Ever since my first Spanish class in 7th grade I knew I wanted to travel the world. I was realistic about my dream (at least for a seventh grader) and knew that I would have to hold down a job as well. In the years between my study abroad in Spain at sixteen and college, I came up with a great idea: I needed to score a job in business so that I could travel around the world. I reasoned that businesses have lots of money and they would just have to pay me to travel abroad to talk with clients (leaving me lots of time to venture into unknown jungles, hole-in-the-wall restaurants and museums) right? Well, not exactly.
Traveling for Business
My first job out of college was as in International Sales and Marketing for a start-up company. After eight months of negotiations, I landed my first client in Taiwan and my first business trip to our factory in Fargo, North Dakota. I saw Fargo as a stepping stone to bigger and better travel, especially since I had just added an international client to our portfolio. Unfortunately, I was laid off shortly after because my salary had been paid by a one-year USDA grant and the company was floundering. My second job in business (marketing) led me to such exotic locations as Ft. Lauderdale (an hour’s drive away) and Ohio. Again, I was traveling, so heading in the right direction. And again, there was the promise of international travel because our consulting firm had so many international clients. However, just one week after that Ft. Lauderdale day trip, the company was bought out and everyone in my position was eliminated.
At this point in my three year career I had figured out that I should not get into business solely for travel, and changed my career to one I am much more passionate about: the environment and writing. I travel around our state several times per year for a few days at a time, and have flexibility to travel some internationally. My husband also travels a moderate amount for business (this year alone he has been to Seattle, California, Atlanta, Dallas, and Detroit). While we may not get the international travel I had once hoped for through business travel alone, we do find ways to get more out of our business trips. I’d like to help you do the same.
How to Get More out of Your Business Travel
Author’s Note: Some of these will work for you and your company, and others are out of the question. Always inform yourself of your company’s policy before traveling on their behalf.
- Do One Touristy Thing: My husband and I always take the time to do one touristy thing while we are traveling for business. Usually it is at night, over an extended lunch hour at conferences, or before/after the event begins (we fly or drive in early and stay later). This makes a huge difference in trip satisfaction. My husband has toured Alcatraz with work colleagues, spent a lunch with his boss at Pike Place fish market in Seattle, and driven by the Bada Bing featured in the television series Sopranos. I recently flew in early to a conference in Denver, rented a vehicle, and drove to some hot springs 45 minutes away. I have also enjoyed a stay at a hotel along the Riverwalk in San Antonio and soaked up some rays on the beaches of Galveston for a few hours. Two good ways to make this happen on your next business trip: try to book your hotel near your place of business as well as near a tourist attraction you’d like to see, and ask your business counterparts for local recommendations.
- Take Advantage of Amenities You Don’t have at Home: I love that there is a gym, a pool/sauna, and a daily newspaper at no cost to me on business trips. These are all amenities I do not subscribe to at home, so it makes the trip seem more special.
- Accumulate Frequent Flyer Miles/Hotel Rewards for Personal Use: My husband Paul has traveled so much this year that we are looking at a free airline ticket and hotel room to use for personal travel! How exciting. We’re not sure how we will use it, but it will definitely save us money on our next weekend getaway. Maximize your own benefits by trying to stay at a hotel within the same chain and fly the same airline each with a rewards program on each business trip you take. See how we get the most bang for our frequent flyer miles.
- Meet Up with a Friend or Family Member: One woman I traveled with had a daughter in our conference center’s town so she met up with her for dinner. My husband’s friend lives outside of Atlanta, and he will be driving in to meet him for dinner at an upcoming trip. Try to meet up with a friend or family member over an extended lunch or dinner if at all possible, or spend the night/weekend with them and extend the trip by a few days.
- Take Along Your Spouse/Friend: If your spouse or friend has an open schedule, take them along with you! While they will need to pay for food and airline ticket (though no transportation costs if you drive together), the hotel will be free.
- Eat Out at Restaurants You Normally Wouldn’t: Take the opportunity to experience a restaurant that you would not normally go to when you have to pick up the tab. When I travel, I get a set amount of food dollars I can spend each day. I make sure to book a hotel with continental breakfast and eat cheaply at lunch so that I can get a great dinner at Pappadeaux, a seafood restaurant here in Texas. I also enjoy Starbuck’s while traveling, something I typically only buy a few times a month for myself.
- Enjoy the “Me” Time: Many of us have families and children to cater to when we are home. When we travel, it’s important to carve out some “me” time—watch favorite television shows without having to hear any grumbles, bring along a book you’ve been dying to get into, take an extra long shower, go for a walk after a long day, or do anything else that can help to recharge your batteries.
Do you travel for your company? Have you taken advantage of any of these things while doing so? What are your own ways to get more out of business travel?