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Who's really the boss when it comes to business travel?

Believe it or not, it's not the person who signs your paycheck.

Rather, it's your children who are calling the shots. A study just released by

Sheraton Hotels & Resorts

shows that 67% of working parents actually have refused to go on a business trip because it conflicted with their children's activities. These days, more parents who must travel are opting to bring the children along, and, as a result, hotels are stepping up services for families.

More than 40% of working parents surveyed by Sheraton last fall said they would cut a trip short because of a birthday or a child's illness. One-third of those surveyed said they won't travel if it conflicts with a school function. Five percent would cancel a trip altogether if their kids were upset about their leaving.

The online study was done by Guideline Consulting on

America Online

(AOL)

and included 150 men and 150 women who, during the past year, went on at least one business trip that included a hotel or motel stay of at least three consecutive nights.

"This study showed us just how far a business traveler will go to preserve the delicate balance between work and family life," says John Greenleaf, vice president, Sheraton brand management for

TheStreet Recommends

Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

Two hundred children of those business travelers also were interviewed for the study. Their responses suggested that perhaps it is a smart idea to bring them along, as parents do have reason to be concerned about changes in behavior patterns that occur when mom or dad is off on a business trip.

Nearly half of the children admit to staying up past their bedtime when only one parent is home; 38% say they don't do their homework; 22% visit an "inappropriate" Web site; and 14% skip school.

"That could explain why 'Wait until your father or mother gets home' is a popular refrain in 52% of the homes," says Greenleaf.

To avoid trouble at home, more than 60% of the parents polled by Sheraton say they have brought the children on a business trip. Jodi Saiki, Director of Business Travel for

The Ritz Carlton

in Marina Del Rey, Calif., confirms the growing trend. "We are definitely seeing an increase of kids traveling with their parents, and more and more business travelers are extending their stays and having their families join them for the weekend."

Nearly half of those polled said they bring the children on a business trip because "it's a good learning experience," while an equal number said it's a good way to mix business with pleasure.

Some hotels let children stay in the same room with their parents at no extra charge, while others offer reduced rates to upgrade to living room suites so parents and children can enjoy a peaceful night in separate bedrooms.

"It's definitely hard to go away knowing that my son is home," says Rochester, N.Y.-based sales executive Beth Hurwitz. "I'd much rather take him along on trips with me, and I know that I am not the only working parent that feels this way."

Stacy H. Small is the senior West Coast editor for Travel Agent magazine. She is also a freelance writer for publications including Conde Nast Traveler and National Geographic Traveler. At time of publication, Small held no positions in any securities mentioned in this column, although holdings can change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. While Small cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, she welcomes feedback at

stacysmall@aol.com.