I remember my first trip to Istanbul vividly. I served on the planning team for an international meeting co-hosted by my USA-based company and our Turkish partner organization, which gave me the chance to fly to Istanbul to assist with final meeting preparations and to attend the event we worked so hard to create. After a grueling ten-hour flight in the back part of the coach cabin, my coworkers and I emerged from the plane ready for a nap and a great first meal in a new city. Within two hours we arrived at our hotel and were just a few strides away from the check in desk when we were intercepted.
“Welcome to Istanbul! Are you ready to join your colleagues at the convention center?” The woman standing in front of me—a fellow co-host for the event—was ready to escort us to the meeting location to get to work. Acknowledging a relaxing dinner wasn’t in our immediate future, we rushed to check into our rooms, and it wasn’t long before we were already at work to finalize the meeting’s last few details.
Little did I know it would be a full seven days before we would see daylight again. Each morning we awoke before the sun, arrived at the convention center, and worked until late in the evening. When the meeting ended on the last day of our visit, we had one nice dinner—the only true sit-down meal of our time in Istanbul—before we were too tired to do anything more than return to the hotel, repack our suitcases, and sleep until it was time to leave for the airport the next morning. As the plane took off and I watched Istanbul disappear below the clouds, I realized my visit was shortchanged—and it was all my fault. Why hadn’t I budgeted an extra day or two to see the Hagia Sofia or the Grand Bazaar? Why was I rushing home without ever really seeing such an exciting, historical city?It’s like they say: all work and no play will make your life awfully dull. For many of us—and certainly for Adam and me—vacations are our favorite way to hit the pause button and explore, learn, and enjoy the world away from our computer screens. Finding the time to do that can be a major challenge, though; in addition to finding the time for a trip, budgeting for one can make a vacation seem far out of reach. That’s why it’s not surprising that we’re seeing a new type of traveler emerge from the crowds: the bleisure traveler.
Are you a bleisure traveler—or are you considering a different approach to maximizing your vacation time? If so, this is the guide for you!
What Is Bleisure Travel?
In the same way that a weekend spent exploring your own hometown could be considered a “staycation”—a vacation in which you stay home—the portmanteau bleisure mixes a business trip with leisure travel. If you think about it, bleisure travel makes sense; when a business trip sends you away from home, it becomes a great opportunity to spend a little extra time in a new or favorite place to explore or even simply rest and recharge. Some of my earliest business trips morphed into bleisure trips, especially as I developed an interest in travel and ignited my passion for making the most of my vacation time. There are so many times when a business trip can take you somewhere wonderful, and because your schedule is full you don’t have time to truly enjoy it. Bleisure travel carves out time to make the most of the experience.
Bleisure travelers are primarily business travelers. When your company sends you to a meeting with clients or a conference, that’s first and foremost a business trip. You are representing your company in an official capacity, and typically your company pays for major elements of the trip including your flight, hotel, ground transportation, and occasionally meals and other incidentals. If you elect to extend your stay beyond the time and duties required by your company, the trip converts into a bleisure trip. For example, if your conference ends on a Thursday and you want to stay for a few extra days to lay by the pool, check out a few local museums, or catch up with friends your business trip converts to bleisure travel—you conduct your official business and you enjoy some leisure time during the same trip.
Benefits to Bleisure Travel
There are some major benefits to making your next business trip a bleisure trip.
► You’ll maximize your vacation time
One of the biggest time investments we make on vacation is the time it takes to get to our destination. Sometimes it can take one or two full vacation days to get where we want to go, which means less time is available to spend enjoying your time off. Bleisure travel eliminates some of that challenge. Because travel time doesn’t require you to use a vacation day, you can conserve your vacation time and invest it fully into the leisure portion of your trip.
► You’ll manage your stress betterBusiness trips can be challenging for many people. They take us away from home, put us into new situations, and they can involve working long hours. That’s why so many people return home exhausted after a business trip, and that’s why bleisure travel can be so important. Taking an extra day or two to decompress is a wonderful stress management tool. When your official business is over, instead of rushing to the airport to contend with crowds and flight delays, it can be refreshing to take a walk, check out some local sights, or even return to the hotel for a nap. You’ll afford yourself the time and space to decompress, process your experience, and relax before returning to the office.
