At this time each year, I find myself daydreaming about taking a vacation. Maybe it’s due to the sub-zero temperatures we’ve been faced with or it could be the pile of work that seems to be growing on my desk, so much that my pile has been divided into several other piles. Either way, vacationing may be heavy on my mind, but it’s also heavy on my budget. Like many Americans, the recession is causing us to tighten our belts and forgo spending in the form of luxuries, like destination vacations.
And, even if you can afford a vacation this year, you may not be able to take one due to workload or the fact that you are given very little vacation time to begin with. This is when the thought of living and working in Europe seems very appealing. It is widely known that Europeans receive more vacation time than Americans. According to a 2007 survey by the World Tourism Organization (as reported by Pearson, Inc), the British receive an average of 5.5 weeks of vacation per year, the French receive an average of 7 weeks a year, and the Italians receive a whopping 8 weeks of vacation a year. Compare this to the 2.5 weeks of vacation Americans average each year – no wonder we’re so stressed out!
Don’t have enough vacation time to take a trip or can’t afford one? Alas, do not fret. There is still a way that you can take that much needed break, or what the British call a mini-break, without using vacation time or any of your own money. For many years, I have worked in an industry where travel is required 2-3 times a year, whether it is 4 hours away or 4 states away. During this time, I have become quite good at the art of turning my business travels into mini-breaks. This is not to say that I take advantage of the companies I work for, I merely utilize every possible minute of free time to do what I don’t have time to do at home – focus on ME! Even this year, I’m headed on two business trips in early Spring and am sooo looking forward to the R&R I have planned.
If you are fortunate enough to attend a meeting or conference out-of-state or any location that requires an overnight stay, embrace the opportunity with open arms. Whether you’re stuck in your hotel for an evening, or have a whole day free from your work responsibilities, here are just a few ways that you can turn your business trip into a low-cost or even cost-free vacation:
Explore Your Destination…
- Be a tourist for the day and spend time at a museum or attend a play or movie.
- Walk to a local bookstore/coffee shop for a little browsing and a latte.
- Grab a taxi and head to the local indoor or outdoor mall and window shop at a leisurely pace.
- Attend a neighborhood festival and live it up like the locals.
- Try out a French Bistro or go for sushi and enjoy some solitude in trendy eatery. Don’t like to eat in restaurants alone? Call ahead and ask if they have takeout, then eat in the privacy of your own room.
- Explore the city highlights such as a local monument or lakefront park. If the area is a little sketchy, enlist the help of the hotel concierge for information on city tours or even day trips that leave from the hotel.
Explore Your Hotel and its Amenities…
- Read that novel you’ve been wanting to for months.
- Buy a few new magazines and read them cover to cover.
- Give yourself a mani/pedi.
- Grab a workout at the hotel fitness center or a swim in the pool.
- Indulge in the hotel spa for a massage or facial.
- Visit the lobby lounge for live music or people watching.
- Try different makeup applications or hairstyles.
- Take a bubble bath (provided the tub doesn’t look scary – yuck).
- Reconnect with an old friend/relative on the phone – you’ll actually have time to chat.
- Order room service and feel like a celebrity for an hour. Make sure it’s in the budget first.
- Take over the remote control and watch anything you want – an Iron Chef marathon or a classic movie.
- Finally, take a nap. You know you deserve one!
Have a great idea for an employer-sponsored mini-break? Let me hear it!