For working parents, juggling the demands of business and family life can be challenging. And if your job requires you to travel frequently, you may find yourself struggling to keep all the balls in the air. But what if you could combine the two? We checked in with three experts to get their thoughts.
Can business travel be family-friendly?
Absolutely, says family blogger Anne Taylor Hartzell of Hip Travel Mama. “Of course, it depends on the business trip and the age of your children,” she says. “When kids are very young, they are very portable, however sleep schedules can take a toll on parents. Traveling with support can make all the difference.” She suggests bringing along a grandparent, friend or nanny to help out and provide built-in childcare for those business dinners and events that are not kid-friendly. “Utilize kids’ clubs and older siblings to babysit for short jaunts out for evening business events.”
Jen Leo, co-founder of Kids N Trips agrees. “We’ve traveled as a family with my husband when he needed to be in different cities for work since our daughter was a baby,” she says. “It’s a great opportunity to have some fun out of the house without using your full vacation budget.”
But Eric Stoen of Travel Babbo isn’t quite so sure that business travel and family travel are a match made in heaven. “I don’t think I’ve ever mixed business travel and family travel,” he says. “When I think about real business travel – conferences and meetings – I’ve never taken the kids. I used to travel to St. John’s, Newfoundland twice a year or so in my old job and never took family along even though we went whale watching and did other fun things. I had no idea what I would do with them during the day when I had meetings. And even now that they’re older, I have the same concerns.” But Eric notes that he and his family are fortunate to travel a lot so they don’t really need to combine work with vacation. “We travel enough as a family that my wife and kids aren’t looking for an excuse to travel more if I’m heading somewhere amazing for work,” he says. “I leave, I come home, and then we plan amazing trips with everyone.”
How to turn a business trip into a family-friendly trip
“Like any trip, be flexible if you are able,” says Anne. “Consider extending a weekend business stay through Sunday and Monday night for best extended rates on hotels. For mid-week business trips, adding on a weekend to decompress and sight-see is a great way to mix business with pleasure.”
Since it goes without saying that a business trip means that someone will have to work, Jen advises doing some advance research to find ways for the rest of the family to have fun while they’re busy. You can also use TripIt’s new Nearby Places feature to find out what’s nearby. “Many cities have children’s museums, aquariums, parks, movie theaters, children’s toy stores, or a great ice cream shop to try,” she suggests. “When our daughter was an infant to toddler age, I looked for local resources like indoor playgrounds and well-regarded outdoor parks to take her to while dad was at work. We also always tried to make time for all of us to be together and have some fun, whether that was having a meal together or watching a movie and playing games together in the hotel.”
Since traveling with little ones isn’t always easy, especially if you’re flying solo while your spouse is working, find out what local family resources you can take advantage of. “If you’re traveling with a small child, consider renting equipment in your destination so you can travel lighter,” Jen suggests. “Also, call your concierge in advance and ask about babysitting options, or sign up in advance with a local babysitting company that vets their sitters,” she says.
Great destinations for family-friendly bizcations
Anne says that when it comes to domestic travel, there are some cities that really roll out the red carpet for families and make traveling with kids a lot of fun. In Orlando, she says there’s tons for the family to do and it’s a popular destination for business and conventions travel. She loves New York because there’s so much to do for kids of any age, plus, it’s so walkable. And Seattle also makes her top three. “Maybe I’m biased because Seattle is my home city, but especially during the summer months, Seattle is an amazing place to visit for business and leisure!” she says.
“Conferences that are held at family friendly resorts with kids’ clubs are fantastic for families who like pools or activities planned by energetic hotel staff,” Jen says. “We were spoiled in that my husband had an annual conference at Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in the Bahamas in our daughter’s early years. We’ve also made family trips that wrapped around business in Las Vegas.”
Do’s and don’ts for mixing business with pleasure
As a family travel blogger, Anne has lots of experience combining business travel with family travel. Here, she dishes up her top do’s and don’ts:
Do travel as often as you can with your kids and always consider how you can extend a business trip into a family experience. It’s hard in the beginning, but soon, they will be packing and carrying their own bags and you’ll be wondering where the time went when you were lugging around all that travel gear.
Do check your expectations at the hotel door. Traveling with kids requires a lot of patience and flexibility. Things will go sideways. Kids will throw up at the restaurant right as they are serving an epic meal, they will run a fever the morning of your flight, they will fuss and cry during a business dinner. This is part of the journey.
Don’t forget to set expectations with older kids regarding mom’s or dad’s work responsibilities during a trip. For trips where I’m covering an event, we always share the schedule and talk about how mommy has work commitments and discuss when we will carve out family time to unplug and play!
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Traveling with kids is hard for every parent and mixing business with leisure is not easy. Stay the course to grow more culturally-aware and connected families!