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Study: Business Travelers Say the Kids Come First

" More than one-third (41%) of those surveyed say they would cut a trip short because of a birthday or child's illness. "

(Newstream) -- Who's the boss? When it comes to business travel, executives say it's their children. In fact, 67% of parents polled say they have refused to go on a business trip because it conflicted with their children's activities, according to a study just released by Sheraton Hotels & Resorts.

More than one-third (41%) of those surveyed say they would cut a trip short because of a birthday or child's illness. Nearly a third (31%) won't travel because of a school function, and five percent would cancel a trip altogether if their children were upset about their leaving.

"The playroom wins over the boardroom when a school play, music recital or baseball game is involved," says John Greenleaf, vice president, Sheraton brand management for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. "This study showed us just how far a business traveler will go to preserve the delicate balance between work and family life."

While the Cat's Away...

While on the road, business travelers turn into "road worriers," fretting about the kids' behavior and how the other spouse will cope. In fact, 13% expect the kids to give the other parent a hard time "all or most of the time," and research shows those concerns are justified:

  • 45% - Stay up past their bedtime

  • 38% - Don't do homework

  • 22% - Visit "inappropriate" web sites

  • 14% - Skip school

"That could explain why 'wait until your father or mother gets home' is a popular refrain in 52% of the homes," says Greenleaf.

While only one in three (29%) adults polled worry that their spouse will let the children stay up past bedtime, 45% of the kids said they stay up late. More than half of the children (58%) say the parent staying home with them lets them "order out for food," 15% watch scary movies and 11% watch TV shows the traveling parent would not allow. And, yes, 10% say they "jump on their beds."

More freedom isn't the only reason for brighter smiles. Kids say when Mom or Dad is away, they are better about brushing their teeth (21%) and saying their prayers (20%). Kids do miss family security, though, and 17% report they are more likely to sleep with a stuffed animal, 16% with a light on in their room, 15% with the television on and 11% with a radio.

Near Miss Syndrome

Children aren't the only ones feeling a somewhat "empty nest," according to the "Business Travelers and their Children" study. Women miss the children (93%) - and they miss them more than the men do (83%), although wives miss their husbands (21%) less than their husbands miss them (35%). Women also report missing their spouse less than their children (14% vs. 32%).

And how long could travelers go before missing home? While most parents report it is generally three days, the "comfort zone" for children having a parent away is two days.

The New Trend: Taking Care of Business -- With the Kids

The "Ozzie and Harriet" days are over. Today, with two-income families, many executives are packing up the kids along with the briefcase. Sixty percent of parents say they've taken a child along on a business trip because "it's a good learning experience for them" (47%) or "we're going on vacation after the business trip" (40%). For executives who don't bring the children, 75% say it's because the child is in school.

To promote family business, Sheraton offers a family plan. There is no charge for children (17 and younger) occupying the same room with a parent or guardian if they can be accommodated in existing bedding.

Parents who don't take the kids along generally take a photo. Only 5% of the women and 11% of the men polled admit they don't carry a picture of their children. (Only 58% of the women bring along a photo of their spouse, but 78% of the men tote along a snapshot of their wife.)

And, the answer to the perennial question, "What did you bring me?" is no surprise: 27% bring home a t-shirt.

ET, Call Home

More important than a t-shirt, though, is family contact, as UCLA department head Dr. Irene Goldenberg explains. "Don't set yourself up so your family phone call is going to come 15 minutes after a scheduled meeting because the meeting may run over," explains the family psychologist, who also believes in sharing the travel experience.

"Sheraton Share the Trip Tips" are available on the hotel company's web site: Tips include basic recommendations such as turning the business trip into a learning experience by studying the destination at the library, or leaving notes for the kids under their pillow or in secret hiding places. The site also shares some tried and true techniques that have worked for hotel executives.

And, to make business travelers feel more at home, Sheraton is introducing guestrooms that are more like a bedroom at home than a hotel room. The rooms feature cozy sleigh beds, and oversized desks and work areas. The "new look" is being introduced at more than 6,000 hotel rooms as Sheraton renovates properties in North America.

"It's all part of our philosophy of taking care of the guest," says Greenleaf.

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