PLANNING

Six Ways to Make Business Travel More Fun

Fun work trips are possible. I promise. Do you have to travel for work? If the answer is yes, below are six suggestions for how to make your next business trip a little more enjoyable…provided you can find some free time of course.

Advice for fun work trips

A couple of times a year, I get/have to travel for work. These trips are usually a week or so in length to some place in the U.S. In fact, I have never traveled internationally for work. Needless to say, the “perks,” as we tend to think of them, are few for me when it comes to business travel. I have no elite status with any sort of airline and my miles and points add up very slowly. That is not to say I do not have a good time when I travel for work. It just means I have to make my own fun and work a little bit to take advantage of the situation. Below are six ways I have found to do so.

Eat something tasty

Even if you are too busy working to get out and explore, you still have to eat. So you might as well make it a unique experience.

Every region of the country (and world, for that matter) is known for something culinary. We all know New England is known for its clam chowder, Chicago for its deep-dish pizza and the South for its BBQ. Even here in old Idaho, we are known for our potatoes. You just have to do a little research. Or better yet, ask a local. Did you know Cincinnati is known for its chili? I sure did not until I visited a friend there. Now, chili is the first thing I think of when I think of Cincinnati—probably because it tasted so good! Search out which restaurants or dishes are famous and make sure to try them. Knowing I do not have to pay for it is just an added bonus.

Another bonus to business travel is the opportunity to eat at very expensive restaurants occasionally. You know the kind I am talking about, those places where your entrée does not come with any sides. Instead, those sides cost about as much as you would normally pay for an entrée back home. I do not eat at expensive restaurants often. But every now and then, I get asked to join a client dinner. Since the experience is a rare one, I almost always say yes and I have had the opportunity to eat at some really great, high-end restaurants courtesy of work.

If I am not joining my coworkers or a client for dinner, I typically keep dinner simple and within walking distance to my hotel. Since the company pays for my meal, I sometimes like to spring for dessert—often at a different location entirely. On a recent trip to Sacramento, I discovered a little gem called Rick’s Dessert Diner and made myself sick off a slice of their decadent cake. It made for a very fun work trip.

Dessert fun work trips
Rick’s Dessert Diner in Sacramento is well worth a visit.

Some people are nervous about eating out on solo trips because they will have to eat by themselves. R and I have both reached a point in our lives where this is no longer a big deal (you get used to it after a while). But if you tend to feel lonely, remember you can almost always eat at the the bar. The bartender is often friendly and you get your food quickly. If you like sports, there is usually a game on that you can watch while you dine.

Explore on foot

If you are staying in a city, it might seem obvious to get out and explore. In fact, you might have to in order to eat or attend meetings. But not every business trip, or chosen hotel anyway, is located in a city center. However, no matter where I am staying, I am usually pleasantly surprised by what I find when I get out and walk a bit.

After my boss asked me to work out of our New Jersey office for a few weeks, I started arranging for lodging and a car. I needed to find a hotel with a kitchen so that I did not have to eat every meal out for the next six weeks. I ended up going with a Residence Inn not too far from the office. After settling in, I started going on walks and exploring the area. Aside from the gorgeous houses and trees in the area, I also found out there was a town about a half mile from my hotel. It was small, but it had everything I needed including a grocery store, pharmacy and restaurants. Best of all, it was home to a train stop. I was able to walk to the station and catch a ride into NYC to see my friend any weekend I was free.

fun work trips New York City
The street my friend lives on in New York.

During a business trip to Anaheim, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my hotel was within walking distance to Disneyland. I just happened to have a completely free day on that trip as well. Needless to say, I went ahead and visited Mickey on that free day.

Do not be afraid to set out on foot and explore. Who knows what you will discover.

Take a class

When I travel for work, my days are usually quite busy. But most of the time, my nights and weekends are free. I do not mind watching TV and decompressing in my hotel room. However, after a couple of days of this, I am usually bored. Luckily, extracurricular activities abound all over the U.S.

