Business trips - yay or nay? Personally, I love traveling for work. If you go back and forth to the same place it can feel like a “home away from home” or if you frequently travel to different cities it can be a great opportunity to get a feel for a new place (airline points don't hurt either!)
But traveling for work can also be exhausting. Getting off a plane and going straight to a meeting followed by dinner and drinks late into the night; sleep is usually short and you have little time to yourself to really decompress. Anyone else suddenly feel like a grandma by the time 9pm rolls around?
I work in advertising so while it seems all glitz and glam at times – staying in big cities and going out to eat - when we travel it’s go, go, go, particularly on production. Early morning call times, sometimes shooting late into the night... One of the best parts is Craft Services (the snack table on set), but it’s always tempting to sneak chocolate and chips throughout the day until you wonder if you’ve reached your max recommended calories just by gorging on snacks. This is where I wish the camera would take away 10 pounds rather than add it... So how do you stay healthy, get time to yourself, and make your trip interesting so it’s not all about business?
Here are my Top 10 things I do on business trips to help me relax and have fun so that I look forward to the whole experience instead of just wanting to get out of the office.
Always bring a sleep mask. For me, I can’t do anything without having a proper amount of sleep. When I drink caffeine I get squirrely because I have an abundance of energy… until I don’t. And once my battery runs out, I get quiet and really tired. I can usually sleep anywhere, but in order to get a good night’s rest, particularly with only a few hours, I always bring a sleep mask. Even when it’s light out, it helps trick my brain into thinking it’s dark and I have my own personal retreat. Feeling anxious or need help drifting into dreamland? Try dabbing lavender or your favorite essential oil on the strap – it will bring you comfort and calm your nerves so you can rest easy and take on the day.
Drink water. Another tip to keeping your energy up. Drink lots of water and eat light snacks. On business trips it’s easy to gorge on big meals and drink since you can expense most of it, but staying hydrated and having small meals more often will keep up your energy and prevent that post-lunch slump.
See what concerts are in town. After meetings are done, add some fun to your trip by heading to a concert (bonus points if you score free tickets for you and the client!). Working with media partners or production companies, I can usually get the inside scoop from them, but you can also stalk Ticketmaster or StubHub for good deals and cheap seats – or head to the venue to see about last minute tickets or standing room only if you’re up for a show.
Try a new restaurant. I’m a foodie so I’m always looking for the best places to snag a bite. If you’re traveling in the US, I’m a big fan of websites like Spoon University to get a range of options – plus this one is run by mostly college students so you know it will be good grub and there will be options with local flair. If you can, make a reservation to cut down on wait times so you have more time to enjoy the meal and reduce stress; and have a few recommended menu items ready to share with the group if you’ve never been there – makes you look buttoned up and also a little adventurous in front of your boss!
Check out the hotel gym. Workout facilities may be hit or miss, but it’s important to exercise – if not just to keep up your endorphins (see my post on how to reduce anxiety if this trip is particularly stressful). If the gyms are sub par, the hotel might have yoga mats you can borrow or consider a local Pure Barre or Orange Theory class.
Pamper yourself. If you can afford a late night massage or quick trip to the spa, I'm all for that! Otherwise, opt for the more DIY version. Grab a bottle of wine at a local grocery store and draw yourself a bubble bath. My skin always gets dry on business trips with all the flying, so I always pack face masks to replenish my skin.
Extend your stay. This is often overlooked, but usually companies don't care when you fly out or where you fly out from as long as it's about the same price as if you were traveling on the original itinerary. Consider extending your stay for a weekend getaway or work remotely for a few days so you have more time to explore. A few weeks back I found flights out of Minneapolis to go to Quebec that were a little cheaper than flying home. Went to my meetings and then met my mom for a few days of fun in Canada. And I only had to pay for my one-way flight back!
Find a deal on Groupon. You can usually find last minute deals for any activity on Groupon. My favorite thing about this site is if you're indecisive about what to do, just check out Groupon and pick something that looks interesting and is a good deal. It's a great way to get out of your comfort zone and so something fun. Most recent things I tried: Wine and Painting - it's not sad to drink alone when you're painting with strangers! And Laser Tag - because I still haven't really grown up.
Book an Airbnb or Bed + Breakfast. Tired of the same old hotels? Sure you can rack up points, but if you want to infuse more culture (or sometimes great luxury!) into your stay, consider booking through Airbnb. You can get whole apartments to yourself and often times the rates are much cheaper than a typical hotel you may stay in. If you want a more romantic feel, look for local boutiques or Bed and Breakfasts in the area.
Don't be afraid to bump your flight. My last tip isn't necessarily just a business travel tip, more like a frequent flyer tip. If you're flexible with your plans - don't be afraid to bump your flight. Any time they ask for volunteers when the flight is full, you usually will be rewarded handsomely. Free Delta dollars? Hello next girls trip! New seat on the flight? I'll take first class or business class please! Missed lunch? Thanks for the free sky club membership.
So next time you groan when your boss sends you to a three-day conference packed with meetings, team dinners, and homework prep - remember you can turn a business trip into a mini vacay if you look for the extra added flair. Carry your sunshine through that *yawn* 4-hr board meeting.