Sometimes airports bring to mind a horde of mice on a treadmill. Everyone's running in circles, and late getting there. The food isn't very good, and is served in such small portions. Ever felt slightly trapped? So have I.
It got me thinking about how to build myself a better trip than trap.
For me, the way off the treadmill has been to make business trips less of a rat race. Mixing business with pleasure is supposed to be a no-no, but I'm sure the person who thought up that rule hadn't dealt much with airlines.
In fact, if you travel as much as I do, you get philosophical. As they say in business, my philosophy "aligns" with what John Lennon said about the time-stressed: "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
The road warrior who is less warrior and more philosopher-king knows pleasurable business is not only possible, it is positively the only way to travel. I believe you can easily make a point of seeing one new thing in each new city on every business trip you take. It merely requires determination and planning, qualities every road warrior has in abundance.
Being away on business shouldn't mean doing away with enjoyment. It should mean doing things differently. By that I mean doing and seeing the stuff that wouldn't be on the agenda of a family trip. So, maybe your kids are too young to take in the ballet or opera or the latest pop art exhibition. But why should you put off until the kids grow up chances to see and do those things? Being on your own hook gives you the opportunity to indulge.
Are you a list-maker? One of my many lists is of spots I want to see, or things I want to do, before that last trip. I get great satisfaction from checking off a place I've previously only dreamed of experiencing. While some are off the beaten path, many checkmarks may be found in cities I frequent on business.
How many times have you told yourself, "I'll come back some other time," but you never have? Too often for comfort, I'll bet. Life goes fast. So start that life list of dream destinations. A great guide to getting going is Patricia Schultz's 1000 Places to See Before You Die: A Traveler's Life List.
If you're in sync with my Beatles philosophy, take it a step further. As they say in show biz, break a leg -- a leg of your trip, that is. If you do your research, you'll discover that you often can book an overnight in another city along the way without a change in ticket price. If you're flying internationally, say, to Hong Kong, you may be able to book a free stopover in Tokyo. Check with your airline to see which cities qualify for stopovers. Realize it's a myth that adding a city makes a business trip more expensive; actually, you can save money breaking a leg in your itinerary if you book at the right travel times.
Realize too that every business trip is a chance to reconnect with old friends or connect with new ones Business travel gives you an unmatched opportunity to keep your network alive and growing.
I especially love to use my trips as a way to prospect cities. No, I'm not looking for gold, but for how a new city matches up against what they say about it in the guidebook. Since I am already there, I want to stop and decide for myself whether it would be a good place to return to with my family and friends.
A final philosophical note: When I'm traveling with colleagues, I recognize we're spending important social time together. Working in a strange city can be a real team-building experience. Often the best times are when the team is taking a time-out to go golfing, try a new restaurant, or see a show. These are activities that many tunnel-visioned road warriors wouldn't think of adding to their itinerary. Be different. Take off the blinders and start enjoying the biz travel life.
Following are websites that have helped me build a better business trip.
Find a movie, pick a restaurant, get a haircut.
Lets you download city guides on your PDA.
Great menu sample pages and prices in Chicago, SF, Boston, Philly, NYC.
Terrific restaurant reviews.
View a restaurant and make reservations.
When a taxi is not enough.
Destination reviews and recommendations from real travelers like you.