Being the spouse of a frequent business traveler for more than a decade, I’ve tagged along to many fabulous destinations. The tag-along trip falls somewhere between solo and couple travel, and enjoying it requires an independent streak and the right attitude. If you’re new to tagging along, the following tips will help you make the most of any trip.
Have a Plan
While your spouse is working, you’re going to be on your own. You don’t want to end up holed up in a business hotel room watching reality television—potentially in a language, you don’t understand. You need a plan for enjoying your destination solo.
Figure out how to best spend your time. I usually take advantage of the situation by doing things that my husband doesn’t enjoy as much as I do or that are more suited to doing solo. I’ve seen off-Broadway matinees, gone to museum exhibits that interest me and have enjoyed some me-time at a spa.
As a female tag-along traveler, I make sure to research our destination regarding transportation options, safety and any cultural considerations I should be aware of around gender.
This tip is all about expectations and attitude.
Business travel can involve long days that spill into evenings. On many a trip, my husband and I have had dinner plans that got cast aside because a client asked him to dinner or because the after work cocktail hour went longer than expected. On the flip side, clients have learned that I’m tagging along and invited us both out to dinner. Our planned romantic evening out turns into networking and small talk with business associates. I’ve learned that plans are not commitments and that business comes first.
Tagging along also means adjusting your expectations when it comes to your accommodations. Sometimes there’s little choice regarding where we stay because the business client books the hotel. My husband’s proximity to his work site trumps being close to an area’s attractions. I’ve stayed in gorgeously appointed hotels I’ve never wanted to leave and others that are pretty basic and near an industrial park making it a challenge to get around. I always research where I’ll be staying well in advance and then figure out how to make it work.
It can get lonely on a tag-along trip, but as an introvert I’m not usually one to strike up a conversation with strangers. My solution has been to sign up for a local tour. I’ve done walking and cycling tours as well as culinary tours, which are great if you want to avoid eating out solo. I’ve met many other fascinating and friendly fellow travelers as well as locals this way.
Be a Travel Scout
While I’m exploring a new destination on my own, I’m always on the lookout for interesting things to do with my spouse when he’s got some downtime or for the days we sometimes tack on as vacation following the business trip.
During a recent walking tour of a European city, a local told me about an out-of-the-way rooftop lounge that offered a spectacular view of the skyline. I’ve also spotted quirky shoe stores I know my footwear-obsessed husband will want to check out. In other cases, I’ve done things I’ve enjoyed so much that I did them again with my spouse or he’s done them on his own when he’s on business in that city again. Taking on the role of travel scout can add a fun dimension to exploring a destination solo.
Deborah Zanke has a public relations practice in Winnipeg, Canada. She writes a blog called Tag Along Travel where she chronicles the joys and trials of being married to a frequent business traveler.