If you ever feel like you’re losing your penchant for work-related travel, you’re not alone.
Hitting the road can be exhausting, not to mention expensive. And for startup leaders, the pressure to justify the ROI of each trip can feel like a heavy weight. But for all the stress it causes, extensive business travel can also be incredibly beneficial — both personally and professionally.
Ninety-four percent of business leaders in the U.S. say they have a competitive edge over their colleagues because they’re well-traveled.
It’s easy to view business travel as a necessary evil, but by finding little vacation moments during each trip, you’ll see the value in traveling, stay motivated to keep going, and avoid getting bogged down by work demands.
Finding the Joy in Business Travel
Admittedly, I’m no stranger to travel burnout. In the past month, I have flown seven times for work and have even driven from Los Angeles to San Diego to make a late dinner and early breakfast.
Laundry issues aside, all that travel was exhausting. I felt pressured to squeeze as much into the trips as possible to justify the cost of flights, hotels, cabs, food, and incidentals. But through it all, I also learned how to enjoy my time on the road.
Here are five travel tips I recommend for any road warrior:
People often assume they need to be “on” the whole time they’re traveling, but this is completely untrue. Find time to relax. Treat travel days like typical workdays. Don’t overexert yourself. Carve out time in the mornings or evenings to call your loved ones or go sightseeing. Giving yourself time to relax will help you focus on the tasks at hand and add value to your meetings.
Know your diminishing rates of return.
When you book a 7 a.m. flight so you can make a 10 a.m. meeting, an afternoon meeting, and a dinner event — all in the hopes of heading home on another early flight — you’re probably not operating at 100 percent. Rushing around won’t bring any value to your customers, vendors, or partners.
Spend some time in your hotel, find a coffee shop where you can catch up on emails, or jump on a treadmill at the hotel gym. Mental breaks will do wonders for your ability to accomplish the goals of your trip.
Dine at a fancy restaurant, cheer on a local sports team, or take in the sights. You can use services like AnyRoad or YPlan to find events that strike your fancy. Set a goal you must reach to earn your reward; dangling that carrot in front of yourself will help you get through the day.
Capitalize on perks.
Traveling for work comes with some great perks. For one, you can accumulate points and raise your status with different brands. Personally, I get really excited about hotel rewards, which can include enhanced Internet options, expedited check-ins, room upgrades, welcome gifts, and more.
I also enjoy the Fastbreak program from Budget, one of our partners, which has my car ready for me when I arrive without my having to go into the rental building or wait in line. Those little perks make traveling much more enjoyable. You can also rack up frequent flier miles with your tickets and credit card purchases, as well as points for your company, with a corporate travel program like Business Extra by American Airlines.
Combine work with play.
My favorite trips start on Mondays or end on Fridays. I can easily extend the trip into the weekend and enjoy exploring a new city for a relatively low out-of-pocket cost. If you can take along family or friends, any extra nights in the hotel will lead to more brand rewards.
I’ve been lucky enough recently to meet with family and friends in multiple cities to check out local sights, such as when I went up the Space Needle in Seattle with my sister and her family.
A lot of services can help you get a local’s perspective on businesses in the area or find events with last-minute availability. For example, Fandeavor will help you create a customized travel experience by allowing you to book tickets, hotel rooms, transportation, and airfare all in one place.
Business travel doesn’t have to be all work and no play. Make each trip an adventure — a way to grow both personally and professionally. Know your limits so you don’t overdo it, and take advantage of all the opportunities extensive travel offers. With a positive outlook and the promise of downtime, you’ll make each business trip a new adventure.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Aleda Schaffer is a strategic partnerships manager at American Airlines. Through the Innovators Initiative at American, her team supports startups with travel grants, marketing exposure, and partnership opportunities. Connect with @americanair on Twitter.