As the founder/owner of a global travel company, it's no surprise that I spend a lot of time away from home. Travel is a cornerstone of my job, and I'm grateful for that. But as any frequent business traveler will tell you, living on an airplane loses its luster after a while -- especially when you have family or close friends waiting for you back home. Balancing work travel and quality time with loved ones can be a struggle, but here is how I've learned to make it work.

1. Make weekends at home a priority.

Four years ago, I made a commitment to my family to make it home for dinner every Friday night. Since then, I've been very disciplined about avoiding weekend travel. During the weekdays my kids are busy with school and after-school activities, so even if I make it home by 7:00 pm, I only see them for an hour or two before they head to bed. This is the case for many working parents, which is why it's so valuable to be home for weekends - if you can make it work.

I freely admit, that isn't always easy. Restricting trips to weekdays often means you have to travel at less-than-ideal times and function on a less-than-ideal amounts of sleep. I travel from Canada to Australia for business at least three times a year. To make that work, I leave late after my kids go to bed on Sunday night, arrive in Australia Tuesday and board a plane back to Canada by Friday. In fact, an 11pm Sunday night flight out of Toronto is almost a regular one for me. Yes, it can be painful in the moment, but it's worth the effort when you're able to be home and be present for your family.

2. Be creative about where you meet.

To limit travel to Monday through Friday, it's critical to condense activities during your trip. Do this by only scheduling essential meetings, being efficient with where and when those meetings take place, and staying focused on the goals of the trip.

You can also build in some time to enjoy the location, but consider ways to do this productively. For example, catch up on emails while sipping espresso and people-watching in the town square, meet with your client at the restaurant everyone on TripAdvisor is raving about, or walk around the city gardens while you take a conference call.

I've found that if you're traveling halfway around the world to connect with someone in person, chances are, they will be willing to meet you at a place of your choosing. For example: I've been going to London for years, and used to arrange business meetings right in town. Recently, however, I've been asking people to meet me in places like Windsor, Brighton, or Oxford, so that I have the chance to experience different surroundings. The same is true for Australia. Instead of always doing business in Melbourne where one of my company's offices is located, I've asked people to meet me in the seaside town of Lorne, along the Great Ocean Road.

Point is: you don't need to extend your business trip by adding on site-seeing time, but by meeting in a place that's new to you, you can feel as if you accomplished both in an efficient way.

3. Just say no.

Whether you want to make it home for the weekend or just increase time with family in general, you'll need to become comfortable with just saying "no" to nonessential work travel. It can be tempting to accept every invitation to speak at a conference or check out a new and trendy industry event, especially when a colleague or friend is strongly urging you to attend. But keep your eye on your priorities. Being selective will help you focus on the events that truly help your business and/or align with your personal values, while giving you more quality time at home.

In my case, I've developed criteria to help me assess whether an opportunity is truly worth the travel. That is: will it benefit my business and help drive future sales? Or, will it have a positive influence on young entrepreneurs, students or startups? That's because one of my personal goals is to support the next generation of social change makers. Back when I started G Adventures, I felt like I didn't have those mentors. So today, I've found that measuring an opportunity against my values and desire for personal impact is a useful way to gauge priority.

4. Be flexible with your communication channels.

Fortunately for today's business traveler, digital communication has never been so easy or so much fun. With the variety of messaging apps available, being away really isn't the same as it used to be. The key is figuring out unique ways to communicate with individual members of your family. If you have kids, chances are that doesn't involve a traditional phone call.

My kids, for instance, are more comfortable using Snapchat than any other communication medium. It took a while, but now I'm convinced it's brilliant. I only follow my family, and we use it all the time to share hilarious, distorted pictures and videos. My kids speak in Emojis, so I've had to learn that language. We also FaceTime all the time when I'm away, which leads to much more authentic interactions than the traditional phone call. Instagram is also a great way to share highlight moments in our days. This adaptive communication is an approach I use not just with my kids, but with my team at work: everyone communicates differently, and you'll be most successful if you meet people where they're most comfortable.

Whatever strategies you adopt, there's no question that business travel can be taxing when you're also trying to be a good parent and friend. But nothing really replaces face time in forging a meaningful, productive connection. That's part of the reason why I'm so passionate about the power of travel as a force for good in the world.

In the United States alone, business travel expenditures topped $307 billion in 2016. As this number continues to grow, successful company leaders and travelers will be wise to ensure that work trips are productive and enjoyable, while also allowing for adequate time at home. I'd love to hear some of your ideas and strategies for making business travel work for both. Please comment below.

Published on: Jul 11, 2017