All in the Family

by Country Inns & Suites
Thursday, December 16, 2010

Business trips with the family can bring your loved ones closer together while showing colleagues what’s important to you. By Beth D’Addono

Commercial real estate developer Marty Kotis often takes his wife and young son with him on the road. But only if (a) they want to go and will have something to do once they get there; (b) he’ll have some time to spend with them; (c) it doesn’t take away from the business goals of the trip; and (d) the people he’ll be meeting won’t feel awkward or burdened by their presence.

Amy Weirick, who travels about 10 times a year for her Columbus (http://www.experiencecolumbus.com/)-based public relations firm, invites her husband along half the time, and her two sons two or three times a year. “It’s great to give the kids travel experiences beyond the family vacation,” she says. “They get a real sense of what I do for a living, which they may not have understood otherwise.”

The upside of traveling with the family is spending quality time together in a new and interesting environment. The downside can be limited flexibility to adapt to changes in your business schedule and feeling mentally exhausted from being “on” all the time. It’s important that the family not compromise the business objective. Meanwhile, you do not want the family feeling hurt if you must devote more time to your work. Most companies know that spouses sometimes tag along to desirable locations. Usually, between frequent flier miles and shared sleeping quarters, the cost for a spouse to accompany is small. But very few companies are interested in paying for a spouse’s meals or drinks.

Taking the family demands some advance planning. Definitely wear comfortable clothes when traveling with children—you may have diaper mishaps and spills. You might even take a change of clothes whenever you’re going to a meeting directly after family time. Do some research beforehand in case you need to purchase attraction tickets well in advance. A minor league baseball game; a visit to the local science or history museum, zoo, or aquarium; and tours of historic sites are a few family-friendly options. Don’t forget to look for hotels with kid-friendly activities as well.

On a trip to Orlando (http://www.orlandoinfo.com/), Kotis took his son with him. “I mixed in touring Disney World (http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/) and spending time with our new manager and his family. I think this conveyed a shared sense of family values.” Weirick gives each of her boys a “briefcase” (an old bag from a past conference) filled with notebooks, markers and pens, a disposable camera, and reading material. For long car trips, DVDs are great. Traveling with the family can have another benefit, Weirick points out. “It’s good for clients and other professionals to see how important family is to me,” she says. “It helps them understand what really matters, which isn’t just the bottom line.”

Author Bio: Travel writer Beth D’Addono recently took her year-old Westie with her to Palm Springs.