The Family-Friendly Business Trip

Me, the babe, and Jimmy Dean guy at a biz conference
Travel is often an unavoidable part of having a small business.  With children around, however, it can be hard to justify leaving them (and expensive to take them along.)  I have experience handling many aspects of the "family-friendly business trip."  Here is what has worked for me:

1.  Wear Your Baby.  Whether you carry your baby much at home, or not, having your little one attached to your person with a sling or carrier really can make a business trip doable.  Not only is it easier to run through an airport to catch a flight (try doing that with a stroller), but it can free up your hands for presenting I.D., ordering a latte, and filling out those annoying luggage tags.  Even if you don't fly, it is easier to tour a conference expo hall with the baby on your hip. (Those conferences and events that allow babies appreciate babies who are kept happy and out of harm's way -- something that's very difficult to do with a kid on the loose!  Slings just help keep the conference etiquette in check!)

2.  Rent a Vehicle.  When presented with the choice to buy plane tickets for all five kids or drive across country, we chose the latter.  It turns out that renting a new 2012 van with all the bells and whistles for a week is the same cost as just one plane ticket.  Plus you can make infinite pit stops, see neat things along the way, and don't have to put any wear and tear on your own car.  (If you break down -- no problem!  The rental place will bring you a new vehicle at no additional cost.)

3.  Reconsider "Large Family" Options.  I like to be as honest as possible, so I try to avoid "sneaking" in an extra kid over the limit that many hotel rooms allow.  We recently tried very hard to get larger rooms with enough legal accomodations for 7-8 people -- something we soon regretted.  Many motels that sleep 8 in one room are simply dumps; we ended up booking a suite that sleeps 5 and letting the kids double up on the fold-out couch.  Had we been asked to pay extra for the room, we would have.  I wasn't willing to sacrifice health or hygiene for some of the nastier accommodations recommended by a large family website.  You'll need to make your own decisions on if playing by the rules is worth it for you.  (Note:  Some have mentioned buying 2 rooms for our family of 7.  If I'm working with my husband, this works.  Since an adult age 21 or over needs to be on the room, however, and I often travel alone with all the kids, this isn't always a possibility.  Plus, I would never get a room separate from my kids.)

4.  Understand Tax Perks.  You may assume that all meals and entertainment on a travel outing with the family is deductible as a business expense;  you are, after all, traveling for the purpose of meeting with a client or writing for a magazine.  Tax law doesn't allow you to deduct 100% of much of anything, however.  (Even if you traveled alone and bought a sandwich in an airport, you can only claim 50% of your cost -- you'd be eating lunch anyway, right?)  Get familiar with what you can claim, and what you can't, before you start treating the fam to all-you-can eat "biz lunches."  The IRS likely won't believe that 5 kids meals is a requirement of most people's jobs.

Do you often schlep along kids or hubby to your blog conference speaking gigs or meetings with clients?  We would love to hear what works for you!  Leave your thoughts, along with a link to your blog, in the comments.  We'll feature them in a future article!

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