No matter how many clients and colleagues you’re scheduled to meet during a work trip, business travel can be a lonely experience. It also can put a strain on relationships with loved ones back home.
To combat this isolation, a growing number of business travelers are asking if family can join them on their work trips, as evidenced by new research from American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) and the Association of Corporate Travel Executives. According to the study, “Balancing Business Travel Tools & Policy for the Traveller Experience,” 38 percent of travel managers across the Asian-Pacific region have reported an increase in inquiries from employees about inviting family along on a work trip.
“Having family with you on a business trip can make the journey more enjoyable and reduce feelings of disconnection,” said Jo Sully, vice president and regional general manager of GBT’s Australia and Southeast Asia division. “Of course,” she added, “it’s essential that family time doesn’t distract or hinder the business objectives of the trip.”
To help corporate travelers navigate this delicate balance when mixing business with personal, here are some tips when bringing a plus one (or two or three) on a work trip.
May they come, pretty please?
Before you go making any kind of business travel plans that involve a significant other or family member, you should seek your employer’s approval first. Depending on your organization and its culture, bringing someone on a business trip may be viewed as an employee perk that doesn’t cost the company a dime or a total distraction from the mission of the trip. Because each request may be decided on a case-by-case basis, you may want to clear the idea with your boss even if it’s not your first time having a special someone join you.
When proposing the idea to your supervisor, stress that your professional obligations will be your No. 1 priority and that no work duties will be neglected because of your companion’s presence.
When deciding where to stay, first and foremost, choose a property that is close to your meeting location and is within the company’s travel policy. But if possible, also select an accommodation that will meet your travel companion’s needs. For instance, you might select a hotel near some attractions so that your partner has plenty of activities lined up while you’re in meetings all day. If a child is accompanying you, investigate in-policy properties with pools.
You also might look into options that offer complimentary breakfast so that your partner can enjoy a few free meals. Another idea is to search for Airbnb rentals (if permitted by company policy) with a kitchen so some meals can be prepared on-site.
Divvy it up
Something you should make clear to the person coming along on the trip: Your company will not pay for any expenses they rack up on their own. So while they can benefit from anything that’s already covered by the company, such as the hotel room and taxi rides to and from the airport, your partner ultimately is responsible for any additional charges they incur.
This means they should cover their own air, rail and public transportation as well as their portion of meals and entertainment. To avoid any mix-ups when it comes time for you to submit your travel expenses, you and your companion should pay for items separately — and you should retain copies of both sets of receipts just in case you are ever questioned about it.
Managing great expectations
It may be difficult when your professional world collides with your domestic life — even more so when you’re on the road. You may have to dial down your frequent flyer mentality and adapt to the slower pace of those accompanying you, especially if you have kids in tow. Be patient if you have to wait with them in the regular boarding area because they do not have airport lounge access and if they aren’t as swift getting through security because they forgot the 3.3-ounce liquid rule.
In the same vein, your travel companion also must adjust their expectations. This is not a vacation for you; the majority of your time will be spent working. They will have to spend their days alone and maybe even evenings too if you have after-work commitments with clients.
So before your travel partner books their flight, have a frank conversation about what the trip will look like. If they are going to feel lonely in a strange city and that you’re neglecting them, having them join you may not be the best idea. But if they can handle a couple days on their own, the reward may be that your business trip extends into the weekend, when the two of you can enjoy some quality time together.
And if you’re considering adding children to the mix, be sure to spell out the ground rules with your co-parent. They must accept that they are on kid patrol so you can be fully devoted to your work obligations.
And be honest with yourself: Will having your child be too much of a distraction, especially if they are prone to temper tantrums when the rigors of travel tax their routine? If so, it may be prudent to fly solo for that work trip — and then follow it up with a family vacation.