► You might like your job more
A 2014 report published by BridgeStreet Global Hospitality revealed that 78% of workers who added a few extra days to a business trip added value to their work assignment. When an employee feels they are doing important work, they are much more likely to remain in their position or with their company, which means retention rates are higher. Happy workers don’t quit their jobs as often as unhappy workers do; if you are happy at work, your company benefits as well. A little vacation time might be just the component you need!
► You might gain more cultural awareness
If you visit a new city or country as part of a business trip, there’s a good chance you will encounter cultures that are different from those you are exposed to at home. Diversity is a major theme in our society, and the opportunity to experience and appreciate different ways of life can only benefit you. The BridgeStreet Global Hospitality report also shares that a staggering 97% of survey respondents confirmed that they gain cultural experiences and knowledge when engaging in bleisure travel. These experiences can improve your time in any city you visit, and what you learn will benefit both you and your company when you return to work.
Ready to plan a bleisure trip and make the most of bleisure travel’s benefits? Here are our tips and tricks for bleisure travel success!
Questions to Ask Before Your Trip
► What policies related to bleisure travel are in place?
While not every company has a specific bleisure vacation policy in place, it’s a good idea to talk with your boss or human resources department about any company policies that might impact your trip. Educate yourself on expected conduct, reimbursements, and other factors that you should be aware of before you set up your out-of-office notification.
► Who is responsible for paying for the trip?In addition to your company’s travel policies, know the specifics when it comes to how your trip is financed. If you stay an extra night or two in a hotel, will your company pay for those charges or will you be responsible for them? If there is a price difference between an earlier or later flight, will you be required to pay for the additional amount? Ask questions and be sure you understand information provided to you about meals, rental cars, and other fees that your company may not pay for if you extend your trip into bleisure travel territory. A good rule of thumb is to budget for all expenses incurred after your official business is complete. If you are concerned that there may be confusion later on, be sure to get all policies or information in writing so you can reference it when you complete an expense report or submit receipts for reimbursement.
► Who is responsible for planning the trip?
When it comes to making travel arrangements, most companies have policies or travel agents who guide or assist with flights, hotels, and other details. Bleisure travel can complicate these arrangements, especially if your company is paying some of the cost and you are responsible for the balance. Be sure to confirm your plans before making nonrefundable arrangements on your own.
► How can you prepare for your time away from the office?
When it comes to bleisure travel—and vacation time in general—many people feel guilty about spending time away from the office. It’s especially true in the USA; American vacation culture leads workers to feel guilty when they take time off due to concerns about how that time off will be perceived—they worry they will appear less dedicated and less motivated than their colleagues. Don’t feel guilty about using your vacation time! You work hard to earn time off, and that time off is essential to establishing work-life balance and keeping you mentally and physically healthy.
When you are preparing to extend a business trip by adding leisure travel to your itinerary, transparency is the best strategy. Tell your boss and your co-workers about your plans as soon as you make them. Be proactive about getting your work done so you don’t miss deadlines or force others to take on your projects. Send out reminders as your trip approaches and invite your team to check in with you so you can answer questions or provide information before you leave. In addition to securing your knowledge that you are caught up on your work before your trip, your colleagues will appreciate your efforts—and you won’t need to worry about looking undedicated or unmotivated.
Making the Most of Your Bleisure Trip
When it’s time to take your bleisure trip, remember that your commitment to the business component is the most important factor. Don’t neglect your responsibilities by blowing off meetings, arriving late, or leaving early. You might be excited to check out a local concert or performance, but that’s no excuse for showing up late or tired to your business meeting the next morning. Fulfill all of your professional commitments in accordance with the expectations set for you by your boss or your company.When your work is done, though, don’t feel guilty about the leisure part of your bleisure trip! Because you prepared well for your time out of the office, consider disconnecting your work email so you aren’t tempted to respond to requests. Focus on enjoying your time off. Research local attractions or activities that sound interesting to you before you leave or during your breaks. Treat your bleisure travel like any other vacation—do your homework and know how you want to spend your time so you can make the most of it when you’re on vacation!
