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Kurt Barrett, Deanna Barrett and their 5-month-old daughter Ava get a ride in a golf cart to a nearby beach at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort in Coronado, Calif. The hotel provided the baby chair and two cribs to help the Barretts during their stay on a business trip at the hotel.
AP photo by Denis Poroy
Kurt Barrett, Deanna Barrett and their 5-month-old daughter Ava get a ride in a golf cart to a nearby beach at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort in Coronado, Calif. The hotel provided the baby chair and two cribs to help the Barretts during their stay on a business trip at the hotel.

More parents taking children along during business trips

By Candice Choi
AP Business Writer

On a recent business trip to San Diego, Kurt Barrett took his family to Sea World.

Between the banquet dinners and panel discussions on agricultural policy, he also took his 5-month-old daughter swimming for the first time in the hotel pool. Another day, they strolled through the humid botanical gardens in Balboa Park.

“It was like being at home. I got done with work, then enjoyed spending time with my wife and child,” said Barrett, a 30-year-old general manager for a rice distributor in Williams, Calif.

“Work is very important, but there has to be a balance,” Barrett said.

Traveling for work once meant sacrificing precious time away from home. But as the American workplace becomes more flexible about letting employees juggle their duties with family life, people like Barrett are finding it easier to bring their spouses and children wherever their jobs may take them.

According to the National Business Travel Association, 62 percent of U.S. business travelers said they add a leisure component to at least one business trip per year. Among those travelers, two-thirds say they bring a family member or friend with them.

Pushing the trend is the growing number of single parents, women in executive ranks, two-income families, and those simply looking to save a buck by turning company-paid trips into working vacations. People are having children later in life too, meaning they’re more likely to be comfortable enough in their careers to blend work and family.

That blurring between office and family life represents a sea change from a generation or two ago, when children were told bothering their parents with a phone call at work could get mom or dad in trouble.

“That’s not the case today. There’s a realization that work has encroached so much on private time, that there needs to be some give and take,” said Nancy Ahlrichs, president of EOC Strategies, a human resources consulting firm in Indianapolis.

In fact, many business conventions today court attendees by trumpeting baby-sitting services and family outings. The trend became more pronounced after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, as the industry struggled to recover by offering more incentives to get people on the road again.

Smart conference planners realized a good vacation spot could spur attendance, Ahlrichs said.

Hotels are stepping up family friendly services too, at least in part to cater to the changing convention business — a big moneymaker for the industry.

When the Barretts arrived at the Loews Hotel in San Diego, they found waiting in their suite a crib, baby swing and CD full of lullabies for their infant daughter. The gear was made available through the hotel’s partnership with Fisher Price Inc., launched this year.

Policies on bringing family on business trips vary from company to company, said Caleb Tiller, spokesman for the National Business Travel Association, based in Alexandria, Va.

Some companies encourage it — even helping find accommodations for the family — as a way to keep employees happy and productive.

Others might allow it, but require employees to sign waivers releasing the company from liability in case anyone is injured during the trip, Tiller said.

Many smaller companies may not have policies.

But however welcoming and open a company may seem about family matters, it’s always a good idea to let the boss know your plans ahead of time, said Peter Post, director of the Emily Post Institute and author of “Etiquette Advantage in Business.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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