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5 Practical tips for making the best of business travel

by kasiawrites

Business travel is often perceived as a glamorous way to see the world on someone else’s dime. Many people tend to romanticize the idea, especially once they hear the destination of a particular trip. The reality of business travel, however, is vastly different. It can be very stressful. It can also negatively affect your health and put a strain on family life.

I’ve been very fortunate to be able to travel for work. While it was difficult at times, it provided me with an amazing opportunity to see the world. It equipped me with international business skills that broadened my professional development. Like any education, sometimes the best lessons come from outside the classroom.

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When you travel for pleasure, you have a general idea of what your day will look like. You can decide to sleep in, stay in if you’re not feeling well, or stay up till the wee hours of the night. When it comes to business travel, you don’t have that luxury.  Sleeping in or taking a day off is not an option. Especially if your days are filled with business activities.

When you travel for business, your days are filled with appointments, travelling to and from meetings, presentations and relevant social events. These require your attendance and participation. That is why you’re there. You often see more of boardrooms, hotels, cabs and planes than of whatever country you are visiting.  

Once I was in Brazil, we had 40+ meetings over a span of less than a week in three different cities. It was a whirlwind of activity and constant travel. It was exhausting. What did I see of the country? Not a hell of a lot, but it was Brazil, so everyone assumed I just had all the time in the world to see and do everything. Yeah, no.

Business travel challenge: missing friends & family

Most of the time, business travel means you are away from your family and friends for extended periods of time.  While they’re having fun and doing exciting things at home, you are on the other side of the world in a strange country. The FOMO kicks in and it can be tough. Birthdays, weddings and other get-togethers get missed because you are away.

Even if your company allows your family to come along, you are not there with them. While they are sightseeing, relaxing, or having fun, duty calls. You can’t be there and enjoy the experience with them, because you have work to do.

Sometimes you’re gone while bad things are happening at home. During one of my business trips our Guinea pig, Sherlock got sick and Alex had to deal with that by himself. I remember being in my room, somewhere in Germany, FaceTiming with him and crying like a baby. I was on the other side of the world and didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. It was devastating to come home.

Time zones also make it challenging to keep in touch. When you are on your way to meetings, they are going to bed and vice versa. It’s sometimes difficult to touch base and check-in. Frankly, sometimes when you get back to your room, you’re exhausted anyway and there is no time to call home.

Time management of business travel

Another huge difference between business travel and pleasure is the ability to manage your time. While you’re on a personal trip, you can decide to take that scenic tour to the countryside. You can spend a few hours in a museum or sit on a patio while people watching. On a business trip, your time is not your own. Your day depends on what your timetable looks like and what social engagements are scheduled for you. This is especially true in China, where formal business dinners are a norm and go on for a long time.

travel inspiration

Sometimes even the destinations stop to matter.  We attended a show in Vegas a few years ago.  It was massive. Space just went on and on and on.  I think I was hitting 20k steps in early afternoon every single day and by 9:30 pm I was falling asleep, barely able to keep my eyes open. It could have been Vegas or the moon, it didn’t matter.

Travel inflexibility of business travel

Personal travel allows you the flexibility to plan your flights.  You can book duration, timing and connections as you see fit.  While travelling for work, you rely on what is available to you on the days you are to travel. Often that means hanging out at an airport for hours while waiting for your next flight. It could also mean trying to catch a train to the next city while you’re jet-lagged or exhausted.

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Quite often you are wearing business attire, which isn’t always conducive to comfortable travel. Like that time I had to run through a busy train station somewhere in China, dragging my luggage in full business suit and heels. We missed the train and I was out of breath and sweating in my suit. How I longed for my jeans and a t-shirt. In this situation, business travel was the furthest thing from glamorous.

Making the best of business travel

So, while business travel isn’t as great as travelling for pleasure, it still allows you to visit places that you might not have done yourself. Yes, it’s hard work, but it also forces you to find the positive in the smallest things. I am very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had and the places I was able to see. Several things made business travel more manageable and less stressful.

Use technology to your advantage

Being away from your loved ones sucks, but the advances in technology make that experience more bearable. I love that I can be on the other end of the world and still be able to talk to my family. With things like WiFi, Face Time and other chat apps, I am able to see them and show them where I am, even if that means just the view from my hotel window. It doesn’t make me feel like I’m so far away anymore. All you need is an Internet connection to bring your loved ones closer to you.

Make friends with your travel companions

I’ve been fortunate to travel with people that I got along with. That made all the difference in the world. When it comes to finding entertainment and dealing with stress, it helps to have someone there to share it with you. You don’t have to have the same interests or activities. Sometimes just having someone to talk to about your day helps.

It’s always a bonus when the person you are travelling with is easy-going and flexible. It makes coming up with travel games so much more fun. Walking around the airport to make the 10k step goal, even if that means circling the same area numerous times. Watching the same movie while on the plane, or agreeing to miss sleep to catch an opportunity to see a local attraction before the next flight. Or even trying to find that vegan restaurant somewhere in Shanghai. Business travel is what you make of it.

