5 Tips for Combining Business and Leisure Travel, Destination Mideast

As summer approaches, I always ask myself how can I run two businesses and still get away. Travel research shows that we Americans are most likely to forfeit vacation days.

Having signed up for a conference in Dubai, I was intrigued by the modern-day Mideast while wanting to know more about its ancient cultures.

After leaving the hotel for a few days, I booked a 5 star hotel in Amman with a restaurant options in and around the hotel.

As a crossroads, Jordan has a remarkable history from the ancient Nabataeans to Alexander the Great, the Romans, as well as the " Byzantine and Arab cultures. Beyond its historical monuments, Jordan has a very vibrant present day culture.

The following day I headed out on a day tour of the capital exploring Amman's Roman ruins. After the arrival, I saw this first hand as a local wedding party made its way through the lobby to celebrate with dancing and music. I stood transfixed high over the city listening to the muezzin's call to prayer. With only a brief stay, I made the most of the time taking a driver as a local guide for about 12 hours each day. Fortunately, distances were fairly close with the next day's exploration focused on the Roman ruins in Jerash. Its popular history begins at the time of Alexander the Great but fell to the Romans under Pompey in the first century AD. With the mild October climate, my guide and I then eat al fresco surrounded by vineyards. There was no tour bus in sight!

The next day's journey down to Byzantine Madaba ended at the renown Dead Sea. Famous for its spa treatments, I just had time to look at the sea before retracing my steps to Amman.

Saving the best to last meant a full day in the rose city of Petra built by the Nabataeans. Featured in Indiana Jones's and other movies and in a mystery novel by best-selling British writer Agatha Christie, it is a World Heritage Site that rivals the Pyramids. Beyond the large Treasury, there are a series of small buildings and conveniently located outdoor cafes and handicrafts for sale.

After an enchanting week, it was time to make my way to Dubai for a conference and brief sightseeing afterwards. Dubai is famous for its unexpected, air conditioned bus stops, the Palm development and ultra-luxurious hotels. For me, as an "Intermittent Intermediate Skier", I was fascinated by the indoor ski resort located in a local shopping mall. With limited expectations of a real workout, I knew this would make a great story and the perfect venue for a holiday card photo. After a feast of Southern Fried Chicken in the Mall of the Emirates Food Court, I covered my summer clothes with a colorful ski outfit and was up on the escalator ski and poles in hand. After a few runs, it was off for hot chocolate at the adjacent St. Moritz Café and the perfect end to my Mideast Odyssey

As a woman traveling alone in the Mideast, I followed two practices I found work for me globally:

1. I arrange for an airport pick-up before leaving home. In some countries, taxis may not be safe for men or women. Having navigated a low-grade civil war in sub-Sahara Africa, I learned to ask my hotel what they recommended, especially when traveling alone. In major capitals when arriving in day time, I often opt for public transport, especially trains / subways or catching a cab.

2. I choose a 5 star hotel that has multiple restaurants options ideally both inside the hotel and nearby. Alternatively, when it was affordable as I found in Cairo, I took a driver who waited for me or in Lisbon caught a taxi round trip to try out top restaurants.

While in the Mideast, I also had 2 additional rules of thumb:

1. In a new location, I always ask a lot of questions, especially to get local women 's opinions before strolling alone after dark. Although I would be both sightseeing and attending a business conference in a very hot desert weather, I wore long – sleeved shirts with slacks.

2. When I was the only woman in local restaurants, I always chose a seat / table right next to other pairs, groups of women, couples or families.

5 tips I've learned trying to combine business with pleasure:

first To save on airfare, be sure to check out connecting flights allowing for extended layovers.

2. Where possible, take care of business first, especially if complex flights can cause long delay.

3. Arrive over the weekend and make a trial run to locate your meetings' fastest routes. Even with a GPS, it is easy to run into problems. In one city abroad, I found massive construction in the area surrounding my first meeting. Even walking, it was almost impossible to get through, and street addresses were obscured by the construction scaffolding. In another foreign city, I discovered when I arrived at an appointment that the outside door was locked, and I had trouble reaching anyone inside my mobile phone.

4. Fly in or carry on a suit or an appropriate business look if your luggage does not arrive on time.

5. Set multiple alarms on a travel clock, on your mobile phone and with the hotel operator. Even in top hotels, I had a missed wake-up call or room service error before a flight for a quick day trip. (If you can not work without coffee or breakfast, have a backup plan if needed, if room service fails to appear.)

The key is to plan ahead where possible and have some time to survey your destination. Otherwise, a video conference instead of a face-to-face meeting may be a better value.