I heard the best term the other day: bleisure. Business and leisure equals bleisure. Okay, my autocorrect is going to drive me nuts, but go with me for a second here. When I was young my Dad would travel all around the world to places like Greenland, Russia, Norway, the UK and more. He’d come home with a cute souvenir (I have more Russian nesting dolls than one requires) and I’d ask him if he had photos from his trip. Well… I should have been more specific. He often had pictures of the wells that were drilled or the ice formations from the deck of an icebreaker in Greenland, but rarely did he ever have photos of the destinations.
“Victoria,” he’d say, “I only ever get to see the airport, the taxi to and from the airport, the hotel and the office. Nothing glamorous.”
When I had my first opportunity at business travel I decided that wouldn’t be me – no offense, Dad. Whether I only have a few hours, a day or a few days, here are some ways that I’ve maximized business travel opportunities.
Adding a Few Hours
Last year a friend and I made a flying visit to Surrey for an incredible writers’ conference. The way our flights worked out, we literally had six extra hours to spend in Vancouver before jetting off to Surrey on Day One. Did we enjoy those six hours? Um… yeah we did! We grabbed public transport into the city, hopped on the oh-so-cute rainbow-coloured Aquabus system and made our way to Granville Island to meet a friend for lunch.
Some local seafood and a couple of cocktails later, we were on our way to Surrey with a relaxing kick off to our trip. Conferences can be stressful and we sometimes take them a bit too seriously. You’re going to learn, to absorb, and I can’t think of a better way to do that than by starting your experience off with a little time to unwind.
Adding a Day
St. John’s, Newfoundland
I had been dreaming of the jellybean coloured houses of Newfoundland for years. Did anyone else ever see those stunning television ads by Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism? The ones with the little redheaded girl, iceberg alley and the comforting narrator? Good job tourism board, you’d sold me.
From my hometown, it takes almost a full travel day either side to get to Newfoundland, and with three business days of meetings planned, this trip was going to take up an entire week of my life. At the time, my husband was living in the U.K., and all I could think about was what I’d do with one extra day.
Turns out that my company was very supportive of me flying back the next day and didn’t charge me any extra for the final night at the hotel (I did a little work that evening so it all evened out). As a result I was able to visit The Rooms, wander George Street, pick up an adorable souvenir mug of the jellybean houses (which I make my tea in every night), hike up Signal Hill in rain boots (poor life choice!), and eat some scrumptious fish and chips and the Duke of Duckworth. In reality, I barely scratched the surface of St. John’s, but I’m left with happy memories and a passion to return.
Adding a Weekend / Combining Trips
San Francisco, California
Sometimes you’ll be lucky enough to have back to back trips that align to near perfection. Such was the case with me in 2014 where I had a week of meetings in San Ramon, California, the weekend back home, followed by a few days in Bakersfield, California. I looked at that itinerary and thought… what’s the point in coming home? In fact, the difference between flying me home and back versus staying an extra three nights in San Francisco (the mid-point) was a moot point.
And so a mother-daughter trip to San Francisco was born. Rather than fly home I would get transportation back to San Francisco, meet my Mom on the Friday morning, spend three days and two nights in the city, then fly to Bakersfield on the Sunday night. Perfection. My employer was supportive of my flight preference and we used air miles to pay for our extra nights in San Francisco (a.k.a. the world’s most expensive city for accommodation).
Together my Mom and I made several foodie finds of our own, sampled the local wine, visited Pier 39, did an incredible tour of the Chinatown Alleyways, walked our socks off almost making it to the Golden Gate bridge on foot, eating chocolates at Ghirardelli, shopping and seeing how the Beats were once at the Beat Museum. We crammed a lot into a long weekend while still feeling rested and rejuvenated and I was more than ready for work on Monday.
- Don’t overestimate your energy levels – Business travel is tiring, so plan fewer, but better, things, rather than over-schedule yourself into misery.
- What are your top 2-3 things you want to see/do – Following on energy, if you had to prioritize only a couple or a few things, what would they be? At least then you’re more likely to achieve your goals.
- Can you bring someone along for the trip? Depending on the length of travel or where you’re going, you might have a travel companion waiting in the wings. Obviously know what your company’s policies are on sharing rooms, etc., otherwise go Dutch on the bills and make sure that your work gets done first.
- Can you work on the plane? Technically we are not required to work on the plane, but if I’m able to capitalize on that time strapped into my seat, I try to. I’m actually super productive as there aren’t emails coming in (please, NEVER let there be free Wi-Fi on airplanes!), which lets me get ahead of my work before my business travel has even begun.
- Talk to Your Boss. Most bosses are pretty reasonable and want you to enjoy your trip while still being productive. If an extra day is going to bring you great pleasure, tell them. Yes, you may have to pay for an extra night of accommodation, but at least your flight was free!
In a Nutshell…
In a nutshell, business travel can become bleisure travel. Still not with me on this term? Fine… business travel can incorporate leisure travel if you plan in advance, maximize your time and prioritize your travel goals and expectations.
How do you maximize business travel?