Appreciating the opportunity

Most of the business travel I’ve done has been to places I haven’t been to before. Even with very little time, I’ve been able to see things that might not have been available to me otherwise.  While visiting Beijing we got a hosted tour of the Forbidden City and managed to see the Great Wall. If I was a tourist, I would spend a lot more time there at a time that would have been chosen by me. In this case, I appreciated the short time that offered me the opportunity and appreciated it for what it was, not for what it would’ve been.

Business travel also exposes you to a different side of a foreign country. You meet with companies and business owners that you wouldn’t normally see. You learn about the business climate and the customs of that country from a business perspective. It gives you a different understanding of the culture.

Become a better traveller

Business travel has made me a better traveler. I am very comfortable living out of my suitcase, planning my time and switching between different modes of transportation. It exposed me to different business cultures which sometimes helps when I travel for pleasure. It has broadened my experiences, allowed for personal growth and helped me develop a broader range of skills that I can use in all aspects of my life.

Take advantage of loyalty programs

Quite often when you travel for work, you are able to use loyalty programs. If your credit card offers points, everything you pay for while you away accumulate points. The same can be applied for loyalty programs with airlines, hotels, car rentals, etc. It’s a great way to use business travel for offsetting your personal travel at a later time.

This won’t necessarily work if your company has a corporate card or does not allow employees to take advantage of loyalty programs. It’s always good to inquire before you travel, in case you are missing out on valuable points.

Final thoughts on business travel

Business travel is not always easy. However, it’s often a privilege rather than a punishment. Some people excel at it and end up doing it for a long time. Others get tired and burnt out, which it totally understandable. It can be an incredible opportunity, it comes with a cost. It really depends on each person and their personal situation. Managing business travel allows you to deal better with it. It’s not always easy, but in the end, definitely wort it.

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    ultimatetravel8
    5 Aug 2017
    5:01am

    Great post! It looks like you have a busy schedule most of the time.

      kasiawrites
      5 Aug 2017
      9:18am

      Very much so. I won’t be traveling for business that much anymore but the reality is so different that people seem to think it is.

        ultimatetravel8
        5 Aug 2017
        10:28am

        I would guess that people think is more fun than actually is. Thanks for sharing!

          kasiawrites
          5 Aug 2017
          10:29am

          Glad you liked it 👍🏼

            ultimatetravel8
            5 Aug 2017
            10:37am

            I hope you can do more fun travel now.

              kasiawrites
              5 Aug 2017
              10:41am

              I definitely do! I love travel and I found even good parts when I traveled for work. Traveling for fun is just so much more enjoyable 😜

                ultimatetravel8
                5 Aug 2017
                10:42am

                ☺️

    Mel & Suan
    5 Aug 2017
    9:46am

    During the work trip there were never opportunities to see much. But make it a point to extend if you can and perhaps you might slip in some things to see and do. But that’s challenging if you have to be back in the office immediately after business. Sigh. just like the folks who quit and travel the world. All one sees are the ‘glamorous’ parts.

      kasiawrites
      5 Aug 2017
      9:50am

      Exactly! There are definitely good sides to it, especially if you try to make the best of it. 👍🏼

    SueT唐 梦 琇
    5 Aug 2017
    8:10pm

    Agree with your comments. I have been to many countries traveling for work so very glad to have the opportunity but constant travel for work is tough.

      kasiawrites
      5 Aug 2017
      8:34pm

      I totally agree. Couldn’t do that constantly for long.

    aysabaw
    8 Aug 2017
    9:14am

    I was able to travel for work once and actually the experience was hilarious as much as it was tiring because it was a first so there are so many bloopers aha ha

      kasiawrites
      8 Aug 2017
      9:15am

      😜👍🏼

    thewonderer86
    29 Aug 2017
    12:00pm

    I often wondered how much actually got to see on a business trip and I guess it’s like everything else – there are always good and bad sides to everything.

      kasiawrites
      29 Aug 2017
      12:08pm

      I guess it depends on the work and location but I think in general you don’t have that much time. But yes, there are good sides as well 😁

    foodzesty
    26 Sep 2017
    5:49am

    Hi there,,,I have nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award 🙂 Congrats Sophie

      kasiawrites
      26 Sep 2017
      7:05am

      Thank you Sofie!

        foodzesty
        26 Sep 2017
        7:20am

        Your very welcome 🙂

      kasiawrites
      26 Sep 2017
      7:05am

      Sophie!

    Rebecca Thomas
    9 Oct 2017
    12:50am

    Is this always the case? Have you had business trips with time for leisure in your travels? What is your job?

      kasiawrites
      9 Oct 2017
      1:37am

      Yes that’s always been the case. Business travel doesn’t leave time for leisure. I don’t travel for work anymore

    The Traveller
    13 Oct 2017
    5:25am

    I know how you feel >< But have you considered timing your business trips? Either have the meetings done on Fridays or begin on Mondays? You have the weekend to explore the place. Its really a pity to go all the way to some foreign land and only see the hotel and the meeting room of some office 🙁 I was in Tianjin and all I saw was my hotel room and my client's headquarters. Oh dear, while I was writing this I saw that you don't travel for work anymore. Don't you miss all those free air miles?!?!

      kasiawrites
      13 Oct 2017
      10:53am

      Not at all. I much prefer traveling for myself!

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