The summer is almost over and it was a busy one! Aside from our family vacation, I presented at a conference in Missouri (15 hours away) and attended a one day work obligation in Wilmington, NC (3.5 hours away and at the beach). What’s more is that I didn’t travel alone. My family came with me to both places. You read that right. My husband booked a dog sitter and we put the kids in the car and drove to Wilmington one day and then 15 hours to Missouri two weeks later. Let’s talk about Missouri. Oh, did I mention that we live in North Carolina? We left at 4am, traveled all day, made it to the hotel, and stayed for two days just to drive 15 hours home. It was trying, fun, scary, exciting, and hilarious all at once. We saw West Virginia, the farms of Indiana (my son wants to be a farmer now), Starbucks in Kentucky (that excited my daughter), and the Missouri Arch. On the way back, we ventured through the mountains of Tennessee (that was scary as the hubs loves winding roads at night) and crashed into our beds as soon as we arrived home. Some people thought that I didn’t make the wisest decision in taking my family, but I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. I grew up like this.
My Dad worked at a college, which means that my sister and I 1) grew up on a college campus and 2) always went with Mom and Dad on conference trips. If it was a long drive, my mom would pack sandwiches and chips and we’d get in the car off to our next adventure. I can’t even tell you what conferences we went to (I knew that they were sports related), but it was always a family affair. Because I was raised in an environment where work and family collided, it’s only natural that I repeat the pattern. My husband was raised the same way. If one family member had to go out of town, everyone went. So just like my mother, I pack chips and sandwiches at 3am and we all get in the car and drive for “mommy’s job.” I practiced my presentation while the family explored the city. During my panel, the family went swimming on the 22nd floor (so lucky). On our last night, we all ordered what we wanted. The kids got a “vacation” and I worked. We were all together and really enjoyed ourselves. If this is you and you haven’t quite figured out how to make everything work, here are some pointers:
- Plan the trip in advance. What will the family do, while you work? What are fun and free places for the kids to go? Playgrounds are everywhere and free. Go for it.
- How long is the drive and how will the kids be entertained? Believe it or not, this was the most stressful part of planning. What do we do with a 10 and 8 year old on a 15 hour trip? We stopped for each meal and we ate fast food. You know why? Many fast food places have indoor playgrounds. We wore the kids out so they’d take multiple naps. We also kept those iPads charged. The kids held our phones and took lots of pictures and videos. Plan these things out so that everyone has fun.
- Make time for family during the conference. Is there an evening where conference attendees have free time? Do something with the family that night. Explore the new town.
- Visit a gift shop: It’s always great to have the family pick up a souvenir. Whether you are in a different place for a day or a week, let the kids take a momento home (and you too).
While work conferences are filled with obligations, they can be great mini vacations for the family. Take advantage of those times and make wonderful memories.