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Whenever I have a chance to travel in North America for work, training or benchmarking similar engineering firms and their best practices, I always take the time to extend my trip by 24 hours.  This gives me an opportunity to digest the area, take in the atmosphere, attend events, experience unique shopping, and enjoy some local cuisine.  I may not get the chance to make it back again, so I try to do as much as I can while I’m there.  Here are some of the steps I take to make the most of those 24 hours by myself.

Benchmark the weather for the time of year I’ll be visiting

It’s important to understand what the weather could be like and how many hours of daylight you’ll have during the time of year you’re visiting.   Research helps me determine what activities are more desirable to participate in, how much daylight I’ll have to explore, and whether I’ll need transportation to get to and from activities.     I like Weatherunderground.com (and app) and TheWeatherChannel.com (and app).  Weather Underground allows you to look at historical data on an area which is fantastic. 

 

Identify the best bloggers and blogging sites that feature things to do, places to eat, and recommended shopping and events that might be taking place in town when you’re there. 

By taking time to learn from the locals you’ll be able to quickly identify and highlight attractions and activities that interest you.  Their research, experiences, and leg work will help you start compiling a list of “musts”. 

Search for maps online that clearly outline the area(s) you’re intending on visiting. 

I don’t know about you, but I grew up using maps.  Yes, there is a thing called a smartphone or tablet that we can walk around with, but have you ever tried to tour a city looking down at your hand instead of the great sites around you and manage to not get lost or trip and fall?  There are FOUR big reasons I like to look at printed maps before I finalize my hotel, my activities, and decide how I’m getting around;

  1. I’m traveling by myself and I really want to know how to move from point A to point B safely and with confidence.
  2. I like to have a true visual of the activities and locations of those activities to see if time will allow me to include them in on my trip. 
  3. There’s no better way to determine if I can walk, catching public transportation, or will I need to count on a taxi or Uber to get around.
  4. I like to keep the map print outs with me for a visual when I’m touring around the city I’m visiting.  I ALWAYS go off course because some cool site pops up that I wasn’t planning on seeing and my physical maps allow me to always orient myself back on track.  Every trip I’ve been on someone inevitably stops me to ask for directions because they’ve been turned around to and I just whip out my map and point them in the right direction. 

I keep a simple Manila folder with all of my maps and booking info in it so that everything’s in one place when I’m ready to travel.  And, then when I get home, I file it with my travel books for future trips.

Go to one spot to check in with local “communities” to add to you “musts” list with an App that can go with you.

My latest find is “like a local”.  You can download a free app and then search tours, where to eat, where to go out, things to see and do, and where to shop.  What I like about this one-stop app is that you can take it with you and the tips on the site are written by real locals who live, work, and engage in their community.  You can also give back to the app by contributing to your local city guide through tips of your own. Like a local allows you to download a hard copy of a specific destination for a minimal fee.

It pays to wait.  I always wait to book my place to stay until after I’ve narrowed down my “musts” list so that I can spread out my budget for the important things.  

  1.  “Must list” is narrowed down and experiences are picked
  2.  I determine a budget for food and drinks based on my eateries
  3.  I research Hotels on booking.com to see what’s available.  I really like the interactive maps to determine if my hotel is close to my activities and also like to take advantage of the “pre-pay” discounted offerings for hotels.  You may prefer an Airb&b but again, I’m traveling for business and traveling alone so I like to have the amenities of a hotel. 
  4.  I always make sure that WIFI is included in my stay, sometimes that’s a hidden fee and I’m always working or interacting with the office when I’m traveling even on the weekend. 
  5.   I try to find something historic or of significance away from the everyday brands because they usually have a “story”.
  6.   It’s also a bonus if breakfast is included. 

Packing for my business trip and extra 24 hours

Because I’ve done my planning, I’m ready to pack less.

  1. I look at last minute forecasts three days out…I am a stickler about being prepared for the weather.
  2. I pick business looks that go with one pair of “formal” shoes for my meetings.
  3. I also look to find tops that can transition from business to casual so that I’m not overpacking when I transition to my extended stay.
  4. My 24-hour shoes and clothes reflect the weather, my activities, and ease and effort (less is more) I also have to be prepared to travel home in them on my last day. 

I make a point of trying to carry as little as possible when I’m sightseeing…I opt for a Belt Bag to keep my phone, cash, small camera, and folded maps in.  When my hands are free I’m able to really enjoy my surroundings. 

Packing less in my suitcase allows me to leave room to bring home a “treasure” whether its vintage, food, a memento. 

Preparing for a work and personal extension can get my mind racing because I hate leaving things I count on behind. 

I keep a simple notes tab about my travel on my cell phone.  As soon as I think of something I may forget, shoes I may need to polish, or items I can’t leave behind, I pop it into the notes section. 

What could you do with an extra 24 hours on an upcoming work trip?  

 

Happy Trails...

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