Looking for advice on taking short business trips to far places. (And maybe extending those trips for non-business visiting)
November 8, 2012 3:10 PM   Subscribe

Looking for advice on taking short business trips to far places. (And maybe extending those trips for non-business visiting)

I have a couple of chances to go, if I choose to, on work-related trips to some places that are farther than I've ever traveled. Right now - one to Davao City, Philippines, one to Istanbul.

I live in Toronto and have never traveled anywhere farther than Western Europe, in my forty-some years, so these trips are unfamiliar to me!

Both trips would require me to do less than a day of work at the destinations. (In each case, I'd be getting flown in to give a short talk at a conference.). But my thought is that maybe I can add a couple of days to spend on my own.

These seem like great opportunities to see more of the world that I've already seen. I'd like to see Istanbul. And while, as far as I know, I'm not dying to see Davao City, I thought maybe I could use the find a flight to Davao that goes via somewhere I'd be keen so see, and try to arrange the travel so I spend a couple of days there. (I had thought I could arrange to travel via Hong Kong, which I'd love to see, but I think I may have misunderstood. It looks like most flights to Davao go via Vancouver and Manila).

I'm not 100% sure whether I want to do this, and am trying to get some more information to help me decide. Some questions:

- What's it like flying halfway around the world for a short visit? Is that just an exhausting, crazy thing to do? Are there ways to make it easier? What would you think is a minimum stay to justify a trip like that?

- Do people have suggestions/experiences about extending these sorts of business trips to include some opportunities to see things on your own? Is it possible/impractical to do that in a city that's a stop-over city as opposed to a destination city? (I got sort of stuck on the idea that the trip to the Philippines could be my opportunity to see a really massive Asian city like HK. Is there any way that could be practical?)

- Any specific recommendations about the particular places I am going to? Is Istanbul amazing? Is Davao city great? Manila? I realize these are sort of subjective, but I'm interested in responses.

posted by ManInSuit to Travel & Transportation around Kolkata, India (6 answers total)
Istanbul is, I think, amazing and since it's so far away taking advantage of a trip out there would be great. It's also not terrifically expensive (at least compared to Western Europe) so extended your trip even if it was on your own dime would be worth it. I have done this sort of thing in the past, my suggestions...

- Unless you are one of those people who doesn't really get jet lag I'd make sure you build in an extra day before your talk just to get acclimated and to make sure you are awake for your event and then I'd plan the sightseeing stuff for afterwards. Nothing wrecks a vacation like being worried about a presentation. Read up on different ways to avoid jetlag. I would not consider going for less than six days, personally.
- You might want to check into less chain accommodation options like airbnb or see if there are any MeFites who live in the area who might be willing to give you local advice or possibly even show you around (change your location on your profile to Istanbul and then see how is near you, I thought there was one person or maybe two.)
- I enjoyed taking a bus trip down to ... I'm not sure I even remember now, down the coast, and I also enjoyed getting to take a ferry ride over to the Asian part of Turkey just to say I'd been to the other continent.

In any case, you may find that you meet people at the conference who want to show you around also so you can build in a little wiggle room just in case that happens too. I think it's a good idea and I'd strongly suggest that you do it.
posted by jessamyn at 3:23 PM on November 8, 2012

I do a bit of international business travel. The more I fly, the better I get at coping with the whole thing.

In general, I go for a minimum of four clear days at my destination. This reflects the time I need to do my business, but also to cope with being a bit off the game from tiredness. If it was less time, I'm sure I could push through, but I find it hard to be coherent when I'm very jetlagged! Try and have at least a day before the conference.

To make it easier, pick a good route - spend a bit more for fewer and shorter stopovers. If you can get into lounges en route, this makes it a bit easier and gives you a chance to freshen up (I use Priority Pass as I can't pick what airline I fly, so this gives me lounge access at most airports regardless of who I am flying).

If you are normally a 'fly by the seat of your pants' traveller, don't do it for this sort of travel. Have everything organised, including hotels and airport transfers. Also, don't go too cheap on your stopover part - you will be exhausted and less tolerant of budget options than you might normally.

Often you can arrange a longer stopover for no additional cost, so if it costs more, you will need to sort this out with your employer (also as to who covers travel insurance while you are there, and whether there are any implications if you need to take leave for the extra time you take). In Australia, there can be tax implications if the pleasure part of the trip is a greater portion than the business portion, not sure if there is a similar rule in Canada.