I once took a cake decorating class from Carlo’s Bake Shop (you know, the Cake Boss) while in New Jersey as well as a paint and sip class while in Sacramento. And then there are the various yoga classes I have attended while on the road. Classes like these usually require registration and a fee, but they can be a good way to pass the time and experience something new. They can also be a good way to meet locals and find out unique things about the area.

Cake decorating class Carlo's Bake Shop fun work trips
My masterpiece!

If a class is not your thing, you can always try a local spa. A massage while traveling for work is never a bad idea. Websites like Travelzoo and Groupon often offer spa deals in major U.S. cities. They also offer deals for entertainment. Idaho is not exactly a major stopping point for most bands. Whenever I go on a trip for work, I always check to see if a band I like is going to be performing in the area. I have gotten lucky a few times and have been able to see some of my favorite acts performing in new-to-me venues.

One final idea: take in a game. I cannot pretend to be a big baseball fan. However, I do enjoy taking in a game if I get the chance and thanks to various works trips, I have had the opportunity to see the Chicago Cubs, Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves all play on their home turf. A game is always a good way to spend the evening.

fun work trips Baltimore Os baseball
Watching the Os in Baltimore with R.

Go on a road trip

I love a good road trip. Thanks to some work obligations, I have been able to go on some pretty fun ones. A couple of years ago, I attended a conference in Portland for work. After the conference ended, I rented a car and spent the weekend driving down the Oregon coast. At the end of my voyage, I returned the rental car and flew home. I did not have to take any time off or buy a plan ticket. It was lovely.

Oregon Coast fun work trips
The Oregon Coast. Lovely.

On other occasions, I have already had a rental car because of my work schedule and location. This happened on an extended work trip to the East Coast. Ironically, R had a business trip scheduled on the East Coast during that same time. I met her at the airport and we spent a long weekend road tripping through Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont before heading back to work. Since work had paid for our flights and my rental car, we just had to split gas and lodging between the two of us—making it a very affordable road trip through New England.

Take the train

Instead of flying directly into Baltimore to attend a conference, I flew into Pittsburgh a day or so early and caught the train. I arrived in Baltimore in time to attend the conference, but first I enjoyed a lovely train ride through some country I had never seen before. It took some planning and I had to make sure flight prices into Pittsburgh were comparable to flight prices into Baltimore (turns out, they were cheaper so I actually saved the company some money). However, it was worth the effort to see a new place and visit a new city.

Pittsburgh fun work trips
Visiting Pittsburgh for the first time.

If you are traveling to an urban area you are not renting a car, then the train, or even the public transportation system, is something you should really take advantage of. You might be surprised at the places you can go with just a little extra planning. Whenever I visit New Jersey for work, I make a point to go into New York City (via public transportation) to visit a good friend of mine. It requires a bit of coordination, but it is well worth the effort.

Meet up with friends and family

I love it when work trips bring me to where my friends and family live. I mentioned my friend in New York City whom I try to visit whenever I go to our New Jersey office. Lucky me, I also have a good friend in Orlando. Over the years, a particular conference has taken me to Orlando a half dozen times. Each trip, I get to spend time with that friend and it makes any hassles I have traveling for work worth it.

Epcot Disney World fun work trips
Visiting Epcot in the rain with a very good friend from Orlando.

I have also used work trip locations as a jumping off point to meet up with friends. Sometimes, after my conference or meetings wrap up, I fly to an entirely different city to meet up with a friend. It can often be cheaper for me to visit someone that way since I just pay the difference from the original, roundtrip ticket that my company bought.

Note: I do not charge my time, gas or any other expenses to the company when I am playing. Never take advantage of your employer. It’s not cool.

Conclusion

Business travel does not have to be a drag and there are ways to ensure a fun work trip. Every state, city and/or region has something unique to offer. You just have to do a little research to find out what those unique offers are, and then coordinate your time to take advantage of them.

fun work trips business travel
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