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Vacation Networking – how to plan a good getaway with intent to network.

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September has run out so fast that I’m almost certain December will be here by next week. With COVID and all the stress that it brings, I’m not sure vacation is on the minds of the people. Then again, there’s been concert after concert so I beg to differ.

I’ve pondered how time away on vacation can be used as periods for building a great series of relationships – essentially networking, but intentionally. I’d like to do that myself this festive season, in the safest possible way I can. Time spent away from work does not only boost one’s general wellbeing but also enhances one’s disposition and output. The thoughts of on vacation is one fascinating experience which brings an individual peace and relaxation. 

I’m experiencing peace and relaxation right now to some degree just typing about going on vacation. A 2010 travel study found that most people were happier before their trip than after returning because they were so excited to go on vacation. I’ll add that that conclusion might also be because most people don’t adequately plan a vacation trip. By its very nature, vacations are supposed to be stress-free, so we assume we should not put too much thought into them.

If not properly planned, what ought to be an incredible leisurely experience turns into frustrations and avoidable friction between loved ones and within you yourself. I realised last week that my anticipated travel needs to be dealt with properly by having a professional game plan. I spoke with Gloria, my long-time travel consultant and good friend. She split everything into three stages: the anticipation of the trip, the trip itself, and the nostalgic pangs you experience for years to come. To maximise enjoyment, she says I have to cater for all three stages.

Gloria Ayim has worked as a Destination Management Consultant for over 15 years. Her team was recently responsible for all the ground services arrangements for the Italian National football team during the 2020 Euro World Cup Final at Wembley. 

The list of her high profile clientele include various European football clubs an including AC Milan, the family of United Colours of Benetton, Gucci, as well as being the official ground handler of Emirates Holidays from 2009 to 2019. Below whas been discussed. Below are the gems from the series of discussions we’ve had on safe, and purposeful travelling

As an experienced travel professional, I have organised multiple trips for corporate institutions, executed large-scale incentive travel planning for leisure groups, families and individuals with varying budgets and interests. In light of this, many people, including Maxwell, often ask the secret to effortless vacation. Some ask about vacationing when paying for a premium service and others ask about the easiest way to enjoy the same luxurious experiences when organising a vacation yourself. The proverbial secret is that planning is paramount. Moreover, dressing for the occasion along with intentional choices to accommodate your budget, tastes and interests of the group or individuals is crucial. 

Just like is common knowledge now, your network is your net worth. 

A well-built network is a valuable investment. It is therefore worth considering networking along your travel journey as it is an effortless adventure applicable to our professional and social engagements. The endless opportunities can be far more exciting than awkward small talk at scheduled events. We often miss the chance to connect in our everyday lives because we are not as intentional with networking possibilities, least when we are on vacation. We have LinkedIn to thank for the ease of online networking, a massive bonus for the so-called busy folks, introverts and those unwilling to take time out to attend events. 

What is the point of networking, you might ask and why on vacation? 

Well, the secret is that most jobs are found and filled at a roughly 85% success rate via networking, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Entrepreneurs and Small Medium Enterprises (SME’s) know too well that referrals play a crucial role in their success and that these referrals come via their very network of friends, family and associates. Be ready to immerse yourself and to savour the moment when you go on vacations rather than having to make frantic last-minute decisions. 

Start your journey with a realistic budget of roughly how much you want the trip to cost. Google and check TripAdvisor for activities and sightseeing options of interest to you. Should you require Visas, double-check the official government website of the place you are travelling to and how to apply for Visas before you look at flights. Depending on where you are going, check out the state of COVID-19 locally, routine vaccines for immigration and entry requirements.

Destination Research

In vacation planning, just as in real estate, location matters! Find out the best months to travel to your destination with the weather forecast in mind. It’s pointless travelling to Seychelles during their monsoon season expecting the perfect honeymoon. Whether travelling by road or air, factor in the logistics, costs and travel times.

Accommodation

Research where to stay by looking at places and attractions you wish to visit central and convenient to the main points of interest. A quality hotel in a central location is worth booking. Maxwell seems to think a comfortable hotel room is very key, and I agree with him. People are accustomed to varying levels of comfort and living standards. But I will add that most people on vacation spend over two-thirds of their time not in the hotel room. New experiences by participating in the way of living of the locals can open some wonderful doors.

Transportation

Where possible, make your life easier by arranging Airport to accommodation transfers in advance with a trusted supplier. It is a beautiful feeling to arrive at your chosen accommodation with ease without having to figure out where to go in case of delays and queues at immigration.

