I’ve just come back from a business meeting at a beautiful resort in Florida. Whenever we think of conferences at great resorts, we often think “boondoggle.” I even tease my husband when he’s headed out of town for business meetings with this term. But the reality is – there’s often little time to enjoy the property, no matter how beautiful and what great amenities, other than walking from one meeting space to another. Unless you are intentional and plan ahead.
As a mom who rarely gets the kid-free trip away from home, I definitely try to squeeze in a little bit of me-time, around my conference agendas. Conferences aren’t cheap to attend (for the attendees or the host organization), so it doesn’t make good financial sense to pay the fees and not go to the prescribed business sessions. Instead, make the most of the time outside of the agenda.
Grab a few of these tips for the next time you find yourself heading out for a conference away from home.
Arrive early, stay late. When attending conferences, I always plan to arrive before the conference starts, even a day before, if possible, and take the last flight/train home after the conference ends to build in a little free time to enjoy the host city. When I went to my sorority conference in Chicago, this plan gave me lots of hours to bike and wanderthrough the city.
Wake up early. As tempting as it is to sleep in, or as much as possible, instead, wake up early and go out for a run or walk before your business agenda starts. We had breakfast, followed by a full day of meetings on my recent conference agenda, so I got up early and went for a run around the hotel property. This was my time to myself and the opportunity to get in some exercise to counterbalance the sitting in meetings all day.
Make the most of “lunch on your own.” Just because the agenda allows a 2-hour lunch break doesn’t mean you have to sit in the hotel and eat for the entire time. Wander outside, grab lunch at a food truck, and explore the city. Or find that much-raved about restaurant in the city and get over there. Or skip lunch all together (you know you ate a big breakfast) and do something relaxing instead.
Be ready for spontaneous moments. I know, sounds like an oxymoron, right? But there’s always that session that ends early, an unexpected break for a technical glitch. Keep a book in your bag or loaded on your e-reader and find a corner to catch up on your reading, wander outside for a breath of fresh air, keep cash in your pocket for a scoop from the ice cream shop.
And lastly -
Always pack a swimsuit. I don’t know of a hotel worth its stars that doesn’t have a swimming pool. Find the time for a refreshing dip in the pool or even a few laps – wake up early, jump in during a lunch break, or slide in after the day is done.
With a little bit of planning ahead, you can actually enjoy your next business trip. Have fun!
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