Baby and business travel?

I’m all for using KIT days creatively, and recently made my second overseas business trip with baby Jasper. We crossed time zones and picked up some jet lag.  Plus a light sun tan, tagging on some family holiday at the end of a very long week of meetings… we made awesome family memories I didn’t expect to make.  It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. 

In case you’re wondering… or asking yourself whether you’re mad to take your baby on a business trip (assuming you have childcare while you’re working – hubby came with me and could fit it around his own work plans)… this is what I learned. 

You can do anything you put your mind to, Mama. 

No, it’s not straightforward taking your baby on a business trip. 

You need to think so much more about packing, timing, how you’ll all deal with jet lag, and how to make it a really positive experience (rather than a chore, a distraction, or a massive hassle and upsetting experience for your little one). But I really believe it can be done, if you can cover the obvious logistics (finances, child care, timing). 

I had the opportunity to travel with my husband (who did the parenting while I worked) and it was a really fantastic experience as a family. I felt hugely supported, my husband felt included, and my little guy (10 months) had some fun with two parents with a ‘can do’ attitude and sense of adventure. And I reckon pre-12 months is a great time to travel. 

So how do you approach it, if you’re looking for a successful trip and thinking ‘can I take baby’?

Planning, patience, and prepare to change plans!

In terms of planning, I’m a big fan of The Travel List. I have a ‘weekend with family’ list, a ‘long flight and holiday’ list, and a ‘short flight’ list. I keep them updated as Jasper gets older, and have them to hand to work from when we travel (which has been a fair amount). 

Planning includes deciding which baby essentials you can’t do without. When we travel, I’d prefer not to have to compromise on a personal microwave at the accommodation – then I can use handy steriliser bags for bottles. I also travel with plenty of sterilised bottles – I don’t want to be cut short. Planning means booking flights so that travel and nap times works as well as it can. It means having the sling/carrier on the plane, as it saves your back when you’re doing the inevitable walk up and down the plane. It means begging the flight assistants to know if there’s a spare seat in the cabin… and asking whether, with some re-jigging, your child’s car seat could sit in an empty seat next to you. This makes a MASSIVE difference on long flights – as baby can nap more comfortably – and BA has been amazing at helping make this happen. Some carriers also have carrycots or ‘sky chairs’ you can book in advance. 

I always pack a bottle brush and a little fairy liquid along with the microwave bottle bags. For our most recent trip, we had space to pack Ready Brek (to deal with the first morning breakfast, when combined with some fruit purée pouches). It helped a lot – I also packed small plastic food pots for finger foods by day, which I knew I’d make when we reached our destination. I also take our ‘snooze shade’ for the car seat and buggy, and our Gro-blind (a travel black out blind), everywhere. 

We tend to stay in self-catering accommodation, and keep a standard ‘first day’ shopping trip list. With a baby starting their first foods, I find I can do a lot with eggs, sweet corn, chicken pieces, berries, pears, bread, cinnamon, bananas, courgette, olive oil, self raising flour, porridge oats, and (in our case, dairy-free) cheese and milk. I like to cook, and it’s something I enjoy doing when we have time – even away from home. Think… eggy banana bread, omelettes, fritters, pancakes, flavoured porridge and ‘oatybites’. We then tended to have pouches to hand in case the little guy was in the mood for purée, and otherwise stuck with small items of food from our plates when we’re out. 

Patience means… work on not getting flustered by things that usually annoy. I’d usually be pretty frustrated waiting in a log queue for passport control, or waiting for baggage… but if you’re focused on keeping your little person calm and occupied (lots of peekaboo!) and can arrange for your adult travelling companion to divide the tasks so that any given time one of you is on Baby Duty and the other is on Everything else… we found that helps!

As for preparing to change plans… planning can only get you so far. It’s all great in theory to decide to beat jetlag by getting baby into the new time zone schedule straight away… but if you have to work the next day and baby is wide awake at 2am – you’re fine to choose the path of least crying and upset (for everyone) to maximise rest. Work on the schedule tomorrow. 

When Jasoer had jet lag on the trip, we found our little guy responded well to a dark room at 2am, and quiet wriggling about on cushions on the bed and softly spoken stories. We did succumb to 2am Modern Family watching a few times – it didn’t do any harm. Within a few nights we felt we were back on track. 

I like a plan – but I’m also happy to deviate if that’s what’s needed. I see adaptability as a strength. 

That said… our little guy responds well to a regular routine. And we tended to stick to it – even on a work trip away. We tried to be ‘home’ for at least the ‘long nap’ (we have 9am-10am and 1pm-3pm), and to be home for tea and bath time. 

Should you hide the family away, or be loud and proud about your traveling  companions?

This really depends on your colleagues and your team, and how much you like to share ‘life stuff’ at work. Here’s my perspective – and it’s a very personal one. 

I’m a woman in a senior role, and now a mother. I need to keep the respect of my peers and clients and be seen as ‘the business professional’ I am. I also have a team with brilliant and ambitious women, and want to be a positive lead for them. And I want to be true to myself – my work is very important to me, but my family life is hugely important and complements, and enables, my strong role at work. For me, a supportive home means I can be the person I want to be at work. 

All this means… I’m loud and proud. My peers and clients are generally very supportive or – at worst – neutral. I’m lucky – and I know it won’t be the same for everyone. It should be. Those of us who can be loud and proud… I hope we have the confidence to do it for the other working parents, if we happen to take family on a business trip. 

So when I travel with my family, I tell my colleagues that it’s what we’ve chosen to do. I big-up the fantastic role my partner plays in doing the sole parenting while I’m at work, focusing all my efforts there. I talk about how I’m juggling family time with business travel. We’re all juggling something – probably many things, and I hope my colleagues can share with me, too. 

Being honest with colleagues and clients about what I have going on at home also helps KEEP me honest about my time management, and helps get me home on time!

So if you’re thinking about trying a work trip with baby…

I hope you make a go of it! I’d definitely try to schedule a few days with your family first, and ideally afterwards, too. To get settled and enjoy your time a bit. 

It’s not easy. You need to juggle – but what parent doesn’t?

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