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More Parents Packing Up the Kids on Business Trips : Family: They turn time away from home into time together. Whole industries have started to support it.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Bruce Jenner, the Olympic gold medalist, entrepreneur, sports commentator and motivational speaker, has also helped pioneer another image: the road-warrior family man.

Jenner spends about half his time on business trips away from home. His wife, Kris, frequently accompanies him and they often take at least one of their eight children.

“It’s important for them to see what Dad does when he’s on the road,” he said. “It’s also good quality time away from the hectic life of a large family.”

Jenner is a high-profile example of a trend that has taken hold among professional working couples in the 1990s. A growing number of executives take children along on business trips or turn a company function into a long weekend of family fun.

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Last year, 15% of the roughly 280 million business trips included children, up from 12% of the total in 1990, U.S. Travel Data Center statistics show.

“It’s more acceptable now and it’s increasingly possible,” said Janet Tice, president of Great Destinations Travel Co. in Durham, N.C.

Although many companies still discourage executives from taking children along when they travel for work, whole industries are growing up around the presumption that work-and-family travel is here to stay.

Embassy Suites hotels, for example, has seen a jump in the number of children at its facilities during midweek, said Steven Brewster, manager of public relations.

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The hotel chain has opened special child-care facilities for business travelers. At the Hotel Lake Buena Vista in Orlando, Fla., the Cool Cats Club offers arts and crafts as well as games.

The Embassy Suites hotel in Philadelphia keeps children busy with a “please touch” kiddie museum.

The same chain’s Palm Beach hotel has a “Fat Cat Beach Club” that includes arts and crafts, field trips and other supervised activities for children ages 3 to 15.

The hotel also offers baby-proofed rooms with outlet covers, rounded edges on tables and scald guards for bathtubs, among other features.

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“We started to see that our mostly corporate hotels were all of a sudden full of kids, even in midweek,” Brewster said.

The Hyatt hotels started to see an increase in children traveling with their parents in the late 1980s, said Carrie Reckert, a spokeswoman for the chain.

So in 1989 the chain inaugurated “Camp Hyatt,” which entertains children ages 3 to 12. In Puerto Rico, children tour a rain forest; in Hawaii, they take hula lessons, and in Beaver Creek, Colo., they learn how to pan for gold.

Most of the business trips involving children include an extended weekend, Reckert said.

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“Now, both mothers and fathers are working, so it seems families are forced to take shorter but more frequent vacations, which they are combining with business trips,” she said.

Delta Air Lines also has noticed the trend toward shorter and more frequent vacations, said Todd Clay, a spokesman for the airline. The carrier has seen more corporations scheduling conventions or company meetings on weekends to take advantage of special rates and allow families to go along, he said.

Delta has implemented several all-inclusive packages to make it more affordable for executives to take along the family, Clay says.

Baby-sitting agencies in several cities are geared to helping working adults who take along their children.

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“We’ve seen a continuous, slow growth in the trend,” said Judi Merlin, president of Atlanta’s A Friend of the Family.

Merlin said her agency, which has been in operation for 10 years, hopes to decrease parents’ anxiety by offering carefully screened baby-sitters.


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