Top tips for navigating business travel as a parent

Business travel and parenthood can be extremely demanding - emotionally and physically. Take a look at our top tips for navigating this challenge, written by Alice Pilbeam-Brown, international facilitator of leadership development programmes.

Nine months into my life as a parent, it was time to re-enter the working world. Although I knew that designing a new leadership development programme was a top priority in this new job, it was a surprise that they wanted me to deliver the programme globally. I was so thrilled. Exploring the different cultures, behaviours and challenges of our leaders around the world would be so fascinating. However, shortly after, reality hit; meeting the expectations of the business meant I would be away from home, and my family, very often.

The first trip was the hardest emotionally, the last, in a long series of trips, was physically the hardest. But every trip gave me more emotional and physical strength both professionally and personally. Not only did I learn to let go of being in control, I allowed space for my family to support me and my baby more than they would have done before.

Reflecting on this work-life juggle, below are some top tips, some of which are definitely written in hindsight! I hope they are useful should you find yourself in a similar position.

  1. Plan, plan … and plan some more

Like with most events, you can never over-plan. Schedule some time in with your “second-in-command” and go through everything day by day. Ensure they have your flight, hotel and any travel companions’ information.

  1. Get you and your loved ones organised

Whether this is writing a packing list, sorting a visa or agreeing the trip agenda for yourself or picking out your child’s outfits and planning packed lunches for the week, it is so much smoother for whoever is in charge. Once one trip is out the way, it will become easier and the amount of help you give will get less and less.

  1. Leave instructions, lists and locations

Before my first trip I left a week of instructions for my husband as he had to know my duties on top of his own. I wrote down everything I did each day to prepare for the following day.

  1. Trust yourself and your loved ones

This was the most challenging at first, I was so used to being in control, but it got easier every time.

  1. Communicate as often as you need to while away

Whether via text, WhatsApp, phone or FaceTime, staying in touch with family makes all the difference. Overcome time difference barriers or bad connections by scheduling time in your day to communicate, and ensure your family have a landline number that you can call just in case.

  1. Rest … or even better, sleep

Use the opportunity to get some rest. Travelling with business can mean very long days, evenings out and socialising over every meal. Take time for yourself as much as you can. Slope off to bed early a couple of nights – it will make all the difference to your stamina as well as feeling fresher when you get home.

  1. Avoid colleague-pressure

It can be so easy to join in with the drinks after work, alcohol-infused dinners and late nights. Say no when you want some time out. If you’re worried that you’ll miss out on informal, but vital, conversations or decisions that get made once you’ve left, ensure you have a confidant in the group that will represent you if necessary and update you later.

  1. Stay as healthy as possible

A hotel breakfast buffet morning after morning, plus lunches and dinners out can start to get dangerous! Enjoy the luxury but try avoiding caffeine and stick with fruit one morning or opt for a healthy version at dinner a few nights a week. If you’re staying somewhere safe, pack your trainers and kick-start your day with a morning jog, it’ll have a great impact on the rest of your trip. If you can’t risk a jog in the area, try the hotel pool or failing that, just have a great stretch before bed.

  1. Take some low-level risks and see how they feel

Business trips can be a great opportunity to try something new. Perhaps work with new people or on new pieces of work. Take this opportunity, you might learn something about yourself. Maybe you’re an excellent negotiator deep down or have a flare for connecting people together.

  1. Enjoy yourself!!

Time for yourself is so rare when you’re a parent. Rather than logging on and catching up with emails while you travel, pull out a book you’ve been desperate to read or a podcast that’s been waiting in the wings. Just because you’re away with work doesn’t mean you have to constantly work. Take breaks, explore the area or just do something you can’t normally do at home – and have some fun!

Business trips can be so great for personal and career development but can also feel so overwhelming. Try to find all the things you’ll gain from the experience to counteract any fears that might be building. Safe travels!

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