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Business trips don’t have to be all work and no play

When you hear the phrase “business travel,” you might assume that’s something that only happens in the corporate world. But these days, more and more employees at not-for-profits are traveling for work purposes—from conferences in Las Vegas and meetings in London, to training sessions in Singapore and fundraising events in Rio.

Even though destinations like these make the idea of traveling for work seem much more appealing, until very recently, it would be rare to find an opportunity to step outside the meeting rooms to truly experience your amazing surroundings.

Luckily, times are changing, and the trend of “bleisure” travel (packing business and leisure travel into a single trip) is becoming much more widely accepted. Employers today recognize how important it is to their employees to explore different places and cultures—and they correctly realize the value that these experiences can have on an employee’s personal and professional development.

It’s important to find the right balance before you plan your next extended business trip. But if you consider these tips, you’ll soon find yourself “bleisuring” like a true pro.

Be honest about your plans

Talk to your supervisor or HR professional to make sure you understand your company’s travel policy and let them know your plans to combine some personal sightseeing when the work is done. Being transparent with your colleagues helps alleviate the feeling that you’re sneaking around or doing something wrong—and establishing trust early on will make it easier to gain support for your extended trip.

Coordinate your itineraries

If you have some control over your schedule, try to book your meetings or training sessions at the very beginning or end of the week. That way, it’ll be easy to extend your trip into the weekend for your personal time. You may even find that airline prices are cheaper if you travel a few days before or after your work event, which is a win for your company, too. One more plus, if you’re traveling across time zones, arriving a few days early will help you shake off the jet lag in time for the big meeting.

Seize the moments of downtime

When planning your itinerary, look at your schedule and meals ahead of time and try to carve out small gaps of intentional “you” time. Then, align those gaps with the things that are important for you to experience at your destination—like trying local cuisine, taking a tour of an iconic location, attending a yoga class to relax, or simply walking around town to immerse yourself in a new space. These private moments will not only balance out any stress from work, but will also invite a breath of cultural fresh air!

Keep a close eye on expenses

The line between business and leisure can get blurry when it comes to splitting up your expenses. While your company should pay for the flight (assuming it’s the same price or cheaper than what it would’ve cost if you didn’t add in that extra weekend), hotel and meals during workdays, once the work portion of your trip is done, all expenses should be on your dime. The best way to avoid confusion is to put all of your work expenses on a company credit card, and then charge your personal expenses to your own card. If your company doesn’t give you a credit card, you can use two different personal cards to keep things separated. And remember to save those receipts! You’ll need them when it’s time to fill out expense reports—everyone’s least favorite part of traveling for work.

At the end of the day, just remember that the B comes first in “bleisure”—work should always be your number one priority during your trip. But if you plan carefully, communicate honestly, and practice these tips properly, you’ll earn your company’s trust—and that could mean more chances to transform extended business trips into some personal adventures! Remember, with “bleisure” trips—as with many of the other topics we talk about at TIAA.org, like budgeting, paying down debts, or planning for retirement—it’s all about finding the right balance between the things you have to do, and the things you want to do.

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