Arriving early on a business trip

a clear plastic cup with a strawWhat to do when you arrive in town way earlier than your meetings? Reader T asks….

Hi Road Warriorette! I am about to go on my second business trip. I used a lot of your tips for the first and it went pretty well. I have a question that may be stupid, so my apologies in advance. For my next trip I have meetings starting at 11am, but I’m on an early flight so I get in before 8am. The airport is very close to my client’s office. What do people do when they get to a city hours before their meetings?

You know, before I started going on frequent business trips it never occurred to me that this was even a thing! Why would you arrive somewhere and not just go straight to where your meeting will be? Alas, I’ve found there are two common reasons for arriving early on a business trip and not heading immediately to the office:

  1. In many cases it’s not really polite to arrive three hours ahead of your scheduled meeting time.
  2. You have work that you need to get done prior to the meeting that you can’t do onsite.

While I’m sure there are other reasons, I usually fall between these. So what to do? Depending on your own needs, you have several options.

Go to a coffeeshop or restaurant. Hungry? Go eat something local and tasty! Need caffeine? Starbucks has you covered. As long as a place isn’t super busy you can often sit and work for a little while and enjoy your food. If you are being waited on while you work, make sure you leave a nice tip.

Check into your hotel. What’s that? you say. I can check into my hotel at 7am? Well, sometimes. When you land call your hotel to see if they have early check-in available. I’ve been given a room as early as 8:30am! It gives you a chance to clean up, get some work done, and even nap if needed (but set an alarm!).

Stay at the airport. This is usually the least appealing option, but if I have a good amount of work to be done prior to my meeting I usually just sit in an empty gate area, plug in, and plow through. On a trip last month I arrived at 6:30am for a 10am meeting (thanks time change!). In the almost three hours before I left I was able to get through a mountain of work, sitting right outside the secure area at PHX.

Readers, what do you prefer to do when you arrive on a business trip too early to go to your meeting?


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  1. I started to plan even days around my bussiness trips. I have about 10 conferences a year around the world and they are always 2-5 days. I started adding a day this became a week now standard to go see the area. Work from hotel early morning and alevening. Flights are cheaper too. I call it Bleisure travel. And i document it since 3 years on my blgo christravelblog

  2. Just go to the client’s office. Sorry, but early morning is the only flight available. I can wait here prior to the meeting can’t I?

  3. If you fly a lot, this is why you need a membership to an airline club. They are excellent for exactly this purpose.

  4. If your meeting is in the city, go to a coffee shop nearby.

    If your meeting is in an office park or suburb, and there is nowhere nearby to wait at a coffee shop, then I’m with James – go to the office and ask for an empty place to sit until the meeting time.

    In either case, I do not agree with staying at the airport, because you never know how much time it will take you to get to the office.

  5. I’ll wait in an airport lounge if it is in a city that I’ll be taking an uber/taxi or public transportation to the meeting. If I’m renting a car, I’ll pick it up and head to a Starbucks, Panera, local coffee shop, park, etc. nearby the meeting local.

    Unless it is customer you have visited before and you are confident that it is not an issue (and I would confirm via email/call before arriving that is OK), I would not go to the office and ask for a empty cubical or room for many reasons:

    1 – Many workplaces are secure. My current workplace (and most previously) requires all contractors to be escorted at all times. I’m not going to escort you outside our meeting time.

    2 – I work from home and only go into the office when meeting someone. I’m likely not going to be there until 10 minutes before our meeting time. The associates at our office wouldn’t know what to do with you and would send you away.

    3 – Respect. We make meeting times for a reason. If we needed to hang out all day, we would make those arrangements.

    4 – Not all offices have extra space or available conference rooms. And I’m not going to give a visitor someone’s office or cubicle.

  6. I’d look up a restaurant near the office, Google or Yelp are great for that. Get some breakfast and then hang out until it’s time to go to the meeting.

  7. I agree with Jessica – I would not necessarily wait at the airport because there could be a transportation delay. I would probably find a Starbucks near the meeting site (or a good local coffee shop!). I get stressed when I’m late, so I’d much rather be close to the meeting location.

  8. You guys bring up a lot of great points!

    It’s not just about being polite, but as Jessica mentions many offices are secure. There literally isn’t a way for someone to arrive early and work. I’ve worked in the lobby of some offices, but you can’t count on that being available–at many places you have to be buzzed into the actual building.

    As far as waiting at the airport, I will do that in locations I visit frequently. If it’s a new place, totally agree that you never know how long the car rental process/traffic/etc will take, so get closer to your office before choosing a somewhere to hang out.

  9. Even if you can’t check into your hotel room, many hotels have catered lobbies and/or private areas for their frequent traveler program members. This works well when you’re on a day trip.

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