In an ideal world, our travels would center around the pursuit of pleasure. We’d spend more time sampling the cuisine of local street vendors under the open sky rather than poking disinterestedly at the array of limp cheese Danishes and universal cereals at the hotel breakfast buffet. We’d spend our days wandering the streets of Paris, New York, and Beijing rather than circling mindlessly from our hotels to conference centers and back again. Airports would be a place to indulge in the guilty pleasure of a new book instead of trying to find an outlet to plug your computer into so that you can finish all of that stuff you should have finished before you left the office. While you can’t ditch the conference center entirely, traveling for work can still have a few high points beyond the free breakfast at the hotel.
Use Travel Time to Relax
While some individuals, particularly those who travel routinely for business, find it a good use of time to cram in some extra work at cruising altitude or while hanging out in the airport lounge, I prefer to get everything I need done ahead of time so I can use the time in the airport or on the plane to relax as much as possible. Indulge in a good book, watch a few movies, have a cocktail, stare out the window, have another cocktail. You get the idea.
Upgrade to Business
If your company offers to upgrade you, fabulous. If not, try using your frequent flyer miles to upgrade your economy class ticket to business. Having access to the airport lounges in addition to the extra luxuries on board the plane can make the travel part of your trip much more comfortable and enjoyable.
Often after an exhausting day of PowerPoint presentations and meetings, the most attractive evening is one that features a hotel room and room service. Try to map out an itinerary ahead of time so that you don’t allow exhaustion to inspire an indifferent retreat to the minibar in your room or the fast food restaurant across the street. Before you set off, do a little bit of research to figure out tourist attractions, amazing restaurants, or the best place for a cup of coffee so that when you land, you’ve already got an idea of where to go.
Once you’ve got an idea of where to go, you’re going to have to carve out some time to do it. If you can, try and schedule meetings earlier in the day and leave your afternoons free to grab a leisurely lunch or do some wandering around town.
Take an Extra Day or Two
Regardless of whether you’re able to take an extra few days, if the time difference is substantial, you should plan to arrive at least one day before any meetings or work-related activities in order to give yourself time to catch up on any needed sleep. If you have any vacation days set aside and there are no pressing obligations at home, most employers are happy to allow you to sneak in a few extra days of travel before or after your work-related travel. Take advantage of it.
Bring a Friend
While employers aren’t likely to foot the bill for you and your friends and/or family, there’s no reason why a friend can’t tag along if they cover their own costs. Be sure to clear it with your boss first, but if there’s room in your hotel room, it’s not usually a problem to invite a friend. Alternatively, if you have any friends in the area you’re traveling to, this is the perfect time to catch up over a meal or spend a day hanging out and having them show you around their city.