It's summertime, and your social media feed may be inundated with photos of people on fabulous vacations. But for some busy small-business owners, taking time out from work for even a short trip can seem like an impossible dream. If you can't swing a week or two off for a family vacation this year, why not mix business with pleasure by taking your family along on your next business trip?
Of course, bringing children on a business trip has the potential to turn downright disastrous. To make sure your trip doesn't become a nightmare, here are some things to consider before you go.
1. Assess your business trip.
Start by assessing how predictable, stressful and important this business trip is. Is it an annual conference you've been attending for years? Or is it a vitally important meeting with a demanding new customer that could make or break your business? If your schedule will be manageable and the business component has a defined start and end point, the trip may be a good candidate for adding family to the mix. However, if you need to work late into the night, entertain clients until all hours or if you have to be on call for a demanding customer, it may be best to fly solo.
2. Assess your energy levels.
Be honest about your own energy levels, too. Business trips can be exhausting. If all you want to do after a long day on the tradeshow floor is come back to your hotel and order room service while binge-watching the latest movies, you may not be very good company for your family.
3. Set expectations with your family.
Once you've determined that the trip is a good candidate for family time, set expectations with your partner and your children. (If you're a single parent and want to bring children along, consider enlisting a parent, sibling or good friend to come with you.)
For example, if you're attending a conference for three days and then spending the rest of the week with the family, you may want to let them know what your schedule will be like during the conference. Will you be back at a predictable hour? What do your partner and children expect from the trip, and is that realistic? You may want to make sure your partner is OK with managing and entertaining the kids on his or her own during the business part of the trip so you can focus on work. In addition, if you'll need to get caught up on work in the hotel early in the morning or late at night, you may want to make that clear to your family.
4. Choose your venue wisely.
The right location may make or break your trip. Consider looking for a location that offers plenty for children to do so your family won't be bored without you.
For example, staying at a resort or a child-friendly hotel may be a good way to make sure the children are entertained. Many hotels now cater to business travelers who bring their families along—some even offer in-hotel child care or kids' clubs to keep children busy during the day. Only you know whether you'll feel comfortable leaving your children with an unknown childcare provider, and whether they'll feel comfortable staying, so consider taking that into account.
5. Look for family- and work-friendly amenities.
Other features you may want to look for in a hotel include mini-refrigerators and microwaves for children's snacks, room service, pools and a concierge who can suggest local activities for kids. If you know you'll need to catch up on work, consider choosing a hotel with a business center or other common area to work. Getting a suite with a separate room where you can work without disturbing the rest of your family may be helpful as well.
Depending on where your business trip takes you, renting an apartment, house or condo through Airbnb or a similar service may be a good alternative to a hotel room. Your family may have more space and can prepare their own meals if they want to. The trade-off is they won't have a concierge, housecleaning or a business center. You may want to make sure that any rental property you choose has Wi-Fi access and any other features you need to get work done.
6. Think about your family.
Speaking of work, I'm mentioning it a lot because this is a business trip. However, consider prioritizing your family, too. Consider letting your partner and children have a say in what happens by letting them plan some activities they want to do. If business prohibits fitting in some type of family activity every day, you may want to set aside a few days before and/or after the business part of the trip for family time.
Another alternative: consider having your family meet you at the tail end of the business trip instead of spending the entire time with you. You can still fly home together, you'll be able to focus on business when you need to and you'll get some much-needed family time to unwind after your work is done.
For more tips to help you stay productive on your next business trip, access Business as Pleasure: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Travel.
Read more articles on work-life balance.