Business travel can be a nightmare, with flight delays, lost luggage, bad food choices and lengthy time away from home. But road warriors who embrace trips by tacking on some personal time may find that travel can be turned into a perk.
“Blurring lines between leisure and business travel — often referred to as ‘bleisure’ travel — has become more popular over the past few years,” Ripsy Bandourian, senior director of product development at Booking.com for Business, said in an email.
Citing statistics from a recent survey of business travelers by Booking.com for Business, Bandourian noted that “69% extend a business trip by a few hours or days to enjoy the city, while 73% make time for leisure activities within a trip.”
If you're considering a hybrid business-personal trip, here's what to keep in mind.
The benefits of 'bleisure'
First, a caveat: Review your company’s travel policy to ensure that adding on personal days to a business trip is not a violation. If it's not forbidden, then you can begin to consider the possibilities.
Veteran traveler Oscar Yuan — president of Ipsos Strategy3, an international consulting firm — says he logs more than 250,000 miles a year around the globe. “It’s a great perk to be able to tack on leisure travel. Aside from being able to enjoy exploring a new place, it’s a money-saving strategy for the company.”
Yuan, who was interviewed during a layover at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, says flights may be cheaper on a weekend than on a Monday morning. So he often flies to a desired destination to spend the weekend, then heads to his business meetings in that same locale once the workweek gets underway. He notes that even adding the cost of a hotel room for a weekend night typically won’t equal the cost of weekday flight.
And it's not just when you arrive, but how you get there, too.
"In Europe, a lot of the cities are expensive to fly to," Yuan says. "Geneva, for example, is expensive to get to. I go to Paris for the weekend and then take the train to Geneva, and it ends up saving money for the company.”
There's an upside for the traveler beyond all the sightseeing: Traveling to a destination ahead of time will give international businesspeople a window to adjust to a time change before their workweek starts.
When Yuan plans leisure travel before business, “you get to the meetings refreshed and with a good point of view.”
Bandourian wrote that more than half of employees surveyed in the Booking.com for Business report said “adding leisure time to a business trip makes them more successful in their business meetings.”
4 tips for bleisure travel
If you plan to blend your business and leisure travel, here's how to make it a win for you and your company.
Get to know Google Flights
Yuan says Google Flights “allows you to find all the cities, and the fares, near your destination. It’s a great way to tag on other travel.”
He recalls one of his most memorable bleisure trips. “I had several meetings in Jakarta, and I thought, ‘Where can I go for the weekend before?’” Through Google Flights, he found that he could fly from Jakarta, Indonesia, to Bali for less than $100. “If I’m flying for 24 hours to get to Jakarta from the United States, I want to go ahead of time. So I spent the weekend in Bali, and it was also the weekend of my birthday.”
Get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
For frequent travelers, TSA PreCheck or Global Entry is essential for expediting the security check. You don’t need to remove your shoes or belt, and you can keep your 3.4-ounce liquids in your bag and your computer safely in its case. TSA PreCheck costs $85 for five years and Global Entry is $100 for five years. (Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck.)
Several popular travel rewards cards, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and The Platinum Card® from American Express, reimburse cardholders for these fees.
Reach elite status in an airline’s loyalty program
“If you don’t have status on an airline, get that first,” Yuan says. Elite status in a frequent flyer program gives you airport lounge access, priority boarding, complimentary upgrades and more. When you’re on long-haul flights or visiting multiple cities, these luxuries can make travel a better experience.
Watch your expense report
Keeping your personal expenses separate from your business expenses is a no-brainer.
“We’ve found that many employees will have two separate credit cards — one for business expenses and one for personal expenses — which makes it easier for reporting purposes,” Bandourian wrote.
Again, make sure you review your company's rules and guidelines regarding travel first.