Whether you travel for work often, or once in a while, you should always aim to take advantage of your business trip. Look at it this way, you don't have to pay for airfare, a hotel room, and you likely have a per diem for meals; what better time to explore a new city, or enjoy a city you have always loved?
Every year I make sure to research the city I'm going to and write down the areas I want to see, the restaurants I want to visit, and any activities I want to partake in. Once I have a better idea of what I want to explore, I plan my days around my work, and make sure to know which days are the best to explore, and decide if I'll need to come in a day or two earlier (if possible).
As an example, I recently went on a business trip to Orlando. I was given a group rate at Disney's Contemporary Resort and I decided to come in two days early to spend an evening at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party with my wife and kids. I had wanted to stay at the Contemporary since the Tanners stayed there in Full House in the 90's, and I was excited to ride the monorail through the middle of the hotel, and to see it zoom by from my breakfast table at Chef Mickey's.
Since I had a great group rate, almost 50% off a night, I jumped at the chance to fulfill a childhood dream while traveling for work. Although I had to pay for the two extra nights, it was still much cheaper than 2 nights would ordinarily cost.
Before leaving, I knew that we wanted to take our oldest, who loves Disney and Halloween, to the Halloween Party, and I did my thorough YouTube research to optimize our trip to the park. The next day we decided to spend the beginning of the day at the pool, then took a trip to the Art of Animation Resort to show him Radiator Springs, home of his favorites from Disney's Cars. Since I had started my trip two days early I was not yet on my per diem for meals, so we ate at the parks and did our family Chef Mickey's trip. We saved our dinner reservation for another day when meals were being charged to my company, that way we were able to have a nice sit down dinner cheaper than it would have ordinarily cost. NOTE: Make sure you do not break the rules of your meal allowance, or go above your allotted amount when making meal decisions.
It is also important to optimize your time after work. The training I attended ended at 5 pm, so I planned my family events in the evenings. If my family wasn't with me I would have likely gone to one of the parks, checked out a restaurant I'd been looking at, catching the fireworks on the Contemporary's balcony overlooking Cinderella's Castle, or grabbing a drink at Trader Sam's (or a similarly wonderful local bar).
Although each work trip will look different, and some cities will be more attractive to your exploring than others, make sure you don't just sit in your room in solitude. You may not like why your in the city, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy all the city has to offer.
Some of my favorite cities to explore were:
What city did you love? What did you do to make the best of your business trip? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.