10 ways to maximize leisure during business travel

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Savvy business travelers figure out ways to have fun on work trips and ways to make their trip more comfortable. Business trips can offer a great opportunity to explore a new area for little or no additional cost to you. You can respect your company’s resources and the trip’s purpose and still find ways to make it pleasurable.

If you plan it right, you can turn a boring workday into a fun-filled adventure in a new city. In addition, you can rack up points and miles, earning some incredible travel benefits. This is especially true if you are a small business owner with any of the best business credit cards.

Here are 10 of the best ways to maximize leisure while on a work trip.

Business traveler
Here are 10 ways to maximize your pleasure while traveling for work. (Photo courtesy of GaudiLab/Shutterstock.com)

How to maximize leisure while on a work trip

Collect miles for free travel

Most companies that require travel for work will allow you to collect miles to your personal loyalty accounts — miles you can use later for free personal travel. Many use corporate travel accounts to book flights and hotels. These will probably not have your loyalty accounts attached to them, so remember to contact the airline before your flight and have them add your loyalty account to the reservation so you get the points or miles.

Don’t forget about hotels, too. Hotel points often add up even faster than airline miles. Most hotels will let you add a loyalty account when you check in.

Another great way to collect miles is by using one of the best credit cards for travel for all your travel-related expenses. These cards will earn you bonus miles or points on expenses for which your employer will usually reimburse you.

And many of the best rewards credit cards are small business cards. If you travel for your own business, you’ll amass miles and points quickly with one of these cards.

Use elite status to get free upgrades

Once you start collecting miles and using your loyalty accounts when you travel, you will quickly start to gain elite status with airlines and hotels that you use most frequently.

After earning elite status you can expect perks like:

Airlines elite perks:
  • Free seat upgrades (to premium economy or even first class)
  • Free checked luggage
  • Free premium beverages in flight
  • Early boarding
  • Discounts on airport lounges
  • Free standby and flight changes
Hotel elite perks:
  • Free breakfast
  • Free room upgrades
  • Late checkout
  • Early check-in
  • Free welcome gifts
  • Spa or restaurant credits

The exact perks available to you will depend on the status program and the tier that you qualify for.

A room upgrade is one of the many benefits of elite status with a hotel. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets)

These elite status benefits are attached to your personal loyalty account, so you can enjoy them on your next personal AND business vacation. You could be receiving flight and hotel upgrades with every business trip.

If you’re staying at a hotel or flying with an airline, make sure you are getting credit for this travel. Elite status is coveted by frequent business travelers.

Get Global Entry or TSA PreCheck to speed through security

Airport security can a real pain, but TSA PreCheck helps tremendously. It’s a program that prequalifies you for expedited security. With TSA PreCheck you can wait in a special line, which is usually much shorter and faster than the normal security line. Possibly the best benefit of TSA PreCheck is that you aren’t required to take off your shoes or take laptops and electronics out of your bags. Read our TSA PreCheck enrollment review to see how easy it is to sign-up.

Global Entry is a similar program that speeds you through customs when you are re-entering the United States.

To get started you have to apply. Global Entry is $100 and TSA PreCheck is $85 for a five-year membership. I usually recommend getting Global Entry because when you are approved, it also gets you TSA PreCheck.

But before you dish out $100 for Global Entry, take a look at all the top credit cards for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck, which reimburse you for this application fee.

Relax at airport lounges

Airport lounges are little havens of airport comfort targeted to business travelers and frequent flyers. Most airport lounges offer services like:

  • Complimentary beverages, including beer, wine and spirits
  • Snacks and sometimes full meals
  • Wi-Fi
  • Showers to refresh before or after a long flight
  • Magazines
  • Business stations to print documents or make phone calls
  • Fax services

In addition, they have comfortable, private seating while you wait for your flight. Especially if you have a long layover or have to get to the airport early, a lounge can help make your trip better.

You can buy day passes to airport lounges, but the best way to get in is by holding one of the best credit cards with lounge access. Many of these cards come with a lounge membership that you’d otherwise pay at least $429 for annually.

Get comfortable with seat upgrades

When you are stuck on an airplane for several hours, an airplane seat can really take its toll on you. For more comfort, upgrade your seat.

