Business Traveler Interview: Dr. Susan Biali

We all know we should take our vacation time. Studies have shown time and again that people who take vacations are happier, healthier, live longer, and are more satisfied with their lives. It’s just so hard to leave work at the office! But don’t worry—there are ways to maximize time on your business trips as well as vacations to gain the ultimate health benefits. Dr. Susan Biali, a health and happiness expert and author of Live a Life You Love: 7 Steps to a Healthier, Happier, More Passionate You, has teamed up with Embassy Suites to help travelers “more-imize” their time, so they can get more out of the precious spare time they do have.

Here is Part One of my interview with Dr. Biali. Look for Part Two next week!

RW: When you travel for work a lot, sometimes it’s hard to get out of the business trip mindset—the go, go, go. What is your best advice for business travelers adding a few days to a work trip for vacation—how can they transition into the vacation mindset?

SB:  On a recent trip to New York I had some business related things to do, but I had vacation goals as well—some family in town to visit, sightseeing I wanted to do, etc. It’s very helpful to clearly delineate which days are vacation days vs. business days. There are a couple of ways to have more vacation days as a business traveler. You can either incorporate it, tag it on at the end of a business trip, or you can plan a separate vacation in which you clearly delineate it as vacation. Either way, it’s very important to unplug.

RW: Do you think it’s a good idea to combine business trips with a vacation component, or do you think it’s better to have separate trips?

SB: I am a big fan of grabbing rest and recovery any chance that you can. So for pure impact, if you can dedicate time absolutely to vacation it’s incredibly helpful, especially if you have a family. But when you travel a lot for business, finding even a couple of days really helps with the “more-imization”—grabbing a few days at the end of a work trip with your family to dedicate to vacation and fun is great. As a life coach, and as a person who’s very into the benefits of rest and relaxation, anytime you can fit it in your life it’s a good thing.

RW: One of your tips is to plan your vacation in advance. How far in advance do you think is important to be able to maximize those benefits?

SB: According to a study that came out of the Netherlands, it’s about eight weeks. Planning a vacation eight weeks in advance gives you a lot of time to look forward to it. It’s very interesting—they found that the most joy of a vacation actually came from the anticipation. I think we can all relate to that! If you know you have a vacation to look forward to, especially if you’re going with family members or other people, you talk about it, fantasize about it while you’re sitting at your desk…. It really has been proven to significantly improve the quality of life. Another interesting thing they found in that study was that people who had relaxing vacations—people who didn’t pack their vacation time with lots of activities or stress from running around—those people were the happiest once they got back. Their happiness lasted for a couple of weeks, as opposed to the people who didn’t really relax during vacation, where the effects wore off a lot more quickly.

RW: Interesting! So when you’re planning your vacation, do you have any tips for making the logistics of a vacation easy so that you can enjoy it as much as possible? Such as, when you arrive, how do you get to the hotel, etc…

SB:  If you can leave the night before, like after work, you can get to your destination and have a really full first day of vacation. In terms of getting to the hotel, I’ve found that vacation time is really precious to me. It’s generally worthwhile to take a cab or a car service from the airport, even if it’s going to cost more than a shuttle service. Because I’ve taken shuttle services, and oftentimes you end up sitting around the airport waiting forever for the next shuttle, then they’re taking you around to all the different terminals, then you go around to all the different hotels as they drop other people off. I’ve found that as much as it feels like a good idea to save a whole bunch of money, vacation time is so precious! Plus, your stress level rises when you’re sitting around waiting for a bunch of people. I just recently had this experience when I was in New York—and I’m still stressed out just thinking about it! Does that make sense?

RW: Yes! I’ve never actually thought about it, but it is so true! Whenever I’ve used any of the shuttle services I’ve always felt that I’m just wasting my precious time. Sure it cost $20 vs. $50 but, ugh, it took two and a half hours.

SB: Yes! And then you’re stressed, you’re irritated, you’re hungry. I’ve just generally found that it’s not the way to go. Also, wherever I stay, I try to make sure that there are as few things to worry about as possible. For example, I know that Embassy Suites and other hotels have hot cooked to order breakfast. So anytime there are freebies like that, I’ve found it really helpful because I don’t have to worry about where I’m going to find food or if room service is too expensive. I can get my day off to a faster start as opposed to looking around for somewhere to eat for breakfast—its’ a huge help, logistically.

RW: I so agree with everything you just said! Can you expand on your experiences and recommendations of traveling in the night before vs. the day of? We’ve certainly done both, and we’ve found that if you stay up really late getting things ready, then get up really early to fly somewhere, you end up napping for hours once you arrive, and your whole first day is kind of shot!

SB: Yes, yes, absolutely yes. I totally agree. Generally I don’t like to arrive too late, but if you arrive in the evening or at a decent hour of the night, you have time to organize yourself. You get to the hotel, check in, get unpacked, maybe get a bite to eat—and then you’re set. When you wake up the next day, it’s just so delicious. You can sleep in, and you only have to worry about getting up early enough for breakfast! Also, I always try to schedule a transition day when I get back home. That takes some of the dread out of going home, and the vacation carries over.

RW: That’s a great idea! We’ve found that if we travel out on a Saturday and come home on a Saturday, having that Sunday to catch up on laundry, email, etc, is so helpful.

SB: Exactly. You can even travel out on Friday night and comeback on Saturday—that’s even better!

Stay tuned for Part Two of my interview with Dr. Susan Biali, coming next week. We will be talking about her recommendations about the types of vacations that are the most relaxing, and therefore most beneficial for our health!

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