Did you ruin your family vacation with a business trip?

Iden looks past Orlando Convention Center to Peabody Hotel

Tempted to bring your kids along on your next business trip? You might want to resist.

At the very least, don’t lie and tell them it’s a family vacation. Because unless you plan carefully, their expectations will probably be higher than you can deliver.

Mixing business and pleasure usually starts with the best of intentions: Your business convention, meeting or negotiation is being held at a well-known family destination or famous historic city. You’re near a bucket-list attraction, like Disneyworld or the Grand Canyon, and you say to yourself, “How could I not bring the whole family?”

We know what that’s like. Maybe too well, because we travel with our family for business. It’s a road punctuated by potholes, and not all of them avoidable.

How better to upset your better half and further alienate your kids than leaving them outside the conference center, while you finish your meetings.

Just one more hour and I’ll be free, honey.

True story: Chris and I were attending a conference in Miami a few years ago. Unfortunately, kids weren’t allowed on the convention floor, so for about five hours we had to do the parent swap. See we’re cool like that. We can adapt.

But by the end of that show, after my son Aren had patiently waited in the lobby at the convention center which for some inexplicable reason wasn’t air conditioned, he became ill. That was just before one of the last distributors I needed to speak with had come out for an interview.

I felt so sorry for my boy, yet equally embarrassed in front of the executive.

Mr. Businessman, say hello to my son, Baby Barfy.

Still, I think that was better than the trip when I sent the kids to ski lessons while I endured meetings and interviews. Was I jealous? You betcha.

So here’s my question: Is it ever appropriate to mix business and pleasure? Or should you keep the family vacation separate? I’m of two minds. I see the benefits, the synergies, and I also see a vomiting toddler interrupting an interview.

Help me out, people!

Is it ever appropriate to mix business and pleasure? Or should you keep the family vacation separate?

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Kari Haugeto

Kari is a serial entrepreneur with an education addiction and a profound curiosity that, more often then not, fuels some pretty incredible adventures. Currently her attention is focused on social and digital media technology and she is developing a project with her family of five and a variety of sponsors to share their cross-country adventures online in an interactive, socially responsible, educational and authentic manner.


  • Selma

    Long long ago, my father had to attend a professional convention in San Francisco. Our family’s home was the Wash. DC area, and I (aged 21) was living in Ann Arbor at the time. My parents hosted me and my younger sister (aged 18) on the trip. Granted we were young adults, not toddlers, but it -was- a business-family trip. Dad had to attend certain meetings alone while we went sightseeing.

    As a result of what I saw and experienced on that trip, some years later I moved to San Francisco to live and have remained in the area.

    If little kids are taken on a business trip, I do think that a separation is necessary, that they really can’t go to the meetings with you. Either Mommy or Daddy, whoever is doing the business, has to do it as if going to work at home, and meet up later with the others. But if the kids are old enough to get an inkling of things, you never know what the future influence might be.

    (I don’t want to put my dog in a kennel either. Is that another topic? Chris, does your vagabond family have pets?)

    • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

      Yes, we have pets — three cats. But we also have a great housesitter who loves cats and spends lots of time with them when we’re gone.

      • Kevin Murray

        +1 for housesitters! I would go broke if I had to kennel my dog every time I went out of town.

  • Kevin Murray

    When I was in 3rd grade (I think), my father had a week long training class in San Diego, CA. It happened to be over spring break. So my father asked his employer if he could use the money that would have been spent for his hotel and airfare and drive our RV out. So we all went out. During the day, my father would go to his class and my mother would take us places like Sea World, San Digeo Zoo, Balboa Park, the beach, etc. So that worked really well for us and made for a great, mostly inexpensive spring break trip.

  • Nancy Nally

    I travel several times a year for business and can’t imagine taking my family with me for a “vacation” while I did it. I’m scheduled every minute from 8am-10pm usually on those days! Barely have time to eat. To try to claim we were having a “family” vacation would be a joke.