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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29 thoughts on “On the Company Dime: Making the Most of Business Travel”

  1. Hi Steph. These are great tips. I agree that I probably wouldn’t want to travel for work because I’d rather go somewhere to enjoy it rather than stay in an office but these are helpful to make the most of not so appealing situation.
    .-= Joya´s last blog ..Hello world! =-.

  2. Hahaha, so true. Sounds so glam when I say, “My company is sending me to France and Seattle this year.” In reality I won’t really get to see anything, I’ll be working my ass off, and the only real perks is eating out all the time…which inevitably leaves me feeling sluggish and disgusting.

    But you’re right, be prepared. I made so many mistakes when I first when to France. So, so, so many.

  3. Work trips can be such a tease, but I always try to steal away some time for myself so that I can take a solo walk around a new city. Even if it’s just for an hour, you’ll feel like you got some one-on-one real time with a new and strange place.

  4. I haven’t done much business traveling, but the small amount I’ve done has been wonderful. I suppose it’s a little different with music. There are rehearsals and performances, but there is usually a good amount of freetime to explore the city.
    .-= Nancy´s last blog ..Buying a Couch and Meeting the Dude =-.

  5. The travel I’ve done has been pretty nice, all in all. But I’m not heading to Arkansas twice a month. I’ve been able to see a lot of nice locations and some of them are places I might never have found the time to visit.

    On the flip side, I have had a lot of trips where all I saw were airports, hotel rooms and conference tables, then right back to the airport!

    We’ll see how Miami treats me this week!
    .-= Joel´s last blog ..Confessions of A Cultural Idiot Pt. 3 – Participate =-.

  6. I work with fundraisers who have to travel every couple of weeks. The more they talk about their travel woes, the more I think: Wow, I’m glad I’m not you. On the other hand, I do enjoy opportunities to go to conferences in other cities–even though they only provide a few hours a day to get to know the place. I’m sorry you didn’t like Tampa. I wonder if you’d have liked it better if you’d had more free time?
    .-= Gray´s last blog ..Shiny Travel Objects: March 28, 2010 =-.

    1. Yeah, business travel is too much hassle and not enough fun for my liking. Tampa might have been better with a little more time, then I could have headed over to St. Petersburg.

  7. I’ve never had the opportunity to travel for work, but I have mooched off of other people’s company dime by tagging along. Dad’s working a conference in SF? I’m there! Now that had some perks, they had organized tours to Muir Woods and Sausalito, and we ate like royalty. Since he primarily plans events for clients, he can enjoy a lot of what a place offers because he’s showing it off to clients. My husband on the other hand, has to skip out of conference meetings to see anything. So I plan some places for him to visit when he does get a break, either together or by himself.

    I’d take sitting in an airport over a windowless office.
    .-= ehalvey´s last blog ..Irish Junk Food: Curry Chips =-.

  8. I think growing up, before I caught the ‘travel bug,’ I fantasized about the possibility of traveling with a job. Now, after having traveled independently for a couple years, I’m not sure I can think of anything worse.

    Although perhaps it’s a compromise for those who never take the time out to travel. I think even if your traveling puts you in lots of fake hotels, busy airports, and business meetings, you’re still getting some chances to see more of the world – in your own way.

    I would say being stuck in a cubicle for 45 hours a week is far less appealing than having the opportunity to travel to new places – even if it’s solely for business purposes!

    1. You say compromise where as I might say excuse. It’s better than nothing of course, but isn’t it kind of a poor substitute for actually traveling under your own steam?

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