You're 12,000 feet in the air, with the plane door open and the wind whipping through the cabin. Within seconds, it's time to exit the plane, and suddenly you find yourself soaring through the clouds, depending on a parachute for a safe landing. Once you hit the ground, you set up your laptop, tap into the drop zone's Wi-Fi network and complete a few business transactions. Then you get ready to do it all over again.
For entrepreneur Peter Shankman, skydiving is all in a day's work while traveling for business. He even packs his own parachute on every trip he takes.
Business trips are no longer just about the hotel you stay in and where you eat. They're becoming a chance for hard-working entrepreneurs to take a break between the power lunches and million-dollar deals and enjoy the locales they visit. According to a National Household Travel Survey, Americans make more than 405 million long-distance business trips per year, which account for about 16 percent of all long-distance travel.
Whether traveling near or far, business travelers should take the opportunity to get to know more than just the hotel lobby. Here are 10 unique ideas--some practical and some on the wild side--to spice up your next business trip.
1. Join a running tour.
If running is your passion, don't feel restricted to the treadmill in your hotel's gym. Instead, opt for a race or an organized running tour. You can use the running site RunThePlanet.com to locate a race or marathon at your destination. Shankman did that during a 12-hour layover in South Korea. Upon arrival, he was greeted at the airport by a team of local runners who drove him to a spot they selected. He enjoyed a six-mile run and made some friends. "It's a great way to kill time and a great way to explore a city," says Shankman. Websites like CityRunningTours.com, which operates organized runs in Chicago, New York, San Diego and Washington DC for about $60 per person for the first six miles, are also a great way to sightsee while making time for your daily jog.
2. Discover the city's nightlife.
After dealing with lost luggage, several layovers or a stressful business meeting, the only thing on your mind might be letting loose for a few hours. Sites like AOL Local specialize in finding nightlife in a variety of cities. Type in your destination and the site will list upcoming events and specific search results for the city's best bars and dance clubs. You can also browse the local newspaper for concerts and special events at clubs in the area.
3. Schedule an intense workout.
"The first thing I do on a business trip is ask 'Where is the nearest gym?'" says Michael Wood, chief fitness officer for Koko Fitness, Inc.Wood, who travels about 30 percent of the time, says he always makes a point to visit the outdoor gym in Santa Monica, California, whenever business brings him to the West Coast. Sal Fichera, fitness consultant and founder of Forza Fitness, agrees that hotel gyms simply don't cut it. To find a gym that meets your expectations, try searching for locations of your favorite gym chain online. Or, as Fichera suggests, ask the concierge or use the phone book. "I've even run with hotel staff I started chatting with," he says.
4. Take a leap.
Shankman carries his skydiving gear, commonly referred to in the industry as a "rig," in his carryon every time he boards a plane. In the past two years, Shankman has already visited about 30 drop zones across the world while traveling for business. "My logic is that you've got to throw something fun into business trips, or they just become hotel room, meeting room, airport, back to back to back. And that sucks," he says. Finding a good drop zone isn't difficult, thanks to the website Dropzone.com. Enter your location to find the drop zones closest to your hotel. Skydiving fanatics on the site rate Skydive The Farm in Rockmart, Georgia, as the best drop zone for its friendly, down-to-earth service.
5.Attend a play or musical.
If you're forced to travel for work during the holidays, why not get into the season by taking in a performance of The Nutcracker or a Christmas choral concert? Try StubHub.com and Ticketmaster.com for a list of upcoming events. Also consider watching a theatrical performance in a small, local theater. If it's the intimate settings you crave, check with the hotel's concierge or find the website for the city's chamber of commerce, which typically has a calendar of events with the contact information for local live theaters.