To me, the best thing about business travel is the opportunity to explore the locale of my client. The downside is that, most often, I only have a few days and very little non-client time. But, over the past (mumble too many to count) years I have come up with a few tips to maximize the time I do have and enjoy some local flavor.
In no particular order, here you go:
- Check out local eateries. Ask your hotel concierge, head to Yelp, or ask some local clients for the best places to eat. Most cities have at least one unique restaurant where you can get a sense of the place through the food. Even if you don’t eat regional fare, you may discover a new-to-you dining experience. On a trip to Chicago, I was delighted to discover Native Foods Café and while it is a chain, it was a new experience for me and set me a two-birds-one-stone situation which ties into my next tip….
- Get out and walk around!! This is the best way to maximize your time during a business trip. You can explore the area near your hotel or near the client’s office to take in the sites or just get a feel for the street scene. This is the first thing after checking into my hotel. As long as the area is reasonably safe, I love to drop off my bag and head out for a walk. I usually suss out a place to eat, any museums that may be nearby, and any street art or features that I may want to photograph. Walking is also a great way to get to your client and take in the sites along the way. Just be sure to leave extra early and make sure you know where you are going before you leave the hotel – showing up late, stressed, and sweaty is never a good look.
- Take a camera. I love to photograph street art, graffiti, architecture, or anything else that catches my eye. I shoot a micro 4/3rds camera which is tiny and adorable. Adding in 17mm and 50mm lenses, I am equipped for most kinds of shooting I’d do on a business trip. Making the time to shoot something (even if it just the view out of a client’s 45th floor windows) adds a dimension of enjoyment to my business travel. iPhones are a great substitute to a camera and if you learn how to leverage the settings on the Xs or the 11 you can get amazing images.
- Map out a museum. Most cities have a museum or two and some of those museums offer one night a week where they have extended hours. Do a bit of research and see what you can find. On a recent trip to Philadelphia (my hometown) I was thrilled to discover that the Art Museum still offers evening hours on Wednesdays and Fridays. Luckily my trip spanned the week and I was able to enjoy a walk down Ben Franklin Boulevard, a hot pretzel, and stroll around the museum. Cliché, much? Absolutely! PS – Someday, I will make it to the Vonnegut Museum in Indianapolis. 7 years of trying and I’ve never been able to make it there in time. Of course, NOW they offer late hours in the summer. 😦
- Get up extra early. If you can swing it, wake up several hours before you normally would. You can use this time in a few ways. First, you can get a jump on your day and get in a workout, answer emails, prep for client meetings, and get a good breakfast – all of which will set up your after-hours time for some great leisure time. Second, you can explore the city before it really wakes up. Are you in D.C.? Take a walk along the National Mall. In Austin? Stroll around the Texas State Capital building or, after 7am, take a free tour. In Melbourne? Make time for a pre-breakfast visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens – easily in my top 5 places in the world. Working in Rome? Enjoy the morning markets in Campo de Fiori! When I was in Cairo, one of my favorite things was to get up extra early, go out with my camera, and experience all the vendors setting up their stalls. Spices, bread, fabric, and more – it was an amazing way to get a sense of the local culture in a short amount of time.
- Switch up your workspace. Can you work from a cafe between meetings or have a casual meeting from a unique location like a sculpture garden or gorgeous city library?
- BONUS TIP! If all else fails and you know you won’t be able to find anytime to enjoy leisure time, ask your hotel for the room with the best possible view (that is within your travel policy). Having a view of the lake, the mountain, the bay, the skyline can give you a sense of place even if you can’t get out to enjoy it.
There you have it! Now, I want to hear from you. What tips did I miss? How do you carve out leisure time when you travel for business? Sound off in the comments and, as always, thanks for stopping by!