I'll Fax, You Frolic

At some resorts, entrepreneurs work while the family plays

In his former life as a bank vice-president, H. Michael Tyson II thought nothing of taking time off with his wife and two children.

Not anymore. "It's scary," says the now-owner of Tuxedo Co., a three-store chain that rents and sells formal wear in Texas and Louisiana. "If something happens while you're away, it's your livelihood that's at stake."

What to do? Keep everyone home? Send the family away? How about a compromise: a place where both nail-biting entrepreneurs and their families can truly relax. A handful of resorts around the country offer complete, virtual-office business services at negotiable rates alongside thoroughly engaging children's programs. That allows guests to stay on top of everything back at the company--from inventory to cash flow--without interrupting their kids' fun. "That kind of place would make me less apprehensive," says Tyson.

AT YOUR SERVICE. The Sheraton Bal Harbour Beach Resort just north of Miami Beach, for example, has a business center equipped with faxes, modems, telephones, computers, and an on-call support staff that will do everything from transcription to transparencies, says Mary Malisse, the center's coordinator. Sample cost: The quoted rate for a computer workstation is $30 per hour and for a printer, $28.

While Mom and Dad pound a keyboard, the Bal Harbour's Kids Club can care for 5- to 12-year-olds from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The program, which costs $15 for a half day or $30 for a full day, features a rich menu of swimming and beach activities, since the resort is oceanside and surrounded by lagoon-style pools and waterfalls.

The Arizona Biltmore offers supervised fun in the sun, too. Set on 39 acres in Phoenix, the resort is surrounded by five heated swimming pools, eight tennis courts, and two 18-hole golf courses. A Kids Kabana flanks a 92-foot water slide and welcomes youngsters 4 to 12 years old from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. While developments at the office may divert parents to the Biltmore's fully equipped business center (fax transmittal, mailing, binding, typing, and notary services are available along with computer, printer, and cellular-phone rentals), the kids can swim, putt on the green, and play tennis. The program costs $7 per hour, $25 for a half day, or $50 for a full day and offers arts and crafts, computer games, and movies as alternatives to outdoor activities.

For a working vacation on the slopes this winter, look into the Hyatt Regency Beaver Creek. Eight miles west of Vail, Colo., the Beaver Creek Hyatt has a business center with everything from Scotch tape to a digitizing scanner. And there's Camp Hyatt, featuring activities such as snow sculpting and sleigh rides.

BIG DRAW. "We are very conscious of businesspeople who bring their kids," says Robert Dallain, Beaver Creek's general manager. So if Mom or Dad gets hung up making a conference call or faxing off a proposal, their children can scamper through the snow on a scavenger hunt or decorate cookies with the pastry chefs in the Hyatt's kitchen. Participation in Camp Hyatt, which is open every day to children ages 3 to 12 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., has grown by 300% since it was started five years ago. Prices range from $7 to $97 per child, depending on the duration and type of activity planned.

For bargain room rates at these resorts, ask about special family packages, especially during off-peak business periods, such as the Christmas holidays. Also, try to negotiate daily or, better yet, weekly rates for services and equipment used in the business centers. Rates are far steeper by the hour or by the faxed, typewritten, or copied page. For instance, the Hyatt Regency charges a low of 10 cents and high of 20 cents per page for copies, while the Biltmore's fax runs $100 a day or $200 a week.

Working on vacation is far from anyone's but a workaholic's ideal. But with the right business services and a place for the kids, it's possible to get away--and get ahead--at the same time.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.