Business Travel For Working Parents
As exciting as it may sound to the outside world, business travel can be anything but. And once kids are in the picture, travel away from your family can become complicated and emotional. Particularly when it could be the first time you’ll have to spend the night away from your little one.
We’ve gone through the heartache too; traveled, lived and learned some things along the way. Here’s our advice on how to best manage the juggle of business travel and family.
Seasoned travelers, did we miss anything that helped you? Tell us in the comment box at the bottom of the page.
Before You Go
Determine whether or not it's critical you're there in person
We’ve all been on that business trip that didn't really require our presence. It was nice to be there, but not critical. So, before you start making reservations for your next business trip, ask yourself “Is it critical that I’m there in person?”. If you believe the answer is “no”, then you’ll need to make the case to your boss, team or clients, and offer alternative solutions:
1. If the need for you to travel is to listen, absorb and learn, propose that the same could be achieved if you participate via video or audio conference instead. Think about value you can add by being remote, whether it be taking notes for everyone in the room, playing time keeper or researching info to message to your coworkers about topics in real time.
2. Quite often, travel can take us away from the day-to-day work that needs to be achieved, which could compromise projects and deadlines. By staying at the office, is there work you can pickup, or projects you can keep on track on behalf of your team and colleagues on the road? Offering a valuable way you can make an impact by staying put could help justify the need to say “no” to this trip. And also allow you another way to shine and deliver value.
3. Is it possible to divide and conquer? If you’ll be traveling with colleagues, not everyone may need to take the trip. If you can figure out a way to divide trips across the team, you'll not only be helping yourself, you'll be saving your teammates from extra time on the road too!
If you need to travel, make the most of it
Travel may be important or necessary for your job. And counter to above, there are many circumstances where you’ll be the driving force behind the trip, leader of the meeting and/or owner of the project, and it’s critical that you’re there. When you have to travel, think about how you can get the biggest bang for your buck.
1. Are there other trips you anticipate you’ll need to make this year? If so, think about whether or not you could consolidate them into fewer trips. Though one more day away from your family feels heartbreaking, if you could add an extra day to save yourself from taking a second trip in the near future, it might be well worth it.
2. As you plan your travel, do so in a way that assuages whatever heartache or guilt you may feel. If the thought of missing one more bedtime is hurting your heart, book a late flight so you can tuck in your child before heading to the airport. Though you might be tired from late night travel, your heart may feel fuller knowing you got some extra quality time. Weigh the trade-offs.
3. Plan ahead. Set yourself up for success so that you’ll be less worried about what’s happening at home while you’re away. If you’re concerned about your partner handling solo parenting, ask family or friends for an extra hand while you’re away. If you need to make special childcare arrangements, do so well ahead of time so it’s not a last minute stress.
Think outside the box
Would you look forward to travel if you could bring your family along with you? If you have a partner, grandparent, friend or nanny up for a trip, then it may be possible to bring your kids along during business travel. Child and caretaker will have a chance for a fun adventure in a new city, and you’ll be able to spend non working hours with them too! While this may not be sustainable for all trips, it might be enticing to sprinkle in occasionally. And could alleviate the anxiety that comes with being away - especially for that first trip!
1. You already have free accommodations, and if the cost is equivalent, you could ask to rent an apartment or home instead of a traditional hotel room. Bonus points if you can extend your trip and stay the weekend, or take some vacation days to enjoy yourself with the family too.
2. If you don’t have anyone to travel with you, but want to bring your kids along, checkout temporary childcare in the city where you’ll be traveling. Some daycares will allow for daily drop-ins. Or, websites with verified and reviewed caretakers can help you find a short-term babysitter for your stay.
3. If you choose to bring your kids along, know that in some ways, it could add unexpected stress to your trip too. If you’ve ever traveled with kids, you know how much prep and packing and “stuff” is involved! And if you know you really need to be 100% focused during your trip, be realistic about whether or not this option may distract you. Conversely, knowing your child is in the same city, and that you won’t have to spend nights away, could be the driver for focus that you need!
If you plan to pump, plan ahead
Check out our feature on pumping and traveling here for our tips and product recommendations.
