The packing list is the first indication that this isn’t your typical work trip. It looks something like this:
- Business cards
- Pens and highlighters
- Board books
Over the past year, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to the Walt Disney World Resort for business on three occasions and my husband and our sweet toddler boy, who turned two in January 2014 (let’s just call him Critter moving forward) have tagged along each and every time. It’s been a great experience for our family and we’re happy we’ve been able to take advantage of these opportunities to enjoy that magical place together. However, like most aspects of business travel, even when you’re at Walt Disney World, you need a strategy. Here are my thoughts on how we make this work for our family.
Pick a few “must do’s.” For every trip, I pick a few things that I absolutely MUST do with the Critter and his daddy during my limited down time. The things that would make my heart ache a bit to miss. The things that I just need to have memories and photos of. We typically just have one day together, and maybe an evening or two, so this list has to be short and meaningful. For our trip in May, I picked riding the Carrousel (aka “horses” according to the Critter, because that is probably his favorite ride), the train (which he loves so, so much) and a haircut (since his normally adorably disheveled look was getting a bit out of hand). That was it. Three things. Everything else was icing but as a family we would do those three things together and I would get to be front and center with him.
Decide if there are any “please don’ts”. Whoever is lucky enough to accompany you will have time to fill while you’re in meetings, or at a conference, or doing whatever it is that officially brought you to sunny Florida. Think in advance if there are things you would just hate to miss. The first time with a character. The first roller coaster ride. Breakfast at a special family spot. Try to be reasonable – they’ll have time to fill without you and it’s perfect for them to build special memories together. I absolutely love that our Critter gets special daddy time in the parks and adore the pictures that pop up on my phone during meetings. (Oh! And that’s a good thing to ask. Make sure you get to see those adventures.) I also know myself well enough to know that there are some things that I would just hate to miss, so we try to think those through in advance and plan around them.
Know when you have to focus and accept this won’t be a typical work trip. On our last trip, I had a full day of meetings to start my first day of the work part of the trip. And the night before, Critter could not, would not, go to sleep in the pack and play. Was. Not. Happening. After an hour of crying (sorry hotel neighbors), we did the only reasonable thing we could, we all three climbed into our bed and had a relatively restful, but somewhat squirmy night of sleep. Extra caffeine and additional under eye concealer were important to get me rolling the next morning but as I was getting ready for a great day of meetings while my husband and our adorable Critter were getting ready to explore Animal Kingdom so it was worth it. As was the cat nap I caught in the 30 minutes before they came back to the room that night. Whew. On another trip I took, I absolutely had to get two important emails out during the day but didn’t want to lose time to getting back and forth to the hotel on the buses…so I packed my laptop and found a spot where I could pick up wifi at Hollywood Studio outside the ABC Commissary. I sent the boys off for an hour, churned out two great emails, did a little bit of meeting prep, and we were back to our adventures. Flexibility and creativity are key!
In November, we have a large conference at Walt Disney World and I’ve talked to a few coworkers who are consider having their families tag along. I’ve encouraged them to take the plunge (sometimes, literally – our resort has a really cool pool) and give it a shot. They can always change their mind next year. I’ve shared the same advice with them that I’ve shared with you and hope you’ll all find it helpful!