My friends who don't travel for their job often think work travel is oh-so-glamorous. And if I'm being honest, much of the time, at least for me, it is. Why shouldn't it be? Life is not worth living and work not worth working if there isn't beauty, good food and a comfortable bed at the end of it all. Here are a few tips and tricks I've picked up over the past few years to ensure my travel isn't all work and no play.
- For me, the hotel experience is a gentle balance of finding the sweet spot that combines comfort, amenities, convenience and of course, an ample rewards program. Since I work for a Fortune 500, I have both the benefit and detractor of having "preferred" hotels where my travel agency suggests I stay. Fortunately, boutique hotels often have better amenities and will often be comparable, if not cheaper, than their corporate counterparts. Unfortunately these bougie spots have limited, if any, rewards programs - so save earning points for the times when the boutiques are booked. For corporate travel, consistency is key. Seem to generally enjoy Hyatt's offerings? Make it a point to stay at an affiliate EVERY time, even if your co-workers are not. Unless your colleagues travel less often than you, they will likely understand.
- Don't feel forced to stay where the conference you're attending suggests you stay, but don't be stupid if that's the only option that makes sense. Last year I attended an event designed for high schoolers my corporation was funding. Guess who stayed at the suggested hotel? About 6,000 high schoolers. Hahah, NO. Did this mean I used Uber to get to my event rather than take the provided Shuttle Bus? Yes, and it cost $6 each way.
- Three words: pool, tub, bar. Prioritize one, and stay at a hotel that does it right. The Standard excels at all three, and some corporate hotels have pretty amazing pools. Do your research, and don't forget your swimming suit.
This is a no-brainer to me, but I'm often shocked by how laissez-faire travel companions can be about where they plan to eat. I treated my most recent trip to California with this "unplanned" approach as the majority of my days (and food) had already been planned for me. This fly-with-the-punches attitude led to a terribly unsatisfying snack in what turned out to be a HUGE high-end chain. I didn't do my research, trusted the new confusing version of Foursquare -- or is it Swarm? (who cares?) - and let my blood sugar control my urges rather than my brain. Shame on me.
- Ask your friends --local or otherwise. The internet is a beautiful thing, people! Don't act like you can do it all on your own. Crowdsourcing is a "word" for a reason. Ask Facebook, ask neighbors, hell, ask celebrity food-nerds you respect on Twitter (you might be surprised by who actually responds!)
- Make a map of every place you could possibly want to eat. Oh that's nerdy? Smartphones are nerdy. Get over it.
- Take local advice. So you found a bar you love? Ask the bartender for suggestions and do not stray. The Lonely Planet is for the couple sitting next to you. Do what the locals do, oh and don't be afraid to talk to strangers, they're usually much nicer than they appear.
- Since this is a work trip, nine of out of ten times, you didn't have to pay your way. If you're single and childless, this is travel gold. Stay an extra week. Write these terms into your contract if necessary. And make friends with a creative lawyer who will help enable you to do this.
- If you're in a relationship and have no children, assuming you're traveling to a desirable location, bring your partner along. In almost all circumstances they'll at very least be able to stay in your hotel and you'll have a warm bed to come back to after partying with your work friends. Often times your company will invite them with and pay for their meal. Extend your five-day trip into seven, find an airbnb and make your friends jealous on the internet.
- If you're traveling with "elite" passengers and you haven't yet established this while-collar classdom, don't fret! I recently boarded at the same time as my upgraded companion, and all the while filled with anxiety, the gate agent didn't give a second look to my boarding zone "c" status. I clearly cannot guarantee this rule-breaking treatment from over-zealous gate agents waiting for a power trip (remember, power is a dangerous weapon my friends) it did work for me this ONE time, so I can give you a solid 50/50 chance that your gate agent will allow for this blatant disregard for the rules. The rush you will get as a rule-abider may even encourage other bad behavior, such as budging in line when you see a friend in the cafeteria, or even jay-walking in an unknown city like Sacramento. You've been warned.
Do you travel for work? What tips do you have to make your stay feel a little more posh, and a little less "cube-away-from-home"?