Few people are lucky enough to be able to travel frequently for work. Some people are born wanderers who take full advantage of the cultural and educational opportunities that business travel can provide, while some feel somewhat fatigued by constant jet lag and unfamiliar surroundings. If you’re feeling jaded by your business travels or don’t quite know how to submerge yourself into your travels, here are a few tips to follow.
Do Your Research, Constantly
Before embarking on your trip, check out the hotel you’ll be staying at on Google Maps and the surrounding area. Look for restaurants, public transport connections (such as bus stops) and museums close by. If you’re staying close to universities, you probably have a better chance of finding inexpensive meals and cultural events. You also might find something on Atlas Obscura (a large collection of odd or obscure places worldwide) that guidebooks would otherwise fail to mention. If you don’t have enough free time to get loose, use Wikipedia as your own personal tour guide to learn more about the history, politics, and civilization of countries you’re visiting. By educating yourself properly, you’ll be able to notice and enjoy the general culture in passing.
Follow the locals, not the neon
Every state and every country has its own tourism authorities and agendas. Most of the time, the big attractions popular with tourists on vacation are either expensive or somewhat disconnected from the actual everyday life of the city. For instance, seeing a carnival cabaret in Rio de Janeiro has its own special lure, but the ticket might be a bit much. Could you have spent the evening hopping around sampling street food, asking where the prettiest city parks or funkiest dive bars are, and interacted with the city? Everyone has their own different idea of a good time – just like locals. Chances are, the city you’re staying in runs a lot deeper than the tourism industries could ever advertise.
Be an Expense Expert
When traveling for business, it’s important to keep track of your per diem and organize receipts for your employer. However, sometimes per diems don’t cover entirely everything essential to your travels. For instance, due to whatever unforeseen circumstance, you might need to pay for internet use or printing costs prior to a business meeting (or risk losing an account). This would qualify as a business expense. If the company you work for has strict travel expense restrictions, seemingly interrogating you over each receipt, be familiar with the kind of expenses you can deduct from your income tax and keep your receipts separate.
Avoid the Usual Transportation Systems
Depending on the city, paying for bus rides, taxis, trams, and subways can run up a big bill. You also won’t learn as much about a city as if you get a little lost in it. Don’t hesitate to take the side streets or go an extra mile out of your way. You’ll get a feel for the pace of the city, the nature of commerce, and you might even spot a cozy little coffee shop or charming retail boutique to visit later. Use common sense when traveling alone or at night, and carry a phone with GPS/mapping just in case.
Always Carry Light Essentials
Messenger bags are popular accessories for business travelers – they’re like the swiss army knives of luggage. In foreign countries especially, shopping hours vary and you may not know exactly which store will carry what you need. To keep from having to spend more money than necessary for convenience, carry some of these essentials with you at all times:
- toiletries: tissues, deodorant, sanitizing wipes, a tampon (for women)
- tiny medicine cabinet: anti-diarrheal, ibuprofen, antacid
- miscellaneous: umbrella, protein snack (such as peanuts or a protein bar), cell phone charger and outlet adapter, water bottle
Depending on your destination, you might consider carrying a first aid kit, bug spray, and water purification tablets. Sometimes small injuries can blow out of proportion when you’re overseas and unfamiliar with the language. The last thing you want to have to worry about is spending the day in a doctors office or hospital, trying to communicate your condition effectively when you could be making a sale or enjoying your travels.
Guest author Malia Anderson is a freelance writer and frequent traveler. She still gets a kick out of sitting at the window seat in an airplane and hotel soaps.
Photo by evocateur, Flickr
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