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How to Add a Dose of Adventure to Your Next Business Trip

5/9/17 by Matt Wastradowski

It’s a question you’re almost sure to hear on any trip: "Business or pleasure?"

Tossed around in airports and on airplanes around the world, this conversation piece tends to separate travelers into one of two camps: Either you’re an on-the-go, work-focused business traveler, or you’re purely off the clock, on your way to visit loved ones or headed out on an adventure of your own.

But more and more travelers these days are finding themselves a hybrid of both styles—according to Madison Avenue marketing types, there’s even a buzzword to describe this trend: "bleisure" travelers who blend leisure with business. These savvy folks have figured out the formula for mixing work obligations and the joys of just-for-fun journeys.

It takes some practice and planning, of course, but the payoffs are well worth it: an experience you’ll remember not just for the work but the play, too. Here, some insider tips on how to add some adventure to your next business trip.

1. Arrive early, leave late.

Arrive early and leave late to make the most of your time in a new destination.
Arrive early and leave late to make the most of your time in a new destination. Lars Plougmann

Whenever possible, schedule flights to allow for extra time at your destination. Check with your manager to see if it’s possible to schedule your flight a day or two before the meeting or conference—or, even better, a day or two afterward. Many companies are fine with this, as long as you get your work done. The expectation, of course, is that you’ll foot the bill for your off-the-clock time (including lodging, meals, and any other expenses you wouldn’t otherwise incur), as well as any fare difference on your flights (if there is one). But if you’re staying over a Saturday night, your airfare will likely be cheaper than if you’d returned during the business week—which should be a bonus for your company and help you easily make the case for an extra day or two.

Depending on the destination, try to schedule your sightseeing for after business wraps up. It will give you time to get over jet lag, find your way around town, do a little research, and ask the locals where to go. Equally important: It’s a nice reward for working so hard.

If you can’t squeeze in an extra day or two but still want to explore at least a little, try to schedule your arrival as early as possible in the day and your departure as late as possible in the evening. Even if it buys you only a few hours, that can still be enough time to check out a great restaurant or do a little sightseeing.

2. Rely on apps to explore.

Local apps are an excellent resource for exploring a new place.
Local apps are an excellent resource for exploring a new place. Jonathan Denney

It goes without saying that, on a business trip with some leisure added in, your work will take priority. Which leaves limited time for planning how you’ll spend your free time, but guess what—there’s an app (or a dozen) for that!

While Yelp and TripAdvisor are great go-to’s (as well as these other recommended apps from the ExOfficio staff), locally focused apps can really help take the guesswork out of where to go and what to do. Cities large and small often have official apps commissioned by local tourism-driven organizations that share recommended landmarks, restaurants, shopping, and must-do activities.

The GoLakeview app, for instance, introduces users to restaurants, shops, and pubs in the popular Chicago neighborhood. The Go NOLA app, meanwhile, shares upcoming events, great deals, and activities like celebrity-narrated walking tours in the Big Easy. Smaller destinations get in on the fun, too: Pendleton, Oregon, a city of 17,000, has a Travel Pendleton app that includes a helpful map, calendar of events, and local recommendations.

3. Ditch the business hotel...

One of the best ways to get a feel for a new place is to live like the locals, and house rentals like Airbnb and VRBO make that a cinch. Try to find a property beyond the popular tourist neighborhoods to get an even more authentic experience.

4. ...unless you can get a really great rate.

In many business-centric cities (or business districts of larger cities), hotel rates plummet on the weekends, when their business clientele is gone. For example: At The Epiphany, a chic, newly renovated boutique hotel in Silicon Valley hotspot Palo Alto, a recent search turned up rates upwards of $400 for mid-week stays, but dropped to $129 on Friday and Saturday nights. So staying on a few extra days for leisure at a business-centric property can be easy on the logistics (no schlepping around your suitcase to a new spot) and on your wallet.

5. Combine work and play.

Let a local client make a recommendation for where to dine and drink. 
    Chris Montgomery
Let a local client make a recommendation for where to dine and drink. Chris Montgomery

Don’t meet a client for drinks at the hotel bar or schedule a dinner meeting at a nondescript chain restaurant. Rather, bypass the tourist traps and suggest something off-the-beaten path for added adventure. Track down a quiet microbrewery, chic wine bar, or under-the-radar restaurant for a sip and bite of what the locals enjoy, especially when time constricts your choices. If you’re stumped for ideas, ask your coworker, client, or host where they like to go.

6. Find a festival.

Local festivals are an excellent way to get a real feel for what a place is about. Many cities and towns throw festivals all year long (unless you’re in New Orleans, where you might stumble upon a festival just because it’s Tuesday). Such events offer a glimpse at the creative and cultural backbone of the destination by showcasing the city’s best music, cuisine, art, or small business community.

Seattle’s Bumbershoot Festival, for instance, is a three-day extravaganza featuring local and regional artists, live music spanning several genres, stand-up comedy, visual arts, and more. And many places offer regular art walks that introduce visitors to local art, great wine, engaging conversations, and hip nightlife scenes.

7. Hit the trail or find a local race.

Many cities have urban trails perfect for convenient exploration, like this one in San Francisco.
Many cities have urban trails perfect for convenient exploration, like this one in San Francisco. John Leszczynski

What better way to work off the stress of work than immersing yourself in nature for a few hours? Whether it’s an urban hike within the city or a more secluded excursion in a nearby state park or wilderness area, local trails offer an enticing way to soak up a destination’s geography while unwinding and burning off a few calories.

And to really dig into a destination’s outdoor culture, consider joining a local running, biking, or hiking group for their weekly outing, or find a 5K or 10K you can sign up for. You’ll go home with a deeper appreciation of the destination, perhaps a T-shirt (or trophy!) to remember your trip, and new ideas for what to do next time you’re in town.

Originally written by RootsRated for ExOfficio.