Business Travel: Leaving the Little Ones Behind

Business travel has special challenges and opportunities for parents.

Business trips can be a chance see more of the world. But for many of business travelers, a trip means missed moments with family. Here are some tips on helping your family cope.

Practice Good Communication

Business travel can be a positive family experience. It begins with good communication and sensitivity to your family's feelings.

Speak with your partner before the trip. Discuss any feelings, frustrations, and expectations about the trip. The discussion should include:

  • Agreeing on each parent's role and responsibility—while the traveling partner is away
  • Decision making
  • How to handle emergencies
  • When to call
  • Details about the partner's travel plans

If parents do not agree on these matters, children will notice. This may make them even more upset about the trip.

Before the Trip

Here are some tips to help your child prepare for your business trip.

  • Map the route
    Discuss the upcoming trip with your child several days before you leave. Consider plotting out your trip on a wall map in your child's room. Also, if you have mixed feelings about leaving, do not share those feelings with your child. It may cause them to worry. Instead, explain the details of the trip itself. This will help them understand.
  • Learn about the travel destination
    Parents and children can look up information about the destination. Look at visitor bureau websites. Visit the library to look at picture books. Stop by the airport to show young children an airplane.
  • Count the days
    Children want to know how long a parent will be away. Mark the days on a calendar. For younger children, place one block in a special container for each day. The child can remove a block each morning. An empty box means that the traveling parent is almost home. Make older children a copy of your travel plans.
  • Plan for your return
    Give your child something to look forward to. Plan a game or project that will begin when you return home.

During the Journey

Here are some tips to use during the journey:

  • Time it right
    Keep your child's schedule as normal as possible. Do this even if the parent is traveling in another time zone. It will help the parent who is traveling to know when to make phone calls. Try to avoid disruptions to the child's schedule. For example, it may not be ideal for the parent to call the child at bedtime.
  • Talk and write
    Listen to what the child wants to talk about. Be creative. You may want to read your child a book by phone. If that is not possible, text or email.
  • Make use of technology
    Use apps and programs that allow you to video chat on a cell phone, tablet, or computer. If you cannot talk to your child, take pictures or make videos of your activities through the day. Send them in a text message or post them on a webpage.
  • Celebrate big events twice
    Business travelers often miss important events. Examples are a toddler's first steps or a Little Leaguer's game-winning hit. For those events plan to celebrate twice. Create a keepsake box. The child can put artwork or other treasures in the box—to show to the returning parent.
  • Bring back souvenirs
    If you travel a lot, bring back something the child can collect. Try to find something linked to the travel destination. Examples are a miniature Statue of Liberty from New York City or a little trolley car from San Francisco.

Returning Home

Even when travelers are happy to come home, it can be stressful. If the parent was gone for a long time, the child got used to life with one parent. The child may need time to adjust again.Talk about whatever is on the child's mind.

The next time you travel for business, make it a positive experience. Find interesting things to share about distant places. Start some new traditions. It will help bring your family closer together.

RESOURCES:

Kids Health—Nemours Foundation
http://kidshealth.org
US Travel Association
http://www.ustravel.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca
Transport Canada—Government of Canada
http://www.tc.gc.ca

References:

11 Tips for when to prepare your kids for when you're traveling without them. For Parents—PBS.org website. Available at: https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/11-tips-to-prepare-your-kids-for-when-youre-traveling-without-them. Accessed October 28, 2021.
Long distance parenting. Father and Child website. Available at: https://fatherandchild.org.nz/magazine/issue-6/long-distance-parenting/. Accessed October 28, 2021.
Traveling without your child. Children's Minnesota website. Available at: https://www.childrensmn.org/educationmaterials/parents/article/7979/traveling-without-your-child/. Accessed October 28, 2021.
Last reviewed October 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 10/28/2021

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