You don’t always have a lot of free time on your international business trip (despite what people may think), but every so often, you may be lucky enough to have a meeting on a Friday and a meeting on a Monday and no plans in-between. This can be a wonderful opportunity to explore a different part of the world and to gain priceless memories. But sometimes after planning the work portion of your business trip, you may have forgotten to plan for the weekend. Here are my key pieces of advice for researching what to do, even at the last minute.
How to Make Your Business Trip a Million Times More Fun
1. Read hotel reviews
I find that reading a few pages of the reviews on TripAdvisor about the hotel, even while I’m already staying there, often gleans some very useful information such as “They have a free shuttle to this tourist destination” or “The concierge desk was able to recommend a day-tour company that was affordable,” or “A really good restaurant is within walking distance.” Reading other reviewers’ experiences can help give you ideas.
2. Use your human resources
Hotel employees are generally a great resource (except if they are not from the local area) – if there is something you want to do, go and ask if your guidebook has it right. You might find after talking to the hotel employee that the market you wished to visit is actually only open on Sundays or that tomorrow is a holiday and you should just go this evening instead. Likewise, at the end of a business meeting, if you feel comfortable with your international colleagues, say: “I actually have a day off tomorrow. Is there anything special you recommend I do?” You’ll definitely get different insights from your foreign counterparts than an outdated guidebook, and you may get a more authentic experience as well!
3. Use Social media
Get on Twitter and Instagram and search for the city that you’re in or follow local tourist offices’ accounts. Looking at others’ photos or posts can give you great ideas about what to expect. I often also ‘like’ the hotels’ Facebook pages ahead of time so that I can see when they post local events. You also might want to make a post such as “Here for a long weekend! Any suggestions for a first time visitor?” and tag the Twitter handle of a tourist office or your hotel, and often they will retweet to their followers and garner suggestions. (Hint: I also tweet the hotel and let them know I’m excited to stay with them!)
4. Get your Google on
Although it’s a little cheesy, looking up “top things to do in_____” can actually give you a great starting point to start to see what consistently comes up and what is a reasonable amount of things you can get done in a day. I also find the search term “24 hours in _____” to be useful, although sometimes those types of articles focus a lot on food and drink. Looking at the “Activities” page of a TripAdvisor destination quite useful – I just scroll through all the activities until I see one that looks interesting. This is how I found out about the beautiful Parque Lage in Rio de Janeiro – a beautiful peaceful park with little caves and winding paths and monkeys hiding behind palm trees, but not a spot that’s often mentioned in standard travel articles.
5. Choose a starting point and then wander
In metropolitan areas, just ask your hotel if it’s safe and/or recommended to walk around your hotel, and they will point you in the right direction. During a prior business trip, I stumbled upon wonderful little souvenir shops, artisan storefronts, and delicious coffee houses this way. Alternatively, take a taxi or public transportation to a starting point (for instance: the town square or a shopping district) and then just explore on foot. You may stumble across some wonderful surprises.
6. Follow your heart
My first time in Hong Kong, I didn’t actually spend that much time in the typical Hong Kong areas – instead, I took a cable car to Lantau Island to see the huge Buddha statue there. It was an incredible experience, but it’s not the first on the list of things to do in Hong Kong if you look it up online – many sites assume you want to stay super close to your hotel. But I really wanted to see it, and after doing some research, I found out it was perfectly possibly to get there and back in a half-day excursion, and quite easy. I’m really glad I followed my heart as I had no regrets about visiting beautiful Lantau Island and I highly recommend it to any Hong Kong visitor. So if there’s something you really want to do or that speaks to you, don’t feel guilty for not rushing around to see other touristic stuff that you’re really not interested in.
7. Check out some guided tours
There are some experiences that it may be more cost efficient or safer to pay for a guided tour. Viator is a great website I use to check out the options, as well as inquiring at the hotel desk. You can pay for a cooking class, go on a boat tour of a seaside city, hire a private driver, or perhaps have a wine tasting tour. The options are limitless and sometimes the guided tours are great options to reach destinations that are a little further away and hard to get to without your own car. It can also be nice to have someone else take care of the transportation and make sure you see as much as possible in 8 hours if you’re short of time. I’ve had great experiences doing independent sightseeing as well as small group sightseeing.
8. Listen to your body
If you’ve been going non-stop for a week and are feeling unwell, consider if you are really and truly interested in exploring, or whether you just feel you “have” to. At some point, your health is more important than that photo-op. If all you want to do is take decongestant and snuggle in your comfy hotel bed, give yourself permission to spend a weekend morning doing so. I promise you it’s okay! A good rest can do wonders to reinvigorate yourself – and don’t forget you need to hit the ground running on Monday morning. Don’t overtire yourself out so much on the weekend that you’re a poor business traveler for the next week.
I hope you have a wonderful weekend on your next global business trip adventure, and let me know what fantastic sites you visit!
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