Photo Credit: NicolaWhen you’re traveling on the company dime, your time is generally not your own. However, there’s bound to be a small amount of free time, even during the most hectic business trip. The trick to making the most of your business trip is knowing how squeeze in a little bit of sightseeing - and fun - without using exorbitant amounts of time. Seasoned business travelers know how to take care of business, while still experiencing the very best that any given destination has to offer.

Check out the following tips for some exceptional ideas.

Plan Ahead

Before leaving on your business trip, you should already have an itinerary and schedule in place. That way, you’ll know where you need to be - and when you need to be there. Examine your schedule, looking for gaps or holes in it that can be put to use. Once you know what your available windows are, ask others who have visited the same city about its absolute must-see attractions. Try to prioritize those attractions to the best of your ability. You’re sure to be surprised by how much fun you can cram into a trip that’s ostensibly all about business.

Get Up Early

Assuming that you don’t have any crack-of-dawn meetings during your visit, try to get up as early as possible. In the hours before the work has to begin, you could easily visit a few of the city’s key sights. Many museums will be out of the question, since they don’t usually open until around breakfast time. Many landmarks are “open” 24-hours a day - the Eiffel Tower and Times Square are two great examples. Visit such places in the morning, before you have to be at your work-related function. You’ll get a better feel for the city that you’re in and won’t feel like you’re missing out as much.

Explore Your Late-Hour Options

On certain nights of the week, many museums and other attractions have extended hours. As a part of the research that you do prior to leaving, find out if any of the museums in the city that you’ll be visiting have late hours. If so, try to plan your activities around those hours. After your last meeting for the day wraps up, you could still have plenty of time to check out amazing art and fascinating exhibits. The trick is planning ahead for this sort of thing.

Experience the Nightlife

Everyone knows that carousing into the wee hours on the night before you have to work is a no-no. However, the spirit of many cities and other destinations is often most evident in their nightlife. You don’t have to stay out until 3am to get a good feel for what a city’s party scene is like. Invite a few colleagues to check out the top nightlife spots with you, or hit a bar or a club on your own. Make sure to set an alarm so that you don’t inadvertently stay out too late.

Enlist the Help of a GPS Unit

One of the reasons that many business travelers fail to explore the cities that they visit is because they don’t know their way around them. Nowadays, many topnotch mobile devices are GPS-capable. This means that they can give you clear, direct directions from point A to point B in any given city. Whether you’re hoofing it, or plan on using the city’s public transportation system, a GPS unit can help you cut to the chase a lot more easily. Suddenly, the city isn’t so mysterious and confusing - and you’re able to see plenty of it before you have to leave.

Visit Your Contacts

During a business trip, you’re going to meet up with the company that you’re there to visit. Before leaving, though, check to see if any of your other contacts live in the same city. Log on to your social networking profiles and update your status, letting people know that you’ll be in that city. You never know - someone could be available, allowing you to maximize your networking opportunities while on your business trip. In that way, you can make the most of your business trip in more ways than one.

Mixing Business with Pleasure

To be sure, the primary focus of any business trip has to be, well, business. That doesn’t mean that you have to have your nose to the proverbial grindstone every last second of the day. By planning ahead, making good use of technology - and using common sense - you can turn a boring business trip into one that’s dotted with fun, touristy activities. When you head back home, you’ll actually feel like you’ve experienced the city - instead of only becoming acquainted with its convention centers, business meeting rooms and airports. In the end, you’ll have a productive and enjoyable time!