How (and Why!) to Work Fun Into Your Business Travel

By Emma Hickey

Business travel may seem glamorous to those who don’t do it often, but the road warriors out there know there’s a big difference between traveling for pleasure and for work. Often times, a business trip is nothing more than a long plane ride, followed by a few meetings, one or two nights in a hotel, then an immediate return flight home. Business travel can be so draining, and also boring, that it leads to employee burnout. There’s even a business travel-specific name for it—traveler friction—and Millennials are one of the groups that are most susceptible.

According to MMGY Global, today Millennials are the people who travel the most for business. The average business traveler took 6.8 trips in 2018, with the breakdown being Baby Boomers at 6.3 trips, Gen Xers at 6.4 trips, and Millennials at 7.4 trips. And not only are Millennials traveling the most for business, putting them at risk of traveler friction, they’re also already a pretty burned out group. In the viral BuzzFeed News piece “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation,” journalist Anne Helen Petersen explains in great detail the many ways Millennials have been taught to optimize every aspect of their lives without any relief, and how that inevitably leads to psychological burnout. Petersen writes:

As American business became more efficient, better at turning a profit, the next generation needed to be positioned to compete. We couldn’t just show up with a diploma and expect to get and keep a job that would allow us to retire at 55. In a marked shift from the generations before, millennials needed to optimize ourselves to be the very best workers possible...All of this optimization — as children, in college, online — culminates in the dominant millennial condition, regardless of class or race or location: burnout.

Millennials are taught to go, go, go, and never stop hustling, and when you combine that attitude with the already-exhausting-in-and-of-itself practice of business travel, you end up with a burned out team, or burned out yourself.

The larger condition of Millennial burnout is a big one to tackle, but there are definitely things you can do to bring some fun into your business travel and mitigate business travel-specific traveler friction. Here are some tips!

Schedule Downtime

Part of the problem with business travel is that because you’re traveling for work, you end up feeling like you’re on the clock for the entire trip. After a normal work day, you might go home and watch TV or go out to dinner or catch a movie, but when you’re traveling for business, you’re more inclined to keep working once the day is over. You’re already out of your routine, so why not fill your extra time in the day with more work? This is why you have to schedule downtime. In the absence of your regular routine, you’ll lean into what you have already been doing all day—working—and you’ll never get the chance to fully decompress. Losing out on that relaxation time might seem fine in the moment, but it’s the kind of thing that compounds and eventually leads to burnout. So make sure to book yourself some relaxation time when you’re traveling for work. Mentally block it off—after 5pm, or 6 or 7, you will watch TV just like you would at home, or you’ll read a book, or you’ll go to bed early. Give yourself the space to catch your breath and you’ll feel much more refreshed in the morning and over the course of the long term.

Book Your Hotel Wisely

Of course there are parameters to follow when booking a hotel for a business trip, but within the bounds of your company’s travel policy, why not have some fun with it? If you have the option to choose between three hotels, take an extra minute or two to research which one is in the best location, or which one has a hot tub, or which one has a gym, or which one has the best continental breakfast. You may have to travel for work, but if you have choices between hotels, you don’t have to stay in the worst one. Do your research and give yourself the best of your options.

Check Out the Amenities Your Hotel Has to Offer

Ok, great, you chose a hotel within your budget that’s close to your worksite and also has a nice sauna. Make sure you use it! With Petersen’s article in mind, don’t worry about orienting every moment of your business trip towards work and optimizing every minute of the day. Take some time for yourself just as you would at home, and enjoy your hotel amenities. If you’re not sure what kinds of amenities your hotel offers, take the time to look into it. There are a lot of negatives to being away from home for a night, but one of the positives is that your home probably doesn’t have anywhere near the facilities of your hotel. Investigate what your hotel has to offer and take advantage of it.

Eat Dinner at a Good Restaurant

You’re in a new place, probably one with a different local cuisine than what you’re used to, or at least different local hot spots. Take yourself out to experience something delicious, or if it has to be something mediocre, at least let it be something new. Researching nearby restaurants, or popular local haunts, before your trip can help you be prepared and motivate you to actually go out for dinner, but you’d do just as well to ask someone. Maybe someone who works in the office you’re visiting, or a fellow conference attendee, or even the person behind the hotel reception desk. Actively seek out a place for dinner, and instead of ordering room service or eating a Subway sandwich, treat yourself.

Check Out StubHub and Facebook for Local Events

A new city means a whole new crop of sports teams, theaters and events. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, a soccer fan, a lacrosse fan, an ultimate frisbee fan, or a fan of whatever seems to be the popular sporting event in the place you’ve traveled, consider going. It’ll give you a peek into the culture of the city and it’ll be something out of the ordinary for you to do. It’ll also give you much better story material for your return home than a tale about picking up a rental car, driving it to the hotel, and then returning it. Maybe there’s a thriving local arts scene you could check out, or some kind of fair, rodeo, or carnival in town that you’d never have known about if you hadn’t gone looking. Even if you’ve traveled not to a city at all but rather a small town, you might be surprised by what they have to offer. Take a look online and see what’s out there. Doing something different while traveling for business can help break up the monotony and prevent burnout.  

Check Out Networking Opportunities

If you’re traveling for a conference, or some kind of work event, there are probably networking opportunities outside of business hours. While this tip is more based in your professional life than the others, networking doesn’t have to be a continuation of your workday. It can be a great way to meet people with whom you might have something in common, and it can be a great way to avoid spending a whole evening alone, which is a major contributor to traveler friction and burnout. And who knows? You may even get a free drink or two out of it!

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