But if planned right, business trips can be great for you and your family. Here are some reasons why:
For you and your career:
- They give you a chance to connect with co-workers that you don’t get to see every day
- They give you a chance to grow your networks with new contacts
- Traveling can show that your boss that you’re committed and dedicated – fighting the (unfair) stereotype that working parents aren’t as focused and committed
- You can take advantage of uninterrupted sleeping time
For your family:
- It gives your spouse/partner a chance to show you, your kids, and him/herself that s/he can take care of the family too
- As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder; they will appreciate all you do when you’re home a little bit more
- You are earning frequent flier miles that you can use for a family vacation – and in fact you might discover a new vacation spot
- You’re role modeling the ability to have a strong career and be a committed parent
Here are some tips to help the trip go a little smoother at home, and make the most of the trip for your career:
For you and your career:
- Make a list of connections you want to make well before your trip; then reach out to those people and schedule time with them. A few years ago, the company that I worked for moved it’s headquarters from the building I worked in to another state. Whenever I travel to the new headquarters, I schedule coffees, lunches, dinners, walks, or meet-and-greets with as many people as I can. It’s important that people know my face—especially because they don’t see it that often. Think about the people that you might need face time with—mentors, mentees, sponsors, potential cross-department collaborators—and reach out to them. Don’t pass up an opportunity to see people. And don’t forget to send a calendar appointment so you don’t double-book yourself and so the other people have it on their calendars.
- Prepare for all of those meet-and-greets. When you do the initial outreach to these contacts, you can use the general “I’d like to check-in with you” (although, if you don’t have a solid agenda, limit the calendar appointment to 15 or 30 minutes). When you’re there, however, make the time worthwhile for the other person. Think about an article that you can share with them; ask their feedback on a potential strategy or plan you’re working on; ask them what they’re working on and if you can help. If you make the time with them worthwhile, they’re more likely to accept your next calendar appointment request and remember you when you’re not there.
- Make the most of the quiet time in the hotel. Ah——the quiet hotel room. Many working parents will tell you it’s one of their favorite parts of a business trip. While I strongly suggest you resist the temptation to head to your hotel room at the close of the business day—you should be having a business/networking dinner with someone to squeeze in the most face-to-face time—when you get there, take advantage of the fact that you have a quiet room to yourself. Before you turn on the TV and veg out, get a workout in or work on strategic planning (which can be hard to do not only at home, but at work too). Make notes of the meet-and-greets you had; write any follow-up action items on your to-do list, and note anything new you learned about these contacts in a spreadsheet. Catch up on emails. Then, treat yourself to some quiet time—read, watch a show, relax—and then get a great night’s (uninterrupted) sleep. Don’t forget to take advantage of the early morning as well—get that workout in, get a head start on your work day, and prep for the day’s meetings.
For you and your family:
- Sign up for a travel organizer app (my favorite is TripIt). Not only will they send you reminders to check in, notify you of delays, gate changes, and even which baggage claim to go to, but you can often times share your itinerary with others. This allows your partner/spouse to also be alerted if your flight is delayed without you having to call.
- Delegate out home chores to your kids. This will not only help out your spouse/partner (or whoever the person is that will watch your kids), but it will teach your kids responsibility. They’ll have a little more appreciation for all you to keep the house running smoothly when you are home.
- Make sure all activities are in a family calendar. This is helpful when you’re not on the road too, but if you’re the main planner for your family, this step is essential when you’re on the road. Whether you use Google Calendars, MS Outlook, or a family planning app such as Cozi, make sure that all the activities (complete with any addresses and any notes about special equipment or things needed) are in that calendar. And don’t forget to share the calendar with everyone who may need it.
While business travel may be more stressful than before you had kids, don’t completely shy away from them. With proper planning, they can help your career and teach your family a few things.