On the Company Dime: Making the Most of Business Travel

Whenever I hear people say “I’d love to have a job that that involves travel” I can’t help thinking: Why?

I mean sure, if you were a guidebook writer, or a food critic, it would be awesome to be sent to various exotic locales to explore and stuff your face. But regular business travel is not really fun. You get all of the downsides of travel: hanging out in airports, eating crappy fast food, staying in impersonal hotels, with none of the fun, spontaneity or exploration. Instead of spending your days getting to know a city, you are usually locked up in meetings. It’s not even relaxing.

Admittedly, my experiences are limited. I’ve only been in the work force a couple of years now, and been on a handful of business trips. My first trip last year, to a convention in San Diego, was a miserable lesson on how not to experience business travel. I ended up overworked, sick, and wanting nothing more then to get out of that lovely city, come home and sleep.

This time around, I was determined to make the most of my week in Tampa. Unfortunately, I turns out Tampa is not a very interesting place. Nonetheless, here are some tips I’ve learned for making the most out of business trip:

Rolling cigars in Ybor
  • Do you Research– You will probably not have a lot of leisure time, so it’s a good idea to do some research before you leave. That way you can make the most of your downtime. Before I left town I spent some time learning about Tampa on Wikitravel and also polled Twitter for suggestions so that I would know just what was worthwhile to see and do. In Tampa this meant several retro trolley trips down to historic Ybor city, the cultural and nightlife center of the city. Restaurants and bars line the streets here along with authentic cigar shops.
Fancy (free) dessert
  • Dine Out– No matter how busy you are you’ll need to take time to eat. Your company will usually cover your dining expenses while traveling so this is a perfect opportunity to experience some culture on the cheap (and eat like a king if you’re me). I always try to take advantage of this and find great restaurants in the city I’m visiting.
Harbor Island as seen from my hotel room
  • Take Care of Yourself– On my first business trip I was totally unprepared and promptly came down with the flu on my second day in town. Not only did this make my long workdays completely miserable, I ended up skipping all of San Diego’s attractions to nurse myself in my hotel room. This year I came prepared with packets of Vitamin C, drank lots of water and made sure to get enough sleep so that I would have energy to spare. It’s tempting to push yourself like crazy, but in the long run being good to yourself will take you much farther.
Palm trees are just so freaking awesome
  • Give Yourself More Time- Since you’re already out on location, why not try to stay a couple extra days? Most companies will allow you to change your ticket and simply pay any difference in airfare. It’s a cheap way to work in a little extra vacation.I did not do this in Tampa, but a couple of my colleagues took advantage of this idea and headed over to Disney World for the weekend before returning home. If I were headed somewhere really exciting I could see this being an inexpensive and viable option to work in some sightseeing.

So, while I had a pretty nice time partying it up in Tampa, I’m still not a huge fan of business travel.  I can’t see it as a      substitute for independent travel in my life. Still, it’s more interesting than a day at the office and, if you take advantage of your time, a unique opportunity.

What are your business travel tips?

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