I’ve been a fan of bleisure (mixing business and leisure on the same trip) travel for years. Seems like the rest of the world is catching onto this excellent concept in 2019! My bleisure trips are usually built around a writing conference. Though I don’t pick a conference exclusively for the location or accommodations, I definitely take that in consideration. For example, this year instead of choosing a January conference in Seattle, I registered for a February one in Phoenix. That was a no-brainer!
How do you come up with a vacation that’s the perfect balance of work and play? I can share a few tips that have worked for me.
Attend the conference at the beginning of your trip
Get the business part out of the way first. Then you can unplug, pursue adventures, and relax. This strategy allows me to either meet my husband for the leisure part or to visit with friends and family in the area once the conference is over. The other not-so-obvious benefit of conferencing in the beginning of your getaway is that it gives you the chance to talk to other attendees, who might be more familiar with the city, state, or country you’re in. They often have ideas about restaurants, attractions, or lodging that you might not find in a travel book, hangouts or hot spots that are off-the -beaten path and patronized by locals, rather than tourists.
Research before you go
The first thing I do after registering for the conference is create a folder, labeled with the destination’s name. Once I have that concrete reminder that I’m going someplace interesting, all sorts of ideas about what to do there begin to materialize. Almost magically! Then I mention to anyone I cross paths with that I’m going there. It’s quite amazing how many people will have suggestions that you never thought of. Of course, occasionally you are the first one of your colleagues or personal circles to visit there. In that case, Google is your friend! A rule of thumb I often use is to look at several travel sites. If the attraction is mentioned on all of them and sounds unusual or interesting enough, I add it to the list. In Wakulla Springs (FLA), following a Tampa conference, this is how I discovered the quirky Lodge at Wakulla Springs in the Edward Ball State Park; a place I wouldn’t have missed for the world!
Plan some things, but leave room for spontaneity
If there is an activity you really want to do, find out ahead of time if you need to purchase tickets for it. Same goes for making reservations at any restaurants or hotels you’d rather not miss out on. In Washington DC, at the EWA conference, I made sure to set aside a whole day for the Newsuem and was very glad I did.
Most conferences are tightly-scheduled-between workshops, meals, and other happenings. Once you hit the leisure part of the week, it can feel good to have less structure in your days. To be able to meander around and see what you find. For me, this has been a particularly good strategy for finding memorable food and drink. Sometimes, as in Hawaii, the biggest dives or worst looking locations have the tastiest, most interesting, food and best service!
Let your travel companion choose a few things to do
Your travel buddy may pick something that you wouldn’t have thought of or that you might not have been attracted to on your own. In Rhode Island, Tammy took us kite flying at Brenton State Park, along Ocean Drive, and it was one of the best memories of our trip. In Elkhart, Indiana, my husband wanted to see the RV/MH Hall of Fame and Museum, not something high on my list. It was fascinating!
Keep records of your bleisure vacation
Though you are sure you will never forget the details of your wonderful bleisure vacation, you will! I have a separate journal dedicated to travel observations. impressions, and memories. Additionally, I save all my receipts and collect brochures and other materials from places I visit. Another good resource to bring home is local newspapers or travel guides. All of these can be extremely helpful in planning future trips to the same area, creating travel blog posts, and for writing travel articles.