If you can, get sleeping pills for the flight. Proper ones, not high dose antihistamines. These make me feel so much better for longhaul flying as I actually get some sleep. Then it is only jetlag to deal with, not jetlag and sleep deprivation.

On a quick look at a randomly selected set of dates, you could organise to fly to the Philippines via Hong Kong for roughly the same price as the flights that come up in a normal search - it just doesn't come up as a standard return flight, it will need to be booked as a multi-stop itinerary.
posted by AnnaRat at 4:20 PM on November 8, 2012

I traveled a fair amount for work, and managed to train myself to sleep in the plane with the seat upright. So I could get an extra 20 minutes sleep on either side of the trip.

It's so ingrained, I now get drowsy just being exposed to recirculated air.

Make sure the travel time is built into your 40 hour work week.

I'm not a fan of trying to mix work and pleasure. It's just hard to mentally switch from vacation to work mode, especially while combatting jet lag. Instead I get in my culture by eating very well off the tourist path. Maybe treat myself to a spa day. It's just enough to give me the flavor of a city, and know if I'd like to go back, without throwing me off my game.

Instead rack up the points. Try to keep them all in one system. I find I get the most bang for my buck with Hilton Points because most airline points will convert to Hilton. Try to leverage your business travel to help pay for a nice vacation at a different time.
posted by politikitty at 4:45 PM on November 8, 2012

I do this a lot, usually to give talks, with one day or less dedicated to the client. I'm self-employed and the client pays for the flight to their location.

For a trip across several time zones, I try to arrange for at least 5 full days as a minimum stay. I schedule at least one day off before my commitment so I can adjust to the new time zone; the other days are tourist days to make the uncomfortable plane trip worthwhile.

If I'm not super interested in the place where I'll be working, I'll use Kayak or other airfare sites to find interesting places that are a cheapish plane trip away from the client's location. Usually the clients book the flight to their location, and they've been happy to book dates that include an extra 10 days or whatever for my own travels. So typically I'll fly in and out of the client's location on tickets that they've reserved and bought, but buy my own plane or train tickets for a side trip from that location.

Random tips:

- Make sure to check visa requirements long before you go. Lately I've been going places that require a fair amount of paperwork beforehand, including mailing my passport off to an embassy somewhere with a 2-week turnaround. If there's a cost, see if the client will pay it.

- Also check for any required or strongly recommended vaccinations (I got some vaccinations before going to rural southeast Asia)

- If your work or presentations require a laptop, check in advance for plug converter requirements. Order what you'll need from the internet or remember to buy it when you get to the destination airport. My laptop and other doodads can tolerate a wide range of voltages so I've only ever needed plug converters.

- If the client is buying the tickets, let them know right away that you plan to stay longer than is necessary for the gig. Then get the client to send you the final flight details as soon as the tickets are purchased so you have concrete dates and times to work around for your own tickets.

I actually love traveling this way, because thanks to the gig you have local contacts where you're going, plus it's a cheap way to see far-off places you might otherwise not have gone to. The main hassle I've had is the need to bring professional clothing as well as clothing for the type of travel I do, which tends to be scruffier. In addition to my laptop bag, I use just one carry-on bag, lightweight but with rollers, and wash stuff out by hand every night. On one long trip I shipped my professional clothing back home rather than schlep it with me for another two weeks.

Go!!! Have a great time!
posted by ceiba at 8:10 PM on November 8, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, these are all incredibly useful!!
posted by ManInSuit at 10:04 PM on November 8, 2012

I would try to have the following plan at minimum:
- Arrive day 1
- Day 2 off
- Day 3 presentation
- Day 4 leave on real vacation.

And five would be even better. I have a hard time sleeping on planes, so I basically lose a night of sleep; when I get there day 1, I'm crazy tired, but it's important to stay up at least until supper so I'm not totally off the local schedule. Because I may need 16 hours of sleep, it's best to not have anything planned for day 2, although something like an evening reception where it's low stakes (as opposed to like high-powered Korean karaoke and drinking) is doable. This also gives you time in case there's a problem with the travel; aircraft problems or weather or whatever could easily delay you 12 hours.

Do the business before pleasure, if possible. That way, you can stuff your nice clothes at the bottom of your bag and who cares if they get a little wrinkled. Also, you can concentrate on your holidays without worrying about the conference. The kind of travel I do can also really wear me out, and at a conference there'll likely be locals to help rather than going on your own. If you are doing a stopover beforehand, think about picking a more tame one; Singapore or Hong Kong rather than Manila en route to Davao; London or Munich rather than Cairo en route to Istanbul.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 12:50 AM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

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