By: Sarah Stone
Every time I travel for work, I add on some time to stay and explore. A few years ago, I attended a conference in Lisbon and popped over to Munich beforehand to enjoy Oktoberfest. After another conference in Auckland, my husband and I took a weeklong road trip around the north island of New Zealand.
Mixing business and leisure travel—to create the cursed moniker bleisure travel—isn’t exactly new, but it is becoming more popular and more acceptable for workers who didn’t have that option just a couple of years ago. Extending a weekend for a few extra days, booking trips midweek, and opting for upgrades isn’t sneaky anymore; it’s normal.
Being able to work remotely (even for shorter stints or hybrid setups) and stay in touch with your team regardless of where you are in the world has made it so much easier to be flexible with travel planning, and defining what a vacation is. And airlines and other travel companies are taking advantage of this opportunity by rethinking and restructuring their schedules, offerings, pricing, and incentives.
Benefits of Mixing Business Travel with Leisure Travel
It can feel like a waste to travel to a new destination just to spend all of your time in meeting rooms and event halls. Personally, I am too exhausted after back-to-back meetings all day to do anything but take some quick notes, check my schedule for the next morning, and get to sleep. So there are a lot of benefits to combining a business trip with a vacation—even a mini-vacation.
Extending a work trip to include a personal vacation can help you save money on travel!
Airfare alone is one of the best ways to cut costs—for example, my clients have always paid at least for the flight to a conference destination, and it’s been a case-by-case basis about whether I or they should cover the return ticket. And they’ve paid for things like travel insurance, bag fees, and other necessities that add up.
If you’re able to take meetings offsite—say, at a restaurant you’ve heard great things about—that’s another checkmark in the “I didn’t have to pay for this thing I really wanted to experience” column.
Combining trips can save time in trip planning—especially when your employer has already done some of the research into or sent a list of approved flights and hotels—not to mention the amount of time it takes to actually get to and from different destinations.
I’ve always wanted to see New Zealand, and had the opportunity to go to Auckland for work. I was able to add extra days onto that trip so that at the very least, I would only need to take two flights instead of an eventual four (with layovers, each of those flights took up an entire day). That’s valuable time saved if you don’t have a lot of vacation days and want to optimize what time you do have have outside of work!
The right headspace
Staying a couple extra days instead of hopping on the first flight back lets you get your priority tasks and follow-ups in order while you’re still in the zone. It makes a difference to take time to breathe and relax—and get enough sleep—rather than letting things slip through the cracks during the context switch of catching flights and navigating layovers.
Creativity and innovation
I come up with some of my best ideas while traveling, and it doesn’t happen in meetings. It’s wonderful to catch up with people I haven’t seen in a while, or who I’ve only interacted with online, but I don’t have “aha” moments right then—those come after I’ve had a day or two to think on it, and when I’m seeing or doing something new and interesting.
Maybe you’re like that too. Having a bit of time to think and exist in a place that’s different and fascinating right after you’ve talked with other people who are creative and inspiring can make a difference in how you work, and how you might solve a problem that’s been bugging you.
How many times have you gotten a restaurant recommendation during a business trip, where you say you’ll definitely try it out before you leave, but really you (probably both) know that you have zero intent or time to actually do it?
Being able to take that time to try out that restaurant, or visit that one sight you absolutely must see, can go a long way toward building a relationship with the person who suggested it. Rather than leaving the conversation at “Thank you! I’ll check it out for sure,” you’ve got something to follow up with them about—and for them to remember you. You cared about what they’ve said, and you acted on their recommendation.
A Few Tips for Planning a Bleisure Trip
I’ve been combining work trips with vacations for years, and have a few basic items on my checklist for planning each one of them—here are some recommendations for you to get started.
Make sure it’s ok with your employer
What I mean is, you need to figure out:
- Whether you can take some time before or after the work portion of the trip for yourself
- What the expectations are for you immediately following the conference or meetings (because there definitely will be a semi-immediate need for you to follow up with people, compile notes and next steps for your team, etc.)
- What the delineation is in terms of who pays for what portions of your trip
I’m lucky to have been a contractor for the past eight or so years, so I never ask permission from my clients to extend trips—but if you’re a salaried employee with a set number of vacation days, you really should ask for permission rather than forgiveness.
Before broaching the subject of extending your business trip into a vacation, come up with a general outline of what tasks you’ll accomplish while working remotely, what you’ll delegate, how you’ll keep in touch, and how often you’ll check in. Talk with your employer about what guidelines they have in place for using a company card or discounts, what they’ll reimburse you for, and what you’ll need to cover yourself.
Take advantage of memberships and rewards programs
There are a few directions you can go here (especially if, as mentioned above, you have a company card or discounts through your employer) but personally since I’m self-employed, I pay for everything myself and submit invoices for reimbursement. Here are a couple of very basic tips that may work for you—for more in-depth guides to saving money on travel, check out our budgeting category.
- Use a credit card with good travel perks—for example, I use my AmEx Platinum card for a lot of these things, including Centurion Lounge access, which has made waiting and layovers easy and stress-free. I’ve also used it occasionally to stay in really nice hotels for the vacation portion of my trip, especially if my husband and I are traveling together.
- Use membership and loyalty programs to get points and miles, upgrades, and to combine services through partnerships. If your employer is booking parts of your trip (like flights), ask them if they wouldn’t mind adding your loyalty number to the booking.
Know and agree upon your budget
Having an understanding of what your company will pay for versus what you’ll need to cover (and what you personally can budget for) is an absolute must. Sometimes you’ll just want to extend your stay a couple of days to relax and see a bit of the city you’re in—and that might mean checking into a different hotel that’s in the price range you personally are comfortable with. And other times, you’ll want to go for a full vacation as part of your trip, which can mean extra travel and activities, and maybe even upgrades if you have it in your personal budget.
When I combined my Munich and Lisbon trips, my client and I agreed that I’d pay for my flight to Munich, the hotel stay there, and all activities related to Oktoberfest, and then they would cover my travel from Munich to the conference in Lisbon, all expenses relating to that, and my flight back to the US. Keep your receipts, stay in your personal budget and within your employer’s budget, and know exactly who’s going to be responsible for what.
Be available, but set boundaries
If you’re attending a conference or meetings, make sure to get all of your notes and tasks in order, and get your priority follow-ups out of the way. Delegate your ongoing tasks for the days that you’ll be out. And if you can, try to spend the majority of your vacation days on, well, vacation activities!
Your employer will want to know that you’ve taken your business trip seriously and you’re getting your most important tasks done, so it’s good to be available for questions and follow-up calls. But general day-to-day emails and tasks that can wait? Let them wait.
Wrapping It Up
Whether you’re adding just a day or two onto a business trip to quickly enjoy some sightseeing and local cuisine, or whether you’re adding a full vacation to it, mixing business travel with leisure travel is a fantastic way to save money and time—especially for those of us who have precious few vacation days.
If you’re a pro with bleisure travel, or if you’re new to it, share your stories, advice, and questions with the Frayed Passport community!
About the AuthorAs the managing director of Frayed Passport, my goal is to help you build a lifestyle that lets you travel the world whenever you want and however long you want, and not worry about where your next paycheck will come from. I've been to 20+ countries and five continents, lived for years as a full-time digital nomad, and have worked completely remotely since 2015. If you would like to share your story with our community, or partner with Frayed Passport, get in touch with me at email@example.com!
Featured image by bruce mars on Unsplash