This past weekend I traveled to Austin for a bachelorette party and two meetings. The weekend before I traveled to Pittsburg to speak at MomCon (which was really fun!)
The Hubs has been traveling too. In between my Pittsburg and Austin trips, he traveled to Brooklyn for a residency interview and then immediately flew to Buffalo, NY that evening for another residency interview the next day.
All of his interview traveling has been mid week so far and my traveling has been on the weekends, but it’s definitely been a balancing act!
Because we’ve both been traveling so much the past few weeks, I’ve picked up a few tips for parents who travel from a money and time perspective. Here are some ideas:
- Splurge Selectively
There were two occasions over the past few months where Hubs and I upgraded our flights in order to increase the likelihood of making it to where we had to get on time. For $18 for him and $40 for me (on two separate occasions) we each upgraded in order to board first, ensure we didn’t have to check bags at the gate, and get premium seats to get off the plane faster because in each instance we both had really tight time frames and neither of us likes to be late. Each of these was well worth the investment. When you’re going to a meeting or an interview, you don’t want to be even 5 minutes late so sometimes splurging and paying a little extra can ensure you smoother travel.
- Take Care of Yourself
I ended up driving to and from Pittsburg, but after being at a conference all day and leaving at 5 p.m., I had a hard time making it back to New Jersey. It’s about a 6 hour drive not including stops, and eventually I got so tired I had to stop. Luckily I was able to get a walk in rate at a hotel for $99 a night. I just didn’t think it was worth it to risk my life. As much as I wanted to get home and see my husband and kids first thing in the morning, it wasn’t worth it to drive sleepy.
- Build in Downtime
My husband and I are both introverts, but I am significantly more introverted than he is. After a lot of interaction with the world when traveling, we both need time to retreat. We both are comfortable talking to other people, but the energy it takes to do it well can definitely zap our energy after enough days. So, when we’re in periods of intense travel, we try not to add too many things to our plate which saves money too!
Earlier in the year, we often had friends over on the weekends or took little road trips to other parts of the East Coast, but for now if we have a free weekend we try to use it to rest.
- Let Go of Control
Since I often play the stay at home mom role, I have a system in place and a schedule that I use for my twins. Because there are two of them and they both have very different personalities and even sleep habits. However, instead of asking whoever our babysitter is to give my kids the exact food I want them to have or go to sleep at the exact right time, I’ve learned I have to let go. Really I just want my kids to be happy and any person who I trust enough to be with them for long periods of time will be great with them.
- Watch Incidental Spending
As I said, it’s totally fine to splurge selectively if it helps you get to your meeting faster or makes some part of your journey easier. However, be careful of the small spending, like the airport coffee, snack in the gas station, and fast food. It’s also good to pack food too. My husband was so busy one of his travel days that all he had to eat all day was a cup of coffee until he finally had the chance to grab a bite at the train station at 9 PM. So, don’t forget to pack some healthy snacks to help cut down on your cravings and tendency to spend money without thinking.
- Remember the Why
I think it’s easy for parents to feel guilty when they travel and worry that they are missing out. I miss my kids a lot when I’m gone, but I always remember why I’m doing it. I want to set a good example to them of what it means to work hard and build a career with your own two hands. A lot of these lessons aren’t explicitly taught; they are just soaked up by our kids watching what we do every day.
- Say No When You Need To
Whenever you travel for work, there are a lot of different opportunities to totally jam-pack your day. If you are feeling completely worn out and you feel like it will affect your work or personal life the following day, then it’s okay to say no. There are times when you need to go to a social event at a conference or other work get together but then there are times when it’s totally optional. Don’t feel badly about going back to your hotel early if you need to recharge and sleep!
What are some of your tips for parents who travel?