Foreign currency

Order the required foreign currency locally before you leave for your trip. Exchanging money when you get there is a bad idea, risking a less favourable exchange rate, especially if you cannot speak the local language. Download a currency conversion rate app like XE Currency Converter to understand your spending.

Backups, data and devices 

Create digital copies on the cloud such as google drive of your essential documents. Keep a small paper of your next of kin details and emergency phone numbers written with full area codes in your wallet. Download Offline maps for directions to places in case you have mobile coverage issues. A Battery pack and a portable Wi-Fi device unlocked is useful.

Create an Itinerary

Create an itinerary before departure with timings to maximise the experience and savour the exciting moments as they unfold. Search for events taking place during the time you will visit for an opportunity to network with people having similar interests and immerse yourself in fanfares and pageantry. Sometimes hiring a car to navigate independently is the best option in small village towns. In metropolitan cities such as London, public transport is the obvious choice. 

Arrange your itinerary in such a way that everything will be on the way to the next thing. Do something worth remembering, such as organising a nice dinner date, as food is a great way to connect. And allow space in your itinerary for free time and unexpected situations, and spontaneous suggestions.  

Let’s pack and go already.

Pack weather-sensitive clothes for activities based on your destination of choice. Ladies!… and I’m all smiles as I utter these next words J you only need a few clothes! Just because you plan to take many pictures does not mean you should pack clothes for a photoshoot. 

Immerse yourself in the culture. 

Learn the basics of the local language of your destination. As long as people see you trying, help will always be at hand. A greeting such as Good Morning and Good evening is essential. ‘Thank you’, ‘excuse me please’, and ‘where is the toilet please’, or ‘where are the restaurants’ should do the trick. 

Take pictures but remember to live in the moment

Every experience is a photo opportunity. However, put the phone or camera down to live the moment. At times we are so busy documenting the trip for the sake of what we can post on social media that we forget to live the moment and busk in the very dream we envisaged months ago. Drink, eat, dance, and laugh some more; then, when it’s a “Kodak moment”, be sure to capture the moment.

Why vacation networking.

You might ask yourself why do business networking while you’re on vacation. Networking need not be about business or work all the time. Whom you know, and who knows you is helpful. You never know what these connections might bring you in your personal or professional life. Perhaps just attempting to network can bag you a free executive lounge upgrade. Or maybe a client referral? A new job reference? Who knows! Intentional networking can go a long way, so keep an open mind about the endless possibilities.

Here are my top 3 suggestions for consideration:

  1. Create a buzz in your OoO!

An exciting Out of office notification is brilliant. Let your immediate network know where you are going on vacation with a cheeky call to action, asking for ideas on exciting things to see at your vacation destination. Whilst the idea is that you are taking time off work, and a nice feeling to avoid emails, let’s not miss the opportunity for future conversations where people will remember to follow up, leaving a memorable impression with your network. Mention where you are off to—no need for precise google location or the hotel address. You are creating a harmless conversation starter. It is a sticky detail to remember you and an opportunity to garner interesting tips from your network who may have visited the same place.  

  • Reach out to contacts.

Why not dive into your contacts to see if you have associates or friends living close to the place you’ll be vacationing. It is harmless to connect and let them know you’ll be in their area. Ask for tips and recommendations. Perhaps suggest a meet up for coffee or a drink. Naturally, you’re under no obligation to meet up with them or make that ask, but if you are open to reconnecting, why not? Getting recommendations from a local is priceless; you get to experience a vacation spot off the beaten track to enhance your precious moments and memories.

  • Get Involved! Participate!

Find out if networking groups of interest will be hosting in the area; a brilliant excuse to connect with new people, professionally or socially, to learn and experience something new. Always have your business cards at hand! Have an intentional mindset to enhance the trip at any opportunity, but no need to force it.

Vacation networking is not only a fantastic opportunity to reconnect with forgotten associates, but an excellent opportunity to connect to new communities rife with possibilities of clients, leads, fellow networkers, and even friends. It is a hidden treasure trove of exploration with endless possibilities.

Before you plan your next weekend break or vacation, do put in the effort to plan and consider ways to connect at every opportunity. Be it from the executive lounge, airport check-in, lounging on the beach with cocktails in St Tropez, or even a local trip to the many beautiful locations in Ghana’s rich tourist attractions, let’s always have networking in mind. It’s an easy endeavour with very big social dividends.

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