After my successful daddy/daughter business trip wit Susie last year, my younger daughter, Abby, immediately began begging to go on her own trip with me. My wife and I both felt that Abby was a little young, but at the end of this summer the perfect opportunity cropped up.
I was headed out to visit the manufacturer that makes the squeeze packs for my company, HomePlate Peanut Butter. The trip was going to be a quick one – just an overnight – which was perfect for Abby. The flight from Austin to Atlanta (the manufacturer is just outside the city) was direct and not too long – also preferable when traveling with small children.
From my trip with Susie last year I learned that you have to have a healthy mix of business and fun. So, this trip I was careful about balancing out meetings with adventures and not packing the days too tight. We flew later in the day before the manufacturer visit. That night our only plan was to have dinner with a friend of my, Dan Thurmon, a motivational speaker.
This sounds like it could have been boring, but Dan, in addition to being a speaker, is an acrobat. Yes, the kind that juggles swords and walks on their hands. He showed up to dinner with juggling balls for Abby, which thrilled her to no end. At one point I came back from the bathroom and he was balancing a chair on his chin (fortunately the restaurant thought this was cool, too). He ended the meal by doing a backflip. It was the best meal – business or otherwise – Abby had ever had.
The next day we got up early and hiked Stone Mountain. While the hike wasn’t Everest, it wasn’t a walk in the park either. Abby was a little tired but willing to give it a shot. Dan joined us once again and decided to complete most of the hike via handstand push-ups. Needless to say Abby’s enthusiasm for the hike quickly went off the charts. They also spent time talking about what it’s like to be a professional speaker, which Abby was curious about.
After the most stereotypically Georgian lunch I’ve ever had (we ate at a Waffle House that blasted ‘Free Bird’), Abby and I headed out to the squeeze packet manufacturer. I wasn’t sure how Abby would like it, but she was fascinated by our factory tour. We watched the film the packets are made of get rolled out, cut down, and injected with peanut butter. The finished packets were then tested to make sure they have the proper amount of peanut butter in them. Abby thought the whole process was amazing.
The perks of traveling with an adorable small child who’s amazed by things like peanut butter squeeze pack manufacturers is that it endears you to everyone. The visit would have been productive even if I hadn’t brought Abby, but she made it much more fun. The factory’s logistics manager even sent her off with an entire grab bag of Hello Kitty goodies (again, Abby was thrilled).
Next was a lunch with the manufacturing folks. Abby spent the meal asking questions and writing personal crayon thank-you notes to the folks who had hosted our visit. We shopped for a few gifts for her brother and sister before a final business meeting to wrap things up – at which point Abby was finally starting to get tired. We then headed back to the airport.
Normally this is where I would end but our adventure continued at the airport. While waiting for our flights, we heard an announcement that the gate agents were looking for “volunteers to take a later flight.” Abby was on it – “Let’s do it, Dad!” Since they were offering $800 vouchers per volunteer and the next flight was only three hours later, I decided why not?
It was only after we’d switched our flights and gotten our vouchers that Abby realized that “volunteering” meant getting bumped. In her mind, “volunteering” meant you got to spend your flight pushing the beverages and snack cart and helping people with refreshments (how’s that for instilling a healthy, happy work ethic in your kid?). She wasn’t too disappointed about the reality check though, as it meant she got to stay up super late and play on an iPad.
And, just to sweeten the pot, as I collected my $1600 in vouchers, I pulled a twenty from my wallet and gave it to Abby. “For you,” I said, “for volunteering.” It was like I’d handed her a suitcase of cash. “I can put this in my Give, Save, Spend banks when I get home?” she asked. “Abby, you can put that all in the Spend bank if you want.” At which point she almost fell over. Hey, all good rules are meant to be broken.