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Gotta jet to work? Take your kid along

By Lauren Sherman, Forbes
February 05, 2007 08:55 IST
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No one needs to tell you that traveling with children isn't always a walk in the park.

Throw in a last-minute business trip full of day-long board meetings, multiple conference calls and late-night client dinners, and what you've got is a race to find decent kinder care. Make that around-the-clock babysitting if your spouse also logs hours on the road.

It doesn't have to be that way. Sixty-two per cent of US business travelers said that they add a leisure component to at least one business trip per year, and two-thirds of them bring family members or friends with them, according to a 2004 survey conducted by the National Business Travel Association, a group that represents over 2,500 corporate travel managers and travel service providers.

In response, both hospitality firms and hotels are coming up with efficient, nearly-worry-free ways to combine family time with strict business obligations.

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If you're traveling to New Orleans, for example, be sure to call Accent on Arrangements before your arrival.

With enough notice, the 16-year-old company will arrange chaperoned, kid-friendly outings for children tagging along with mom or dad. Parents loathe to leave their restless tweens alone in the hotel room to play video games but fearful of letting them venture out on their own can also tap into the firm's "companion service," which will provide their kids with a guardian for the day.

Accent on Arrangements also organises group events for conventions and company off-sites, all geared toward entertaining the kids of travelers who must focus on work.

Though more companies are catering to family-oriented business travelers, the idea is not a new one.

In 1989, Hyatt Hotels created Camp Hyatt, which now exists at 16 Hyatt resorts in the US and Caribbean. Each kid-friendly camp's theme plays off of its location. For example, at the Lost Pines Resort and Spa in Austin, Texas, kids make junk jewelry out of pecan shells. And at the Tamaya Resort and Spa near Santa Ana, N.M., your child can create a miniature adobe or dabble in the art of sand painting.

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As Scott Seed, director of resort marketing at Hyatt explains, "parents don't just want their kids just supervised--they want them engaged."

And engaged they are at Florida and California's Walt Disney resorts. The Walt Disney Co's Destinations Group, which handles the logistics for the resorts' many conventions and conferences, provides programs for kids that are almost as thrilling as Epcot.

While parents spend another day at the grindstone, their children can go hunting for riches on Treasure Island, spend a day in the life of a Mouseketeer and even host their very own tea party in Wonderland with Alice and her friends.

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Can it get any better than a day (or two, or three) at Disneyworld? For the staunchly independent child or incredibly busy parent, Kindersel (Children's Island) might be a dream come true. If traveling on business to Berlin, you can check your child into this 14-room hotel designed for kids up to age 14. Services range from sightseeing tours to pajama parties. Sorry, adults must find other accommodations--these digs are for only for the young.

But before you bring your brood along, it's important to set guidelines.

"You need to strike a balance," says Accent on Arrangements founder Dianne B. Lyons. For instance, let them know that although you're happy they've tagged along, you're still there for a specific purpose. "Make sure your children realise that it is a business trip and that Mom is working 7 to 7."

Chances are, though, that they'll be too tuckered out to vie for your attention.

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