You check your work email at the beach and take business calls at home, so why not add some leisure time to your next business trip?
Bleisure, the practice of mixing business and leisure travel, is growing in popularity as business travellers are extending business trips to take advantage of a paid round-trip airline or train ticket to spend a weekend or more exploring cities like New York, London and Hong Kong.
There are many benefits to a bleisure trip: the prospects of a vacation just after you’ve attended a grueling series of stressful meetings or closed a crucial business deal adds value to work assignments; you get to see a place you might not have had the opportunity to see; you gain cultural experience and knowledge that is useful in the workplace; you save money and time on your vacation since your company foots the bill for the plane ticket; and, once your vacation begins, you’re already at the destination!
So, next time work has you hitting the road, before you book your flight, use our guide to plan the ultimate bleisure trip.Search for flights
Business travellers are some of the most savvy travel planners, but there are a few extra considerations to make when combining business with pleasure.
- Join airline frequent flier programs and hotel and rental car loyalty programs. Since you’re travelling for business, you will quickly accumulate points and status, allowing you to earn special perks like free upgrades, free tickets and free hotel stays. Use these to your advantage when booking an extra night or two on your next business trip.
- See if your company has any policy regarding combining work with play. Some companies have policies that forbid seeking reimbursement for expenses that could be viewed as personal or added expenses as a result of extending your stay
- If you’re worried about blurring the lines between business and leisure, talk to your manager about adding a day or two or even a week onto your next business trip. Getting your manager’s approval may instill more confidence in your trip planning (and avoid any last-minute requests to return to the office to close a deal).
- Consider if your finances (and company culture) will allow you to bring your family or a friend, who can enjoy the sights and city during the day while you work and vacation together post-business. Bringing a travel companion means you will only incur a limited number of expenses, mainly their airfare and the extra nights in a hotel room that you’ll share and incidentals.
- Use your annual leave wisely. It’s easy to tack on a weekend getaway, but consider extending your stay through the beginning or end of the week.
- Consider getting an airport lounge membership. Even if your company won’t pay for it, opting for an airport lounge membership or buying a day pass gives you a comfortable place to prepare for your bleisure trip, from printing out reports to using to the Wi-Fi to grabbing a snack or drink.
Timing is everything
Like any trip planning, timing is everything.
- Book your business meetings on Mondays and Fridays, giving you a reason to be at the destination as the work week starts or just in time for the weekend. You’ll get a weekend getaway for the price of a couple of hotel nights without having to ask for vacation days.
- If you’re bringing your family, significant other or friend, determine if they will travel separately, timing their arrival to the end of your business trip so you can stay focused, or if they will travel with you so they can begin enjoying the destination while you work.
- Be sure your schedule allows for a bleisure trip. If there is a chance you may have to rush back to the office to complete a business deal or you have another business trip within a few days of your trip, you might want to skip the leisure portion this time around. The point of booking a bleisure trip is to save money, not lose it by cancelling at the last minute.
- If there is a chance your business trip might get cancelled or you’ll need to arrive or leave earlier or later than expected, be sure your plane and train tickets and hotel stay are flexible, changeable and refundable. Know what the change or cancellation policies before you book to avoid excess fees or losing your money.
Avoid checked baggage fees and over packing. With some planning and determination, it is possible to pack just one carry-on bag for a bleisure trip.
- Invest in a lightweight suitcase on wheels that easily fits in the overhead compartment. Some luggage makers even have suitcases that have two sections – one for your laptop and gadgets – and the other for your clothes.
- Determine what the dress code is for the work portion of the trip. If the conference or meetings you are attending allow business casual attire, you can use the same clothing for business and leisure.
- Pack versatile clothing, for example a sports coat or simple dress that can be worn to a conference but is also suitable for a night out on the town. Pack items that can be mixed and matched (for example, you can wear the same pair of pants twice without anyone noticing by matching them with a woven, button down shirt and jacket one day and a polo shirt the next) and worn more than once.
- Pack clothes that are easy to wash and dry quickly (skip the dry clean-only items as much as possible).
- Buy single use packets of detergent for sink washing your underwear and socks. Better yet, stop by a local supermarket or drug store and buy it once you arrive.
- Pack a travel size bottle of Febreze to touch up suits, jackets and dresses that can be worn twice.
- Invest in compression bags. These plastic bags suck out excess air, minimizing the amount of space bulky clothing can take up.
- Buy travel size and sample size toiletries for your trip. Better yet – don’t pack shampoo, conditioner or soap as most hotels provide these free of charge. Find out what other free amenities the hotel offers (i.e. comb, razor and shaving cream, toothbrush and toothpaste, hairdryer, etc.) and cross these off your packing list too. If you absolutely cannot live without your usual name brand toiletries, stop by a local drugstore once you arrive at your destination and stock up.
- Moderation is key. Lay out everything you think you might want to take and then eliminate half of it. You might have to leave that extra cute pair of shoes or trendy jewelry at home or wear an outfit twice, but you’ll have less stuff to carry and room for souvenirs.
Find the perfect place to stay with these tips.
- Ask if the hotel offers the group meeting rate or corporate rate for a few days before or after your business trip to take advantage of discounts.
- Many hotels offer a third night free, giving you yet another reason to extend your stay.
- Consider paying a little extra (or accumulate points) and book a club level floor. Staying on the club level often means breakfast, snacks and happy hour are included with your stay, saving you (and your travel companions) money during both the business and leisure parts of your trip.
- Try to upgrade. If you’re bringing friends or family along for part of the trip, having a larger room can provide the space you need to get your work done without distraction.
- Consider booking serviced apartments, which provide housekeeping and the comforts of home like a washer/dryer and kitchen, reducing the amount of clothing you need to pack and meals you need to eat out.
What to do if you can’t add extra time
If staying an extra day or two won’t work with your family commitments or finances, there are plenty of ways to blend leisure time into your business trip.
- Go to a concert or show after your meetings have ended for the day.
- Skip the fancy hotel meal and try the local cuisine by visiting night markets or local hotspots.
- Grab a drink at an iconic bar.
- Visit family or friends at your destination.
- Spend a couple hours at a museum before or after work
- Take a walking tour of the city after hours.
Have you ever mixed business with pleasure while travelling? Share your tips in the comments.
Main Image:iStockPhoto/TERADAT SANTIVIVUT