Learn how you can request a reimbursement for a breast milk shipping service like Milk Stork here.
Once You're There
Take advantage of "me" time
Yes, the purpose of your trip is business. But that doesn’t mean you can’t squeeze in a little fun too. If you have to be away, find some time to do the things you can't normally do in your day-to-day, and it'll feel like a rare treat.
1. These days, with work and parenthood taking center stage, finding time to get a facial, manicure or massage feels near impossible. But while traveling, when the work is done your time is all your own (feels weird, huh?!). Take the opportunity to schedule some pamper time and enjoy every second of it. You’ve earned it!
2. Give yourself things to look forward to that have become few and far between. If it sounds like heaven on earth to spend an evening in your room, in a bathrobe, eating room service in bed and watching trashy TV, DO IT. Can you plan your day to start a little later so you can draw the blackout curtains and sleep in for a change? When’s the last time any of us have been to a movie theater? Go see an evening show! Bonus points if you find a theater that serves wine.
3. Take some time to enjoy the place you’re in. If you have to be away, go experience something new. Find the top restaurant in the city and dine there. Buy tickets to see a local show. Venture into a neighborhood you’ve never been to before. Ask the concierge what their favorite thing is to do in the city, and then go do it. Find ways to enjoy yourself while away.
Be there when you can't be there
Just because you’re out of sight doesn’t mean you have to be out of mind. We’ve observed a lot of creative ways our friends and colleagues have stayed close to their families while away on business. Here are a fun few ideas:
1.Invest in an app-enabled baby monitor...which these days, is almost every option out there. If it’s not yet hooked up, be sure to pair with your app before you head out so you can watch your little one sleep while you’re on the road.
2. Pre-plan fun surprises for your kids to help feel like mom is still part of the day. Before you leave, write one note for every day you’ll be away. They can open one each morning, and start their day with words from mom. Or record yourself reading bedtime stories and let your kids watch the video as part of their evening story time.
3. Reinvent the Flat Stanley. If your child has a toy they’re ok parting with, bring it along and photograph the toy enjoying the trip right alongside of you. Send back photos as you go, or wait and go through them together once you return home. Your little one will be thrilled.
4. Schedule in times you need to be available for phone calls or video chats. And don’t be afraid to excuse yourself for 5 minutes to connect. If it’ll happen in the middle of a meeting, try to plan it around a break, and be diligent about keeping time.
5. Create exciting experiences your kids can get involved in, and will feel proud to share with you when you get home. Set-up a special box they can use to store trinkets or artwork from that week. Once you're back home, sit down together and go through the box, and let your kids recount all of the special memories and experiences they couldn't wait to tell you about.
When It's Just Not Working Anymore
Be honest with yourself, and know you can make a change
Occasional travel is pretty standard for most of us in corporate jobs these days. But if you suddenly find that being a road warrior is not working for you and your family any longer, it may be time to consider a change. We've been there, and have made changes to stay grounded more often for this season of our lives. If you too find yourself in this situation, think about taking the following actions:
1. Talk to your boss. Let them know that the volume of travel you're undertaking is becoming difficult, and ask if there are options that would allow you to scale back travel in your current role. Come to the table with some options that show how you can effectively continue to do your job with less days on the road. And suggest testing out any new working scenarios as a trial period first, with a commitment to re-evaluate after a few months. But remember, once you put this out there, you can't take it back. Know your boss and anticipate how they'll react to prepare yourself for potential outcomes - both good and bad.
2. If travel is inherent to the role you're in, you may not have options or opportunities to scale back. But if travel is not working for you and your family any longer, you may be faced with the reality that this role is no longer working for you too. If this is the case, know you're not alone. It's more common than not that life changes can spur career changes too. Begin to assess other roles across the organization that aren't built around travel. Reach out to your co-workers in these roles and get a better understanding of the work and team culture. If you've found a better fit, engage your boss in your thinking and ask for their support to transition to a new role within the company.
3. If you can't identify better options internally, then you may be facing the reality that it's time to look for new opportunities externally. We received some helpful advice from career coach and consultant, Mary Beth Ferrante from Live.Work.Lead on what workings moms should look for when job hunting. Read her advice here.