The name ‘Part-Time Explorer’ was not a random choice for me. I work full-time, and have to make the most of the vacation time I get. That said, I’m lucky enough to be in a job that let’s me travel a couple of times a year. Now, maybe for some people, this wouldn’t be seen as a perk, but I’ve always seen it as an opportunity. As I prepare for an upcoming work trip for a conference in Vancouver, I thought I’d throw together a quick list of ways I make the most of work travel.
1. Add a few extra days
Almost every time I travel for work, I add extra time to whatever destination I’m going. From the employer’s perspective, the flight cost is the same (or sometimes cheaper, depending on what day of the week you end up travelling). I often head out a full day before I have to be there, which gives me time to settle in and explore, and often has the added bonus of helping me feel more relaxed when the real work begins. I’ll also often had a day or two afterwards, especially if it falls on a weekend where I won’t be using my precious vacation days.
2. Look at your schedule
Work travel tends to be filled with, well, work. But if you plan it ahead, you’ll probably find gaps in your schedule that can be filled in with non-work stuff. One of my favourite strategies is to go for morning runs before my day officially starts. It’s a great way to wake up and have some time to yourself before a busy day, and has the added bonus of being a great way to familiarize yourself with a new city. Not a runner? Maybe post-work hour drinks are more your speed. It doesn’t have to be a late night bender, just a chance to get your mind out of work mode and immerse yourself a bit into the scene of whatever city you’re in.
3. Scope out the area
Often, where you end up staying is dictated more by your employer or the reason for travelling than it is a personal choice. Even so, one of the first things I do once my hotel is booked for a work trip is scope out the area that I’m staying in. Yelp, Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor, and so on are first stops to seeing what the neighbourhood has to offer for restaurants and sites. Figure out what’s in walking distance, how safe the area is, what the ‘must see’s’ are. Of course, there’s a lot to be said for just exploring without a master plan. For me though, when it comes to work travel, I like to scope things out a bit to make the most of the time I’m there and to get myself excited for an otherwise mundane business trip.
4. Appreciate your alone time
As an introvert, I often have a hard time with work travel. For me, these trips tend to be conferences which are filled with constant networking, presenting, handshaking, etc. You always have to be ‘on’, which I find completely exhausting. I find it helpful, if not essential, to get away from it and spend some time exploring on my own.
Maybe you have young kids at home and haven’t had time to yourself in awhile. Work travel can be a great time to take advantage! It can be tempting to maximize your work travel with as many meetings and as much business as possible. I totally get that, but you’re not going to do anyone any favours if you just burn yourself out. Go for a walk, spend some time at a museum, or just seek out the best coffee place in town.
5. Bring the family
Not one for being alone? Bring the family! I recently joined my husband on a trip for a conference he was attending. While he was at the conference all day, I was out exploring, and then he would join up with me in the evenings. That way, we made the most of the fact that we were paying for a hotel room anyways, and I was able to scope out all the places to show him once he was free. I even convinced my sister to join me, so in the end, one person’s work trip turned to a nice little family vacation. This works especially well if your family gets jealous of wherever it is you get to go, even if you are working 🙂
6. Get out of the hotel
Work travel can be exhausting. It can be oh so tempting at the end of a work day on the road to just crash in your hotel room, order room service, and fall asleep in front of the tv. I’ve definitely been there done that, and to be fair, sometimes that’s exactly what you need. Even so, trust me when I tell you that it’s almost always worth it to get out of the hotel, get some fresh air and enjoy the change in scenery that the new city can offer.
So there you have yet, my not-so-secret methods of making the most of my work travel.
Do you travel for work? Is it all business, or do you sneak in some pleasure?