22 responses to “7 Frugal Tips for Parents Who Travel For Work”
I agree that letting go of control. Ideally I would’ve loved to leave frozen meals for my family when I was in India for two weeks. In reality I barely got my bags packed & teaching outlines in order amidst my other responsibilities. I knew they were going to spend more on food than I normally did, but I chalked it up to one more trip expense that paled in comparison to the benefits of going.
You are absolutely right! Sometimes the benefit of going on a trip can out weigh the additional costs. Letting go of control can be hard, so I’m glad you were able to do it.
It’s easy to overspend at the airport. If I can’t find anything affordable to eat, I’ll buy a banana or a candy bar. I try to bring snacks, too, but that isn’t always possible!
I agree! I tend to have snacks for the way to my destination, but at the end of my trip on my way home I tend to spend a bit more on food and snacks while I’m on the go.
I think saying no is the best advice. It’s hard – especially for women – but it’s necessary to have enough room for your family and the things you love.
Absolutely! Saying no is hard, but it’s very important.
I always get tempted to get a snack at the airport especially because airplane food is so bad.
At least if you buy a snack at the airport it’s usually cheaper than on the airplane. Plus there’s more selection in the airport than there is on the plane.
Saying “No” is very hard, especially when you have it run up against the idea that you should be working hard, persevering, and outlasting the competition. But sometimes it’s smarter to say no because it means greater mental sanity, which can be exhausted really easily on those long trips!
Absolutely! I know there’s great benefits of attending events and networking, but sometimes I just need some rest.
I think scheduling downtime is VERY important. It may seem that just because you are away from the kids that you are on “vacation” but work travel is work travel and your body and brain get equally wiped as they do after time with the kids. I am an extrovert and love people but also love quiet time after a bunch of meetings and meeting new people when I travel.
I try to schedule some downtime, but it can be difficult. Usually my downtime comes from when I decide it’s more worthwhile to rest or sleep than to attend another event/session/etc.
I think these tips work for people without kids, too. I have to be careful about airport snacks whenever possible. If I do need to eat, I try to make sure it’s something that’d last me. No matter how great that Cinnabon smells, a turkey sandwich is going to stay in my system much longer.
That’s a great point!
Great tips, Cat. I used to travel quite a bit for work but now most of my travel is local, which is much nicer. 🙂 I’m so glad you didn’t push yourself to drive when you were exhausted. Like you said, it’s not worth the risk. I’m getting much better at saying “no” although it is not always easy to do. But there is only so much time in the day, and saying “yes” all the time often means you don’t do your best work because you have too much on your plate. When struggling to say “no”, I remind myself that I’d rather say “no”, than to do mediocre work and damage my reputation.
Absolutely! Spending $99 on a hotel to get rested before driving the rest of the way was worth it. I also agree that when my reputation is on the line I want to be at my best. Saying no is a great strategy to make sure that happens.
These are great tips! I always bring snacks as I will overspend if I’m starving. Not to mention airports and bus stations have expensive, and not-so-great food options. The hardest part for me about traveling and working is letting go of control 🙂
I can’t imagine how challenging that must be Cat! I know it’s hard to take care of everything when I travel and that’s a fraction of what most people do!
I always go over budget with food when I’m traveling. Not only is it more convenient to just eat the closest restaurant but I love to try food where I’m traveling around. I guess this is where I splurge selectively!
I was away for two years for work abroad. So what I did was I called every day, using video call. Thanks to technology because I felt like I didn’t miss out on anything Catherine. It was hard and challenging, though, but I gotta do it and had to explain to my kids why Dad was doing this. I think open communication and being honest to them are really important.
I think these are pretty great tips even if you’re not a parent! I also think another great splurge for traveling that I’ve made is packing cubes, which make packing 1000 times easier and faster. I also always drag my pillow with me wherever I go. I don’t really like the weird donut travel ones and I’ve found the extra space or hassle it makes for me is worth the tradeoff to be able to have it.
I think saying no when you need to is one of the most important every mom should keep in mind when gong for shopping. It helps them discipline themselves and only buy what is needed.