How do you spend your downtime on business trips?

By David Flynn, March 20 2018
How do you spend your downtime on business trips?

TALKING POINT | As you'd expect from a site called Australian Business Traveller, the AusBT team travels quite a lot for business – much like our readers, who according to our annual reader surveys fly extensively for work, especially overseas.

Most of our trips, like yours, involve packed schedules and juggling the demands of the day with the continuing flow of emails and phone calls from the office.

(So we can relate to those times when your friends are jealous of your overseas travel, thinking it's all a lark, without realising the extra-long hours you put in.)

All the same, probably like you as well, the Australian Business Traveller team also try to engineer a little bit of downtime into each trip – sometimes adding a spare day to our travel schedule or planning trips which lead into the weekend. It's one of the few perks of business travel, after all!

Here's how we spend that downtime.

Chris Chamberlin: If I'm in London or New York I try to catch a show, because what's playing there can be years ahead of what we get in Australia, and sometimes there are shows we'll never get at all. For example, in New York I saw The Book of Mormon and Matilda several years before they came to Australia.

I also use my location on a business trip to explore new places nearby that would otherwise take forever to reach from Australia, such as a side-trip to San Diego from LA, or a day trip from London to Dublin (another new city and country crossed off my list!). These short flights are either very inexpensive or are easy to book with points.

Chris is currently in Kuala Lumpur checking out Malaysia Airlines' new flagship lounges and Airbus A350 business class.

David Flynn: On the first trip to any city I love just walking around and soaking it up, hopping onto the tram or light rail system, and visiting any museum to learn the history of that city.

On a day off I like to have an early start, maybe a 6am breakfast at the hotel, and then hunt down good cafes and lunch spots favoured by the locals during my wanderings. In London, a spare half-day means just walking around places familiar and new; a full day means a quick flight to somewhere interesting in Europe. Over the past few years I've done wonderful day trips – first flight out, last flight back – to Nice, Vienna, Stockholm, Paris and Barcelona.

David's next destination is Hong Kong for the opening of Cathay Pacific's The Deck lounge, followed by the delivery flight of Singapore Airlines' first Boeing 787-10.

Sid Raja: After a particularly busy trip I can be very happy indulging in a "hotel day": take a late breakfast and read the local newspaper, book a massage, enjoy afternoon tea and evening canapés in the club lounge.

If I'm in "out and about" mode then I like to walk around the busiest areas of the city, which I find are not always the CBD, visit a local supermarket for colour, and definitely either visit a famous whisky bar in the area or find a new one to sample.

Sid's next destination is London on Qantas' inaugural Boeing 787 service from Perth and London to review business class and premium economy on the new non-stop Kangaroo Route.

How do you spend your precious downtime on business trips? Share your habits and recommendations with other Australian Business Traveller readers in the comments below.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


Emirates Airlines - Skywards

30 Nov 2015

Total posts 738

I like doing private museums; The Wallace Collection and The Frick Collection, and the big stores that each city is famous for; Harrods, Fortnums, Bergdorfs, Bloomindales.


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 896

I've grown up in the business world, traveling regularly from a young age along with my brothers. One brother lives in the UK (auditor) and is in a different country every week. I'm 50 this year and onto my 4th wife due to the travel and work. These days I take my 4th wife with me on most trips, and make sure we spend an equal amount of time exploring and working. Walking the streets, finding out where the locals eat, chilling out beside the pool or beach, making sure the hotel is top notch

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jun 2015

Total posts 106

On a trip to SFO a few of us did a Maritime National Historic Park Tour on the Alma tall ship. Great afternoon on the bay than a regular boat cruise. Also did an Alcatraz Night tour.

When in Austin Texas went and saw a Master Pancake show at the Alamo Drafthouse. Basically a movie with some comedians providing commentary. You wouldnt think Forrest Gump could be so funny.


