From the March 2003 issue of Entrepreneur

Taking the family on a business trip used to be the trendy thing to do. Now it may be the thrifty thing to do. During the go-go days of the last decade, business travel hotels spiffed up their rooms with amenities like in-room entertainment systems to persuade guests to make a long weekend of a short trip. The move paid off, and the two-in-one vacation became an enduring trend of the 1990s. But as the economy cooled, road warriors decided to spend their leisure time at home, leaving resorts with empty rooms.

But business travelers with families have figured out that mixing business and pleasure can save money. More than one-third of business trips are made for combined business and pleasure purposes, says the Travel Industry Association of America. According to a survey by marketing firm Yesawich, Pepperdinge, Brown & Russell (YPB&R), about eight in 10 business travelers look for child-friendly hotels-inns that offer larger guest rooms, children's menus and in-room video games. What kinds of deals can you expect?

  • Buy-one, get-one-half-price rooms: Many hotels offer specials where you can book one room at full price and get the second one at half price. Travel experts believe struggling hotels will continue to offer these cut rates through 2003.
  • Kids fly/stay/eat free: About two-thirds of business travelers look for special children's menus, according to YPB&R. One of the best kids-fly-free offers is Vail Resorts' (www.vailresorts.com), which includes a stay-free, ski-free offer.
  • Other free things: Hotels' special programs can amount to de facto babysitting services, so you can get away with your partner or spouse for a few hours. One of the best-known kid-friendly hotels catering to the jet set and vacationers is the Loews hotel chain (www.loewshotels.com), which gives kids access to a "kids' closet" full of games and books, special recreation programs and more.

Christopher Elliott is a writer and commentator and the editor of www.elliott.org.