Business travel is often grueling and rarely glamorous... it's living like a rockstar without the fringe benefits. You have to ask yourself, as you plan an itinerary that has you flying from San Francisco to Bentonville via Houston then Denver in the middle of February when you know there will be weather delays just to arrive in time for a 2-hour meeting, then get back on a plane and go through the same itinerary to return to San Francisco in time for more meetings, WHY? followed by, how do I make the best of this?? Life is short, I don't want my memories to be full of security checks, beige food, beige meeting rooms and beige people in beige black suits.
I have a secret - rent a car. It's the best way to get to know a place in a short period of time, especially if you get lost (in which case, I've decided, you may then declare yourself a local). When you land, charmingly ask for an upgrade at the rental car counter and you might be surprised (I was once upgraded to a Jaguar XJ at no extra charge). Add color and emotion into the mix by bringing along your own music and no longer will you feel as though life is just passing by as you press on in the business world. It's a bold proposition, because there is always the possibility of taking a wrong turn that could put you someplace unexpectedly beautiful... and has nothing to do with your business purpose.
Firsthand experience: a routine business trip to meet with the government of Spain about regional industrial projects - a big yawn in the scheme of my life - turned into gorgeous memories of driving through Castilla y Leon in a bright red Mini Cooper with The Verve's Urban Hymns on the cd player past hillsides dusted with snow, medieval castles and lush vineyards in the distance. A decidedly better life memento than a Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt purchased at the airport upon departure.