Something about going on a work trip just scream “adult!” to me. Maybe it’s because I used to tag along on all my mom’s work trips to New York and London. Or maybe it’s because someone else pays for your travel.
When I got the opportunity to go on my first work trip, I had to keep myself from jumping up and down.
I’d made it! I was doing the pinnacle “adult” thing (or it was in the mind of my travel-obsessed child self).
The Thrill of Free Travel
No, the trip wasn’t related to Nina Out and About. It was for my job in New Zealand.
I had to go to Wellington for training in writing in plain English (don’t they know I have a degree in that??) and meeting my team.
When I actually explain the reason for the trip, it sounds a lot less fun. But I was thrilled.
Sure, I’d need to get up freakishly early to be in the office on time. And yeah, I’d have to attend training and then meet a bunch of new people (which is not my favourite thing to do). I’d have to figure out how to expense my food and sort out my own accommodation to extend my stay over the weekend.
But someone else was paying for me to travel!
Ever since I’d graduated from family trips, I’d been dreaming of someone paying for my ridiculously expensive airfare and accommodation again ($400 for a hotel room? No way!).
My Work Trip Origins
Growing up, I travelled a lot.
My family went on vacations. Somehow I also managed to scheme my way into my mom’s work trips as well. She took me from London to Hong Kong while she worked.
Since my mom had to go do the work they’d flown her out to do, I was on my own during the days. Sometimes I had supervision in the form of family friends. Other times my step-sister would join the tag-a-long work trip adventures.
Along the way, work trips stopped meaning “work.” They just meant someone else paid. (Well, at 13, someone else always paid.)
When I think of work trips now (even after going on two), I remember wandering through Hyde Park or going to broadway plays or eating a key lime pie a foot tall.
I don’t think of my mom having to pack a bunch of work clothes. Or her getting ready for work before I was fully awake. Or her texting me through meetings when I got lost in Central Park (I started my inability to find my way long before Amsterdam).
The Dread Sets In
The excitement for my first work trip wore off as the date drew closer.
Work was getting stressful. I was moving house the next weekend. I was starting to catch a cold (but I’m always starting to catch a cold).
I had no desire to get on a plane, sit through training sessions and then spend a weekend away.
What had I become??
The short answer: I was tired.
A work trip wasn’t the break I was looking for. I wanted to either lie around in bed binge watching random shows or go on a proper vacation. I didn’t want to pack work-appropriate clothes or have to save my receipts for expense reports (although free food is totally worth it!).
I finally understood why my mom wasn’t thrilled with her monthly work trips across the globe: it was still work.
13-year-old me had never realized that. Granted, 13-year-old me was too busy with puberty to notice most things.
First Work Trip: Check!
The trip went really well. Apart from a 5am wake up to get to the airport, I had a lot of fun. The training seminar was entertaining. I explored Wellington and ate far too much food. My airbnb had a dog I got to cuddle with. I finally did all the tourist-y things in Wellington (post to come!). Did I mentioned my airbnb had a dog??
I got my vacation experience on the weekend. And I learned that work trips aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
Sure, someone else pays for your travel, but you’ve still go to work!
3 Lessons I Learned from my First Work Trip
1. Make Time to Travel
It’s a delicate balance to make the most of a work trip.
I managed to sandwich mine around a weekend so I’d have free time. That meant I had to pay for an Airbnb for the weekend, but I got a night in a hotel for free.
Try to get a full day off during your trip. This could be a weekend or holiday time.
Make the most of the free flight by enjoying the place you’re in.
2. Bring Versatile Clothes
Pack clothes you can wear to work or on your day off.
My work pants were also the pants I wore to dinner on the weekends. My shawl fit the office and my free days.
You don’t need more than a carry on for a work trip. Packing clothes you can mix and match makes that a lot easier. Don’t waste the space.
3. Get Local Advice
Some of the best things I’ve done on work trips (my mom’s and my own) were based on local advice.
You’re working with a bunch of experts on the city you’re in. Make the most of that and ask for recommendations.
Where should I go for dinner? What museums do you recommend? Are there any events on?
It’s also a great way to get you talking to new people. Instead of awkward small talk about the weather (I can only comment on the wind in Wellington so many times) or only talking about work, ask for travel tips.
You’ll learn a lot about your coworkers based on what they recommend. Sometimes you’ll even get a travel buddy out of it.
I’m still super close with the woman that took me to get glitter spray-on tattoos (and I awkwardly chose a tramp stamp … I was a weird teenager).
Although it’s not as relaxing as a typical vacation, work trips can be great. You just need to figure out how to make the most of them.
If you can swing one, I definitely recommend it.
What “adult” thing did you look forward to as a kid?