A GROUP of parents who regularly travel on business with their young children have shared the following tips to smooth out the challenges of the trip:
When choosing a hotel, call around to see what special amenities they offer children. Some offer special menus, supervised day activities, a list of bonded babysitters or a day-care center on site; games, puzzles, Nintendo games, and videos; a pool or an exercise room and health club. Choose a hotel with a restaurant and room service.
Most hotels have lists of bonded babysitters available through the front desk, or call ahead to a local colleague for referrals.
Some conference planners make adults or students available to conference attendees; hotels may have, particularly in resort areas, full-time children's activities directors on the job to supervise older children while you attend meetings during the day.
One word of caution: These are not babysitting arrangements. It is better to hire a caregiver that you feel comfortable with, especially if the children are small.
Give yourself extra time to get to the airport and board the plane with a child in tow. Allow the child to see the plane from the boarding area, talk to the flight attendants, and help the child get comfortable with traveling on an airplane without feeling rushed.
If it is a long flight, pack bags with different activities. You could pack puzzles, crayons, books, a doll, or a favorite toy and label the bags ``Hour 1'' and ``Hour 2.'' Pack a separate bag with a change of clothes, bottle, extra toy batteries, and snacks.
Some airlines offer children's menus; when you make your reservations, ask about provisions for children. If driving, take snacks. Make regular stops to stretch. Take pillows and blankets to sleep in the back seat.
Involve children in the planning process as much as possible. Share with your child what you'll be doing on your own and what you will do together.
Sometimes arranging a weekend stay after a conference works out more harmoniously for all concerned since the child will not feel left out. Do not bring your child if you cannot feel comfortable with the child-care provisions you have made. You will not be able to concentrate if you are worrying about what your child is doing.
Try to make the trip a learning experience: Suggest things your child should look at; or have them write a letter to a friend or relative about what they have visited.