Bleisure: it’s the fine art of creating a trip that combines both business and leisure, and it’s growing ever more popular. A recent survey of 11,000 travellers by traveltech company Travelport found that two thirds of millennials and a quarter of older travellers are regularly extending their work trips to enjoy some me-time.
If you haven’t already tried it, here’s how to join the fun – whilst at the same time complying with company travel policy and not annoying your boss.
1. Research your destination
“All I saw was the inside of a meeting room.” It’s a common refrain amongst business travellers when they get back from a trip. Yes, time is short, and there’s always a lot to pack in. But usually a lack of research hasn’t helped them, either. So, next time, find out what your destination has to offer by checking online travel guides and buying a guidebook to browse on the plane.
Focus your research on the districts you can easily reach, and who knows what you might come up with? In Paris for example, many of the most famous museums and art galleries open on selected weekday evenings, so you could be paying your respects to the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, rather than flicking idly through the TV channels in your hotel.
2. Break the journey en route
It sounds counter-intuitive, but adding an extra few days in a new destination, en route to your business meetings, can actually save money. Non-stop flights are often more expensive than ones that involve a change of plane, particularly if you use an overseas carrier rather than home airlines.
A classic example of this trick is the route between London and New York. No-frills flights with WOW stop off in Iceland on the way – which means you might be able to see the Northern Lights on the way back home from Manhattan.
3. Don’t book an airport hotel
Airport hotels are a constant feature of the frequent traveller’s life. They’re comfortable and efficient, but almost always set in interest-free neighbourhoods. Do you have to stay in one? Most companies offer a range of preferred properties in their corporate hotel programme, and there’s usually one that’s more central, or set in a cool suburb. In Melbourne, for example, it could be that you can stay by the beach in St Kilda. Or how about trendy Sodermalm in Stockholm, which is packed with bars and restaurants?
4. Ask to keep your room
Big companies have bulk-buying power and can get hotels far cheaper than individuals. Even if you think you can get a better rate, the corporate deal will often have fewer strings attached and increasingly comes with extras such as free Wi-Fi and breakfast.
So why not ask the hotel manager if you can stay on for a few extra days at the corporate rate? It’s rare to be turned down. Hotels like loyal customers and you may end up spending extra in the hotel when you dip into the minibar.
5. Go sightseeing between meetings
Even if you’re stuck in a business district, it doesn’t mean you have to stay there between meetings. When it comes to public transport, these areas are usually some of the best-connected. In Amsterdam, the RAI centre is just 15 minutes from the Centraal railway station. Jump on one of the line 2 trams there, and you’ll be at the door of Van Gogh Museum 15 minutes after that. Meanwhile, Munich’s Messe expo centre is only 25 minutes by underground from the city centre.
6. Don’t work out in the hotel gym
Gyms are great places to burn off some steam on a business trip – but they can add to that eerie sense of isolation. Why not go for a run through the city instead? Some hotels now have running concierges to tell you where to jog safely, while running apps such as Plotaroute also offer suggestions. You could also join a running tour, or hire your own private guide – these days, they’re a feature in many cities. Run With Me’s programme includes Zurich, Oslo and Johannesburg.
7. Ask friends or family to join you
Rather than pining for partners and family while you’re away, get them to come and join you after your business commitments are completed. Or ask your best friend to fly over and have a weekend on the town together. Just be sure to keep the work and leisure separate – so there’s no confusion about expenses on your return. And clear the idea with your boss beforehand to be sure your plan doesn’t conflict with any company policies.
8. Save your company some money
A number of start-ups including Rocketrip work with companies to incentivise employees to spend less on their business travel. How will that help? Well, consider this. On platforms such as Rocketrip, companies and their employees share the savings. So you could travel in economy rather than business class – and use your percentage of the savings to fund some leisure time at the end of the trip.