A conference in Coventry might sound about as appealing as having a tooth removed, but the bonus of business travel is that you get to see places you might never otherwise have visited. For ‘free’.
For some workers, business travel is a chore. Being away from family and friends can be tough, especially if you’re travelling to a different time zone or if you’re away for a long time. If you’re flying solo, it also has the potential to be a little bit dull. However, you’ll never find me complaining about a work trip: I’ll be first to volunteer, mentally packing my suitcase before the flights are even booked. Because even though the purpose of business travel is erm, business, there’s always a chance to squeeze in a bit of leisure as well.
Here are 7 tips to making the most of your next business trip:
Plan your journey carefully
Before your flights or train tickets are booked by your company, research the options yourself. Many companies are happy for employees to tag holidays onto business trips, so find out if this is possible and have your travel arranged accordingly. Whether you extend your stay or not, have a look at which flights or train times suit you so that you can maximise your trip – don’t just agree to the first option the booking agency sends through.
Do your research
Once your tickets and accommodation are booked, check out where your hotel is and find a few dining options nearby. If you’re visiting another of your company’s offices, write to a member of staff there – they’ll no doubt be flattered you want to find out about their city and will be happy to help. They may even arrange to take you out for the evening. As well as checking out restaurants, browse the city’s tourist board website and find out how to reach the sights from your hotel. Plan what you can see in the time available and how to get there. It’s also worth browsing your hotel’s website to check their facilities in case they have a spa (or a gym, if you’re a sporty type) – that way you can avoid arriving without a swimsuit and missing out on a relaxing spa session.
Prepare your work in advance
Try and be as prepared as possible before your trip, so that you can minimize work time in your hotel room and hit the city streets. If you have to deliver a presentation, write it before you set out rather than the night before the event. Use flight time wisely: read through any notes you have and organize your work.
Check the weather forecast before packing your suitcase so that you aren’t caught out by heatwaves or rainstorms. If you’re travelling to a country with different cultural norms, seek advice on what you should take. Try to pack light so you aren’t weighed down by luggage as well as your laptop: plan what you’ll wear every day and limit yourself to only one ’emergency outfit’ if, like me, you just can’t resist having options.
Make the most of local knowledge
When you arrive, use every source of local knowledge you can find. Try your hotel reception, who’ll be happy to provide a map and a few recommendations of restaurants and sights. You can also make the most of your local colleagues’ tips. If you’re attending a conference with other out-of-towners, it might be worth investing in a City Guide or downloading an app before you set off.
Try traditional food
If you’re visiting one of your company’s offices in a different state or country, your colleagues will probably take you out for lunch or dinner. Express an interest in trying traditional dishes, and ask them to talk you through the menu and help you choose. If you’re dining alonge, resist the temptation to order room service and head out of your hotel to a restaurant. If you feel self-conscious dining alone, take a book: but then you’ll miss out on observing your fellow diners, one of my favourite pastimes.
Maximize your time
If you have any free time while you’re there, put your pre-planning to good use and head out of the hotel to see some sights. Even if you only have a few hours, you’ll still be able to get a flavour of the city and see a couple of key sights, even if only from the outside.
With some careful planning, it’s entirely possible to make business travel pleasurable. Be organized and you’ll find that you manage to get more out of your trip than networking: you’ll come home with memories.