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Flying Business Class

How to Travel for Work

For many American employees, the typical workplace is mundane at best—gray, boxy cubicles, stained and smelly carpets, and fake plants to give some semblance of life. Yet, for those lucky individuals who get to travel for their work, this bland office environment is suddenly replaced with bustling airports, busy street corners, and eye-opening changes in culture.

Despite the excitement of seeing a new city, however, employees might not know how to take advantage of their time abroad and instead spend the whole trip locked up in their hotel finishing last-minute assignments. So, how does one balance productivity and sight-seeing?

Kurt Koehle, BYU class of ‘95 and computer consultant for IBM, is one such employee who often travels for work. In fact, over the last 10 years, he’s been to 40 of the 50 states in the US and over 20 countries around the globe. While on these trips, he’s learned how to achieve this balance of making the most of his time both as an employee and a tourist.

Plan Ahead

If you’re on a work trip where you have a limited amount of time to get to know a city, it’s important to figure out what you want to see ahead of time. As much as you may like to sightsee, your company isn’t paying you to be a tourist. So if you want to time to explore, you need to make sure you fit it in around your work schedule.

Koehle says, “When I am traveling for work, I am often by myself, so I can plan my sightseeing solely on my own schedule. If I have a car, I need to figure out what path to take. If I’m in a city, I need to figure out local transportation: bus, subway, or Uber. I’ll usually arrive a day earlier and look for some bike or walking tours, but every other day I’m working.”

For those unfamiliar with bike or walking tours, Koehle recommends them as one of the best ways to see the new area—many tours even have different themes like food, architecture, or ghost stories. It just depends on your interests and what’s available.

What to Visit

Surprisingly, Koehle suggests not asking the locals what sights they’d recommend. He explains, “They may have different tastes, and then I feel obligated to go where they suggested.” Yet, it would be unwise to not adhere to any advice they may provide. Koehle recalls, “I did have a very helpful conversation with a hotel operator when I was checking in. The woman asked if I was taking a popular train and then informed me that if I left earlier at 7:00 a.m. or 7:30 a.m., the tickets would be half off.”

So if Koehle isn’t taking tips from the locals, how does he know where to visit? Simple: Google and travel websites like TripAdvisor or Yelp provide reviews on what to see in any city. Whether it’s historical locations, exceptional architecture, or highly rated restaurants, there’s plenty of information on the internet—the only limit is your own imagination (and free time outside of work, of course).

Expect the Unexpected

There are a ton of small, seemingly insignificant details you’ll need to consider when in a new city. For example, it might be useful to have a paper map in case your phone dies—or a portable charger as a backup. (If your company provides you with a second phone that has a better network for where you’ll be, that’s even better.) In a foreign country, you might want to go on Google Translate and download the language of the people you’ll be surrounded by. Other essentials Koehle will have on hand are a scanned copy of his passport, a few power adapters. “It can be a pain to arrive in a country and have to scrounge for a way to charge your laptop.” He also suggests taking advantage of airport lounges if you’re allowed access to them through airline points or your employer. “I can pop in for all of thirty minutes, get some free food, better bathrooms, and relax,” Koehle remarks.

In addition to this, know what other resources your employer offers. Do you get discounts at certain hotels? Does your company provide a set amount of money for food each day? For a trip where you’re already pressed for time, it’s better to over-plan before the trip so you can minimize the things that might go wrong—or if necessary, cancel or reschedule visits and plans—than to try and scramble for something last-minute.

By Kenzie Koehle