it right:
Be smart with scheduling
You may not have the day off to be a tourist, but you can find time for sightseeing by scheduling your meetings smartly. Don’t say yes to everything and don’t agree to meetings with no clear ending time. That’s the advice career consultant Simma Lieberman has for business travel. “There’s an unconscious feeling that you have to overachieve and always be available,” Lieberman cautions.
But science has found that a day of back-to-back client meetings with no breaks is not productive or satisfying in the long run. One study found that participants were successful when they took fun breaks before hard activities: “Positive emotions at the outset make some work tasks easier to endure. Indeed, breaks and recovery from work benefit workers in many ways, from increasing job satisfaction to increasing productivity.”
Get creative with your scheduling. If you have the flexibility to choose your hotel or the location of your client meeting, choose it next to landmarks you actually want to visit. Try to be within walking distance of fun sights, shops, and restaurants. That way, you can get the pleasure of seeing a wonder of the world before you have to endure the stress of a high-pressure presentation.
Extend your stay
If you can add on a day before you have to be back at the office, do it. If your employer already paid for you to be there, it will be cheaper for you to add personal days of fun. To make the most of your hotel stay, Kendra Thornton, Royal Travel & Tours president, advises business travelers to ask hotels if they can apply the corporate discount to their personal days.
“Many hotels want to inculcate client loyalty from their corporate travelers and are amenable to giving you the discount,” she said.
Avoid room service
To fight off homesickness and the gloom of dreary hotel rooms, minimize the amount of time you will be staying holed up in your room. Once you unpack, find a place like a coffee shop or even your downstairs hotel lobby to work. That’s the advice business travelers gave for making a hotel feel like home.
Bill McGowan, CEO of Clarity Media Group, recommended using your room only for sleeping and showering — find a spot away from the hotel room where you can immerse yourself in the culture.
For some business travelers, a local meal may be the one chance to experience the culture of a town. Try using review services, word-of-mouth stories, and booking apps to find the right restaurant for you.
Don’t push it too far though
Prioritize and remember that you are here for business, not play. Don’t push your luck with using expenses for personal gain. Make sure to check your company’s corporate travel policy before you expense the triple-digit cost of your meal.
“If you are legitimately traveling on business, a company knows what your business expenses are,” travel expert Joe Brancatelli Brancatelli told CNN. “So just keep your personal stuff on a personal card.”