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Mixing Business with Leisure: How to Take Advantage of Your Next Business Trip – Travelling for ‘Bleisure’

By Scott Dicken

Mixing Business with Leisure: How to Take Advantage of Your Next Business Trip – Travelling for ‘Bleisure’

When people hear that I have to travel a lot for work, and particularly when they hear that I spend a lot of that time in Sub-Saharan Africa, they imagine me spending ten minutes in the office followed by a two-week, five-star, safari with my employer footing the bill. Unfortunately, the reality doesn’t up to their imagination (but boy do I wish it did). The typical itinerary is that I spend ten hours in the office, followed by an evening dinner with a client. I then return to my hotel room, crack open my laptop, and stay awake until 1am catching up on my actual day-to-day workload. That itinerary is followed from the moment I land until the moment I leave.

Business in Africa? Combine it with a much-earned Safari

However, with limited personal travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and business travel likely to be the first travel sector to start back up (I took my first international business flight in 7 months just a couple of weeks ago) the idea of combining business and leisure in one trip to help mitigate the risks of multiple trips is likely to become ever more popular. By adjusting your work-life balance and putting business up front with some party at the back (yes, I did indeed slip in a mullet analogy), you too can reap the benefits of “bleisure”. Admittedly, it’s not always easy to pull off, and it depends how receptive to the concept your employer is. However, if you can manage it, then it will completely change your perception of business travel and allow you to visit more places, experience more cultures, and stretch your annual travel budget much further; all whilst mitigating some of the pandemic risks by limiting the number of individual trips you take for different purposes. So, what are some tips for successfully planning a bleisure trip? I’m glad you asked….

Asian layovers such as Hong Kong offer great tourism opportunities

1. Carefully Planning Flight Schedules and Layovers: Many employers will now give the green light for tagging leisure travel on to a trip if employees pay the difference in flight and hotel costs. To maximize your leisure time while minimizing cost, the key is to carefully plan your flight itinerary. Consider taking redeye flights to maximize your time in-country whilst reducing your hotel costs, check the cost of departing on different days of the week, and check if per-night hotel prices go down (or up) if you add a weekend stay.

2. Taking Advantage of Layovers: If you have two long-haul flights back-to-back then many employers will allow you to overnight in your layover destination. If they do, then take advantage: book a centrally located hotel and try to leave on a later flight so that you get as much time in your layover destination as possible. Also make sure that you pick a flight routing that has a layover in a ‘traveler friendly location’ i.e. one where the airport is close to the city with good public transport links and minimal visa fuss. If you do want to take advantage of a layover then try and pack light so that you only have carry-on baggage. There is nothing worse than trying to explore a city on a tight schedule while having to deal with large checked luggage. I know, it’s difficult (but possible) to pack for both business and pleasure with just carry-on without hitting the beach in a suit! Also, you might want to check out layover airport facilities and tour options. A great example is Seoul-Incheon airport where they offer (or at least did prior to the pandemic) free tours of the city for people with long layovers and deliver you right back to the airport when you’re done.

Combing business with a beach holiday is a great way to unwind

3. Utilizing Loyalty Programs: If you’re one of the lucky ones, where your employer lets you keep your airline miles and your loyalty points, then your business trip spending can ultimately help you pay for your leisure time. If you aren’t already signed up to travel-related loyalty programs, then this is probably the single biggest mistake you’re making! Consolidate your travel providers by picking an airline and airline network (my personal choice is Star Alliance), pick a business hotel chain (my go-to programs are Hilton and Marriott Bonvoy due to pure international coverage), a rental car company and, if your company doesn’t have a corporate credit card program, pick a credit card with a good rewards program (combine it with your airline miles program if you can as that consolidation will boost your rewards even further). Use your points to pay for regional flights, additional hotel nights, car rentals and activities. Personally, I’ve used my rewards program so that my wife could accompany me on a number of bleisure trips, including to Malawi and Nepal.


European gateways, such as London, have obvious tourist perks

Plan Ahead: When I first decided to combine business and leisure, I left the planning until I was sitting in the airport lounge. As a result, I had nothing booked or planned in advance and subsequently spent half a day trying to organize transport and tickets at my hotel (the concierge hated me as a result). What a waste of precious time! Planning will also avoid switching back to business mode (which, to many, is a natural tendency). If you’ve booked and paid for an activity then you have no excuse when you check that email “ping” on your phone.

5. Know When to Switch Off: One of the key dangers with bleisure travel is a complete and abject failure to actually switch from business to leisure (or accepting an invite from a client to show you around a city which inevitably ends up as a business meeting in a car). If you’re visiting clients, or an employer’s international office, then there is a strong chance that they know your itinerary without knowing that you’re actually planning on spending a portion of it for leisure. To ensure you can successfully make the switch to leisure, be up-front and make sure your client or employer knows that a portion of your trip is for leisure (at that point, if they know your schedule and still make you work then you’ve obviously done something to make them hate you). From experience, I can tell you that it might be the only way you don’t end up working through your leisure time or being invited to business lunches and dinners on your days off.

6. Check your Corporate Travel Policy or Switch Hotels: Some employers will let you use corporate rates for leisure trips. If you can then that’s great; it means you don’t have to switch hotels (unless of course you really want to stretch your travel budget further and the hotel is a five-star budget buster). If you have the luxury of choosing your own hotel then try and pick one that caters to both business and leisure travelers; they are more likely to be in sightseeing territory (which hopefully means you can walk right out of your hotel into the heart of things) and are more likely to have a concierge service or in-house tour operator that caters to tourism needs.

If you’re looking for destination ideas for your next bleisure adventure, then look no further than where you’ll find plenty of inspiration for your next layover or destination city break!

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