In the past, a ‘business trip’ may have conjured up mental images of men in suits flying first class to metropolitan cities, attending boardroom meetings and schmoozing clients with cocktails before catching a red-eye flight home. But today, business travel is all-encompassing, including more and more women and moms. As the nature of the workforce continues to evolve and we see the rise of entrepreneurs and freelancers, the very notion of what business travel looks like is changing as well. For some people, business travel is and sometimes has to be, a family affair, meaning that the kids go where Mom and Dad go.
My husband, travel expert Johnny Jet, and I have now taken about 40 flights with our almost-two-year-old son, traveling sometimes for pleasure but mostly for business. From the day we became parents, we knew that we wanted to find a way to merge our work life with our family life so that we would spend as little time apart as possible. It hasn’t always been easy, bringing a baby along on business trips, but it has always been worth it, to be together. And with so many trips under our belts, we’ve picked up a few tips along the way.
My husband always likes to be prepared, in the event of an emergency. And for a planner like him, travel insurance is key. “I would never travel without travel insurance, especially now that I have a son,” he says. “It gives me a peace of mind. When our son got sick in New York City last year, we racked up some serious bills, due to a visit from The Baby Doctor and an emergency room hospital visit. But thankfully my travel insurance policy helped to offset those costs.”
I’m also a planner but my concerns lean more to the day-to-day logistics of any trip and foremost on my mind is always finding good, healthy food to feed my son while we’re on the go. For this reason, I love staying at Ritz-Carlton hotels and having Club Lounge access. This means that we can pop into the lounge in between meetings and always know that there will be food, from full meals to snacks like fruits, vegetables and milk for our son. Eliminating that stress allows me to focus on my work and not always be worried about finding places where he can get a good breakfast, lunch and dinner.
There are tons of ways to make business travel with kids easier and smoother so I checked in with a handful of experts to get their advice. Here’s what they had to say:
When traveling with kids on a business trip, it’s important to define in advance how you’ll divide your time and the expectations you will all have about what you’ll do and when you’ll do it. Before you go, look for activities and attractions that the kids will enjoy, can be easily managed by your partner or caregiver solo, and that you won’t be too disappointed to miss while you’re working. If your evenings will involve dinners or events that are not appropriate for kids to attend, try to carve out breakfast or lunch as special time to spend together. If possible, extend your trip by a day or so after your business is finished, so you can look forward to doing fun things as a family once the work part of your trip has wrapped. Of course, this advice is based on the assumption you’ll have a co-parent or caregiver traveling with you. If you’ll be bringing the kids along on a business trip and you’ll need to find supervised activities or child care while you’re there, reach out in advance to friends and family and social media for local day program options or possible nanny-shares. On a recent trip, a friend was able to place her three-year-old for the day with another friend at their home daycare, which was a great temporary solution she felt good about thanks to the word-of-mouth recommendation. Some larger hotels have kids’ programs and activities that might align with your work commitments or will be able to arrange babysitting or refer you to local child care agencies. –Corinne McDermott, Founder, HaveBabyWillTravel.com
Be prepared to do your own thing
If you have a partner or family member traveling with you, I think it is important that they make their own plan for the day and are not waiting around for a break in your schedule. You are there to work, and sometimes meetings run late or you fortuitously bump into someone that you really need to talk to. It can be difficult to give 100% when you know that you have kids back in the room in swimsuits waiting for you to take them to the pool for an hour. Having also been on the flip side of this with my husband’s work trips, it’s hard not to get frustrated when they don’t appear on time, as promised. Personally, I find it is just better for each party to do their own thing and if you end up having a window of free time together, it can be considered an added bonus. I also like the idea of tacking on an extra couple days to the trip so that you can look forward to some family time together once the work is done. – Tara Cannon, Founder, Pint Size Pilot – Survival Skills for Travel with Kids
Stay organized and don’t be afraid to ask for help
There were a few times when my little boy was just a baby (and still breastfeeding) when I needed to go on a business trip. Rather than miss out on a great job opportunity, I packed up my pumpkin and traveled with him. Here are a few tips that worked for me:
-When booking your flight, fly nonstop and schedule it during baby’s nap-time or nighttime so they’re more likely to sleep. Don’t be the first to board the airplane. Let the baby run/crawl around the airport to get out as much energy as possible before you board. I’m always armed with a bunch of snacks (stock up at Whole Foods) and toys and treasures from the dollar store to distract during a long flight. I’ve found that new shiny things to tinker with will help keep little hands stay occupied.
-Stay organized and keep your hands free by packing a backpack with all your necessities like diapers, wipes, extra change of clothes, blanket for over air-conditioned airplanes, etc. If kids are old enough, tablets loaded with their favorite TV shows (that can be watched offline) can be an absolute lifesaver. Don’t forget kid-sized earphones as well.
-Don’t be shy to ask the flight attendants and fellow passengers for help. Traveling with a baby solo can be difficult and many (mostly parents with older children who remember how hard it can be) are sympathetic to your plight and eager to help. –Julia Dimon, Family Travel Expert, JuliaDimon.com
Bring someone who can look after the kids
Sometimes I do bring my kids along on a business trips when it makes sense, and if it’s inexpensive to do so. Oftentimes, I’ll try to combine work trips with personal trips, especially if it’s a destination we’ve been wanting to visit as a family. I tend to bring my kids (ages 3 and 4) along on about 50% of my work trips, and we’ve always made great memories that way. If you’re a business traveler and you are considering to do the same, I highly recommend bringing someone along to give you a hand and extending the trip a day or two after your work obligations are done. Oftentimes, I’ll bring my mom along to attend to the kids while I am in meetings, and then I’ll plan some family-friendly activities when time permits so that everyone can enjoy the city we’re in. Traveling for work and being away from my family is hard on everyone, so it’s certainly a win-win for all and is a great way to kill two birds with one stone while bonding as a family! —Angelina Aucello, Founder, AngelinaTravels.com
Plan carefully so everyone can enjoy the trip
My best advice is to plan carefully so you can ensure it will be a business trip everyone can enjoy. Be sure you are visiting a destination that will have plenty for your children to do while you are busy in meetings or attending business-related activities. What will they do while you are busy? Do you need a resort with great amenities like kids clubs or water parks? Do you require babysitting services? Are you going to travel with another adult who can help look after your children? Most importantly, how much time will you have to spend with your children exploring and enjoying the destination? Sometimes after answering these questions, we’ve realized what looked like a fantastic opportunity for the family to travel together on a business trip would really end up in disaster as the children would be very bored and irritated. –Caroline Makepeace, Founder, yTravelBlog.com