Returning Home After Your Bleisure Trip
All good trips must come to an end, and your bleisure travel will ultimately return you to your office and all of the to-do lists that come with it. Consider blocking off the morning of your first day back to go through your inbox, process your receipts and compile your expense report, return missed calls, and make a plan for getting back on track. You will undoubtedly be behind on some projects, and reserving some time to catch up will help you establish a plan before being inundated with requests. A big benefit to bleisure travel is stress management—don’t let your first day back in the office erase the relaxation you enjoyed during your vacation!
Examples of Bleisure Trips
I’ve taken plenty of bleisure trips, and no two trips have been the same. Sometimes planning for extra time off is easy, sometimes it’s a little more complicated, and sometimes it’s completely unexpected. Here are a few examples of how I have incorporated bleisure travel into my work and life.
► Planned Bleisure Travel: South America 2011
When I worked for an international nonprofit in 2011 one of my responsibilities involved traveling to conferences around the world. One trip took me to Mar del Plata, Argentina, a lovely resort town several hours south of Buenos Aires. I flew into Buenos Aires a few days early to see the city, and I also spent a day in Montevideo, Uruguay (just a terrifying ferry ride away from Buenos Aires!). After sightseeing and eating my way through two exciting cities, I was more than ready to focus on representing my company well at the conference. I arrived rested and relaxed, and because I had already explored some of Argentina I was able to have great conversations with local conference participants who appreciated my knowledge and interest in their country.
► Unexpected Bleisure Travel: Fort Worth 2016
I didn’t plan to spend any extra time in Fort Worth, Texas after a business trip took me there in January 2016. In fact, I couldn’t wait to get out of Fort Worth; a huge winter storm was headed for Washington, DC, and I knew if I didn’t get on a flight the day the conference ended I would be stuck there for a long time. Sure enough my flight was cancelled, and along with 100 friends and colleagues from across the USA I settled in to make the most of an unanticipated long weekend in Fort Worth. In the end it wasn’t bad at all; I slept in late, had great meals, and experienced my first honky tonk bar. I spent a day exploring museums and parks in Dallas. I also strengthened relationships with the wonderful people I worked with each day, which made the whole experience a lot of fun. Best of all, I didn’t have to shovel my driveway—although I felt bad for Adam, who was stuck at home by himself!
► Extreme Bleisure: Asia and Europe 2011I was on the road more than I was home in 2011, and part of the reason was an extended bleisure trip I crafted thanks to two poorly timed trips. My company scheduled me to attend two conferences in August 2011—one in Beijing, China and one in Paris, France. With less than two weeks between them, it seemed foolish to fly all the way back to Washington, DC just to get on another plane a few weeks later. My solution was to use ten vacation days to extend my trip into a monster bleisure trip. Joined by my friend Holly, I started my trip in Beijing with a five-day conference. After a couple of extra days touring the city and the Great Wall of China, we flew to Bangkok and joined a G Adventures trip that took us through Thailand and Cambodia before reaching Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Holly flew back to the USA, and I flew to Paris for my next business engagement. The conference ended in the middle of the week, and I wove my way from Paris to Brussels, Luxembourg, and Amsterdam before repatriating a month after my first plane took off. It was a complicated, tiring, incredible experience; I returned home with a greater understanding of how to face adversity, a deep appreciation for the people and cultures I encountered, and the commitment to never let another vacation day go to waste.
(One of the best parts of this trip? I had an extended layover on my way from Vietnam to France—in Istanbul! After spending a week there the year before and not seeing a single attraction, I had an incredible eight hour visit that made up for the disappointment I experienced during my first visit. I had to smile when the trip that started my interest in bleisure travel finally came full circle with a return visit on a bleisure trip!)
If you have a business trip on your calendar, consider converting it into a bleisure travel adventure. With the right preparation, you can maximize your vacation time by taking advantage of planned travel opportunities, and you can enjoy some astonishing benefits as a result.
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