I try to throw in a bit of fun on every trip, no matter how little time I have. It could be anything from an hour to a few extra days, depending on the logistics of my trip. But no matter what, I make sure to have just a little bit of non-work time. Here’s how to do it.
If you have an hour: If you have a free hour, say, between meetings, or before you have to head to the airport, ask a local what’s cool to see around your location. It could be as simple as some local mom-and-pop type stores, or perhaps a local park. Walk around, take in some of the local flavor. Buy a small souvenir for someone back home, or grab a self-portrait or two as you try a local dish, or as you’re sitting on a bench in a local garden. Places I’ve done this: Philadelphia, Seoul, Milwaukee.
If you have five hours: Five hours is usually found in the morning, as you get ready to head to the airport after your trip. We usually flit it away by packing, sleeping in, and general busy-ness that doesn’t have to happen. Pack the night before, get a decent night’s sleep, and wake up early. Five hours is plenty of time for an excursion – In Tokyo, you can get to the fish market at 4am for the freshest Sushi you’ll ever have in your life, anywhere, and get a cab back to the hotel to grab your bags and head to the airport. In Orlando, there are tons of things open 24 hours a day, including the SkyVenture tunnel. Five hours is also the perfect amount of time for a non-traditional spa treatment – Check out SpaFinder.com for details as to where to go. You can book the appointment, get pampered, and get back to the airport ready to fall into a blissful sleep as soon as you get on the plane. Five hours is also a great time for a walking tour of a local city. In New York, check out Elastic City for some great tours. Places I’ve done this: Tokyo, Sydney, San Francisco, Bahrain, Cleveland
If you have 12 hours (half-a-day): If you have half a day, the key is pre-planning. Go online and find some cool places you’d like to see, then make sure to plot out how you’re going to get there. My first choice is always public transit, and in most cities, that’s the cheapest (and sometimes even fastest) way to go. Plot out the best route either via Google, or other subway mapping pages online. If taking a car service, negotiate the price beforehand. The one added bonus of hiring a car is that the driver probably knows some of the best spots, and will keep an eye on the time so you don’t have to. He might even be able to store all your luggage so you can go right to the airport when you’re done. Another recommendation for a day is to spend several hours at an animal rescue society – especially in another country. ARS’ in other countries tend to be less-funded than in the US (if that’s even possible,) and they’re usually so grateful for the help. You can hang with the animals, walk a few if you’d like, etc. Just make sure, if doing this in another country, that you’re up on your shots and vaccinations. Also, depending on where it is, you may need to report it on the US immigration form on your way back into the US, under the line “I’ve been on a farm or handled livestock.” Places I’ve done this: Phuket, Bogota, Portland, Detroit
If you have 24 hours or more (A full day or more): This is where it gets super-fun. This allows you to throw almost an entirely different trip onto your original one, but again, the key is pre-planning. Book your return trip home from another city, and then book a separate one-way flight on a cheap airline to another city or even country. This is where you can actually throw the closest thing to “a vacation” onto the end of your trip. And hey – It doesn’t even need to be the end of your trip – You can book a different flight in, then grab a cheap flight to your business trip destination. If you can’t change either leg of your flight, you can always show up at the airport, and pick a place – Just make sure they have return flights that get you back to the airport with enough time to make your flight home. Places I’ve done this: Paris, Las Vegas, Belize
Bonus: You know, on occasion, there’s nothing wrong with “purposely” missing your return flight… Just make sure you have an airtight alibi. Bad weather helps. Places I’ve done this… Well…