According to a survey by On Call International, 36 percent of business travelers say that work-related travel leaves them more stressed than usual.
But business travel doesn’t have to be just one more chore. As a frequent business traveler, you’re often traveling to a new, exotic locale, whether it’s Paris or San Diego. You have a chance to visit cities and countries that most people just dream about. By planning your corporate travel booking ahead of time, you can maximize your productivity while still having an amazing experience on your next trip.
Business Traveler Tip #1: Plan Your Travel Well
The IRS states that business travel expenses (the biggest of which is probably your airfare) are tax deductible if the primary purpose of your trip is for business. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re traveling in North America, then you’ll need to spend over ½ of your days on business for your travel to be tax deductible (If you’re traveling internationally, you’ll need to spend over ¾ of your days doing business).
Bear in mind that both travel days, and weekends sandwiched between a business Friday and a business Monday, count as business days for IRS purposes. Entrepreneur Nellie Akalp explains: “So if you fly to Florida on a Thursday, have a meeting on Friday, stay the weekend, meet with clients on Monday and Tuesday, and fly home Wednesday, you’ve actually accrued seven business days. This means you could spend another six days in Florida as pure vacation and still expense your transportation expenses.”
So talk to your boss about planning your business travel trip around a weekend, and then using some of your vacation days to extend your trip.
Business Traveler Tip #2: Embrace AirBnB
It can be tempting to book a hotel, especially if you’re flying into a conference (which will usually have a partner hotel within walking distance). But Mariott and Holiday Inn hotels won’t immerse you in the culture of the city you’re visiting. Living out of hotels and airports is why many business travelers no longer enjoy their trips.
Instead, talk to the team that runs your company hotel program about staying in an AirBnB. This is a great way to experience the local culture from a ground level. Walking through a beautiful neighborhood on the way to your first meeting each day can be a great way to have fun on your business trip. Some AirBnB hosts may also be open to grabbing dinner with you, which is more enjoyable than eating another reheated sandwich in a hotel.
As a bonus, AirBnB is often cheaper than staying in a hotel, so your company’s travel policy should allow it.
Business Traveler Tip #3: Book Meetings Close Together
When you’re meeting with clients and business partners, book these meetings relatively close together (while leaving ample time for transit so you’re not rushed). If you space your meetings out over the course of the day and evening, then you’ll only have dribs and drabs of time between meetings to explore the city. It’s hard to enjoy Balboa Park or Sea World when you only have 30 minutes between client meetings.
By contrast, if you book your meetings closer together, then you can carve out several hours, either in the morning or in the evening, to sightsee and have fun. You’ll also be more productive, because your brain will be in work mode for that large block of time when you’re actually on business; rather than having to switch between work mode and enjoyment mode every hour.
Business Traveler Tip #4: Take Clients Sightseeing
If you want to go sightseeing, then make the place you want to visit the subject of a business meeting. If one of your goals is to see the San Diego Zoo, then take your client! Talk business while the two of you check out the zoo’s exotic animals. This can be a great way to see the sights while also expensing entertainment.
Of course, this this business traveler tip only works if taking the client to a new locale is good business. If your presentation to your client requires a PowerPoint and a projector, then an office setting might be your only option.
But don’t default to meeting in offices and coffee shops. There’s a reason so many deals are closed over golf: a game of golf is more memorable than a meeting in the office. Whether you want to sell a prospective client or cement a relationship with an existing one, giving them an experience they won’t forget is a good solution. Who is the prospective client more likely to remember–the 19 companies that came to his office with yet another dull presentation, or the woman who took him to the Zoo and explained the perks of her program offering while the two of them were ‘awwing’ over cheetah cubs?
Business Traveler Tip #5: Explore the Culture While on Business
The best part of traveling to a new place–whether it’s San Diego or Paris–is often the small moments of connection that you get with another culture. These moments can happen on business, especially when your destination is outside of the United States. If you’re getting dinner with a client in France, go somewhere local and ask the waiter for his personal story. Seek out local holes-in-the-wall rather than big chain restaurants.
This is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture that you’re visiting and have some fun. It’s also good business. If you’re meeting a client in Paris, then learning enough French to ask the waiter about his life will make you look less like a snooty American. If you’re wining and dining a prospective business partner in China, then asking them to take you to their favorite local restaurant will show that you care about their culture.
Business Traveling Should be Fun
As a business traveler, your trips should be fun and productive, not one or the other. If you follow these tips when you’re traveling for business, you can explore new parts of the world and make your travel experience memorable, while actually becoming more productive on your trips.