In 2003, I was a new mom and a lawyer. A business trip to an office in another province meant I’d need to leave my year-old son for longer than I’d hoped. In an effort to assuage the guilt I felt leaving home and demonstrate that I was a team player at work, I came up with the perfect plan.
I’d bring the baby (and his dad) with me.
Turns out I was ahead of the curve.
“Bleisure travel” – the term being used to describe trips that combine business and leisure – is now a big thing among working travellers.
A 2016 study of American travellers by the Expedia Group found that 43 per cent of business trips now turn into “bleisure” trips. In another worldwide survey, 62 per cent of people under the age of 30 said they have combined a business trip with a vacation in the past. Though it’s not just a millennial phenomenon – 51 per cent of 31-to-45-year-olds said they do it, too.
But deciding to roll some fun into your business trip and opting to bring your kids along for that ride are two very different things.
I understand the temptation: You’ve got a trillion air miles, a work trip already planned to a great destination and a family begging you for a vacation. But before you pack your kids’ swimsuits into your briefcase, stop to consider the pros and cons of the situation.
As I recall, adding my child to my business trip was both pure genius and the perfect storm.
On the one hand, your family is with you in an amazing vacation destination, you’re saving money (thanks to the office already footing your bill) and tonight you’ll have company for dinner rather than eating from a takeout carton in your room, trying to Skype home.
On the other hand, your family is with you.
Need to finish that project for tomorrow’s meeting? It’s going to be harder to do with Bubble Guppies on repeat over your shoulder. There’s always the possibility that the business commitments of your trip will extend beyond the work day, and with family in your space your focus will be divided.
The Expedia study found that 32 per cent of North American travellers work more hours when away on business than when they are in the office. So, while you may feel the call of the beach or a theme-park adventure, you likely won’t be able to answer it – and that may lead to resentment on both sides.
But don’t rule out the combination altogether; with some smart planning, you, too, can bleisure like the best of them. Here’s how:
Do the extra work: Be realistic about the time you’ll have available during your stay and what your family will be able to do without you. Does the hotel you’re in offer a great kids’ program? Can the concierge point you to activities that will keep them happy while you’re at work? Do your research ahead of time and arrive at your destination with an itinerary in hand.
Recruit support: It goes without saying that toddlers will need constant supervision, but even teens will benefit from having someone else along for company. You’ll feel less guilty about the meeting that runs late if you know there’s a partner, spouse, nanny, grandparent or friend there to keep them company.
Be upfront about the kind of trip it is: Before you book those extra tickets, sit down with your potential travel mates and remind them that this is a business trip. Let them know what you’ll be able to do and what you won’t, and make it clear where the priorities lie. In some instances, you may just be sharing a room while on two different adventures. Better everyone understands this before you head out.
Consider adding a few days at your own expense: You can avoid a lot of heartache and decrease your own stress levels by adding a few days to the end of your trip. Your costs go up, but it allows you to focus on business without distraction and then make the most of the destination when your family arrives.
Don’t force it: When all else fails, save the family trip for another time. Losing your job or tanking a deal because you were burning the candle at both ends won’t win you any brownie points at home or at work. Save the splashy trip for next year, when you still have a job.