Business trips connote boardroom meetings, negotiations, and presentations. And increasingly, they’re also looking more like short family getaways complete with sightseeing and cultural experiences.

There’s only one looming question many business travelers have: “Is this ok?”

Apparently, many are unsure if their company even has a policy on leisure activities during business trips. Only 14% said they’re aware of a policy, and 59% said there was no policy, with 27% saying they weren’t sure, according to new BridgeStreet report about international business travel leisure habits and preferences.

“Personally, I didn’t find these numbers surprising, said Kelly Murphy, a spokesperson for BridgeStreet. “It could be something that is handled at a departmental level, or maybe it’s a ‘don’t ask’ kind of thing. As long as they’re not adding to the financial cost of travel for companies, bringing families along is probably ok.”

The uncertainty isn’t stopping them from taking time to enjoy their surroundings and relax, though, as 83% say they use time on business trips to explore the cities they’re visiting. Another 60% of respondents said they’ve taken a business leisure trip, with half of that number adding two vacation days to business trips.

For businessmen and women traveling frequently throughout the year, not losing touch with their families is a concern, said Murphy.

If a business traveler flies from New York to San Francisco, for example, their company likely pays for the flight and saves a family the price of one ticket, making a trip more affordable.

“But we found that saving money on a plane ticket is not the top reason for bringing the family on business travel, it’s more about spending time with family and sharing the experience with them,” said Murphy.

More than half, 54%, of travelers taking business leisure trips bring family members or a significant other with them. Business travelers under 35 are more reserved with bringing family, given that 39% don’t bring a significant other or another family member with them even though they’d like to.

Blending leisure and business while traveling is a hotbed, as six in ten respondents say they’re more likely to take this kind of trip today than they were five years ago. The data show companies with no policy sidestep opportunities to have meaningful conversations with employees about their travels.

“Companies should have more of an open dialogue about it,” said Murphy. “I think that companies have an opportunity to embrace this and it makes it easier to work with people, and creates shared interests among employees who travel together.”

The numbers back up Murphy’s claim, since 96% of respondents said they gain cultural experience and knowledge during these trips, and 78% feel adding leisure days to business travel adds value to work assignments.

When it’s time to work on these trips, airports serve as more than departure points. Research from Virgin Atlantic shows 56% of business travelers arrive more than an hour before their flights to use airport lounges for their Wi-Fi and quiet workspaces.

“Our research shows that there is a new mindset in today’s business traveler,” said Chris Rossi, a spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic. “They’re not just a business person on their way to a meeting, but an individual thinking about making the most of every opportunity they find themselves in.”

Virgin’s report also found 61% of business travelers feel they have the best job in the world because of the the traveling their positions involve.

See BridgeStreet’s full report below.

Download (PDF, 1.49MB)

Photo Credit: Travelers at Chicago O'Hare airport. Nicola / Flickr