August 7 2008 by Amy Graff
Have I mentioned that I'm actually on a business trip in NYC?
Several months back I was invited to participate in a panel on leisure travel. Only a two-hour commitment? My hotel and airfare provided? I wondered, should I bring the kids and husband along for a long weekend in New York? Why not? I booked plane reservations for four.
My decision isn't unusual. According to the National Business Travel Association, 62 percent of U.S. business travelers said they add a leisure component to at least one business trip per year. Among those travelers, two-thirds say they bring a family member or a friend with them. Why? As the American workplace becomes more flexible about letting employees juggle their duties with family life, people like me are finding it easier to bring their spouses and kids wherever their jobs may take them. What's more, family business trips are a great way to save--since the company is usually paying for a few nights of the hotel and airfare for at least one.
So how did my family business trip go? Generally well. Of course, the panel turned out to be more than a two-hour commitment. I was invited to a dinner the night before and then I needed to prepare for the panel and deal with my stage-fright jitters. (Thank goodness my husband came along to watch the kids.) But after the first two days, we were entirely free and we hopped on the Staten Island Ferry, saw a Broadway Show, and explored the Museum of Natural History.
Here are some tips for a smooth family business trip.
Alert your kids. When you tell your kids about the trip, make clear that you'll be doing some work.
Pick the right hotel. Does the hotel have a pool? Is it near a park? Is breakfast included? Is there a DVD player in the room? These are the sorts of questions you should ask when you book a room for you--and your kids.
Upgrade your room. Since your employer is picking up the hotel tab, why not offer to pay a little extra out of your own pocket for a suite ? This way the kids can go to bed in one room and you can stay up late to work in the other, if necessary.
Hire a sitter. Most hotels can set you up with a qualified baby sitter. You're better off hollering for help than taking your stress out on the kids. The sitter can stay in the room with the kids while you work in the lobby.
Write out a plan. Come up with a schedule for the trip--and put it in writing. Spontaneous travel is great--but not well suited to family business trips. Map out which days are for work and which ones for play. If you're traveling with a partner, make sure you're both on the same and get ample time to work.
Set aside at least one day with no work. That means you have to turn off the Blackberry and you can't plug in the laptop. You need to show your kids that it was worthwhile for them to make the trip with you by giving them your full attention.