When I first entered into entrepreneurship, I took the idea of bootstrapping seriously, especially when it came to business travel. In fact, my business partner and I would take "budget traveling" to all new levels, often sharing hotel rooms that required us to wear socks at all times and sleep fully clothed on top of sheets.
Our goal was to save money, even if that goal required us to sleep with one eye open.
It was a number of years later when another entrepreneur and good friend suggested that the reasons people start businesses is so they can plan mini-vacations with business travel and expense the entire trip as business. He was mostly kidding, but the small part that was serious really hit home.
By strategically scheduling personal downtime in and around events, and by looking at the expense of travel as an opportunity rather than a burden, I was able to turn business travel into something far more enjoyable -- and actually enjoy my sleep while traveling.
So, as I plan for my visit to New York for this week's Entrepreneur 360 Conference, here are a few tips to help you mix a little pleasure into your next business trip.
1. Venture away from your destination.
On numerous occasions, I have attended a conference or trade show only to stay in the hotel that was hosting the event. While this was more convenient at times, especially during a conference heavy in events, I never had a reason to leave and therefore rarely ventured out to explore the city.
If your business travel permits, consider a hotel a few blocks away from your primary destination. When it is time for meetings, just take a walk and explore the city on the way. Research popular places to visit and map routes ahead of time. While you’re at it, check into and consider extending your stay for local events, such as outdoor concerts and other cultural happenings.
2. Connect with others.
Before you schedule your business trip, reach out to friends and associates that may live in or near your destination. In addition to being a great resource for things to do and places to see, your local friend might be able to help you schedule and secure rooms or reservations. Again, it is a great opportunity to meet up with associates or reconnect with old friends as part of your business trip.
3. Schedule contingency time.
Traveling by plane has never been easy. Long security lines and delayed flights are but a few of the expected pains of airline travel. The airlines’ practice of double-booking, however, is one pain that offers opportunities for the ready traveler.
Next time you travel by plane, schedule flexible time before and after your flights. Since many airlines offer compensation to passengers who voluntarily give up their seats in the case of an overbooking, you can be ready to take advantage of the situation.
Arrive early and inform the gate attendant that you have flexibility in your travel plans and could volunteer your seat if needed. Be sure to ask about the compensation the airline is willing to offer in exchange for your seat. Most airlines will provide a voucher that can be applied to a future flight, but ask for one with no blackout dates. Also, if giving up your flight requires you to stay an additional night, the airline should provide you with a hotel room and meal voucher. Take advantage of the hotel amenities and free grub.
4. Enjoy a good meal.
It is never easy to eat while you travel, but with the right planning, you can avoid airport express marts and hotel buffets. Before you leave, ask for recommendations for popular local restaurants from friends, or conduct research on Yelp or other restaurant apps. Call ahead to make reservations and inquire about traveler deals, which restaurants often have.
With all of this said, make certain to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations governing business travel and entertainment expenses. Use common sense, don’t get carried away and always keep thorough records and documentation of the business reasons for your trips.
What other travel tips do you have? If in New York, what recommendations do you have for visitors attending the Entrepreneur 360 Conference? Please share in the comments section below.