Travel doesn’t always equal vacation.
Sometimes it’s all business. Sometimes—more often than ever these days–it’s a bit of both.
I have a friend who has seen the world this way. As her work requires her to travel to a different country at least four times a year, she adds a few days (or more) onto the end of each trip to explore the destination on her own. As her flight has already been covered by her employer, it’s an especially economical way to see countries that might be very expensive to get to.
Marketers have coined the term “bleisure travel” to refer to people who combine business trips with leisure time. In a recent study, 46% of respondents indicated that they add personal travel days onto business trips.
For some of us, especially those who are self-employed and/or working online, the separation between work and play can be much less precise. Rather than, say, 3 days of business followed by 2 days of vacation, the entire 5 days can involve moving back and forth between the two.
Travel planning can be a little different when it involves both business and pleasure. Here are a few things to consider when planning solo bleisure travel.
5 Tips for Solo Bleisure Travel
- Take advantage of airport lounges. Whether you can claim this as a business expense or not, I consider it a worthwhile investment. I always fly economy and don’t have any special perks afforded to me by credit cards or the like, so I purchase access to Plaza Premium lounges. For about the cost of an airport restaurant lunch, you get 3 hours of quiet, comfortable seating, private washrooms, free WiFi, at-seat electrical outlets, and unlimited hot/cold food buffet and drinks (including alcohol). I use the time to complete some work, have a bite or a nap, or research my destination. Check out Cheap Access to Lounge Luxury: 5 Tips to read more about getting this little bit of luxury for less.
- Do your research. You don’t want to waste precious time figuring out what you want to see and do once your work is done. A bit of advance planning will save you time at your destination. You can check out our Destinations page to see if another reader has been there and shared their story, or post a question on the Solo Travel Society facebook community to get recommendations from fellow solo travelers. Seek out local newspapers or blogs with online event listings to see what’s happening on the dates that you will be in town, and even book tickets in advance if you like. And once there, take advantage of the knowledge and experience of hotel staff, taxi drivers, and other locals to help you discover hidden gems.
- Choose a hotel that caters to both business and leisure. For me, strong, free WiFi is essential. Nothing irritates me more than a weak signal or a $25 fee for the privilege of accessing it in my room. I recently stayed at the Springhill Suites Hotel in Alexandria, Virginia: this hotel ticked a lot of boxes for me. Strong in-room wireless internet access; a well-designed, ergonomic desk chair; ample desk space which could be open to, or divided from the sleeping area via a moveable partition; a separate seating area for relaxing; and a bar fridge, microwave, and coffee maker, all combined to make my bleisure trip a pleasure. Hotel features including free breakfast in the morning, free coffee around the clock, a 24-hour shop with reasonably-priced and decent quality food and drink, (including cakelove, a sweet little local treat that I fell so in love with that I visited the bakery and purchased a case to take home!), and a free shuttle to the subway really made everything easy and economical.
- Don’t waste time in transit. While proximity to public transportation is a bonus, I don’t always use it. A city with great, inexpensive, accessible transit can be easy to get around. In good weather, in walkable cities, there is nothing better than just wandering around and seeing where the day takes you. But if you only have a day or two, you’re traveling during a cold or rainy season, or you just have a lot of things that you want to pack into the short time that you have, your priorities may be different. On a recent trip to Washington, in spite of the fact that they have a really good transit system, I didn’t take it at all. I had a list of art exhibits, restaurants and wine bars, and food and drink shops that I wanted to visit. I wanted to get to as many of them as possible without skimping on the time that I spent at any one. For me, reducing the time spent getting from A to B meant that I could spend more time soaking up the art and culture of DC. And by using UberPool (the ridesharing app’s option for sharing rides with other customers going in the same direction) I had the opportunity to meet and chat with locals along the way, while getting a further discount on the ride.
- Take a tour. In cases where you’re short on time and just want to get the highlights, take a city tour. Hop on, hop off buses can be a good option for getting an overview of a destination. Or choose something specific to your interests: a graffiti walking tour, a tour of local craft breweries, a bus tour showcasing local monuments or architecture, or a food tour that allows you to taste your way around the city. This can really be a fast track to some of the best that a city has to offer, and you can ask your guide–in my experience, they are generally quite knowledgeable–for additional tips and advice for your trip.
However you decide to spend the leisure part of your trip, make the most of it. Solo bleisure travel is a great deal, taking the transportation costs–which can be one of the biggest expenses of a trip–right off the top. If you have a great time, and want to share your experience with the Solo Traveler community, I invite you to submit a Solo Travel Destination post here so we can all benefit from your perspective and recommendations.
Do you have additional tips for solo bleisure travel? Please add them in the comments section below.
Thank you to Springhill Suites Alexandria Old Town Southwest for their support of my trip to Washington, DC. As always, the opinions are my own and editorial control of the stories is managed solely by Solo Traveler.