The fun of business travel is mostly in the eyes of the non-beholder.

Some of the people in sales do get to take customers out for lavish lunches or evenings on the town. But those who travel frequently have certainly earned an occasional Broadway ticket with a hearts-of-palm cluster. They've paid for every two-on-the-aisle freebie with a lot of three-abreast plane rides.

I prefer my own, more limited amount of travel, even though it's typified by two recent trips to New York.

On one, my expense-account lunch consisted of a hot dog and cola bought and consumed at a street vendor's cart.

On the next, there wasn't time for such amenities. I caught the 7 a.m. shuttle (guaranteed to be caffein and calorie free) . . . went to two appointments in Manhattan . . . rushed to catch a return flight . . . took care of some pressing matters back at the office . . . and finally had a mid-afternoon bite in our very own company cafeteria.

My savoring of the Big Apple on both occasions consisted mainly of the scenic rides between LaGuardia and midtown New York. I got to see some prime examples of urban blight, including automotive debris that ranged from a wrecked Aspen to a skeletal Zephyr.

In fairness to New York, I should note that nowhere are airports known for uplifting the local real estate. (Who's ever landed--safely--in the midst of a plush suburb?) Unless you're flying into an airport that's remote and inconvenient, you're generally faced with a dreary ride to your destination.

And in fairness to the Eastern Shuttle, I admit that, even when breakfast is served, there's no such thing as a good 7 a.m. flight.

Why do I sometimes choose one? In order to minimize the amount of time I'm away from both home and the office. I'd rather spend an evening with my wife and depart at dawn than leave the night before I'm due somewhere. Also, I know that few of my office chores go away when I do. For me and many others, trip time amounts to overtime--because we make it up at the office sooner or later.

In one way, I've been lucky compared to many travelers. My employers have either allowed reasonable per diems or ignored their official limits. Nevertheless, a business trip always costs some money of my own. Not choosing to gouge my company with phony expenses, I end up shorting myself instead. There's always a tip here, a cab there or a business phone call or two that I forget to account for.

My record is not good, either, on what is perhaps the biggest potential advantage of a business trip--tagging on a vacation when your transportation is being paid for. Somehow an office crisis, a kid's birthday or some other inescapable priority has managed to squelch most of these opportunities. As a rule, the timing is only right when my business destination is a vacation mecca like Cincinnati . . . or Murfreesboro, Tenn.

So, I usually just hurry homeward. And the closest thing to a thrill on the whole trip comes when my return flight touches down and suddenly the canned music blares forth. This always strikes me as an amusing corporate sigh of relief by the airline. But it kind of echoes my feelings, too: it sure is good to be back.