It's a business trip, not a vacation. In the span of most careers, there comes a time when you have to travel for work. I don't think traveling with co-workers falls into the category of “fun” but there are things one can do to ensure a pleasant experience.
Here's what to remember before setting off.
It's still work.
It's tempting to see it as a vacation but the primary purpose of a typical business trip is, well, business. For example, my first business trip was to The New York Times Travel Show. I was pumped: a weekend back in NYC! Party!
Except I spent a majority of my waking hours in a convention center with hundreds of other travel enthusiasts. I lucked out that it was illuminating and informative. But that didn't mean I wasn't a bit down on the fact that I was working the weekend. So it's important to mentally prepare to work, no matter how leisurely the trip may seem in theory.
But don't forget free time.
Business isn't an antonym of fun. There will most likely be downtime regardless how jam-packed the schedule is. Take this time as an opportunity to explore your surroundings. Check out markets, visit a museum or see if there's a park within walking distance of the hotel. Bring a few choice coworkers with you (key word: choice). Use the time for office bonding outside the confines of the meeting room.
Or if venturing out on the town isn't appealing, make sure to bring a sufficient amount of books and movies to fill up free time (make sure all those streaming services are paid off and up to date). Check ahead of time if the hotel's Wi-Fi is up to snuff for streaming.
A drink, not drinks!
Loose lips sink ships. Don't go overboard. The awkward Christmas party, anyone?
It's not fun to face coworkers the morning after a night of heavy drinking. Even if nothing embarrassing happened, the brutal hangover will make everything harder to deal with. Remember: everything in moderation. Go for a beer or two instead of that third cocktail. You'll thank yourself the next morning at the networking breakfast, buffet meeting or motivational speaker presentation.
Don't abuse the expense account.
Don't charge hand-carved souvenirs to the office and expect to get away with it. Every business handles its finances differently, but there usually isn't much gray area as to what they will and will not refund. "I <3 Tulsa" t-shirts for the whole family aren't something accounting will cover.
Be the best traveler.
It's not a competition so much as setting a good example. (Okay, maybe it's a bit of a competition.)
Preparation is key. Map out routes, pin important destinations like hotels, convention centers and nearby restaurants. Double (and triple) check important dates and times, like flight schedules, hotel check-in and rental car pickup and returns. The fewer surprises, the better.
Packing smart is also essential, sooo maybe I don't need four different hats for a weekend trip? (Actually, I do.) Memorize this guide to packing, and maybe hold back on bringing the fun socks.
Speaking of socks: appropriate attire will vary according to occupation and occasion but it's always best to err on the side of professionalism. My go-to rule is “don't look like a schlub.” It has yet to fail me. So ditch the sweatpants and replace them with slacks, even if it means cutting into comfort time.
Still at work? Yep.
Staying positive is especially important when traveling with co-workers, who may not be as forgiving as family or friends. Any number of things can go wrong with any trip, so it's always important to keep a level head.
Think of it as a tactic to better that workplace reputation. The fewer complaints and the better you perform under pressure, the more improved that workplace image becomes. Plus it'll be a better experience for everyone.