24 Jan 2016

Total posts 26

My business travel is in Asia, so I like a bit of a lie-in, followed by breakfast in club lounge of the hotel I'm staying in. Then going out to hunt down the best street food on offer always trying to find a combination of old favourites and something new I haven't eaten before. Then some market shopping in the afternoon followed by a foot massage for weary feet. Then back to the hotel for some vino and canapés in the lounge again, most likely followed by a "quiet night in" - a long, soaking bath and then a movie whilst enjoying the amazing bed most 5 star hotels feature now. Perfect day!

MarkJohnSon Banned
MarkJohnSon Banned

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 88

or a day trip from London to Dublin (another new city and country crossed off my list!)”

Just my opinion, but this kind of attitude is symptomatic of how commodtizied and soulless travel has become.

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 56

I'm sure Chris is not going there only to cross something off a list but because he's got a list of places he wants to visit and Dublin was one of them. That is my approach also on business trips, if I can get a trip near to somewhere I've wanted to visit then off I go.

MarkJohnSon Banned
MarkJohnSon Banned

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 88

Right.. not there to "cross something off a list", but "because he's got a list of places". Sounds like the same thing to me.

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2514

MarkJohnSon: It's simply an expression, Ireland being somewhere I'd never been to before. (And for the record, I don't have a 'list' at all: if I did, the entire world would be on it, minus the places it's not safe to visit, of course. It's simply about exploring new cities and countries and having new experiences.)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 470

Well, don't YOU have a list of places you'd like to visit????

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 605

Deep breathes everyone, hold hold .... (a little longer) ...... now exhale. There we go!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 681

Being a bit of a fan of cities (large and small) and having an interest in architecture, I have no problems walking around a city and photographing buildings of interesting designs. Good exercise and a pleasing way to explore. Also favour theatre and for those cities that have hosted, having a look at their Olympic villages ~ and seeing the success (or not) of their post event re-purposing and integration into community use.

18 Nov 2013

Total posts 46

Most of my travel involves sitting either in an office or a vehicle so I'm usually keen to get outside when I can. If there are national parks or similar reserves nearby I'll usually go there if I've got a decent chunk of time.

I have had some great luck contacting local sport groups to join in their activities, kayaking out from Stanley and cycling on Lantau were some highlights in Hong Kong, as well as rowing in Melbourne and Wellington but it can be tricky to fit structured group activities in with work schedules. Sometimes it will just end up with me running around Lake Burley Griffin or doing laps in a Townsville pool...


03 Apr 2016

Total posts 4

Most of my travel is in Asia, and with a young family it’s hard to tack on extra days, so normally I just look around for night events, or great bars and restaurants.

I also travel to the UK often which goes over weekend and lately I’ve been flying out to Europe Friday night and spending the weekend somewhere in the EU.

02 Mar 2013

Total posts 32

I like to walk, after spending all day cooped up in an office all I want to do is stretch my legs and get some fresh (or not so fresh) air. there's almost no situation where I'll order room-service or eat in the hotel restaurant. They may be good but I have to get outside and explore a bit.

On longer trips I'll factor in some early morning pilates classes if I can find one close to the hotel. It's good to keep the blood flowing.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Jun 2015

Total posts 69

I like to get out at night to a restaurant or bar area to look around and enjoy the culture. Long ago i stopped booking rooms with exec/club lounge access as i found myself getting drunk alone and eating to many nibbles. I found this has forced me to get out more and explore.

Most of my travel is in Asia, quite often ill head up for two weeks and use the middle weekend for a little side trip. Have been to most country's now several times for an explore.

As its my business i'm i try and keep the accommodation costs low, especially in cities like HK or SIN, but if its been a hard trip i like to spend the last day at a nicer hotel pool following a late breakfast. late checkout and nighttime flights home always help me fit in one of these lazy days.

