Business travel can be trying at the best of times, especially if it means weeks away from your partner and family. So what could be better than having them all come along for the ride?
If you think this sounds like a recipe for stress and anxiety, think again. A recent survey (by the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the University of Surrey) found those who travel frequently on business often miss out on key family milestones, feeling a sense of isolation and guilt at leaving their spouse and children behind. Additionally, the limited downtime between trips is often spent recovering from jet lag rather than fully participating in family life. Over time, this can lead to emotional distancing between family members and a perception of ‘loss of role’ – all of which sounds much more anxiety-inducing than taking your family on the road every now and then. So we say it’s time to take the plunge. Here are eight top tips to help keep you sane.
Travelling for business is much more straightforward when there is only you to think of, but as the above points demonstrate, the consequences of long-term travel can be severe. If you want to throw a little family time in to the mix, start with a trip that won’t be too taxing – like a one or two-nighter you can tag onto a weekend – and see how it works out. If all goes well, you can try something longer next time.
Make the most of extended family
In today’s hyper-connected world, many of us are fortunate enough to have family members dotted around the globe. Combining a business trip with a visit to far-flung relatives is an excellent chance for you and your kids to spend time with family members you rarely see. If you’re lucky, they might even offer to babysit or show off their local neighbourhood, freeing up time for you to work unhindered before a big family get together.
If travelling with your family means you might have to skip a few after-work drinks or social events, so be it. As long as your colleagues and clients are aware of your circumstances in advance, they’ll understand. Try and arrange your schedule so you can attend at least one evening function, especially if your hosts have gone to a lot of effort. But other than that, enjoy the freedom to spend time with your family as you wish.
Depending on your line of work, a business trip with your kids in tow could be an excellent learning opportunity. Can you arrange for them to sit in the audience while you present your keynote speech; accompany you on a construction site visit with high-vis jackets and hard hats, or let them see the inner workings of a factory? If it’s possible, make it happen! They’ll be talking about it for weeks.
It goes without saying that not all business travel is conducive to having family along. If you know there will be late nights, delicate negotiations and a few frayed tempers, save the family adventure for a future trip. Conferences, progress visits or one-off presentations are likely to offer more chances for downtime than anything complex or fraught. Wait for the right opportunity to present itself.
Travelling for a week or more? Perhaps your partner and children would appreciate a home from home, rather than a hotel room – especially if you’re stuck in a region without too many nearby attractions. It’s easy enough to find an apartment or house rental online, and these are more likely to be set up with the mod cons today’s kids are used to, not to mention the space to run around and let off steam.
Keep them in the loop
Make sure everyone in the family knows what to expect from the start: how long you’ll be travelling for, what will happen when you arrive, how the days will be structured, and most importantly, when you’ll be available to spend time with them. If you know you’ll be popping in and out to take calls, send emails or may even have to leave at short notice, let everyone know that’s a possibility in advance.
Surprises are good
Despite your good intentions, there are bound to be a few hiccups. Meetings will over-run, flights will be delayed, promised attractions will be unexpectedly closed. But any disappointments along the way can be salvaged with a surprise finale. This could be anything from a blowout trip to a theme park to a budget family picnic on the beach – the important thing is that no-one knows anything about it and you’re finally all together without interruptions.
By Maxine Sheppard