When it comes to business travel, there’s a fine line between duty and delight. For many regular travellers, that hackneyed routine of long flight, anonymous hotel room and luke warm room service food is something to endure rather than embrace. But play your business cards right and these kinds of trips can offer an exciting chance for discovery beyond the boardroom walls.
Choosing where to stay
For short trips, a hotel will generally be your best option. Check your room has wi-fi (some smaller hotels only offer it in the foyer) so you can get a jump on your work, freeing up some time for sightseeing. Choose accommodation that’s close to museums or the attractions that you are most keen to see – you might be able to duck in to that fantastic exhibition on your way to work in the morning, or on your way home after the bulk of your work day is over. For longer trips, renting a room in an apartment is a good idea as it will give you more of a local’s experience, potentially allowing you to stay in a residential area and see daily life in action.
If you do decide to add a few extra days onto your trip, consider staying in a business hotel – most discount their room rates on weekends. Look for deals that include breakfast and wi-fi access as these will save you money when you’re travelling on your own tab.
How to balance business & pleasure
Wining and dining are two of the great joys of travel, so why not schedule business meetings over lunch at those restaurants you’ve been dying to visit? (This also means that you won’t always have to eat out alone.) If you’re stuck hot-desking in an office all day, ask colleagues for their favourite nearby cafe recommendation and suggest that a walk to it might be in order – your workmates will probably appreciate the break as much as you will enjoy exploring the streets. If you have to work late, you can always adjourn to a bar and fortify yourself with a drink and some local colour – many bars offer free wi-fi and won’t mind if you and your colleagues bring your laptops along.
Buying gifts for colleagues who have been particularly helpful is always well received, and is a good excuse to investigate the local shopping scene (perhaps picking up a gift or two to take home as well).
If you’re new to a destination, try to build some time into your itinerary to explore. Many business travellers like to arrive on a weekend so they can walk around in the sun for a full day to counter the jetlag before starting work. This can also give you a feel for the place, which is invaluable when you’re doing business with the locals.
Schedule meetings in the morning, perhaps over breakfast, and then allocate yourself a couple of hours of personal time in the afternoon so that you can head off and explore. And if your business commitments finish at week’s end, consider extending your trip for the weekend – newly met colleagues will often offer to give you an insider’s tour if they know that you’re staying in town.