Frequent business travelers -- or “road warriors,” as we’re often called -- spend years learning the ins and outs of travel. As a result, we’ve developed the skills and techniques to make each trip as easy and efficient as possible.
So, here I'll cite those countless days and nights I've spent on the road and the lessons from them that I can now parlay into making one of the most challenging trips a whole lot easier: the family vacation.
The first two keys to ensuring that your family vacation runs as smoothly as your business trips are communication and preparation. Well before you depart, talk with your family members about each leg of the trip and establish your family’s own rules of the road.
1. At the Airport
Explain the entire security and boarding process to the kids a few days before heading to the airport. Emphasize that airport security is a serious matter, and that horseplay isn’t tolerated. Remind them, as well, that they and all the other travelers moving through the security line depend on one other to be quick so everyone can get to their destinations on time. Try teaching the security process in advance through a serious of verbal prompts -- for example, “step up to the conveyor belt,” “take off your shoes, place them in the bin,” etc. -- and you’ll be surprised by your kids’ efficiency.
After successfully passing through security, empower your older kids by letting them navigate the airport. Tell them the flight number and airline, and then help them identify and locate the appropriate directional signs to guide the family to the gate. By putting them in control, you'll help them learn a lot and gain confidence for future travel.
2. On the airplane
Air travel can provide great lessons in exercising common courtesy. Talk to your kids about the importance of airline etiquette. Explain that the plane offers space to each passenger, but that space is limited. Therefore, it is important that they stay in their seats, avoid pushing or kicking the seat in front of them and talk with an ”inside voice” so they don’t annoy other passengers.
3. At the hotel
Discuss appropriate hotel behavior with your kids. Remember the family that opened and closed the door 12 times a night on your last business trip? Or the youth baseball team that screamed in the hallways while you were trying to sleep? Don’t let your family be the one that other travelers talk about.
Once you’ve communicated the various aspects and expectations of travel with your kids, consider what everyone in the family needs for comfort and entertainment, and come prepared.
4. Carry-ons to bring
Let each family member be responsible for packing and carrying on one small bag containing items that will make the travel experience more enjoyable. Ideas for the kids might include video games, tablets, books, headphones and snacks. Before you leave for the airport, check to make sure everybody’s carry-on bag has everything needed to avoid any meltdowns over forgotten stuffed animals and the like. And don’t forget to pack medication for motion sickness, upset stomachs or other problems you may face during the flight.
5. Clothing to pack
One of the lessons I learned early on was to dress in layers regardless of the weather or climate. The temperature in airplanes fluctuates -- sometimes it's cold, sometimes hot, and sometimes both on the same flight. So be sure all your family members have a jacket or sweater for when they need it.
6. Portable wi-fi you can count on
Don’t leave home without your portable Wi-Fi hotspot, which will allow you to turn your mobile device into a wireless access point at any time. It’ll make a big difference when Wi-Fi is needed the most!
7. Car rentals in advance
Reserve, in advance, a rental vehicle capable of comfortably accommodating your entire family and every suitcase. You may also be able to leverage those loyalty club points you’ve been saving for free rental days or to cash in some airline miles for the family.
8. Timing with a margin of error
Leave for the airport long before you normally would. The extra time will give you and your family a stress-free parking and airport navigation experience.
Last -- and most importantl -- don’t forget to unplug and relax. Now that the family knows the rules of the game, make it your business on this trip to kick back and enjoy some special time with your family. Bon voyage!