Q: What is a typical day of business travel like? What do you do, how much do you work, is there a lot of free time to explore your new location? Do you get together with your business associates and party?
A typical day of business travel depends partially on who you are traveling for. Traveling for a university or a not for profit is vastly different than traveling for a corporation. They both have their up sides: the cheaper employers will make you keep everything as cheap as possible but in a way that’s nice because it makes you improvise and maybe get you out of a luxury hotel to see the real side of a destination. On the flip side, you will be in decent hotels but nothing too nice and you will be asked to take the red eye flights and do what it takes not to go over 1 day of travel and food.
My last trip for a previous employer resulted in a canceled flight and me sleeping on a bench in Dulles guarding my work computer because I wouldn’t dare take the chance of paying out of pocket for a room to later be told that they wouldn’t reimburse me for it.
Had I been working for a less stingy employer I would have just found any hotel and put it on the credit card they gave me. That’s another issue: stingy employers will make you pay for travel tickets and accommodations out of pocket, sometimes 30 days or more in advance so that you get a good price. They reimburse you for your trip a few weeks after the fact which leaves you with no choice but to have a credit card and eat the interest you accrued from the time you charged everything to when you get paid (they wont pay for your interest). Less stingy employers give you a corporate card and let you charge everything to that and then they pay the bill for you after you come back with receipts for bigger ticket items (tickets, room).
With a more affluent company, you are also likely to be allowed to travel in a day in advance and get a room, rather than pull in the day that you are suppose to work in the new location. They also often wouldn’t even think of asking you to leave town past 4 PM (no red eye).
Travel can be a good break. 3 square meals at nice places if you want and as much coffee or juice as you can drink. Stingy or not, most employers allow at least $15 for breakfast, $15 for lunch and $40 for dinner. They wont typically require receipts for anything under $25, but I always keep mine just to ensure there are no hang ups. Its always best to be sure you have proof of what you got rather take the risk they don’t want to pay you for your $20 breakfast.
You might get lucky in business travel and get a rental car which you can use to do whatever wherever you want, as long as you only charge a reasonable amount of your gas to the company. You may also get a good hotel room with a nice soft bed with TV, if that’s what you like. I, myself, dont watch much TV, but I find it a nice to stretch out in a big bed with the TV on after a long day of traveling for work.
If you are more of a bar hopper and you went traveling with coworkers its great going out to dinner and a few drinks in a new town with people you might otherwise only know from behind a desk. If you are on your own, heading out is certainly a good way to meet people and get to know the local scene.
Business travel also often provides for at least a little amount of free time. My brother once met me in San Diego every day for four days after I got out of meetings. We went all over: LA, the ocean, Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base. On another business trip, I spent a weekend at a horse ranch for a meeting in Tucson. It was great, the day started at 7 with a cowboy breakfast, meetings from 8-11, and then riding all day. My brother met me there also and we went to some caverns, the rock and gem sale, and did some mountain climbing.
These business trips can be what you make them, or they can be stressful, red eye whirlwind tours just to get business done and get back to the office. Since I don’t travel much outside of work, I try to get as much as possible out of the business trips that someone else is paying for, even if they are often brief.
I once went to a meeting in Dallas where I needed to get 40 copies of something made. I asked where I could do that and they told me a few miles down the road. Instead of getting a cab, I walked… it was my only chance to see anything beyond the hotel grounds on that trip, but at least I took that opportunity to see the place I was visiting, and I’m glad I did.
I have found that my best adventures happen unplanned, often coming from an impulse to walk somewhere. I saw a mountain behind the meeting place and decided that I would go climb it. It was great, especially because I love the desert. The cactus were beautiful, a bunch of balloons flew by and when I was done I had a great view.
Like I said, I don’t get to travel much except for when I work , so I I try to take any chance I can to get as much out of my business trips as possible. Whether its to visit my brother on the west coast, who I otherwise don’t see, or to see mountains which I don’t get too much of where I live, if you have to work, make the most out of getting away!