20 Mar 2018

Total posts 3

Sports. I love taking in a local sporting event. I get to the UK often and always take in a football match, either my favorite team Southampton or a lower league team in that area I need to be. Great way to mingle with locals and sometimes you get closer to a people by finding out who they hate (rivals) than what they like ;). Lucky enough to have been at football matches in the UK, ice hockey in Stockholm and Aussie Rules in Adelaide (not from Australia).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Nov 2016

Total posts 130

Like many have already said I walk a lot and also exercise in the hotel when possible. Always enjoy the breakfasts in Asia and India which are out of this world with great choice of cuisine. I rarely eat in the hotel and like to try street food and local restaurants. If available I go to jazz bars and lounges and listen to music and have a single malt whiskey. Catch a bit of sport if possible. If in the US I make it a point to get to the outlet malls.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2555

One other thing I do before my travels is check the concert schedule of a few favourite musicians such as Aimee Mann and the Cowboy Junkies, just in case they have a concert in town or nearby when I'm there. On a visit to Seattle some years back I managed to catch the final show of the Junkies' North American tour, had to fly in two days early but it was worth it!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Nov 2011

Total posts 135

Well last night it involved getting down to the Suria Mall in KL to buy a replacement suitcase after my one gave up and a wheel feel off! I'm a classical music lover so I like to see if there's a local orchestra or ensemble playing. Street food in Asia, of course, and anything that allows me to soak up a bit of local culture. That being said, there are times when I'm just too tired to leave the sanctuary of the hotel!

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

08 Aug 2014

Total posts 40

A couple of things - well, five things...

1. If it's a major city and you are new to it, don't despise the humble hop-on hop-off tourist bus. This is an excellent and inexpensive way to see the major sights and identify any that you might want to go back to.

2. Art museums. We are starved of major Western art in Australasia. Even surprising places in e.g. the USA often have extremely good art museums.

3. Most places you go to have at least one standout thing about them that's worth seeing. If it isn't totally boring, I at least go and see it. Do some research about the destination.

4. Just walk. Just look. Just move through the streets and soak up the local vibe. If you are starting to get mobility issues (as I am), hire a cab and do it that way. I did it recently in Rouen in France which has charming cobblestone streets that I did not care to negotiate for 90 minutes with a group of others - because I would be left behind. I whistled up a cab, told the driver what sights I want to see (OK I speak fluent French) and "did" them all in 20 minutes. The cabbie stopped while I photographed the façade of the cathedral that Monet painted 30+ times. Major buzz. I also got to spend 90 minutes in the city's wonderful Musee des Beaux-Arts which has two big galleries of important Impressionist paintings, a ROOM of Caravaggios including a Flagellation of Christ that is in the art history books, a roomful of Rubens, a roomful of Velasquez, and so on.

5.Do some research about the destination in advance. The world is endlessly wondrous and beautiful and full of amazing things.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Sep 2013

Total posts 188

Well put John C, have been to Rouen, but we did not have the time then to do it justice. We have it on our 'to do' list during another visit to France this year.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

21 Mar 2017

Total posts 3

See the sights. Always ask the locals for their tips.

Was lucky to recently work in Amman, Jordan and made it to Petra, the Dead Sea. An awesome, unforgettable experience. Very grateful for the opportunity.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jul 2017

Total posts 30

Members I would like to hear what you for dinner when travelling on your own. In hotel rooms meals are terrible, sitting in a restaurant on your own can be difficult and nerve wracking. Trying to find a guest for dinner can be awkward in a strange city without calling on some expensive escort service just for company for dinner.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Feb 2018

Total posts 15

When I go to the US, I try to add in a week-long retreat learning more stuff about a hobby I do and meeting others at the retreat who are far removed from the usual conference crowd I see. I also have extended family in the US, so if I'm close by (within 5 hours), I'll drive or fly in and spend a few days with them too. On my next trip, instead of flying from San Francisco to Chicago as I'd normally do, I'm taking the train -- even with a sleeper compartment, I don't have high expectations, so anything above basic service will be a bonus. I'm doing it for the scenery and the experience. And no internet connection for a few days.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jul 2014

Total posts 101

Visiting a reciprocal Club for Dinner
Last week we dined at the Tower Club in Singapore
Its on the 62nd floor of the Tallest Building in Singapore
Dinner for two not bad at $170

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