Thinking of extending your next business trip so you can enjoy some personal time in a foreign city? Whether you have been adding a couple of vacation days to your business trips for years or you’re considering doing so for the very first time, below are a number of tips to help make this kind of blended travel — aka “bleisure” trip — go smoothly.
Booking flights + hotel
The best time to schedule your business meetings is on Mondays and Fridays. This way, you have a convenient excuse to enjoy a nice weekend getaway without using up any vacation days and tacking on any additional travel time.
To spend as much time in the destination as possible, book the first morning flight on the way there and the red-eye for the return trip back. Not only will this give you several extra hours to explore a foreign city, but these non-peak flights are often cheaper than the tickets you would buy if you were coming and going strictly for business — and it can help score you brownie points with your travel manager.
While it’s not always possible, try to find an accommodation that suits both your business and leisure needs so you can avoid the hassle of moving mid-trip. If you’re allowed to bring family members along, consider an option like an Airbnb™ rental, which oftentimes is cheaper, allows more space than a hotel room and has access to a full kitchen.
If your company allows it, book all the nights for the hotel together since a longer stay could translate into a lower nightly rate. If you are able to book through your travel management company’s (TMC) booking tool and secure the TMC’s specially negotiated rate, that may be even better.
If your company won’t allow you to book all the nights as one stay using their booking tool, call the hotel directly to see if it can extend the corporate rate to you for the nights you’re there on your own dime.
Double check all reservations to make sure there are no gaps and have your confirmation details handy. We advise printing them out as well as having them downloaded to a fully charged mobile device. This way you’re covered if you lose the paperwork or there’s spotty internet service.
The prep work
Before leaving for your trip, be sure you read carefully the company’s guidelines on bleisure travel, especially the section outlining what you can and cannot charge to the corporate credit card. Some companies have policies that forbid seeking reimbursement for expenses that could be viewed as personal or added expenses as a result of extending your stay.
As for what to pack, of course it’ll be a little trickier than usual, and you’ll need to put some thought into what pieces may double as business and leisure attire. You want clothing that you can mix and match for different styles on different days, that either can be dressed up or down by simply adding or removing a few key accessories. Versatile, lightweight, wrinkle-free, reversible — these are the adjectives that should describe the clothing that’s going into your luggage. You’ll need at least two pair of shoes — dressy ones to wear to meetings as well as comfy ones to tour the city on foot (the latter pair also can be your “airplane” shoes).
Be sure to review the company’s bleisure policy guidelines to understand what their duty of care/risk management obligations are during both the business and leisure portion of your stay. Even if your company does not require it, consider purchasing travel insurance for you and any companions joining you.
You also will want to make sure someone at your home or office has your full itinerary and “in case of” contact information.
And to protect yourself financially: If there is a chance your business trip might get canceled, be sure you’re aware of the hotel’s cancelation policy and try to avoid any “no refund” purchases, such as tickets to the theater or a sporting event.
The fun part — leisure time
Though modern life rarely works like this anymore, once you are finished with all your business meetings and are “off the clock,” really try switching off your business brain — at least power off your work mobile for several hours. You only have 48 hours or so to enjoy this mini-vacation, so soak it up.
Because your leisure time in this foreign city will be cut shorter than a typical vacation, you’ll need to prioritize what you do and plan ahead of time.
In addition to plenty of pre-trip research, inquire with your hotel about what offerings they may have for business travelers like you. As a way to target “bleisurites,” some hotels have hired planners to help schedule pre- and post-business activities.
You also might ask the clients or colleagues you’re meeting with about the top things they would do if they only had two days to visit their hometown. Not only will you get some great insider tips, but they’ll appreciate the fact that you want to learn more about their city and culture. And who knows? Maybe you’ll even get your own personal tour guide for a couple of hours.
Just don’t forget to send a thank-you email when you get home saying how much you valued their suggestions, whether you took them or not. It’s a great way to continue building the long-distance relationship.
Your company doesn’t permit bleisure travel yet? Perhaps this recent article we posted to the Atlas will convince your leaders to change their policy.