How to Squeeze Sightseeing into Your Business Trip
How to Become a Bleisure Traveler
I’ve traveled every month of the year all over the world (last I heard, there were 206 national Olympic committees in the world, so let’s round it up and say I’ve probably been to half of those), and stress is a major component of business travel even after 20 years in the game.
In the beginning, when I was still learning the ropes, I would land in a city, check into the hotel, prepare for meetings and social events, and stay in my room during any free time I had. I didn’t know if my boss would need me at some point and I didn’t dare leave my room. In Lonato, Italy, I would sit in the little deck outside my window and wait for events, maybe read book. I knew I was about an hour’s drive from Milan, but I didn’t dare leave the hotel on a business trip.
Live and Learn
In time, I got to know my boss and the staff better, how the liked to work, the routine on trips. I learned how to assess whether my boss would be doing something with his wife after meetings or retiring to his room for the afternoon. I would still be very cautious and stay close to the hotel, mind you, but a little break to do something for ME was a HUGE deal. It was like a session with a therapist: I just went back to the hotel feeling less stressed.
In Sydney, one afternoon, I realized I had a couple of hours to kill and grabbed my purse and my coat and took to the streets. I wanted to take one of the ferries that take you around the harbor so you can see the Sydney Opera from different angles, but when I checked the schedules, I got scared I might not make it back before 2 hours. So, I walked around and enjoyed the view. I found a little café, ordered some tea and read a book for 45 minutes, after which I walked back to the hotel. Stress went from 9.9 to a solid 6.0.
I continued trekking and working and after a couple of years, I realized that I was wasting precious time. And now, I present to you:
Tips for Learning the Fine Art of Bleisure Travel
Adding a couple of days to your stay
Bleisure travel is when you manage to blend in some pleasure when you’re on a business trip. I know of no better method to keep stress down to manageable levels.
Let's say you've got an upcoming business trip to Granada, Spain (check out my post here to see how much I got to see and do in 2 days!), the MOST IMPORTANT thing you must find out as soon as you or your company are ready to purchase your plane tickets for a business trip is: (a) Do you fly out on a Monday or return on a Friday? If so, then (b) can you tack on 2 or 3 days to your stay without affecting the fare?
For example, a couple of years ago, I had to be in Granada for an ISSF World Cup. The flight I needed to book to be there one day before my boss would put me in Spain on a Monday, so I asked the office to book my departure on Friday evening, arriving in Granada on Saturday morning. That gave me 2 whole days before I had to report for work. The airfare was the same, I just paid 2 extra nights at the hotel for two wonderful days in that gorgeous city!
The same applies for your return flight: if you’re landing back home on a Thursday or Friday, can you extend your stay until Sunday?
Can You Pull Off Bleisure Travel when Your Business Trip is Short?
No matter how short your business trip is going to be, it’s important that you always do some research before you travel. Find out what interesting sights there are within, say, a 1-hour drive from your hotel, mark them all in your google maps app…just in case.
I once had to travel to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the SportAccord Convention and Olympic meetings. We were only staying for 4 nights and there was no way I could add on a couple of days because I was traveling with my boss and his wife (sad face).
I looked at our schedule: after a 2-hour morning meeting, we were going to visit the stands and then there was nothing else programmed until dinner. I asked my boss if he needed me because I wanted to go out and walk, stretch my back. He didn't have any plans so he said it was fine if we met for dinner. Ding! Ding! Ding! Jackpot!
I ran up to my room, didn't even bother to change my pencil skirt, suit jacket and flats; grabbed my purse and I was at the concierge desk faster than an Olympic sprinter. As per my advice above, in my Google maps app, I had marked a couple of places I wanted to visit in Kuala Lumpur: the Batu Caves, where a 100-year-old temple is located. The concierge assured me that I had time to get back by dinner time, even considering traffic. My driver ran out of gas half-way to the Caves, but even though that got me a little anxious, it didn’t dampen my excitement and spirit of adventure for having an afternoon to myself on a business trip!
When we arrived, I was so happy to have the opportunity to get to do something so amazing in the middle of a work trip, that I climbed those stairs in a pencil skirt and button-down blouse as if I had been training for it all my life! (The way down was hard on the knees, but I was still smiling).
I looked at the time and I still had a couple of hours so I asked my driver if he knew of any place we could stop on the way back where I could buy some local crafts and souvenirs. Of course, he did. He probably got a commission for taking me there because it turned out to be the pretty high-end store you see in the photo below. Don’t ask what I bought. That’s between me and my bank.
Now, interacting in my Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/travel_coach_olympic_traveler/ I came across a GREAT resource by a community of people just like me who travel as part of their work but try to get in some BLEISURE. They’ve got a great website with lots of great articles and tips, for example this one https://businesstravellife.com/traveling-for-work-bleisure/ and follow them on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/businesstravellife/ so my learning never stops and my bleisure trips keep getting better every time!
The SportAccord Convention, like any other convention, is a place to network and walk through stands where companies connected to sports or hospitality show off their wares or services. Other than an opening ceremony that includes local performers of some sort and many speeches, there really isn’t much to do in between meetings.
Typically, meetings with the International Olympic Committee run from 9 AM to 6 PM, however, once the IOC meetings with the International Sports Federations are over, the rest of the day is dedicated to networking. Fortunately, my boss had plans with close friends who are also Members of the IOC, so I was left to my own devices (AKA sprint out of the hotel).
I had marked the Suriya Mall in the Petronas Towers and off I went (I swear, it’s at these times when I’m pretty sure I’ve broken Olympic speed records. I saw people’s hair wave in the wake of the win I produced when I raced past).
As you can see, this mall is no joke. I had to do some swift browsing (I’m an expert browser), that is, until I came across Harrods. My tea radar started to ping and my feet automatically took me to the back of the store. I think I heard Handel’s “Hallelujah” playing in my ears when I saw the array of teas. I must have spent 45 minutes and many more dollars in tea.
I took my giant bag teas to a café in the mall, ordered a lovely cup and sat down to text my sister and enjoy my 3-hour afternoon bleisure.