Five ways to improve business travel with your family

It usually seems easy to mix a business trip and a family vacation. You’re already on the road, and your company has picked up the tab for your flight. So, a good chunk of expense has been taken out of the equation from the start! Especially if you go to a great destination, extending a business trip into a vacation can be a smart move. You may even get to absorb some of your hotel costs into your travel budget at work.

The problem, however, is that you have to make it all work. Just plopping your family into the middle of a business trip doesn’t turn it into a vacation. Trying to squeeze too many pieces in at once can actually turn into a nightmare. Before turning your business trip into a work-and-family-hell-on-wheels, let’s take a look at five ways to avoid disaster:1. Just know your spouse won’t have support: if your family is traveling to meet you at your business (or another) location, you won’t be there to help. You might be able to chip in on the flight home, as long as you can get everyone booked on the same plane. Be ready to greet frustration along with your family.

2. Avoid overlaps with your business trip: having your family meet you after your business obligations are finished is much smarter than trying to cram family and business into the same time. Quite simply, it never works. Your days are occupied, as you’d expect. However, your nights can get pretty crowded with business, as well, from drinks with colleagues to client dinners. You’ll wind up getting back to our room late … and you may have more work to do. Even if your family is tolerant of all this, they’ll still notice, and it will put a bit of a damper on the experience for everyone.

3. Don’t force the destination: I spent the better part of a year traveling to Omaha from my home in Boston. Let’s be realistic: the odds your family would be happy with this as a family destination are pretty low. Unless you’re going on a business trip to a major vacation destination, you should be ready to offer up some flexibility. See if you can get a multi-city fare for less than your regular roundtrip, and you’ll save the company some money while making sure your own expenses are covered (thus preserving the benefit of adding a family vacation onto the front or back end of your business trip).

4. Take a day in between: being out of the office causes obligations to pile up. Whether you’re on a business trip or vacation, stuff is happening back at your company, and some of it is likely to have your name on it. Now, think about the accumulation of stuff when you put both a business trip and a vacation together! Give yourself a day in between to catch up on things before you disappear again. This will also help ensure that your time with your family will actually be with your family – not cleaning up from the week of work you spent outside the office.

5. Know your audience: you may want to change hotels when your family arrives. Even if the cost isn’t an issue for you, simply changing spaces will help you with your mindset as you transition from work to play. In fact, it’s better if you can even change neighborhoods, for example, if you’re staying in a city. Make sure it’s as different as possible. You’ll sacrifice any special treatment that the hotel would offer you because of your relatively long stay, but it’s probably worth it to shell out the extra cash to make sure your family vacation isn’t tainted by remnants of your business trip.

[photo by rabble via Flickr]