Adult relaxing in first class airline seat
Upgrading your seat is the best way to make a flight more enjoyable (Photo courtesy of Brostock/Shutterstock)

Even a premium economy seat can make a huge difference, but business class or first class seats can change your entire perspective on flying. On international flights for example, your seat will allow you to lie flat. You get premium meal service, turndown service, improved inflight entertainment, extra leg room, hip room and more. Some select international flights even offer showers on board for first class passengers.

On long flights, try to convince the boss to send you in business class, which offers most of the comforts of first class for a much lower price tag. If the boss won’t budge, you can use your airline elite status to get free seat upgrades. Be sure to check in early to have the best chance of grabbing an upgrade.

Bring a travel partner with Southwest Companion Pass

Southwest runs one of the most unique deals in the travel industry, the Southwest Companion Pass. This pass is available to Southwest passengers who have earned 125,000 Southwest points in a calendar year (read our post on how to earn Southwest points). With the Companion Pass, you can bring a travel companion with you on any Southwest flight for nearly free — you’ll often just pay a small fee, usually $5.60 in taxes each way.

With the Southwest Companion Pass, you could bring a companion with you when you travel for work. They could stay with you at your hotel (assuming you can convince your business to let you fly Southwest), and you could bring them along for nearly free on the flight. This would be a fun way to let your partner travel with you and explore a city while you work.

After work is over, you can go out on the town together.

Leave the hotel to change up your office space

Your work to-do list while you travel is probably extensive. It is tempting to park yourself in the hotel while you get it all done.

But don’t forget that you are in another city. Many hotels look the same inside (especially inside your room). Get out of the hotel and work from a coffee shop or restaurant to experience local culture. Your trip will feel more unique to the place you are visiting.

Joseph traveled to Iceland and was immediately swamped with work. He changed hotels a couple times and scoped interesting coffee shops to change his scenery. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets)

Extend your stay in a city

If you are traveling somewhere for work that you’ve never been before, it would be a shame to leave without having seen the city.

Try to plan a way to extend your stay for sightseeing and other activities. You have already taken the time to travel this far and work is paying for the flight, so you should explore the city you are in.

One easy way to have a little more time in a city is to book an early-morning flight for the day you arrive, and a red-eye/late-night flight on the day you depart. This gives you extra time before and after your work commitments.

If you are scheduled to fly home at the end of the week, ask if you can fly home Sunday instead. You will still be at work the next Monday but you’ll have more time on your own in a different place. If they still need convincing, mention that Sunday flights tend to be cheaper than Friday night flights anyway.

Check your bag at the airport

I love to check a bag. With the best airline credit cards or airline elite status programs, you can do it for free.

Even when I have a small carry-on, I will check it. I enjoy arriving early at the airport, dropping off my bag and then being able to move through security and around the airport easily without baggage. Best of all, I don’t need to fight for overhead carry-on space. I find my seat, sit down and dive into my Kindle while the rest of the passengers fight and wrestle over the limited space.

Baggage handling for airlines is vastly improved, and my luggage is usually ready for me at the baggage carousel with minimal waiting. Knock on wood, I haven’t ever had my bag lost either. I recommend checking your bag.

Pack and travel light

Business travelers are always on the move. You find yourself hopping into and out of taxis, buses or subways. The lighter you pack, the more comfortable you will be. You can always spot the business travelers because they speed through the airport with their easy-to-carry bags.

Implement these useful packing tips for traveling light to make it easier to move. It’s also good for your back if you don’t have to lift or pull a heavy bag. Plus, you’ll have fewer things you might leave behind.

Bottom line

Work travel doesn’t have to be stressful. There are many ways to make a business trip more enjoyable.

  1. Collect rewards for your business expenses with one of the best credit cards for travel
  2. Use elite status to get free upgrades
  3. Global Entry or TSA PreCheck to speed through security
  4. Relax at airport lounges
  5. Get comfortable with seat upgrades
  6. Bring a travel partner with Southwest Companion Pass
  7. Leave the hotel to change up your office space
  8. Extend your stay in the city
  9. Check your bag at the airport
  10. Pack and travel light

Use your work travel to collect miles and points so you can enjoy the perks that come from free travel and elite status benefits — both during business and personal trips.

What’s your favorite part about work travel?

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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