For most entrepreneurs, business always comes first.
That needs to be true even on “bizcations,” business trips-turned-vacations, says Chris Robinson, who worked for various tour operators, including Sunquest and Signature, for 25 years. Today, he runs his own travel consultancy and hosts the Chris Robinson Travel Show, a radio program featuring travel destinations around the world.
“Business always comes first,” says Mr. Robinson, who has travelled to some 150 countries. “That has got to be the rule.”
Business may be the priority, but combining work with pleasure when you find yourself in desirable destinations is a no-brainer, he adds. “If I wasn’t able to turn some of my trips into bizcations, I wouldn’t have been seeing my wife and kids,” he says.
He’s not alone. A recent survey commissioned by Hilton Hotels shows that 67 per cent of its frequent customers sometimes or frequently combine a business and leisure trip.
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There are a number of ways to add vacation time to a standard business trip, says Anne Barclay, an independent agent with Travel Professionals International. About 60 per cent of her travellers are corporate clients.
For example, she has routed clients through cities where they want to make the best of a stopover and stay for a few days. She recently did this for clients who were flying to Australia. “Instead of going through Vancouver, we had them go through Los Angeles, where they spent a week.”
Equally as easy is planning your business trip toward the end of the week, so that you can extend your stay for the weekend, she says.
Mr. Robinson has allowed for pleasure mid-business trip by allowing time between destinations. “The first time I got to see the Parthenon in Greece I was on a business trip,” he says. “I had two days of meetings on two Greek islands. I arranged my flights to have enough time to rush from the airport to go see the Parthenon and then back to the airport to continue my business trip. It is tiring but it’s worthwhile when you get to see something awe-inspiring.”
If you’re travelling to meet work associates in their home country, expressing a desire to experience the destination can be a good idea, provided the nature of the trip allows for some down time. “Your hosts will often be proud to show you their sights,” he says.
Bringing family along on a business trip may seem like the perfect way to combine business with pleasure. But there are a few rules every business traveller should follow, says Mr. Robinson.
For starters, make sure your company knows that you’ve invited a spouse on the trip.
“Never plan stowaways on the business trip,” he says. “It’s tempting to say, ‘Who would know if my partner is there?’ Just make it official and make sure the corporation is on side with you.” You’ll make a poor impression if your boss gets the idea you were trying to sneak your partner on the trip behind his or her back.
What’s more, if your company makes last-minute itinerary changes they will make travel for your partner awkward. Mr. Robinson also recommends being vigilant about distinguishing between personal and business expenses when travelling with a partner.
Some businesses that allow employees to travel business class will also allow them to turn in the higher-fare ticket for two economy-class seats, says Ms. Barclay.
Other businesses simply provide a travel allowance and leave it up to the employee to decide how to spend it. “They could work it using cheaper airlines and hotels and then manage to take a spouse for little or no cost,” she says, adding that a traveller should have permission from their company before trying either of these ideas.
Mr. Robinson suggests inviting a partner to join you at the end of a business trip, rather than have him or her there during the trip. “There’s no point in bringing a partner along if you know you are going to be working very intensely,” he says.
If your partner is there while you’re doing business, he recommends being clear before the trip even begins on when you’ll be available to spend time together. “You need to remember that business comes first, but so do they,” he says.
He especially recommends against bringing children along while you’re working, suggesting having them join you at the end of the business portion of the trip instead. “Younger children just don’t get why they don’t have total availability of their mom and dad,” he says. “They’re on holiday, why aren’t you?”
Rather than having his own children, who are now 15 and 20, join him on work trips, Mr. Robinson has often used business trips as an opportunity to research a destination for future family vacations. “It can be a great test for what’s right for you and your family for a future trip.”